Angelina County judge decides mistrial in murder case

Angelina County judge decides mistrial in murder case

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A mistrial has been declared in the trial of an East Texas man who allegedly stabbed a man in Zavalla last year.

The Angelina County jurors deadlocked Thursday on the first-degree murder case against 28-year-old Tommy Lee Granger. Judge Bob Inselman declared a mistrial.

The prosecutors plans to seek a retrial, according to Judge Bob Inselmann.

The date hasn't been set for Granger's retrial.

During the fourth day of testimony in the murder trial, Granger took the stand in his own defense.

Granger, 28, is being tried for first-degree murder in Judge Bob Inselmann's 217th Judicial District Court. He is accused of stabbing Jesse Keller to death in August 2015.

The defense called Granger to the stand. Granger said he met Rachael six months before the stabbing and denied having sexual relations with her.

Granger said he was concerned about her safety.

"Jesse had slashed her tires and beat all the windows out of her car," Granger said.

However, he told the prosecution that he didn't know for sure if Jesse did that to her car because he didn't see it with his own eyes.

Granger also said he never made moves on Rachael, but she would make moves on him.

"She would come on my couch and cuddle with me," Granger said. "I would comfort her because I figured that what she needed."

The prosecution argued that comforting a friend in that way goes beyond being a friend.

He also said Ronnie Mitchell disliked him for spending time with his wife.

"He said he wanted to beat me down and threatened to kill me," Granger said.

Granger said Mitchell went as far as shooting at him.
Granger said he received threats from Mitchell as well as threatening text messages and voicemails from Jesse.

"He would leave me voicemails threatening to beat me up, and said I better be packing," Granger said, describing the voicemails he said he got from Jesse.

The voicemails and text messages won't be in his phone anymore because they automatically delete after 30 days, Granger said.

Granger told the court he was afraid of Jesse and feared for his life.

"Anytime I seen him, I tried to leave where I was at," Granger said.

Granger said he carried weapons for his safety.

However, when the prosecution asked Granger if he ever contacted law enforcement because he feared for his life, he said no.

Granger said he kept a fixed blade knife in the door of his truck for work.

Granger explained that his knife wasn't properly closing. Al Charanza, Granger's defense attorney, gave him a duplicate knife to demonstrate how he would carry a knife in his pocket.

Granger said earlier that day he told Mitchell that he was going to the compound, which Granger referred to as "out yonder."

While he was at the compound with Doug, he had his knife in his pocket like he usually does, Granger said.

Granger and Doug were sitting and eating pizza when Mitchell's truck drove up.

"I went outside to meet him," Granger said.  "I was thinking it was Ronnie, thinking he was coming to give me my stuff. As I walked up to the truck, I saw Jesse got out, and it scared me."
Granger claimed he had never seen these two men together and that he was terrified.

"As I'm walking up there, Jesse started yelling at me telling me I ain't going nowhere," Granger said. "So I was going to face it, and see what he's going to say. He starts asking me about the clothes, and before I could answer, he socks me in the eye."

He turned to the jury and tried demonstrate how Jesse yelled at him.

"I wasn't going to turn my back as he's coming towards me," Granger said. "As he was on me, I had my hands in my pocket. As a reaction, I hit him with a knife. I feared for my life. I figured I was being ambushed."

After the prosecution argued that Granger had an option of walking away instead of confronting Jesse, he said he didn't want to run away, and if he ran back into Doug's trailer, he would have felt trapped.

Granger said he stabbed Jesse once in the stomach.
"I figured, 'I'll just cut him to get him off of me,'" Granger said.

"If you're stabbing someone in the heart then you're out to kill them, right?" the prosecutor asked Granger.

"I guess so, yes," Granger said.

Granger seemed to get nervous while he was on stand and began tearing up as he continues to recall what happened that night.

He said he was headed to the police station to tell them what happened he got pulled over.

Susan, a friend of Rachael's said she witnessed Jesse beat on Rachael's truck and burst out the windows of her truck.

Both the state and the defense have rested. They are expected to give their closing arguments, and the jury is expected to start deliberating after lunch. If the jury finds Granger guilty, they will then determine his punishment.

The prosecution began closing arguments by accusing Granger of intentionally killing Keller.

"When you hit someone in the heart with a knife, it's common sense you are intent to cause bodily injury," said Deborah Moore, one of the prosecutors on the case.

The prosecution presented its case by explaining to the jury why they believe Granger should be found guilty.

"He brought a knife to a fist fight," Moore said. "He cheated; he didn't play by the rules."

Moore told the jury Granger had options to go back to a trailer, call law enforcement, or to speed off.

"He chose to be out there that day, knowing Jesse could come around," Moore said.

However Charanza said he believes that the evidence provided throughout the case will help prove Granger stabbed Keller in self-defense.

"I knew when you heard the facts from the witnesses to support Tommy Granger because they know the truth; he was set up." Charanza said.

"When he saw Jesse get out of that driver seat he felt three things, fear, afraid, and scared."

Charanza said you don't turn your back on a person who is yelling at you the way Keller was confronting Granger.

"He is fighting for his life," Charanza said.

Charanza asked the jury to put themselves in Granger's shoes.

"He had to save his own life," Charanza said. "He knew this was a violent man."

However, prosecutor Tom Jackson said Keller would still be alive if Granger had walked away.
"Instead of walking away, Granger said, 'No, let's just walk towards the two people who have it in for you,'" Jackson said. "That doesn't sit right with me. There was one hit and three stabs"

Jackson said, based on the bruises on Keller's body, it wasn't self-defense, it was for killing.

"These weren't 'get off me stabs' these were killing stabs," Jackson said "This is someone claiming self-defense because they got sick of it."

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