Texas: With a man's execution days away, his victims react with fury or forgiveness

For the past 3 months, Christopher Anthony Young has awoken in his 10-by-6 foot concrete cell on death row and had to remind himself: He's scheduled to die soon.
As the day crept closer, the thought became more constant for Young, who's sentenced to die for killing Hasmukh "Hash" Patel in 2004.
"What will it feel like to lay on the gurney?" he asks himself. "To feel the needle pierce my vein?"
Mitesh Patel, who was 22 when Young murdered his father, has anxiously anticipated those moments, as well. He wonders how he will feel when he files into the room adjacent to the death chamber and sees Young just feet away through a glass wall.
For years, Patel felt a deep hatred for Young. He wanted to see him die. Patel knew it wouldn't bring his father back. But it was part of the process that started 14 years ago when Young, then 21, gunned down Hash Patel during a robbery at Patel's convenience store on the Southeast Side of San Antonio.
3 mont…

Texas man sentenced to death for killing girlfriend's toddler

Jason Wade Delacerda (left)
A Hardin County jury on Tuesday handed down the state's 1st death sentence of 2018, deciding a Kountze man convicted of torturing and killing his girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter is irredeemable and likely to commit future violent crimes.

The jury deliberated for more than 3 hours before unanimously determining there was no reason Jason Wade Delacerda, 40, should spend his life in prison instead of being executed by lethal injection.

"What mitigates the horror that she lived in? What mitigates the pain she suffered?" District Attorney David Sheffield asked during his closing statements, holding up a picture of Breonna Nichole Loftin, who prosecutors said was abused for weeks before she died.

He asked the jury to think about how they would explain to Breonna their decision not to sentence him to death. "This is a wrong that we cannot turn right for her," he said. "However, we can prevent 1 last death. We can prevent the death of justice for her."

Defense attorneys James Makin and Ryan Gertz, attempting to save Delacerda's life, argued Tuesday morning that he was unlikely to commit future violent acts while in prison.

They provided the jury with more than 600 pages of records documenting his time in the Hardin County Jail for the last 6 1/2 years and called Beaumont psychiatrist Edward Gripon to testify that "in a prison setting, his risk of future violence is low."

In his closing statement, Makin told the jury not to let Delacerda's son, who testified Monday, live with the knowledge that he was part of the process that killed his father.

His son was not in the courtroom Tuesday and did not speak during his testimony about the punishment his father should receive.

"Your verdict says that, between life and death, Jason made the wrong choice," Gertz said, telling the jury that they could make the right choice instead. "Some of you are people of faith," he said, and asked them to consider their moral compass.

"This was, absolutely, a terrible tragedy. Nobody's condoning it, supporting it, nobody likes it. But there's nothing we can do. There's not one thing you can do in that room that fixes this for this little girl." he said.

Assistant District Attorney Bruce Hoffer, who was emotional as he addressed the jury, said Delacerda would be a danger to other prisoners and has a history of trouble, pointing to past misdemeanor convictions and a threat he allegedly made to kill his parents in 1996.

"The facts of this case tell you Breonna went from being that loving little child to laying on a gurney at the morgue because of moving in with him," he said.

During his closing statement, Sheffield said Delacerda's son's testimony was the "most compelling." He said Monday that his father punched, kicked, choked and abused Breonna "all the time" the summer before she died, forcing her to stand on bottlecaps all night and sit in bathtubs of ice for hours.

The 19-year-old said that while he and his brother visited their biological father, he put pushpins in Breonna's face and fingers and paddled her so hard she bruised and bled.

During his testimony, he said at first the 4-year-old cried, but then "she got used to it."

Sheffield said visualizing and reliving the abuse was difficult, and it was clear that it affected him as a then-12-year-old. "He's a victim, too. He carries that with him all the time," he said.

Delacerda did not visibly react when the verdict was read.

Makin said afterward that he and Gertz told their client that the death penalty was likely when they explained their strategy last week. They did not cross-examine witnesses, make an opening statement or call any witnesses of their own during the guilt/innocence phase, and objected to all evidence that did not relate to the 24 to 48 hours before Breonna died. The judge's decision to include that evidence will be targeted in their appeal, they've said.

As a death penalty case, it will go automatically to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for review, and new counsel will be appointed.

Gertz said they have an appellate attorney in mind who they will request be assigned to the case.

Breonna's mother, Amanda Guidry, is also charged with capital murder. She was released on bond in 2014. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty in her case.

After Delacerda was sentenced, Hoffer praised Sheffield for deciding to seek the death penalty in the case, as well as the District Attorney's Office and Hardin County law enforcement for their work.

He said Breonna's family members who testified last week chose not to attend the sentencing. "This was very hard, and everybody deals with things in different ways," he said.

During his closing statement last week, before Delacerda was found guilty, he showed a picture of Breonna to the jury and played a clip of a song from the movie "Pitch Perfect," called "You're Gonna Miss Me When I'm Gone."

He declined to comment on the decision last week, but said Tuesday that it was inspired by the last words Breonna said to her grandmother, Wanda Bailey. Bailey was not allowed to testify about that conversation, because it was ruled hearsay, but Hoffer said Breonna was trying to tell Bailey goodbye.

"This case goes back 6 1/2 years," he said. "Everybody at that time knew this case should end this way." 

Source: Houston Chronicle, February 28, 2018

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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