Retrial of Daniel Willis begins with dashcam video of shooting

The trial began with the showing of dashcam video of Daniel Willis responding to a domestic disturbance call.

The recording includes the fatal shots he took after he arrived. Prosecutors say the shots were not just irresponsible but was murder. Willis' attorney, Robert McCabe, considers the charge to be irresponsible.

"The murder charge is absolutely excessive, Daniel Willis should have never been charged, he should have never been indicted, he should never have gone to the the first time and shouldnt be here the second time," said McCabe.

Yevett Smith was shot and killed the night of February 16, 2014. She was struggling in this house over a shotgun with Chris Thomas, who earlier had been fighting  with a friend and later with his father.

The fight which, at times, involved a car and sledge hammers is critical to the defense. Willis' attorney described it as a chaotic scene and that Willis was being provided information that escalated the threat.

In the first trial, back in September, testimony from Amy Vela, who was in the house, was a major factor in deadlocking the jury. She is the girlfriend of Chris Thomas.The following are key parts of her 911 call for help.

Amy Vela: "My boyfriend and his dad are drunk and they're fighting each other, and my boyfriend is going around breaking, hitting (expletive) with a hammer and everything, but they're outside fighting, Can you guys please hurry?"

When Deputy Willis arrived he moved Thomas' father away from the house when he was told by dispatchers the situation inside was not going well. Smith was trying to prevent Thomas from going out with a gun. He was planning to confront a man he was angry with.

Amy Vela: "He loaded the gun, he loaded the gun, he loaded the gun."
Dispatcher: "He loaded the gun, OK."

What Willis wasn't told by the dispatcher was a few moments later the gun was put on a table. It was Smith who went to the front door, not Thomas.

"The Bastrop County Communications Department failed in this case and that was a huge factor in Daniel Willis not knowing that gun was put down, that is a huge issue," said McCabe.

Unlike last year there is no jury, the case will be decided by Judge Albert McCaig. The visiting judge from Waller County presided over the first trial.

In opening statements, lead prosecutor Forrest Sanderson, indicated by finding Willis guilty of murder the judge has an opportunity to set a new national standard for use of force by police.

The trial could last up to two weeks.

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