On Saturday, jury deliberation for the murder trial of S. Dale Turner took less than ten minutes, and a verdict of "guilty" was read on charges of second degree murder. Turner was indicted on these charges for the death of 79-year-old Billy McCready of Bastrop. The crime took place on November 29, 2012.
The jury went to deliberation at approximately 12:46 p.m. on Saturday after spending Friday and Saturday morning in the courtroom of Judge Alvin Sharp at the Morehouse Parish Courthouse listening to an opening argument from the prosecution, testimony from the prosecution's witnesses and closing arguments from both Fourth Judicial District Attorney Jerry Jones and defense attorney Carl Cooper.
Friday morning's testimony was covered in the Saturday edition of the Bastrop Daily Enterprise, but the testimony of expert witnesses on Friday afternoon helped cement the prosecution's case against Turner through the presentation of DNA evidence.
Jones questioned multiple witnesses in law enforcement at both the parish and state level to establish the care taken to preserve the integrity of evidence collected at the crime scene. At the end of this chain of witnesses, forensic scientist Andrew Ingram with the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab testified about test results for the DNA samples collected from the victim's pants pocket and vehicle.
According to his testimony as an expert per Rule 702, the tests showed the DNA of both Turner and McCready in McCready's pants pocket and on the steering wheel of McCready's vehicle, which had been towed from near the crime scene the night of the incident.
Defense attorney Cooper cross-examined Ingram about the possibility of Turner's DNA being transferred to the pants pocket as he handed McCready an item earlier in the day. Ingram replied that it was only a remote possibility that the levels of DNA detected would appear from such a transfer.
Dr. Frank Peretti, the associate medical examiner for the state of Arkansas and a forensic pathologist, also testified as an expert witness and discussed the autopsy findings during questioning.
According to Peretti, McCready received fatal injuries three separate times during the attack, and this point was focused on heavily in the closing arguments presented by the D.A.
Jones focused on the fact that McCready was hit in the head multiple times — enough to kill him — and that even though he was still breathing, he was dead. The medical examiner had established that the victim had blood on his brain that would have been fatal.
Jones then reminded the jury that McCready also sustained a stab and multi-inch cut wound to the neck. According to the medical examiner, each of those wounds were fatal in and of themselves because the carotid artery was severed.
In his last statements, Jones reminded the jurors of their duty.
"You have to follow the law," Jones said. "I submit, based on the evidence, you can give Dale Turner what he took....he took a life."
When defense attorney Carl Cooper made his closing arguments, he attempted to establish a reasonable doubt in the mind of jurors. Cooper outlined how evidence showing Turner's fingerprints and DNA on the murder weapons was never presented and potential reasons Turner's DNA may have been at the scene.
"At this point, we have nothing scientific that connects Dale Turner to that site," Cooper said.
However, in the prosecution's rebuttal argument, Jones reminded the jury of key points presented by the forensic experts, including how fingerprints aren't a given at a crime scene and how a pair of gloves bearing the initials "D.T." were found in a storm drain along with McCready's wallet.
Jones also dismissed Cooper's statements concerning the DNA evidence.
"We're not on a jury to use our imaginations," Jones said. "We're here to use our minds."
After these statements and a reading of the charges, the jury filed out of court only to return in less than ten minutes with their verdict of guilty.
Turner's sentencing will take place on Monday, November 10 at 9:30 a.m.
When Turner's trial concluded, the fate of Cindy Ann Owens, who was also facing charges of second degree murder for McCready's death, was also determined when she entered into a plea agreement. Owens also appeared in court on August 2 and entered a plea of guilty to the charge of "accessory after the fact."
Owens bond was fixed at $5,000 and her sentencing will take place on September 2.
The third person arrested in connection with McCready's death, Lamona D. Lowery, plead guilty to charges of obstruction of justice on June 24.
Lowery was sentenced to five years at hard labor with credit for time served and to run concurrent with any other sentence. The hard labor portion of her sentence was suspended and Lowery was placed on supervised probation for three years. As part of her plea agreement, Lowery was supposed to testify truthfully in case No. 12-1270F — Turner's trial. However, Lowery was never called as a witness.