Thursday, October 01, 2009

Austin Jury Chooses Life Without Parole Over Death

Rosemary Lehmberg, the Travis County District Attorney, should reconsider how often she chooses to seek the death penalty after a jury today again decided against the death penalty. Seeking death costs Travis County taxpayers much more than it does when the DA takes the death penalty off the table, up to 3 times more than seeking and obtaining a life sentence. It is also apparent from the Todd Willingham case that Texas is capable of making mistakes and executing innocent people, another reason why Lehmberg should stop seeking the death penalty.

After deliberating for three hours, a Travis County jury sentenced Albert Segura to life in prison without parole.

Segura, 37, was present for the verdict. Since Tuesday, he had refused to attend the proceedings. Sheriff’s deputies testified that Segura wanted to remain in the jail to watch TV and talk to family.

“We’re very thankful for the jury’s verdict,” defense lawyer Ariel Payan said after the verdict was read. “Mr. Segura is, too. He told us that.”

Segura was convicted Monday of capital murder in the deaths of Billy Gene Ferguson, 28, and Ferguson’s mother, Patricia Smith, 51.

During the trial, witnesses testified that Segura shot Ferguson in a southern Travis County home after hearing that a mutual friend had called Segura a snitch. Then Segura kidnapped Smith, who lived in the home with her son, walked her into a Hays County field and returned without her, a witness testified.

Smith’s body was found shot in that same field three weeks later.

Earlier: A Travis County jury is now deciding whether Albert Segura will live or die.

Segura, 37, faces either the death penalty of life in prison without parole for the murders of Billy Gene Ferguson, 28, and Patricia Smith, 51. Jurors found Segura guilty of capital murder on Monday. Since then, they have been hearing testimony from witnesses in the punishment phase of the trial.

Prosecutors say Segura should get the death penalty because he is a member of the Texas Syndicate prison gang. Though he will likely be housed in a cell for 23 hours a day because of his gang affiliation, prosecutors say that he would still have the ability to harm people by working behind the scenes through letters and phone calls.

But defense lawyers argued this morning that Segura does not have a violent history. He’s never been charged with any gang-related crimes and was never punished for any violent infractions while incarcerated, they said.

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