David Everett Stevens was found guilty of Solicitation to Commit Capital Murder in the 89th District Court and will spend 75 years in prison. A jury of nine women and three men reached their unanimous guilty verdict just after 6 p.m. on Tuesday and recommended their sentence just after 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
The prosecution said Stevens, 43, tried to hire a hit man to kill his wife's boyfriend in March of 2010.
During final statements on Wednesday the prosecution pointed out some of Stevens' past crimes including criminal mischief and theft and noted he received light sentences. Lead Prosecutor Starla Jones urged the jury to give Stevens the maximum penalty of life in prison. Just after 4 hours into their sentencing deliberations, the jury returned with a recommended 75 years.
After the trial Jones told Newschannel 6 she was confident in the case the entire time. She said, "There was no doubt about this defendants guilt from the beginning. This was a recorded statement that he made the solicitation." She also commended the jury for their verdicts.
Testimony began Thursday, October 5th, with a retired Wichita Falls Police Officer who said he was approached by Gutierrez, a man he described as a known criminal, on March 14th, 2010. Gutierrez told the man he had been talking with Stevens about committing a murder for him. The retired officer passed the information on to an officer with the Crimes Against Persons division who then led the case.
The next day the WFPD set things in motion, interviewing Gutierrez and bringing in the intended victim, Matthew McCann for his protection. Cooperating with police, Gutierrez called Stevens and arranged a meeting at McDonald's. Police recorded that conversation and the eventual meeting.
The audio was hard to hear in court, but jurors were provided with transcripts to follow along. At one point you can hear a voice say, "Take him out in the county and shoot him." The officer responsible for wiring Gutierrez identified the voices on the recordings as the informant and Stevens.
Police tailed Stevens back to his home while Gutierrez was taken back to the station. He later called Stevens again, quickly telling him to meet him at the Love's Truck Stop. The final audio recording of the meeting at Love's was even more difficult to hear due to heavy traffic and some interference, but the officer walked the jurors through the key parts.
Later testimony detailed how police took down Stevens, surrounding his van and ordering him out.
The hit man turned confidential informant, Johnny Gutierrez, testified for nearly 2 hours on Friday. The convicted felon said he and Stevens discussed several ways to kill Matthew McCann including a home invasion and drive by shooting. Gutierrez said the idea to kill McCann came from Stevens. He also testified that he tried to talk Stevens out of it several times.
The Defense team latched on to Gutierrez's criminal record and his desire for money. They also pointed out if Gutierrez really wanted to stop Stevens, all he had to do was say no.
The prosecution rested its case just after lunch. Late Friday the defense called David Stevens to the stand to testify in his own defense. Things appeared to go well during direct examination, with Stevens claiming he only wanted to intimidate McCann to get him away from his wife. He claims it was Gutierrez who stepped things up, eventually saying killing his was the only way.
On cross examination the prosecution noted that in an earlier interview, Stevens said he barely remembered his conversations with Gutierrez. At one point, lead prosecutor Starla Jones asked, "You knew when you gave him (Gutierrez) $1800 you were paying him to kill McCann?" Stevens said yes.
When it came to the recorded phone calls and meetings, Stevens admitted it was his voice, but said he didn't remember saying what the jury was hearing. Court broke at 5 o'clock and will resume Tuesday after the Columbus day holiday.
During closing arguments on Tuesday, the Defense team painted Stevens as an emotionally disturbed person. They continued to portray the hit man, Juan "Johnny" Gutierrez, as the true criminal. Attorneys argued this all could have been avoided if Gutierrez had just said no to Stevens.
In an interesting approach, the Defense team also challenged the actions of the Wichita Falls Police Department. Lead Defense Attorney David Nimz asked the jury if no crime had been committed, why was the entire sting operation put together.
Stevens originally was able to post a $2.5 million bond, but was found to have violated the terms of that bond. He was re-arrested last month, and this time, was put back behind bars on a $10 million bond. He has been in jail ever since.