Man who killed Austin attorney sentenced to 40 years in prison

Crime

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The man found guilty of killing Austin defense attorney, James Short, recieved a 40-year prison sentence Tuesday in Travis County. 

Justin Twyne, 26, pleaded not guilty to the murder charge in connection with Short’s 2017 death at his Rockwood Circle home in southwest Travis County.

The prosecution asked the jury Tuesday during closing arguments for sentencing to consider the punishment of life in prison for Twyne. The defense, however, asked the jury to consider “sudden passion,” meaning Twyne could be punished anywhere between two to 20 years instead because by law, if a jury finds sudden passion existed in the commission of the murder, it would be bumped down to a second degree range of punishment. 

Twyne will be eligible for parole in 20 years. 

After the sentencing decision came down, family members took the stand for victim impact statements. 

“I will hate you forever [for] what you have done to my family. You chose to murder my uncle. You have taken the love I had for 59 years for a great man. I will never forgive you,” Linda Proctor Owens told Twyne. 

Another of Short’s nieces, Kay Brown, told KXAN, “I wouldn’t feel safe with [Twyne] out on the streets. I think he preys on older men.”

“I’m not sure I hate him, but I can’t ever forgive that he has absolutely no remorse,” Brown continued.

VERDICT: Man found guilty of killing attorney, stabbing him 28 times

Over the course of the week-long trial, it was revealed Short, who was 74 years old at the time of his death and 50 years older than his attacker, had been stabbed 26 to 28 times and burned over different parts of his body.

Authorities came to suspect Twyne after investigators allegedly found a bloody knife with Twyne’s fingerprint on it at the scene along with documents that had his name on it.

Prosecutors said evidence at the crime scene revealed he was tortured. 

“This is an ugly case because what you have here is a man who decided, when he was there at Jim’s house, to kill him and take his money,” Jeremy Sylestine, a Travis Co. assistant district attorney, told the jury during closing arguments. 

Prosecutors argued Twyne wanted to get away with Short’s cash and an $18,000 credit line. 

“Our theory is that Justin just got infuriated at his attacker [being Short, allegedly] — that when the attacker came toward him, he felt like he had to defend his life,” said Russ Hunt, Twyne’s defense attorney. 

Hunt says the defense will file an appeal for their client in this case. 

The prosecution denied any sexual assault occurred before Short was killed. 

Short was found dead inside a bathroom in his home on April 7, 2017 by family members who had come to his home after they weren’t able to reach him on the phone, which they said was unusual. 

His family saw him alive the day before. It was argued Twyne killed Short in the evening hours of April 6, after the two were believed to be seen together in surveillance video from a Walmart. The video showed a man matching Twyne’s description walking with Short, with flowers and plants in the shopping cart. The two men left the store together in the attorney’s Chevrolet Suburban. A receipt in Short’s pocket showed a purchase was made at a Walmart at 6:16 p.m. 

Twyne was found in a New Orleans hotel the day after Short was found dead, by members of the U.S. Marshal’s Task Force. He was arrested on an unrelated escape warrant that showed he was charged with escape by the Georgia Department of Corrections after he failed to return to a work-release program. He was in that program for a charge of financial transaction card fraud.

After a search warrant was issued for Twyne’s hotel room, authorities found credit cards belonging to Short inside.

Prosecutors revealed Twyne was already a convicted felon for fraud charges, prior to the murder conviction. 

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