Bastrop deputy murder trial begins

For the family of Yvette Smith it was emotionally draining first day of testimony. The most traumatic moments came early Tuesday with the introduction of dash cam video.

The images played for the jury are of Smith’s fatal confrontation last year with former Bastrop County Deputy Daniel Willis. You cannot see Deputy Willis pull the trigger of his rifle but the jury could clearly hear the shots being fired.

The sounds from February of 2014 brought some in the courtroom to tears, for others it was too much to watch.

"The essential things for you to determine happen in 3 seconds time," said Prosecutor Forest Sanderson.

In his opening statement to the jury Prosecutor Forrest Sanderson admitted Deputy Daniel Willis had earlier in the day been dispatched to the home of Willie Thomas because of a fight with his son Chris. Around midnight Willis was sent back to the house because the fight had escalated with the use of sledge hammers.

The elder Thomas was outside when Willis arrived. As the deputy tried to figure out what was going on dispatchers notified Willis that Thomas's girlfriend, Yvette Smith, and his son were inside struggling with a gun and loading it. The dash cam video of Willis telling Thomas to seek cover with him behind a vehicle is a key moment for his defense.

"Where is our dangerous situation going, up, or down? It’s going up," asked Defense Attorney Robert McCabe.

Willis, according to McCabe, was forced to make a split second decision when he shot smith as she came out the door. But Sanderson says the decision wasn’t necessary.

"There’s going to be no question in your mind but the tone of the evidence is presented she did not have a gun in her hand that everything that he saw was a fiction of own imagination," said Sanderson.

McCabe says he will show that two shot guns were found in the house.  One was on a table and another near Smith's body.

 "The law is not what he knew 10 minutes after it happened ...after the shooting ...the law is not what you'll  know this week, the law is what Daniel Willis knew at the time it happen ... Based on what he knew,  he made a rational reasonable choice to engage Yvette smith in deadly force,” McCabe told the jury.

The rifle Willis used, an AR-15, and the type of bullets fired at smith were shown to the jury. McCabe claims the shotguns recovered from the house were not finger printed, and that other critical mistakes were made in an investigation he described as being "poisoned."

If convicted the sentencing range for Willis, who was fired after being indicted is 5 to 99 years in prison.

 

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