Jury finds Lufkin man guilty of murder in nightclub shooting death

Jury finds Lufkin man guilty of murder in nightclub shooting death
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Terry Criswell (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Terry Criswell (Source: Angelina County Jail)

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - After deliberating for about three hours, an Angelina County jury has found a Lufkin man guilty of murder in connection to the Nov. 15, 2015 shooting death of Kevin Moore.

Now that a verdict has been reached in the case, the trial will move to the sentencing phase. The jury will decide on the verdict for Terry Criswell, 32.

Moore died at a Lufkin hospital after he was shot multiple times at the Annie Mae's night club in the Cedar Grove area.

The murder trial for Criswell is being held in Judge Bob Inselmann's 217th Judicial District court. Now that he has been convicted of murder, he faces a prison sentence of 20 years to life. The jury could have also chosen to convict him of a lesser charger of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon or find him not guilty of either charge.

During the third day of Criswell's murder trial, the state got approval for a stipulation that would allow the transcript of an interview between a Texas Ranger and the defense's sole witness to be treated as testimony.

The trial started later than usual because Inselmann had to convene over business between the state and the defense.

Once the jury convened, the state added a stipulation that goes on the record as if it is testimony. This stipulation was for the transcript of the interview between Texas Ranger Stephen Rayburn, who is unavailable to testify, and the defense's only witness to be treated as if it is testimony by the jury.

The state read the transcript of an interview between Rayburn and Michael Reese, who testified Tuesday.

During the interview, Reese said Moore carried a gun with him at all times. Reese also said Moore stole three guns and illegally gave him one.

The stipulation also stated that he was present during a fight that happened several months before the shooting at Annie Mae's at another nightclub in Angelina County called Lansey's.

"Reese said that Moore kicked Criswell while on the ground," Rayburn said.

Bauereiss began closing arguments by explaining the definition of the phrase from the charge of "knowingly, or intentionally causing death or bodily harm to an individual."

"I compare this to sitting down a breakfast table and making cereal. Your intention is to eat breakfast," Bauereiss said. "In the same sense, when you load a gun, and when you hit your target five times, your intention was to kill."

He also explained that charging Criswell with aggravated assault would not be sufficient due to the two fatal shots recorded in the autopsy reports.

"It should also be noted, Moore was not acting recklessly in any way shape or form, so this cannot be an excuse either, he was not acting in self-defense," Bauereiss said.

He also discredited Michael Reese's testimony Tuesday, adding that someone who lies on the stand cannot be trusted to be honest about the details of a confrontation that would still not justify Criswell murdering Moore.

"If you are inclined to believe that something happened previous months at Lansey's, I hope you would see that as a motive for why Criswell felt he needed to attack Moore," Bauereiss said.

In his closing remarks, Peralta began by saying that the evidence presented was faulty at best.

"I think of this like a facade in an old western movie set. They have all of these stores set up, but behind it all there is nothing there," Peralta said. "I said it in my opening statements, and I will say it now. Changing testimonies means we don't even know how many shots were fired."

Peralta also reminded the jury that Wesley McNeely, the lead detective on the case, testified he could not beyond a reason of a doubt say those wounds were caused by Criswell.

"It might help to look at what 'beyond a reason of a doubt' means in another murder case, and let me map that out," Peralta said. "You would have consistent eye witnesses, you would have proof the murder weapon was found to be in possession of the person being accused, and you would link any substantial evidence to this person and confidently say there is evidence to prove he did this."
He also noted that the bullets that caused the lethal wounds could not be linked to the gun found in the ditch. He also said that the gun, which was never linked to Terry, could have also been in the ditch for months or even years.
"Sometimes you wonder if these people that testified were at the same murder scene," Peralta said. "Some said he showed up on foot and opened fire, and then Casey Olford said she saw Terry pull up in a white truck, shoot and get back in and leave."
Peralta also reminded the jury that each person testified Criswell was in three different locations when he opened fire. He also questioned the shots fired from Robert Taylor who testified the first day of trial and what the reasoning was behind those shots. He asked why a person with a concealed handgun license would open fire at a shooting incident to calm people down.

"Then gets in the victim's car, possibly removing evidence and goes to the hospital, and no he doesn't show him the gun. He shows him the magazine and we still don't know what gun he ha, Peralta said.
The defense also noted that there is no DNA to link Criswell to the alleged murder weapon, no conclusive evidence of blood, and no ballistic evidence that the gun matched the box of ammunition found in Criswell's home.
"Let's look at the gunshot wounds. We have two from the front to the back and two more from the back to the front," Peralta said. "Now the thing to notice is that the two from the front are from a downward angle."

The defense attorney reminded the jury that the state said that meant Moore was shot from the front, and then he was hit again after he turned around to run. Peralta said that only way the shots that hit Moore at a downward angle could have happened was if the shooter climbed on top of a car and shot down at the victim, adding that the evidence doesn't match what the witnesses said happened.
"I talked to you about how witnesses said they heard the shot, but no one saw it," Peralta said. "Where's Terry? It's like where's Waldo. Some say he was on this side of the car shooting, and another said he was on the opposite side."
He also said that the state could not prove how many guns were fired that night. At least two were on record of being shot. He said there are at least three shots unaccounted for. 
"Maybe the most important shadow of a doubt is the fact that five shots were fired, but not one of those hit an open car door that witnesses said was open or any of the fifteen people standing around dancing," Peralta said. "The state has simply not been able to remove the bricks of reasonable doubt to put Terry behind bars."
He said that it wasn't the state's fault they don't have credible, consistent DNA, or witnesses to link Terry to the murder and that because of this the jury has no choice but to find him not guilty.
In the final statements from the state, Bauereiss reminded the jury that, of course, the lead detective McNeely could not testify that the shots were from Criswell, but that is only because he was not there to see it for his own eyes. He also reminded the jury of an eyewitness who claims she saw the alleged weapon on Criswell earlier in the evening.
"She nailed it. She was given two photographs and asked to state which one she saw on Criswell, and points out one similar to that found in the ditch," Bauereiss said.
He said he understands that when things happen in the parking lot of a nightclub, it is hard to find consistencies among the number of people there the night of the shooting.

"The only consistency is the facts around what I have proven today," Bauereiss said.
"After the shooting he flees to Tyler. He wasn't going back home," Bauereiss said. "Who flees but someone who is guilty?"
He also brought up the conversation in which relative heard him say that if they could not find a gun, they wouldn't have the evidence to convict him.
"As for Taylor, you saw his credibility. He turned over his magazines, and the lead detective on the case found no evidence that he was the one that shot him," Bauereiss said.
The state also said that because Criswell had another car take him to Tyler other than his own vehicle, it also proves a premeditated plan of knowing he had to escape after murdering Moore.
"They say we can't link the bullets to the gun or the gun to the defendant, but that is quite a lot of coincidences," Bauereiss said. "It is a coincidence that the number of rounds fired match the ones missing at Creswell's home and that the gun was found so close to the scene of the crime and that an eyewitness linked that gun to Criswell."
As far as the angle of the shots fired, Bauereiss said Moore was simply hunched over and moving at the time the shots were fired and that is an explanation for the downward angle. The state finished and the jury was taken back for deliberation.

The three choices the jury will have to decide between are a conviction guilty of murder, guilty of aggravated assault, or not guilty.

Defense attorney John Peralta called Reese, who claims to be Criswell's best friend, to the stand Tuesday.

To begin the defense asked him to explain why he was in handcuffs to which he responded that after being sentenced to prison for drug related reasons he was out on parole and arrested for unlawful possession of a firearm.

Further questioning of where Reese obtained the firearm led to a disagreement between the witness and defense.

"He (Criswell) said that East Side was better than the North side. That ain't no gang that is just the sides of the town, until that man made it about gangs," Reese said.

When the defense asked about an alleged disagreement between Criswell and Moore, Reese answered that the problem was something Criswell brought on himself.

"Man, nobody jumped that boy, he jumped himself when he started talking about things he didn't know and calling me a snitch," Reese said.

This prompted Peralta to again question where Reese received his unlawful firearm, and Reese responded that he got it off the streets. From there, he was asked if he remembered telling a deputy US marshal that he obtained it from Moore.

"No, I do not," Reese said.

Peralta then asked if he was aware that lying under oath would be committing perjury, and when Reese nodded that he knew that, Peralta asked if he was lying under oath.

"Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not," Reese said.

Inselmann paused questioning and addressed the witness directly and said that it was his duty to ensure that everyone who testified told the truth when they were on the stand. He also said that Reese needed to remember the reason he was in jail was based on decisions he previously made to which Reese responded he was just trying to protect himself from Criswell.

Shortly afterward, Reese confirmed there was a disturbance between Moore and Criswell several months before the shooting.

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