GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) - Some 20 hours of deliberations came and went. Multiple impasses had stalled and frustrated them.
But shortly before they were set to return to their sequestered hotels, the jury in the trial of Fred Yazdi found an answer to the question of murder or self-defense: murder -- in the first-degree.
Neither Fred Yazdi nor members of his family had any visible reaction when Judge Bert Richardson read the jury's verdict of guilty for the murder of Enrique Recio.
On the other side of the courtroom, there were gasps and sighs of relief.
Then came the hugs, smiles, and handshakes.
"Oh, Thank God!" said a woman as she shared an embrace with Recio family members.
As the Recio family celebrated outside the courtroom, Yazdi's family sat silent and still as Yazdi was officially remanded into the custody of the Williamson County deputies.
Punishment phase begins Thursday
Despite arriving at the decision of Yazdi's guilt, another questions remains for the 7-woman, 5-man jury that could prove equally as challenging.
How many years should Yazdi serve in prison for Recio's murder?
Opening arguments will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday morning and both sides will again present evidence and witnesses to help the jury make their decision.
The prosecution is expected to ask to introduce extraneous evidence which could include threats and intimidation Fred Yazdi made towards neighbors prior to the February 2012 shooting that killed Recio.
In the guilt/innocence phase of the trial, the jury unanimously agreed neither self-defense, defense of others, or defense of property applied to Yazdi's decision to fire the three shots that killed Recio.
Now they must also unanimously agree on an appropriate sentence.
1st degree murder carries a punishment range of 5-99 years in prison.
However, the defense could make the case for "Sudden Passion."
Under Texas Penal Code Chapter 19, the chapter outlining criminal homicide, Sudden Passion is defined as:
"Passion directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual killed or another acting with the person killed which passion arises at the time of the offense and is not solely the result of former provocation."
If the defense successfully convinces the jury the offense falls under the "Sudden Passion" law, the crime is treated as a 2nd degree murder and the sentence range becomes 2-20 years.
Update: 4 p.m.
The group returned to the courtroom around 4 p.m. stating two jurors will not change their mind on self-defense.
The judge gave the jury the "Allen Charge," meaning he ordered them to keep working because a mistrial only means 12 other people will have to answer the same question.
Typically, a court will give jurors at least as much time deliberating as they had to hear evidence. In this case, that period was about four days.
Update: 2:30 p.m.
Progress was made, but jurors reached an impasse according to a note sent to Judge Bert Richardson from the jury room.
The note said they stood 10-2 on the issue of self-defense after previously being locked at 6-6. Richardson instructed the jury to keep deliberating.
Jurors want clarification on charge
After deliberating for more than eight hours on Tuesday, jurors in the Fred Yazdi murder trial expressed confusion over the procedure they must follow when considering the charge.
Judge Bert Richardson said Wednesday morning the wording in the charge would be slightly tweaked to help jurors move forward with their deliberations. The charge states the jurors have to consider three defenses individually:
- Defense of others
- Defense of property
The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt none of the defenses apply to the circumstances surrounding the death of Enrique Recio.
In a note to the judge, the jurors said they were deadlocked at 6-6 for five hours on one of the defenses and did not know if they could move on to consider another defense without first settling the deadlock.
Attorneys for both sides debated Wednesday morning how the charge and procedure should be worded.
A supplemental charge given to the jury instructed them that the state must prove beyond reasonable doubt the defendant was not justified in causing the death of Enrique Recio and that all 3 defensive theories must be considered.
In order to return a guilty verdict, they must unanimously find elements of the offense of murder and unanimously find the defendant did not act in self-defense, defense of others, or in defense of property.
In February 2012, Enrique Recio was killed after being shot three times. Fred Yazdi told officers on the scene he though Recio was a burglar and felt his home and family were in danger.
Prosecutors have argued self-defense does not apply because Recio was running away from Yazdi’s house and there was no evidence of damage or attempted entry to the home.
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