LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - After deliberating for five-and-a-half hours, an Angelina County jury found Rakeem Rhodes guilty of first-degree felony murder in connection to the June 12 shooting death of Albert Hodge, 60.
The jury found Rhodes not guilty of the original capital murder charge.
Judge Bob Inselmann of the 217th Judicial District Court ordered a 45-day pre-sentencing investigation in the case.
Day four of Rhode's capital murder trial began with Inselmann reading the terms of responsibility for the jury to deliberate if Rhodes is guilty or not guilty of capital murder. They also had the option of convicting Rhodes on a lesser first-degree felony murder charge.
After the state and the defense attorneys made their closing arguments, the jury started deliberating on whether to convict Rhodes of capital murder.
Rhodes is eligible for capital murder because he is accused of robbing Hodge in addition to allegedly shooting him six times on the night of June 12th, 2013.
Closing arguments began with the state summarizing the night of the murder saying that at 7:43 p.m. Rhodes called [the minor], and his phone records reflect this notion.
"Not only did [the minor] get a call, but we heard from JaBryant Davis that he dropped him off at a carwash in the area of the crime scene, and multiple people testified he was wearing all black," said April Perez, one of the prosecutors on the case. "We heard from Parks on Monday that they picked him out of a lineup, and he remembers him wearing gloves."
Perez repeated testimony from Tonya Pate who was in the house the time Hodge was shot and said she saw the laser on his face before Rhodes said, "You should have given me the money."
She said that investigators found him dead with the pockets turned out, and that Henry White testified that he saw him go back in there and rummaged through his pockets and stole that $300 from him.
"The state made it clear, [minor] ran through the woods as the shots were fired. He was not the one that shot the gun, he is not an accomplice," Perez said.
She also explained that Kenneth Boyd testified to hiding Rhodes for multiple days and that he admitted he had "[explicit] up."
John Tunnel, Rhodes' defense attorney, began his closing arguments with an explanation of the meaning of how someone is guilty beyond a reason of a doubt.
"The presumption of innocence alone is enough for an acquittal. The burden of proof rests on the state and never on the one being convicted," Tunnel said.
Tunnel said the government has not proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
"If you have any questions, you may remember Tonya Pate testified that she was using crack cocaine along with the victim," Tunnel said.
He explained that the words Pate heard and repeated that Rhodes said saying someone owed money alluded that this was a drug transaction that was never investigated.
"I asked an officer, 'Did you investigate that drug deal?' and they said, 'no'," Tunnel said. "Jury, I ask you to question why, why would that not happen?"
He explained that we watched officers untruthfully tell Rhodes in an interrogation that they knew he did it, and yet he still maintained his innocence.
"An officer is not bound to an oath during that interview; it's a technique they use to make a suspect feel they have more information than they do, but he said the same thing. He didn't do it," Tunnel said.
He then said Tonya Pate never said she saw Rhodes or anyone else specifically that night. He said White did not specifically identify his client until the lineup, and none of those that called 911 explicitly identified Rhodes being there either; they just gave just a general description.
"Then there is another category of witnesses who I want to talk to you about now," Tunnel said. "Parks only said he saw a shorter and taller person, and he mentions in his own testimony that he could not identify him to be Rhodes."
A lineup was presented to White, but it was discovered later that White already knew three of the five suspects in that lineup, causing it to be skewed.
"An officer even said that a tainted line-up was used in this case, so it's obvious this does not verify an accurate representation of the truth," Tunnel said.
The defense continued that eyewitness testimony did not accurately depict what Rhodes was wearing, and that the cellphone records are faulty because they can only show a range and are being used to untruthfully place his client at the scene of the crime.
"[The minor] told you that he was a part of a gang, but there is a code that says you cannot name someone else in that gang to place them at the crime," Tunnel said. "So of course, because my client is not a part of any gang [the minor] felt he had to give a name, so he picked one without any consequences attached."
Then he brought up Kenneth Boyd's testimony. He testified that he hid Rhodes for a week, burned his clothes, and hid the murder weapon for almost two years. He also reminded them of his record of homicide, an overturned murder charge, possession and delivery drug charges, and aggravated robbery.
"You wouldn't bet a loved one's life on the word of Kenneth Boyd, who hired a lawyer to get a good deal out of this, and you shouldn't bet my clients life on someone like that either," Tunnel said. "He is trying to cut some deals, better his situation, and how would you do that?"
He said if someone was trying to be honest, they would not have waited two years to come forward that he has hid the murder weapon. He said to take into consideration the person Kenneth Boyd is, and what his intentions are in this trial.
"Our law outlines protection for that, and it starts on page four of that handbook. If someone is an accomplice, you cannot convict them on that testimony alone," Tunnel said.
Another question of accomplice includes [the minor], who was with him the night of the murder.
"If [the minor] was telling the truth about his involvement, than he wouldn't have changed his clothes, lied about it to family and friends, or tried to cut a better deal by what he did."
For the final argument given by the State, Perez explained that Boyd testifying to taking Rhodes to Center the place the murder weapon was buried was corroboration that overstates the accomplice rule.
"We forget sometimes that Albert Hodge was a person; he wasn't just a photograph. He was a brother, a son, a husband," Perez said.
Closing arguments ended and the jury begins deliberation.