Thursday, March 24, 2011

Venire of 100 to be examined Monday in capital murder case

Jury will be empaneled in a murder-for-hire trial of three defendants who allegedly plotted to kill a soldier for $100,000 in life insurance benefits

Belton – The afternoon sunlight out of the north floods the glassed-in corridors of the Bell County Criminal Justice Complex, a modern split block veneer building – long, low, lean, and drawn out across the cedar and scrub oak studded prairie which backs up to the County Jail.

Inside the courtrooms, all is air conditioned comfort in brightly lit chambers painted a cool shade of relaxing light green.

To the west, the world's largest military installation sprawls across two central Texas counties. Ft. Hood, named for a Confederate cavalry general, was chosen in 1942 as a tank destroyer gunnery range where the Army trained the armored divisions who would face Hitler's blitzkrieg Panzer outfits on the plains of Europe.

Today, the Fort houses about 52,000 soldiers within its 158,706-acre boundaries and has ultra-long heavily reinforced concrete runways capable of landing and launching massive cargo aircraft for rapid deployment of troopers and armor anywhere in the world on a few days' notice.

On Monday morning, a venire of 100 prospective jurors will assemble in the building's largest first floor courtroom, where prosecutors and defense counsel will choose a single jury to hear the cases against 3 persons charged with capital murder who allegedly plotted the brutal October 2008 stabbing death of a sleeping non-commissioned officer for $100,000 in life insurance benefits.

A former girlfriend of Sgt. Ryan Michael Sullivan, Nellie Briggs was the beneficiary to his life insurance policy. She allegedly promised a share of the benefit money to John Anthony Valdez, a 26-year-old fellow soldier, and an associate, Kyle Moesch, both members of an armored cavalry unit at Ft. Hood.

Mr. Moesch told a homicide investigator that when he awoke at Sgt. Sullivan's Killeen townhouse, he saw the victim lying in a pool of his own blood, brutally stabbed to death.

Mr. Valdez, he said, was standing over Sgt. Sullivan's body wearing a ski mask. A grand jury originally indicted Mr. Moesch for tampering with evidence in the case, but he, too, has since been charged with capital murder, punishable by death or life imprisonment.

Seven months later, investigators charged Ms. Briggs with conspiring in the murder-for-hire plot after apprehending her remarks on tapes of her discussing with Mr. Valdez the amount of money left from the insurance settlement during two visits to him at the jail.

The three defendants will be tried together by 264th State District Judge Martha Trudo, prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Murff Bledsoe, and defended by three separate lawyers with differing agendas and strategies in the representation of their clients.
Mr. Bledsoe said the long delay in the trial has been caused by waiting for DNA analysis and other tests of physical evidence collected in the investigation of the murder.

Much conflict has arisen between the defense counselors. For instance, the attorney representing Ms. Briggs mentioned there is no physical evidence linking her to the killing.

That remark angered the attorney representing Mr. Valdez. At a hearing in which the three attorneys requested severance of the cases for separate trials, Robert “Bucky” Harris interrupted the testimony and told Judge Trudo that not only will the defense counsel be arguing against the state's attorney, they will be arguing the case against each other.

The Court ruled nevertheless that the defendants will be tried together, and she has denied bail reduction for all three.

No comments:

Post a Comment