Wharton game warden's killer could get death sentence
James Garrett Freeman could be sentenced to death for killing game warden
Justin Hurst in Wharton County.
A Wharton County jury has begun deliberating on whether a convicted
murderer should be put to death or spend life in prison without parole for
killing a state game warden during a shootout with police.
James Garrett Freeman, 27, of Lissie, was convicted of capital murder on
Monday for fatally shooting Justin Hurst, 34, after a lengthy police chase
that meandered around Wharton and Colorado counties last year.
Video recorded by police cars' dashboard cameras showed Freeman fired
nearly 40 shots in less than a minute at 7 officers who closed in on him
after his tires were punctured during the pursuit.
Jurors must decide whether Freeman is likely to commit violent acts in the
future. During closing arguments this morning, defense attorneys pleaded
for Freeman's life, emphasizing that the unemployed welder had no history
of violent crimes, but only alcohol-related and traffic violations before
the shootout on March 17, 2007.
Defense attorney Lee Cox said Freeman has been a model prisoner since his
arrest and would pose no threat to other inmates or prison officials.
Cox's co-counsel, Stanley Schneider, said a death sentence for Freeman
also would amount to a death sentence for his parents and brother.
"How do we stop the pain for this community? A life sentence without
parole stops the pain, starts the healing, now," Schneider said.
Prosecutors, who have alleged that Freeman intended to commit a massacre
when he opened fire on the police officers, said he poses a future threat
to society because of his bold actions and a smoldering temper.
"When will he erupt again?" Wharton County District Attorney Josh McCown
asked the jury. "How it will manifest itself in prison, we can't be
certain of. But we can be certain that it will happen."
Special prosecutor Kelly Siegler said there are no mitigating
circumstances that justify sparing Freeman's life. She scoffed at
Schneider's assertion that a life sentence would stop the pain felt by
those close to the case.
"How rich. How dare he? Do you really think their pain is ever going to
stop?" Siegler said, pointing to Hurst's parents sitting in the audience.
"That kind of pain never stops."
Jurors began deliberating about 11:45 a.m. They will be sequestered at a
hotel each night until they reach a decision on Freeman's sentence.
Hurst, who was shot twice while taking aim at Freeman, was the 1st Texas
Parks and Wildlife game warden shot to death in the line of duty since
Freeman led officers on the 90-minute chase that preceded the shooting
when another game warden tried to stop him and ticket him for shooting at
an animal from the road at night.
(source: Houston Chronicle)