TEXAS—-new death sentence
Game warden's killer should die, Wharton jury decides—-James Garrett
Freeman has been sentenced to death for killing Texas game warden Justin
Hurst after a police chase in March 2007.
After a Wharton County man was sentenced to death Friday for killing a
state game warden, the parents of both men embraced and cried, sharing the
enormity of their losses with each other.
Condemned killer James Garrett Freeman's mother and father crossed the
wide gulf of the courtroom to console game warden Justin Hurst's parents
and express remorse for their son's actions. And Hurst's parents hugged
them back tightly, making clear they did not hold Freeman's family
"They expressed to us how sorry they were for all of this," said the slain
game warden's mother, Pat Hurst of El Campo. "It was a sharing of the
Jim and Lori Freeman declined to comment as they left the courtroom, but
told Hurst's parents the man seen on police video firing nearly 40 shots
at law enforcement officers was not the son they raised.
"We wanted them to understand there were no winners here," Pat Hurst said
of the condemned man's parents. "Both families suffered losses. In no way
do we want them to feel we held them accountable for what he did that
The conversation ended an emotional 3-week trial in which the jury
convicted the defendant, a 27-year-old man from Lissie, of capital murder.
After more than 13 hours of deliberations over 2 days, jurors concluded
Garrett Freeman, an unemployed welder, would pose a future threat to
society and found no mitigating circumstances sufficient to spare his
Defense attorneys Stanley Schneider and Lee Cox had argued that Freeman
had problems with alcohol and depression. They also said he had no record
of violent acts before the fatal shooting.
But Wharton County District Attorney Josh McCown and special prosecutor
Kelly Siegler said Freeman has a smoldering temper that he cannot control.
Hurst, 34, was killed March 17, 2007, as he and 6 other officers closed in
on Freeman after a 90-minute chase through Wharton and Colorado counties.
After Freeman's tires were punctured, he bailed from his truck at the
Lissie Cemetery and fired nearly 40 shots from a Glock pistol and an AK-47
rifle in less than a minute, striking Hurst twice.
The chase started when another game warden tried to stop Freeman to ticket
him for illegally hunting an animal at night.
Freeman later told a Texas Ranger he didn't know why he shot Hurst.
Most jurors filed back in to the courtroom later Friday to watch Hurst's
widow and parents read victim impact statements to Freeman, even though
the jury had been excused.
One female juror closed her eyes and cried quietly, clasping the jury
foreman's hand as Hurst's father spoke directly to Freeman for the 1st
"I had a son whose life was taken by a poacher for reasons that only that
person will ever know," Allen Hurst said. "Yes, I had quite a son. God,
how I miss him."
Amanda Hurst, 32, of El Campo, told her husband's killer she prays for him
and his family daily because of the anguish he has caused his loved ones.
"Justin was considered a hero by his comrades," she said of her husband.
"Against all training, he chose to leave his cover and expose himself in
this horrific event."
Freeman sat quietly, watching each of Hurst's family members intently as
they spoke. He showed no reaction when state District Judge Randy Clapp
sentenced him to death.
The case was the first death penalty trial in Wharton since 1979.
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Overshadowed and lost in the excitement and optimism of Obama's recent
election victory is the stark and brutal reality that Texas in particular,
and the nation in general, continues its barbaric practice of executions.
Texas has already carried out 15 of the nation's 31 executions this year,
and has many more set for this month and beyond.
The President-elect continues to motivate and inspire many with a
far-reaching vision of a better nation and a better world. This will not
be possible as long as we hang, gas, shoot, electrocute or chemically
poison people in the name of the law. The death penalty must be ended if
we are truly to advance as a people.
Hopefully, Obama has the capacity and willingness to learn that
state-sanctioned killing has no place in this or any other society, and
that the death penalty remains an inherently flawed and racist
Human rights, like human deceny, begin at home.
Rick Halperin, President, Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty
(source: Letter to the Editor, Dallas Morning News)