Closing arguments in former deputy murder case

Former Deputy Daniel Willis sat quietly as prosecutors and defense attorneys closed out the trial. Dash cam video was played again of the moment Willis fired the shot that took the life of Yvette Smith. The jury was told that Willis showed no remorse for what he did.

“He offered no aid, he treated her like a dog," said Prosecutor Neal  Pfiffer.

But defense attorneys accused prosecutors of being callous and that seeking a murder charge against Willis had nothing to do with justice. 

"Do you think that is what law enforcement wants ,to be hauled in here and be charged with murder... because somebody up the food chain has a political reason, because they are worried about press," said Defense Attorney Kristen Jernigan.

The case dates back to February 16, 2014 when Deputy Daniel Willis was sent to a home north of Bastrop. It was his second disturbance call in six hours to the location.

The situation escalated when a woman inside the home told dispatchers her boyfriend was struggling with Yvette Smith over a gun. Both sides agree that the 911 call, played earlier for the jury, is a critical point in the case.

During the phone call, Amy Vela spoke to a dispatcher about the situation that unfolded in the home where Smith was killed.

Amy Vela:
"He loaded the gun, he loaded the gun, he loaded the gun.”

“He loaded the gun, OK.”

Willis, as a result of that report, got his rifle and called to a man outside the home to seek cover with him. What he was not told by dispatchers was, moments later, the gun had been set aside.

During the trial, Tim Ryle, an expert on police tactics for the defense, testified what the deputy knew—at the time—he was justified in firing at the person who came out the front door. Defense attorney Robert McCabe noted that Ryle was the only such expert to testify.

"Nobody was willing to come in here and offer a different opinion for them [Prosecutors], what does that tell you? The case is garbage, “said McCabe.

Lead prosecutor Forrest Sanderson urged the jury to disregard the tactical analysis saying it was bought and paid for by the defense.

"This is your chance to send a message not only to Bastrop Co. but to the nation, that we're not a bunch of Hillbillies here," said Sanderson.

Defense attorneys say Willis could have been charged with a lesser crime, like deadly conduct or manslaughter. Prosecutors said murder was the only charge that was appropriate for this case. If convicted, Willis faces a sentencing range of 5 to 99 years in prison.

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