Justice for Bridget - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Justice for Bridget: Murder Suspect Strikes Plea Deal to Avoid Death Penalty

Posted: Updated:

The State of Texas has reached a plea deal with the man accused of sexually assaulting and murdering a Graham teenager.

Jeremiah Justin Craft pleaded guilty to charges of Murder, Sexual Assault of a Child, and Tampering With Physical Evidence - Human Corpse.  He admitted to killing 16-year-old Bridget Herard.

The Court announced the deal in front of a packed assembly that included members of Bridget's family, including her mother, Mary, who held a framed picture of her daughter close to her heart.

By reaching a plea deal, Craft will serve three concurrent sentences of 45 years for murder, 45 years for sexual assault, and 25 years for tampering.

"Jeremiah and his family both knew the deck of cards were really stacked against him in this case," said Chuck Smith, Craft's attorney.  "He didn't have any illusions about what was likely to happen if he were to go to trial.  And I mean that not only on the guilt-innocent phase, but the punishment phase of the trial."

He also waives his rights to appeal any of the charges or the court decisions indefinitely.

In a statement to Newschannel 6, Gray says, "Justice was served for the citizens of Young County because with the potential of the trial in a large city, a jury could have returned what the citizens of Young County would consider to be a lenient sentence or unjust verdict...This plea will hopefully begin a healing process from the horrors of having lost Bridget at a tender young age."

And now with Craft locked behind bars for good, the Herard family hopes to do just that.

"It's been a rough year," says Mary Herard, Bridget's mother.  "The best thing I can tell [Craft] is that I hope he does find the good Lord because where he's at now, he's not in a good place."

The State agrees not to prosecute Craft for any other felony charges regarding the Herard case.

Herard's body was found in January of 2009, and now a year later, today's ruling came in less than an hour in the courtroom.

Here is a full text of Young County District Attorney Brenda Gray's statement:


Justice was served.  This morning, March 29, 2010, in the 90th Judicial District Court of Young County, Jeremiah Justin Craft admitted that he murdered, sexually assaulted, and hid the body of an innocent child – Bridget Herard.  Craft was present at the defense table in the courtroom assisted by his 2 court-appointed attorneys and a court appointed investigator. 
 
Due to State District Judge Stephen Crawford having voluntarily recused himself from presiding over the trial, visiting Judge Phillip Vick sentenced Craft to 115 years in prison:  45 years for murder, 45 years for the sexual assault of a child, and 25 years for tampering with a corpse.  It is unfortunate that the law does not permit the State to give Craft anything other than a prison sentence or permit consecutive sentences.  The law does not permit a death sentence.
 
Justice was served. Members of Bridget's family and friends heard Craft's words in response to the charges "guilty" "guilty" and "guilty".  Craft was held accountable. 
 
The desire for revenge is powerful. This is where the criminal justice system steps in as a restraint to our inclination to take matters into our own hands and to wreak havoc of our own.

While criminal prosecution in a case of murder is essential to promote public safety and personal accountability, these types of trials can actually obstruct or delay the healing process for a victim's family by increasing exposure to the violent aspects of the death.

Healing begins with a connection to caring people, and continues as a life-long process of learning to live with loss. It is not aided by further violence or acts of revenge and retribution. It is an erroneous and cynical notion that an execution can make a murder victim's family feel better.
 
The best way to assist them will be to wrap our arms around Bridget's family, and be with them in their grief.  This plea, which was approved beforehand and supported by Bridget's family, will hopefully begin a healing process from the horrors of having lost Bridget at a tender young age.
 
Justice was served because the visiting judge found the evidence was sufficient to find Craft guilty and did so.  There is always a potential for a jury to be unable to reach a unanimous verdict, which would mean another jury trial further prolonging the agony of the family. 
 
Justice was served for the citizens of Young County.  Although it had not yet been announced in the courtroom, from all appearances the trial was being moved outside Young County and probably to where Craft wanted -- Tarrant County.  Justice was served because with the potential of the trial in a large metropolitan city, such as Ft. Worth, a jury could have returned what the citizens of Young County would consider to be a lenient sentence or unjust verdict.  Additionally, a trial in Tarrant County would have severely handicapped the Young County Sheriff's Office.  The Sheriff's Office had numerous personnel involved in the investigation and whose availability and attendance in Tarrant County would have been required, severely impacting their patrol and investigatory functions, and jail operations.  Without bringing in officers from outside the county, the Sheriff's Office would have been limited to a skeletal crew to respond to public safety issues and to the operations of the county jail. 
 
Justice was served for the taxpayers of Young County.   The trial of Bridget's murderer could have taken as much as 2-3 weeks with as many as over 100 potential witnesses giving testimony.  The citizens of Young County could have faced expenses ranging from approximately $35,000 to $100,000,  including: expenses related to the visiting judge; expert witnesses; overtime, travel, and lodging expenses for the Young County officers testifying at the trial; law enforcement officers and jail personnel brought in to provide coverage for Young County; the court appointed defense team of two attorneys, the court appointed investigator, and a psychologist; court reporter; 3-4 bailiffs for courtroom security; and reimbursing the Tarrant County jail for holding Craft. 
 
Justice was served because as a part of the plea bargain, Craft gave up his right to an expensive appeal and cannot drag this out in the courts for years. Bridget's family will not be required to relive the pain and suffering of the death of their loved one for many years through an appeal.

Suspect's Judgment of Conviction, Penal Code 37.09(d)(2)

Judgment Penal Code 37.09(d)(2), page 2

Judgment Penal Code 37.09(d)(2), page 3

Judgment of Conviction by Court, Penal Code 22.011

Judgment of Conviction by Court Penal Code 22.011, page 2

Judgment of Conviction by Court Penal Code 22.011, page 3

Judgment of Conviction by Court, Penal Code 19.02(b)(1)

Judgment Penal Code 19.02(b)(1), page 2

Judgment Penal Code 19.02(b)(1), page 3

 

  • News HeadlinesNews HeadlinesMore>>

  • State Park Drought Watch

    State Park Drought Watch

    Thursday, April 17 2014 8:08 PM EDT2014-04-18 00:08:36 GMT
    Lake Arrowhead State Park, known for it's recreational water sports is hurting under the current drought conditions. With a lake Level of 24.3%, many texomans are not visiting the park. 
    Lake Arrowhead State Park, known for it's recreational water sports is hurting under the current drought conditions. With a lake Level of 24.3%, many texomans are not visiting the park. 
  • Pet of the Week

    Pet of the Week

    Thursday, April 17 2014 2:07 PM EDT2014-04-17 18:07:10 GMT
    Bumper is our pet of the week.
    Bumper is our pet of the week.
  • Youth United Dodgeball Tournament

    Youth United Dodgeball Tournament

    Thursday, April 17 2014 2:04 PM EDT2014-04-17 18:04:00 GMT
    Youth United is inviting the public to watch it's Dodge, Duck and Dive Dodgeball Tournament.
    Youth United is inviting the public to watch it's Dodge, Duck and Dive Dodgeball Tournament.