The Capital Murder trial involving a Texoma father is now over. On Wednesday, the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict for Benjamin Jerome Prince.
Prince, 30, was convicted of beating his toddler with a claw hammer and a gun. The District Attorney's office did not seek the death penalty, meaning Prince was automatically sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
During closing arguments, both the Prosecution and Defense focused on whether Prince knowingly or intentionally murdered his 23 month old son. District Attorney Maureen Shelton attacked the Defense's expert witness. She ended her statement by telling the jury, "You 2 men and 10 women are all that stand between a child killer and the streets of Wichita County."
The jury took less than 2 hours to return a guilty verdict. Judge Bob Brotherton released the jury and scheduled sentencing for after lunch. At 1:30, Prince returned to the courtroom having traded in his coat and tie for prison stripes.
The toddlers mother and Prince's former common-law wife, Nicole Grant, took the stand one final time to address the man she once loved. Grant said, "I have to live my life with only the memories of the 2 people I love and with the question of why."
Brennon Brady with the Defense team told Newschannel 6 they were disappointed with the jury's verdict. He expressed specific disappointment with the fact that no lesser charges were offered for the jury to consider. As he put it, it was pretty much convict of Capital Murder or let Prince go free. Brady said they plan on appealing the decision.
On Tuesday, the Defense played a video of Prince's first interview with Wichita Falls Police after being arrested. In the video Prince appears to be disoriented, at times talking to himself and repeatedly asking "what happened?". He becomes further agitated, asking, "Why is there blood on me? Whose blood is this?" Eventually the detective tells Prince that Trebian is deceased. Prince cries out, screaming at the officer, "No he's not, he's not dead, he's not dead he's not dead."
Refusing to believe his son is dead, Prince continues to yell and cry uncontrollably. He says, "Please tell me my son is in another room. Ya'll are trying to trick me, and I don't appreciate you messing with me with my sons life." Prince's father attempts to calm him down, telling him he has to face what happened.
If the jury believes that Prince was truly as upset as he appeared in the video it could lend some credibility to the Defense's claim of a temporary dissociative state. That in turn could make it difficult for the prosecution to prove prince knowingly and intentionally killed his son.
On Monday, the Prosecution recalled the Chief Investigator for the case. The Wichita Falls Detective testified there were no prints recovered from the hammer or the gun found at the scene.
A Firearms Examiner later testified the bullets and casings found at the scene were fired from the gun that was recovered. When the gun was recovered at the scene, the spring was missing from the frame. The Examiner said the only way the spring could have come out is if someone disassembled the gun.
A DNA analyst with the Tarrant County Medical Examiners Officer also took the stand. She testified the DNA evidence found on the hammer and gun matched Trebian Prince.
Right before lunch, the Prosecution rested its case. Before the jury was called back in for the afternoon, council for both sides examined the Defense's first witness, a psychologist.
When the jury entered, Public Defender James Rasmussen addressed the jury. He said there is no doubt Benjamin Prince killed his son, but the question is why he did it. Dr. William Carter testified for the Defense. He said in his opinion, Prince went into a temporary dissociative state while committing the gruesome crimes.
A dissociative state does not mean insanity, Dr. Carter said Prince still had some sense of self awareness. But he said a severe psychological state played a role in Prince's conduct and should be considered when proving intent. In order to get a Capital Murder conviction the Prosecution must prove Prince knowingly and intentionally murdered Trebian.
The prosecution countered the testimony by noting Dr. Carter did not interview Prince's friends or family or contact the prosecution when compiling a mental history. Dr. Carter also never saw autopsy photos and only read transcripts of the 911 calls. He acknowledged hearing the tapes and seeing the pictures could have been beneficial when determining intent.
A variety of witnesses took the stand last Thursday, the second day of testimony. The Defense team opened the day, by cross examining Nicole Grant, the mother of 23 month old Trebian Prince. Her testimony went quickly and had less emotion than her first day on the stand.
The Medical Examiner also testified Thursday afternoon. He showed graphic pictures of Trebian and John Prince's injuries. Several people left the courtroom, other looked away, clearly upset by what they were seeing.
Wichita Falls Police Officers, a DNA analyst and Crime Scene Technician also testified about the chain of evidence.
Seven witnesses took the stand for the prosecution on Wednesday. In the morning, the 2 Wichita Falls Police Department officers who arrived first on the scene testified about what they saw from outside the home.
Two 9-1-1 dispatchers also took the stand, testifying about what they heard in the call center on the morning of August 30th. Just after lunch, the prosecution played 5 separate 9-1-1 calls. In total, the jury heard nearly 20 minutes of screaming, crying and sobbing.
Two more police officers testified in the afternoon. The first was a member of the SWAT team that entered the home. The second was with Prince at the hospital. The second officer also met with Nicole Grant at United Regional. Grant, the mother of 23-month old Trebian Prince, was shot in the shoulder during the attack.
Grant herself took the stand as the final witness on Wednesday. She testified for nearly 90 minutes. While clearly emotional, she maintained her composure for the first half hour of her testimony. Grant broke down when she had to recall for the jury, how Benjamin Prince shot her step brother and beat her baby boy to death.
Attorneys questioned more than 50 potential jurors on Tuesday, eventually selecting 10 women and 2 men to hear testimony. Several jurors said they did not feel like they could be impartial due to the nature of the crime.
Prosecutors say the little boy was beaten to death on August 30th, 2009. The horrifying acts started to unfold that day around 6:30 in the morning. Police were called to a home near Pearlie Drive by neighbors who reported hearing a woman scream and gunshots.
When police arrived, they said they saw a man dragging a woman back into the home. Once swat finally made it inside they found Trebian beaten, and 20 year old John Prince and 25 year old Nicole Grant both shot. Trebian and John Prince both died from their injuries. Nicole Grant survived. Two other children were also found in the home, But they were not hurt.
When we spoke to Sergeant Joe Snyder at the time of the murders, he made it clear that this crime shocked the Texoma community.
Sergeant Snyder said, "I've worked here for 22 years and you don't here of anything like this occurring in our city, let alone in a nice neighborhood like this."
Now the details of this case will be told as prosecutors seek justice for Trebian Prince, who was just a month away from turning two years old.