The sentencing phase in the trial of a retired East Texas dentist convicted of murdering his wife begins today.
Wednesday, a jury convicted 76-year-old Bobby Ray Nichols in the June shooting. In his two and a half hours on the stand, Nichols told the jury that he and Rosalind fought often.
KLTV's Melanie Torre is in the courtroom, as she has been throughout the trial. Her live updates on the sentencing proceedings will be posted in blog form below.
Defense attorney calls Nichols an "abused spouse"
The Judge tells the jury the punishment range for the murder charge is 5-99 years or life in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
If the jury finds Rosalind's death was committed by "sudden passion, arising from an adequate cause," then the punishment range for the crime is 2-20 years in prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Assistant District Attorney Richard Vance says he's going to get a little loud and intense because he's passionate about the case. He says he apologizes if that doesn't sit well with some people, but says if he can't get passionate at this point in the trial, then he has no business doing this job.
Vance says the jury did the right thing by finding Nichols guilty. He tells them their verdict is nothing without a sentence to support it. Vance says the jury's verdict will send a message about the community's values and standards.
Vance explains to the jury that Nichols can be eligible for parole at 30 years regardless of if they sentence him to anything from 60 years to life. He tells the jury, sentencing him to life sends a message. Vance says by giving Nichols anything less than life, the jury is saying there's something about what Nichols did that's ok.
Vance tells the jury Rosalind's murder was as cold, calculated and intentional as it gets. Vance says Lollar will argue that Nichols hooks get a lesser sentence because he's old and has health problems. Vance says Nichols' age and health conditions make him more dangerous to society because he has nothing to lose. "Who's next?" Vance asks.
Bradley Lollar, Nichols' attorney, thanks the jury for their time. He says he appreciates Vance's passion for his work. Lollar says the jury has heard that Nichols is a good, peaceful man with a sterling reputation in the community and has no criminal history. Lollar reminds the jury that Nichols daughter testified her father was never violent. Lollar says Nichols served in the Navy and was a Smith County Sheriff's Office Reserve Officer.
Lollar says Nichols spent his life as a family man and a provider. Lollar says that should count for something, despite what the State says.
Lollar does tell the jury Nichols has congestive heart failure and Parkinson's disease. Lollar says Nichols' disease affects a lot of things in Nichols' body.
Lollar says the crime was, "certainly a crime of passion." Lollar tells the jury Nichols didn't plan Rosalind's murder out for a long time.
Lollar tells the jury that in the interview with the detective after the murder, Nichols may not have said he was in a fog but did say didn't remember a lot of things that happened.
Lollar says the psychologists all agreed Nichols has difficulty with his memory.
Lollar says the state argues Nichols should have walked away and left before the murder. Lollar asks why Rosalind didn't leave the fight.
Lollar says there are so many things that could have happened differently so that the offense wouldn't have happened. Lollar says he wonders if Rosalind hadn't drunk so much that night, would she still have said the thing that lead to the offense.
Lollar says, "Bob Nichols was an abused spouse."
Lollar says Nichols is going to be a perfect prisoner. He says the only problem will be his health because he's going to get worse.
Lollar reminds the jury that they can find the murder was committed in sudden passion.
The defense asks for 5 years in prison and tells the jury, if anybody asks them why they did that, tell people they think that Bob Nichols killed his wife because he was an abused spouse.
In his rebuttal, Vance says if the jury buys the sudden passion issue, he's going to step down and get into the burial business because it'll be open season for people who don't like their spouses and have the drive to kill.
Vance says he can't believe Lollar made the argument he just did and is disgusted. Vance tells the jury Rosalind didn't need to be the one to leave the argument because she wasn't the one who wanted to kill.
Vance says Nichols hasn't taken responsibility for what he has done and is still saying he's the victim and his actions were justified.
Vance tells the jury that another victim of this is Nichols' daughter. He says, if Nichols really loved his daughter he would have thought about her that night and not tried to claim her love after the fact.
Vance puts two photos of the room where Rosalind was killed on display for the jury. The room she was killed in has numerous family photos. He tells the jury to think about what Rosalind was thinking and feeling as she was surrounded by those photos and dying.
The jury is escorted out of the courtroom to deliberate.
Attorneys debate "sudden passion" as a cause
While the jury is out of the courtroom, the attorneys cite previous cases, making an argument for and against adding "sudden passion" as a special issue for the jury to consider. The State says having time to retrieve a weapon and plan before shooing someone is not "sudden passion." The defense argues for the sudden passion issue, bringing up the fog that Nichols testified too.
The judge says he will include the sudden passion issue in the charge to see what the jury has to say.
The Judge says each side will have 15 minutes to make their closing arguments. Vance asks for 30 minutes. The judge says each side will have 25 minutes.
The State is noticeably displeased with the inclusion of "sudden passion" and their limited argument time.
Should the jury find sudden passion present in Rosalind's murder, the degree of the felony is lessened, as is Nichols' possible range of punishment.
The jury is escorted back into the courtroom and closing arguments begin.
Nichols' daughter testifies
The defense calls Charles C. Martin. Martin lives in Tyler. Martin says he's known Nichols for about 57 years. Martin says he thinks Nichols is a great man and a great dentist. He says he still believes Nichols is a good person and wants Nichols to know he's still his friend.
"He's a good person at heart. Something just happened to him that could happen to any of us. We're all humans beings," says Martin.
Martin testifies that he did not hang out with Nichols as a drinking buddy. Martin says he would see Rosalind and Nichols at their at graduating class dinners every few months.
When the State asks Martin about Nichols' marijuana use, Martin says he was not aware of it and doesn't approve of it.
Sandra Liveris, Nichols' daughter, takes the stand. Sandra is noticeably emotional on the stand. Liveris says she has a brother who is not here because he is going through his own tragedy because his wife took her life and left him and their two sons.
Sandra says her dad has always been loving, patient and kind. She says he has always been an amazing dad. Sandra says she believes she had a relationship with her dad that was special and not something all fathers and daughters get to share.
Sandra says her relationship with Rosalind was limited. She says she stayed with them briefly after having a hip replacement in her 20s, but after a couple of days, Rosalind packed up Sandra's things and wanted her to leave. Sandra says her dad gave her a lot of attention and she didn't think Rosalind liked that or felt comfortable letting Sandra into her home.
Sandra says when Rosalind's son died in an accident, she and her family tried to console Rosalind, but she ignored them and tried to push them away.
Sandra says learning her father had killed Rosalind was a horrible shock and the worst news she'd heard in her life. Sandra says she doesn't excuse anything that her father did.
Sandra says Nichols is a good father and grandfather.
As Sandra steps off the stand she wipes away her tears and mouths, "I love you," to Nichols.
The Defense rests.
The State begins their opening argument for the sentencing phase of the trial by thanking the jury on behalf of Rosalind for their verdict.
"You get to determine what her life is worth. We're going to ask you to give him what he took from her and that's life," says Smith County Assistant District Attorney Jason Parrish.
Parrish says The State will present evidence that Nichols violated his conditions of bond not once, but twice including in the middle of the trial.
Parrish also tells the jury that they'll be able to consider the facts of the offense in the sentencing phase as well.
The defense chooses not to make an opening statement.
The State calls Anthony Railsback (spelling unconfirmed). Railsback supervised Nichols on behalf of the county while Nichols was on bond.
Railsback testifies that Nichols was ordered not to use, consume or possess alcohol, illegal drugs or narcotics.
The State calls Leigh Ann Rozell. Rozell works for Southside bank and is the custodian of records. The State shows the jury a photocopy of a check written by Nichols to Tucker's Beverage whole he was on bond.
The State calls Emily McKinley to the stand. McKinley is an inventory manager at Tucker's beverages in Winona. Emily says she has never personally seen Nichols in the store, but understands he is a frequent customer. Emily says on Saturday she was alerted by an employee that Nichols was in the store. Emily says she contacted an investigator with the DA's office and notified him of the situation.
The State calls Jen Alderson, a manager at Tucker's beverage. Alderson says she saw Nichols in person in the store on Saturday after a cashier alerted her that Nichols was in the store. Alderson testifies that Nichols purchased 1.75 liters of Smirnoff vodka and a liter of Canadian Hunter whiskey. The receipt is displayed for the jury. Alderson says Nichols paid in cash.
The State rests.
The defense calls Dr. Antoinette McGarrahan, the psychologist who testified yesterday. McGarrahan says Nichols' decision to pay in cash after being found out last time he wrote a check to the liquor store, speaks to his cognitive issues. McGarrahan says she also thinks his alcohol purchases speak to his alcohol addiction. McGarrahan says it is her opinion that Nichols is a low risk of future danger.
The State asks McGarrahan if Nichols' behavior could be indicative of him just not caring and knowing the trial wasn't going well. McGarrahan says its possible.
The state asks McGarrahan, "What about the erection device?" McGarrahan replies, "What about it?"
McGarrahan says Parkinson's disease is known to cause erectile dysfunction.
A ten minutes recess is called because the defense's next witness isn't here yet.
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