The punishment evidence yesterday showed during the last 10 years my client had lived in the free world less than two months. In March 2006 he was paroled after doing 9 of 15 years for a prior burglary. In May 2006 he was caught inside the victim's house stealing a watch and was imprisoned in the county jail until trial this week.
Our goal during the punishment phase was to provide mitigating evidence to the jury. Since 1990 my client had been treated for mental illness with a history of commitments to the Austin State Hospital, Rusk State Hospital, and a private psychiatric facility in Bryan, Texas. In addition to the typical psychiatric evidence you might expect to hear, there was evidence of my client's bizarre suicide attempt in 1996. After finishing dinner one evening, and without warning, he went out into the back yard and took off his clothing. He then poured gasoline on his clothes, put the clothes back on and set himself on fire. If not for the quick action of his brother to extinguish the flames my client would have surely burned to death.
Some interesting evidence was provided by the victim himself. After confronting my client inside his home, he testified my client was acting in a bizarre way. He described him as "babbling," "wild-eyed," and "confused." When the police apprehended him a few minutes later they described him as incoherent and disoriented. Interestingly, the psychiatrist's incompetency report prior to trial revealed the same symptoms. "Fragmented thinking," "delusional logic," and "thought blocking." For the record, we considered the insanity defense but did not raise it at trial.
A big problem for my client was his continual refusal to submit to mental health services when available and his refusal to take medication. Obviously, the two prior trips to the pen for burglary did not help. The reports also said my client may be manipulative and malingering.
The jury assessed punishment at 40 years confinement. The minimum was twenty-five because of the prior felony convictions. I asked the jury to disregard the priors and assess a fair punishment. I argued "our society should be judged by how we treat the least among us, and Gary is certainly one of the least."
The paper called my house last night for comment. My comment was simple. "40 years was too much."