Clock watching a big bitch jury selection
Hill County, Texas – By the time police came to Bravern Ray Winston’s rescue in a residential Hillsboro neighborhood where a crowd of people were pelting him with beer bottles and rocks through the open windows of his car, he was already facing enough charges to put him away for life. That was on May 26, 2013.
After doctors and nurses x-rayed the multiple contusions and bandaged the numerous abrasions to his head and chest, deputies took him to jail, where a Justice Court Judge charged him with a second burglary of a habitat, the same charge for which he had already been indicted May 21. With three prior convictions for a burglary offense, an injury to a child, and an additional felony escape arrest, he was facing an array of possible prison sentences of 2 to 20 years; 5 to 99 years or life; or 25 to 99 or life, each with an additional $10,000 fine.
When the cops showed up, people were reacting to their rage that in his haste to escape the hue and cry, he nearly backed his car into a pedestrian. Police then arrested him on sight with an unaided warrant. Their arrest affidavit without warrant stipulated an additional charge of aggravated assault of a woman at her residence, noting the use of a deadly weapon.
He has yet to face a jury for that charge.
An 8-woman, 4 man jury found him guilty of entering the home that prosecutors identified in the burglary case being tried on the indictment returned on June 21, 2013; they found he had the intent to steal the belongings of its residents. They didn’t take long to convict him.
When they entered the punishment phase of the trial, they took even less time to assess a sentence of life behind bars. Known as the habitual offenders’ enhancement to felony offenses, convicts call that sentence “the big bitch.”
It was not a surprising event. During the questioning of the 80-person venire the previous Monday, Assistant Prosecutor Nicole Crain described the large array of possible sentences for the offense charged, but did not mention his previous convictions.
Something clicked in that group’s mind. They began to think as a unit.
As she questioned the entire venire whether they thought prison sentences should be aimed at rehabilitation rather than punishment, only 12 of the jurors indicated that they thought prisons are built and operated for any purpose other than to punish the offenders. Of those who said they think rehabilitation is a prime consideration in a criminal sentence, the majority qualified their remark by saying that they feel rehabilitation is plumb off the table in the cases of offenders with previous multiple offenses.
That’s the chance you take with a jury. The defense made a motion to have the jurors assess punishment in case of a conviction. Winston went through two other defense attorneys before he settled for the court appointment of Steve Keithley, a Corsicana lawyer, who has entered an immediate notice of appeal.
Numerous handwritten notes that Winston wrote to 66th State Judicial District Judge F. “Bob” McGregor are bradded into the record of the trial, most of them requesting dismissal of his attorneys. In one, he wrote that he wanted to get a new lawyer “because the court appointed attorneys aren’t working in the defendant’s best interest, and I’ve got too much knowledge of the law to let one not defend me to the best of my knowledge…I’ve got more than enough proof to show any jury in the United States the DA is indicting people off the police reports only.”
Winston lost his chance for a pre-indictment examining trial on June 25, the day before his arrest in the case of the aggravated assault on a woman in her home, when the Grand Jury returned a true bill of indictment on June 21, four days prior to the date of the examining trial.
Asked about Winston’s record of numerous offenses, Justice of the Peace John Milburn shook his head and said in a resigned tone, “Well, I magistrate 9 out of 10 of the charges over at the jail.” Then he thought about his career of more than 4 decades, at least half of which he has served as Justice of the Peace. “Over the years, every time I look up, it seems, there stands Bravern Winston… And, yes, it’s true, I did once lower his bail.”
The motion Hillsboro attorney Dwight Carmichael filed to plead for Winston’s release on lowered bail described the figure of $120,000 as an amount both excessive and in contravention to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, which declares bail amounts may not be so high as to be punitive.
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