NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - After deliberating for about 30 minutes Wednesday afternoon, a Nacogdoches County jury has sentenced a man to life in prison for robbing the Doches Credit Union in May of 2015.
Earlier in the day, the jury found Byron Jerome Hawkins, 41, of Nacogdoches, guilty of robbing the credit union.
The jury deliberated the verdict for about 45 minutes.
"We are very satisfied with the result of this case," Gilcrease said.
According to an arrest affidavit, detectives received information that Hawkins was responsible in the robbery. They began working leads and learned he had been picked up in the area just minutes after the robbery and was given a ride to Lufkin, where he spent $10,000 at different businesses, according to the affidavit.
During the third day of the trial of the Nacogdoches man accused of robbing Doches Credit Union at gunpoint on May 4, 2015, prosecutor Carrie Gilcrease brought up the white bandanna and how it was seen all over the surveillance footage in her closing arguments.
Gilcrease said the gun was intended to be a deadly weapon and asked, "How can it not be?"
Then Gilcrease talked about how the alarm was pressed several minutes after the robbery, giving Hawkins plenty of time to get away in an effort to give the detectives' timeline credibility.
She started talking how the evidence matches up with the employees' description of the robbery.
"The spending spree is brazen to me. It would be so funny if we didn't know what happened at the Doches Credit Union," Gilcrease. "Priscilla and Yessica are holding each other crying, thinking about their families, and the defendant is at JC Penney asking for the most expensive thing."
Gilcrease said Holcomb, Blunt, and Stearns are credible sources. The details were very specific.
Then the prosecutor brought up the phone calls, talking about the car and how he told the bondsmen "Don't you know why I'm in here?" Gilcrease then played audio of Hawkins saying "I got those hos' money. We're going to have a party. … I didn't spend all of the money. I got more of that. I got that money; they can't prove it."
"On behalf of the Nacogdoches Police Department, the victims in this case, and the state of Texas I ask you to find the defendant guilty of aggravated robbery" Gilcrease said.
During the sentencing phase of the trial, the state called Gary Britton, an employee of the County Attorney's Office that used to work for the Nacogdoches Police Department. He confirmed that Hawkins has previous arrests and convictions on his record for crimes including evading arrest, aggravated assault, and shooting someone. Britton also said that Hawkins has been to prison several times.
Lt. Scott Weems with the Nacogdoches Police Department testified that he has been assaulted by Hawkins. he told the jury that he believes Hawkins is a danger to society and a violent offender, adding that the community would be better off of Hawkins is sent to prison.
Next, the defense called James Buckingham, a psychiatrist, to the stand. He said when he did a legal competency test on Hawkins in 2006, he diagnosed Hawkins with paranoid schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder. These disorders lead to behavioral issues, Buckingham said.
Hawkins told Buckingham he was in special education and dropped out after the ninth grade. He did not find him competent to stand trial back in 2006.
The second defense witness was Dr. Khurram Shaikh, who works at a Montgomery County Mental Health Treatment Facility.
In July of 2015, Hawkins was put in the MCMHTF for multiple mental problems including hallucinations and mood problems, Shaikh said. During treatment, he seemed calm but still had mental problems. Hawkins was put on medication, Shaikh said.
Shaikh said he is not able to comment on competency because he only deals with medication and treatment.
Shaikh said when Hawkins learned he was declared competent enough to stand trial, he said they were going to send him to jail for 100 years. Hawkins also made comments that he wanted to stay at the facility forever.
Gilcrease asked Shaikh if he thought Hawkins was faking, and he was not able to comment.
The proposed punishment was 26 to 99 years or life.
The defense told the jury that they heard that Hawkins has mental issues and little education. Dan Simmons, Hawkins' defense attorney, also told them that he hopes they choose justice in this case.
"You don't jump ever," Simmons said. "Look at your options. Be careful with your choices. That's justice."
Simmons reminded the jury that no one was killed, and only $16,000 was taken from the credit union.
Gilcrease countered by saying that Hawkins deserves a life sentence, "so he can't terrorize the community any more."
"Mr. Simmons says no one was hurt," Gilcrease said. "I beg to differ. Priscilla is scared of people in sunglasses."
At that point, Gilcrease brought up Hawkins' prior prison stays and felonies and said that the jury needs to give him a life sentence, so he won't get out and continue to commit crimes.