LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – An Angelina County jury has found Jarrad Holland "not guilty" in the death of his girlfriend six years ago.
After eight days of testimony and evidence, the prosecution presented their closing arguments to jurors Friday morning in Judge Paul White's courtroom. Jarrad Holland was retried for the 2004 shooting death of his then-girlfriend 21-year-old Kimberly O'Quinn.
Holland was tried for O'Quinn's murder back in October 2007. The five-day trial ended with a hung jury. O'Quinn was found with a gunshot wound to the head, gasping for air at a home where the couple supposedly lived on Tom Hampton Road in Pollok. Holland has maintained that O'Quinn committed suicide.
The jury reached the verdict after about 8-and-a-half hours of deliberation.
"This has been a long ordeal for the O'Quinns, it's been a long ordeal for the Hollands," Holland's attorney, John Heath, said, with his arm around Holland on the courthouse steps. "Obviously we're very pleased about it. We know the jury worked very, very hard and we'd like to get on with our lives, Jarrad wants to get on with his life and the O'Quinns want to get on with theirs. We appreciate it."
After District Judge Paul White read the verdict, Holland's friends and family, about 50 of them, let out gasps for joy.
The courtroom filled about 15 minutes before the verdict was read. A still courtroom watched Holland stare at the walls for about 10 minutes, then hugging each family member on the front row of the courtroom.
"What we've been through the past seven years, and he walks out of there scott-free like he hadn't done nothing," O'Quinn's grandfather, John Riley O'Quinn, said. "He betrayed my granddaughter. He downed her to the trash of the earth and their people didn't know nothing about him. I helped raise her. She was a good, sweet person."
At 9:57 a.m. White charged the jury explaining the difference between murder and criminal negligence. Jurors must decide if Holland is guilty of murder, criminally negligent homicide, or no crime at all.
If jurors think Holland is guilty of murder or criminally negligent homicide, but can't decide which one, they are instructed to find him guilty of the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide.
Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington worked to further explain criminally negligent homicide to the jury.
"You didn't intend to do it, but you weren't careful enough in what you were doing," said Herrington.
He reminded the jury of Holland and O'Quinn's relationship that supposedly became rocky. He went back over O'Quinn's medical history of suicidal behavior telling the story again of O'Quinn cutting her arm with a hunting knife and pointed out if she really wanted to kill herself she wouldn't have asked her dad for help.
"When she saw what she did, she screamed for help," said Herrington.
The prosecution said O'Quinn was getting help for her mental health issues.
Herrington chronicled an abusive relationship with Holland that O'Quinn was allegedly trying to escape.
The state walked the jury through the Pollok crime scene again noting a house in disarray with hair on the floor and holes in the wall.
"If she's leaving and she's certainly done it before, problem solved, so why did [Holland] go down there," asked Herrington.
Herrington said Holland told investigators on the scene, "'My fingerprints will be all over that gun.'"
Herrington said Holland's story changed regarding the placement of the gun after he said O'Quinn shot herself.
"Kimberly O'Quinn bled a good deal," said Herrington.
The state reminded the jury O'Quinn and Holland's clothes were both tested for gunshot residue.
"An innocent person would have no reason to be untruthful," Herrington said. "A person that witnessed, what the defendant said he witnessed would be able to tell you some basic things…he wouldn't have, under the version he told, gunshot residue on his sleeve."
He said the evidence shows she was shot on the floor and he believes jurors can see significant differences in the evidence and Holland's account of what happened that March 2004 night.
"I think it clearly points, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the defendant Jarrad Holland took the life of Kimberly O'Quinn," Herrington concluded.
A crowded courtroom watched as defense attorney, John Heath Jr., held up a picture of Kimberly O'Quinn.
"She's a beautiful young woman, 21-years-old, vibrant, lovely, beautiful smile and our hearts go out to her tragedy and the tragedy of the O'Quinn family," said Heath. "Looking at this picture, however, doesn't tell the whole story of the life of Kim O'Quinn. We know some more things about her life. We know that in August of '03, she was angry, she was drinking, and she walked in and just spontaneously cut a gash down her arm."
Heath explained to jurors O'Quinn told doctors evaluating her mental health, "'I tried to kill myself, I wanted to die.'"
"Just as spontaneously as she stuck that knife in her arm, she stuck this gun under her chin and pulled the trigger and she didn't have a chance to take it back, she didn't have a chance to change her mind, she didn't have a chance to call daddy…just as spontaneously," Heath emphasized.
Holland watches as Heath discusses O'Quinn's documented suicidal behavior. Heath said she was clinically depressed.
"If Kim was, as the state has suggested…leaving Jarrad, how come there's no toothbrush in the car, how come she even stopped at that house," asked Heath.
Heath said O'Quinn came back to the house on Tom Hampton Road that night and Jarrad had finally had enough of her, "Jarrad was ready to get her out of there, get her gone."
"[Holland] said, 'I just wanted her to leave, I didn't want her dead,'" said Heath.
"[The state's] got to get over the fact that she had started the GED thing before, but never finished it," said Heath. He said O'Quinn was never going to take the GED.
"She didn't want to go back to her family," he said. "Jarrad's had enough of her, he's moving her out and she spontaneously, tragically picks that gun up."
Heath wrote on a chalk board, "Kim killed herself," in big letters admitting, it's not a fun sentence to read. He said the law mandates the jury has to believe that to start with; they have to presume innocence. He reminded them the state has to put all reasonable doubt out of their mind.
"This thing happened like a car wreck, just that fast," explained Heath.
He told jurors the state spent time explaining "away" a lack of evidence.
"[The state] changed their entire theory…because it didn't sell three years ago," claimed Heath.
The defense said the theory the state is "trying to sell you today," regarding the blood stain patterns on the wall, isn't accurate because it wouldn't allow enough room for the gun. He called the pattern of blood spatter, a wreck.
"As sad as I am for Kim," he said pointing to Holland. "Imagine being put through that kind of nonsense, being told you're a liar, being told you're a murderer."
Heath read from a warning label on an anti-depressant similar to one O'Quinn was supposedly taking that warns against suicide.
Holland's attorney told the jury Patrick Strickland came back and tried to use the tablecloth to try to stop the bleeding and try to save O'Quinn's life. Strickland and Greggory Cordova testified earlier in the trial they went to the Pollok home after Holland said O'Quinn shot herself.
He reminded the jury of a woman that testified Strickland told her, as he was cutting her hair, he tried to help O'Quinn and moved her. Heath claims Cordova was concerned about going back to prison because he was drinking that night, a violation of his parole.
Heath tearfully called it the, "sorriest investigation you've ever seen."
"Don't violate the law because you want to see the O'Quinn's feel better," said Heath.
If Holland is found guilty, the jury will assess his punishment in a second phase of the trial.
In his rebuttal, Herrington said he understood Heath to be saying authorities set out to make Holland responsible for the fatal shot.
Herrington told jurors he believes the most critical point in this case is that Holland said O'Quinn shot herself standing up and evidence shows she was shot lying down.
He said investigators could have dismissed the incident as a suicide, but instead they stayed on the scene collecting evidence. Herrington said he thinks it's possible that at first, the sheriff's office thought there was a real possibility O'Quinn committed suicide.
The prosecution said Heath's statement that it "happened as quick as a car wreck," is inaccurate. Herrington claimed it was a sequence of events that led up to O'Quinn's death.
The state said Angelina County Sheriff's Sgt. Allen Hill found no blood on Strickland or Cordova that night.
"The argument is the straw that broke the camel's back," said Herrington.
Herrington played clips from interviews authorities conducted with Holland to show the inconsistencies in his statements with regard to the way O'Quinn fell and how it all supposedly happened six years ago.
"The blood she left on the wall shows the location that she was when she received that gunshot…to me that is one of the most critical pieces of evidence in this case," maintained Herrington.
Herrington urged jurors to, "…look at the evidence, the testimony, and you search your heart and your mind."
The state concluded saying they believe jurors will conclude beyond any reasonable doubt that Holland shot O'Quinn as she was lying on the floor and that he is guilty of the offense of murder.
The jury began deliberating at 12:33 p.m.