Jury reaches verdict in McDaniel punishment trial

Amber McDaniel at a Justice for Wilder rally
Amber McDaniel at a Justice for Wilder rally(KSWO)
Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 10:47 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 19, 2023 at 5:44 PM CDT
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UPDATE: The jury has reached a verdict in the Amber McDaniel punishment trial.

The jury recommended a sentencing of two years of confinement for child endangerment, of which she will spend in state jail. The jury also recommended five years confinement for tampering with evidence, but suggested she get probation instead of jail time.

Judge McKnight will look over the jury’s recommendation and formal sentencing is expected at 9 a.m. on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.

McDaniel is being held without bond at this time and does have the right to an appeal.

TARRANT COUNTY, Texas (KAUZ) - Closing arguments for Amber McDaniel’s punishment trial began today at 9 a.m. at the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center in Tarrant County.

Wichita Co. District Attorney John Gillespie began his closing statement by saying that Amber is a master manipulator. He pointed out how short her relationship with Staley was, but she was happy and blindsided because she had found a rich boyfriend with a big house and a pool.

Gillespie said some of the last words Wilder ever heard was his mother telling him he was safe in Staley’s house.

Defense attorney Mark Barber began his closing arguments by discussing how several women get into toxic relationships and Staley had several victims that he manipulated. Barber pointed out that Staley would use Wilder to get to Amber because he was her weak point.

He explained that Amber gave law enforcement the photos showing Wilder’s bruising from his bed incident and the texts from Staley that referred to Wilder and Bubba McDaniel as people who “should be culled” immediately after Wilder’s death. Barber also pointed out that Amber voluntarily met with law enforcement several times throughout the investigation.

Barber pointed out that Amber would be a convicted felon and lose her surgical tech license. He said she was already in prison in her own mind.

Gillespie finished his statements by asking the jury if they would ignore Wilder’s voice when he claimed he did not want to be around James multiple times. He said Wilder’s voice had been ignored enough.

Gillespie said this was not a minimal case, so it does not deserve minimal punishment. He claims Amber does not deserve credit for testifying or pleading guilty because that’s what any mother should and would do. Gillespie asked the jury if they thought Phoenix McDaniel’s conception was a coincidence and said having another child was not a “get out of jail free” card.

Gillespie showed the photo of a bruised Wilder after falling off the bed again and said that Amber knew there was probably abuse between Staley and Wilder, but she covered it up.

Amber has pleaded guilty to charges of child endangerment and tampering with evidence. After the attorneys’ closing arguments, the jury will depart to deliberate and determine her sentence. The maximum penalty for these charges is two years and ten years, respectively.