Killer receives death penalty then laughs at victim's mother
Minutes after he learned a jury had sentenced him to death, killer James
Broadnax laughed at the mother of one of his murder victims as she told
him how he had devastated her life.
"You stole our son," Teresa Butler said Friday from the witness stand
during the period after the trial when relatives can confront the
defendant. "I couldn't say it better than you said it yourself it would
have been better if you'd never been born."
With his back to the room, most people in the court could not see as
Broadnax laughed. But assistant district attorney David Alex later said he
saw it happen.
As she left the stand, Butler admonished Broadnax to stop laughing.
Alex said Broadnax's reaction was telling. "Even at this point, after
seeing how many people he's affected, he's still over there laughing," he
He appeared to have no reaction earlier when he was sentenced to die by
injection for the murder of Stephen Swan. He also has confessed to killing
Matthew Butler as the two left a Garland recording studio in June 2008.
When the sentence was announced, friends and relatives of the victims
smiled grimly, embraced and wiped away tears.
Broadnax's mother, Audry Kelly, dabbed at her face, and held tightly to a
member of the defense team.
The jury deliberated for about 8 hours over 2 days.
"We just took our time going through all the evidence," said Jay Williams,
one of nine men and three women on the panel. "We came to the decision
without any reservations, with a very clear conscience."
Jury foreman Robert Patterson said the jury "went through a very
thoughtful process" and no one person was at odds with the others.
Patterson, the lone black jury member, was placed on the panel at the
insistence of Judge Michael Snipes, who was concerned that the group
sitting in judgment on the biracial defendant be racially diverse.
"I was not aware of that fact," Patterson said, adding that "race was not
an issue with respect to the decision we made."
The Broadnax case was the 3rd capital murder jury Patterson has served on,
but the 1st one in which prosecutors have sought the death penalty.
Patterson said television interviews Broadnax gave after the crime, in
which he boasted about killing the 2 men and expressed no remorse or
sympathy for their families, influenced jurors more than the defendant's
impassive demeanor in the courtroom.
Defense attorney Brad Lollar insisted his client does regret his actions.
"James has repeatedly expressed to me that he was remorseful for the pain
he's caused," he said.
He also said his client "wanted me to tell anybody out there they should
stay away from PCP." The defense maintained during the trial that one
reason Broadnax committed the cold-blooded killings was because he was
under the influence of drugs.
Broadnax apparently wrote letters to both victims' families last year
expressing his regret. Jamie Butler Cole, widow of Matthew Butler,
referred to the letter she received when she told Broadnax during her
statement that she forgave him.
She did so, she stressed, for her sake, not his. "It gives me freedom to
live my life," the mother of 2 said.
But Deborah Swan, sister of Stephen Swan, said she didn't know if her
family had received such a note.
She has not been able to forgive Broadnax, she said. "I would like to say
that I have, but I can't."
Dallas DA Craig Watkins says Garland murder case has made him rethink
stance on death penalty
Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins, who has expressed reservations
about the death penalty, said the capital murder case of James Broadnax,
who gunned down two men in Garland in 2008, has made him rethink his
He is still conflicted, but, "I'm starting to change a little bit," he
said. "You know this guy didn't have any remorse whatsoever. And maybe
it's true that there are just people out there that need to be dealt with
in this way."
When reviewing old cases on appeal, Watkins says he sees how defendants
have changed after decades on death row. By the time they're about to be
executed, "That's a totally different person than was what we got to see
In a decade, Broadnax may be different, he said, but perhaps the specter
of the ultimate punishment is what will change him.
"I'm working through this right now," Watkins said. "It's difficult."
He doesn't know that he will ever come to a definite conclusion. "I don't
know that I ever will get to the position where I can say I'm for or
against it," he said.
In the meantime, he said his office will continue to enforce the laws of
the state of Texas, including seeking the death penalty in some cases.
One of those cases is that of Ronald Curtis Chambers, who has been on
death row since 1976 for the murder of Mike McMahan. Chambers was ordered
a new sentencing trial his fourth by the federal courts in 2008.
Watkins said Friday his office will seek the death penalty again for
Chambers, who abducted McMahan and a friend, robbed, shot and beat them,
leaving them to die in the Trinity River bottoms.
According to federal court records the Chambers trial is scheduled for
August of next year.
(source for both: Dallas Morning News)