James Staley murder trial: Jury deliberations end

James Staley III in court on March 6, 2023.
James Staley III in court on March 6, 2023.(KAUZ)
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 9:29 AM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - Closing arguments and jury deliberations started on Monday, March 13, 2023, for the trial of the man accused of murdering 2-year-old Jason Wilder McDaniel in his home in October of 2018.

Judge Everett Young is presiding over James Staley III’s case at the Tarrant County Courthouse in Fort Worth. News Channel 6′s Alyssa Osterdock and Joseph Saint will be covering the trial to bring you the latest developments.

*WARNING: This report contains graphic content. Viewer discretion is advised.*


Closing arguments began Monday morning in a packed Tarrant County courtroom. Both the prosecution and defense are allowed 90 minutes apiece.

Prosecutors started first by referencing a book where the killer says, “if you speak the truth in a silly way, nobody believes you,” referencing the text messages that Staley’s lawyers called just his silly sense of humor.

Prosecutors then talked about the fact that Wilders’ frenulum was not broken, which the defense claimed heavily proves Staley’s innocence, even though doctors said broken frenulums are rare in suffocation cases.

Staley’s lawyers have now started their closing arguments after prosecutors ended theirs after about 45 minutes.

The defense talked about Staley’s “soft side” referencing the texts where he told Amber to bring Wilder over and called him a “cuddle bug.” Staley’s lawyers then talked about Amber’s search history the night Wilder died, during the hours she claimed to be asleep.

They then moved on to address first responders at the scene who said they saw Staley crying and dry heaving the morning Wilder was found. The defense also brought up the possibility of DNA being transferred between items that were packaged together.

Staley’s lawyers then called the presence of petechia on Wilder’s body “insufficient” since it can happen from multiple things, like CPR or decomposition. They also talked about how the autopsy was ruled as undetermined, and even read the definition of undetermined to the jury.

The defense continued by saying crime scene reconstruction company owner Tom Bevel’s work is sloppy and reckless. They also addressed the video of Staley slapping Wilder, saying prosecutors only brought it because they “had no other case.”

Staley’s lawyers said, “just because children don’t die every day from falling out of a crib, doesn’t mean it doesn’t ever happen.”

They then said the Wichita Falls Police Department did a sloppy job at taking evidence from the scene.


The defense then finished their closing arguments, and prosecutors now have a chance for rebuttal. The prosecution then began by talking about Staley’s anger and how Amber ignored red flags.

Prosecutors alleged that Staley had the power in the relationship with Amber, and they mentioned how Staley made her quit her job.

They talked about how the blood was not spattered on the ground, meaning Wilder was placed. Prosecutors then pulled out a pillow with several clips on it, saying they placed a red clip everywhere that Wilder’s blood was. They also mentioned the fact that the cleaning lady’s DNA was not on the pillow, but Staley’s was.

Prosecutors then played the audio of the video showing Staley slap Wilder. Wilder could be heard crying after the slap had happened, before he says, “let me down.” The prosecution suggested he could not even get off the couch on his own, let alone crawl out of his crib.

As the prosecution was making their rebuttal, Staley could be seen shaking his head.

Prosecutors continued by talking about how WFPD Sgt. Charlie Eipper consoled Amber McDaniel at the scene, saying to Staley’s face, “like any man would do.”

Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie walked over to the jury and said, “it is up to you. You will decide to tell James he does not make his own rules. You will tell them ‘no James, no James.’”

Jury deliberations have now started.


James Staley III has been found guilty of capital murder in the death of Jason Wilder McDaniel.

Staley was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The jury came back with the verdict after about four hours of deliberation following closing arguments made by the prosecution and defense.

As Staley was being handcuffed, he yelled to everyone, “I did not kill Wilder McDaniel.”


Jury selection ran for three days starting on Feb. 22, 2023, with 100 potential jurors dwindled down to seven men and seven women who will serve as 12 jurors and two alternates. Staley’s trial is expected to last up to two weeks, according to Judge Young.

The defense and prosecution teams made their opening statements on Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, which were followed by testimonies from five people.

Staley has pleaded not guilty to the crime. In August of 2022, Staley’s change of venue request was approved and his trial was moved from Wichita County to Tarrant County.

Staley’s attorneys had said the local jury pool has been tainted against him due to media coverage and Facebook outcry, and the safety of Staley and anyone connected to the case was also a concern.