Breaking: After nine hours of deliberations in the punishment phase of the capital murder trial of Isidro Delacruz, the jury returned a verdict of "Death" shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday. Jurors were unanimous that he was a threat to society and he had moral culpability. Heavy security is at the Tom Green County Courthouse. Automatic appeal will happen to the Texas court of criminal appeals. There were no outbursts in the courtroom.
The jury had fajitas from Henry’s for dinner and were paid $40 per day for their service.
Here is how the day unfolded, reported as it happened. For more a complete view and analysis, see this link.
SAN ANGELO, TX — Will Isidro Delacruz live or die? That is the question 12 jurors at the Tom Green County Courthouse are now deliberating in the punishment phase of the capital murder trial that has captivated San Angelo for months.
Delacruz was convicted of murdering 5-year-old Naiya Villegas in the early morning hours of Sept. 2, 2014 with a butcher knife. He cut her throat in two places, the jury found. The guilty verdict was handed down March 29. Since then, jurors have listened to arguments from the defense and prosecution to decide whether Delacruz gets life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
Closing arguments in the punishment phase ended at 10:32 a.m. Tuesday morning. But before the jury retired into the jury room to begin deliberation, District Judge Ben Woodward told the jury to consider two special issues in his final instructions. First, does Delacruz have the moral capability to precludes a sentence of life without parole? Second, is Delacruz a continuing threat to society?
The 51st District Attorney Allison Palmer began final arguments by going over the charge then let the defense close.
Defense attorney Will Boyles told jurors they already sentenced Delacruz to die in prison. His co-counsel, Rob Cowie, reminded jurors that Delacruz was abused as a child, had a learning disability, and didn’t have the coping skills to make good decisions, but he was respectful towards jailers and loved by his family and friends. He asked them for a life sentence.
Palmer then got her final chance. She read jurors Delacruz’s arrest records and parole violations and said he had chance after chance and never took personal responsibility for his actions. She said he was a continuing threat to society because he made shanks in jail and made an escape attempt. She also reminded jurors Delacruz decided 5-year-old Naiya would die that night. He knew the way to hurt Tanya the worst was through Naiya, Palmer concluded.
A death or life without parole sentence can be returned by the jury any time now. Our reporter at the courthouse said it may be as soon as after lunch Tuesday.
Update 1:40 p.m.
The jury asked to look at some evidence; the in car videos from the scene, Facebook messages and the three shanks. The judge cleared the courtroom so the bailiff could show the videos. The jury also asked about a definition of the word ‘society ‘. Judge Woodward instructed the jury to give that word its common meaning. After viewing the videos the jury will return to the jury room to continue deliberations.
Update 6:30 p.m.
Jurors were allowed to go outside for a short break at 5:50 pm. They came back in at 6:00 p.m. Then the judge held a hearing at 6:07 p.m. to answer questions. The jury asked if they could see an outside source and the judge said State law doesn’t allow that. Then they asked to contact family. The judge said the court would contact their families and let them know the trial was continuing this evening. The jurors will eat dinner in the jury room while they continue to deliberate. Delacruz parents and brother are waiting and friends of Naiya s family are waiting on the jury’s decision as well.
For the end-of-court wrap-up, see this link.