A Brazos County jury has began deliberating the fate of convicted College Station killer Stanley Robertson, and will continue Tuesday morning after being sequestered at a local hotel Monday night.
The final witnesses took the stand Monday morning, the start of the fourth week of Robertson's trial. Instructions to the jury and the closing arguments in the trial started just after 1:00 p.m. Monday. Deliberations began at 3:53 p.m., but by 8:30 p.m., the decision was made to sequester them until 9:00 a.m. Tuesday.
It is the fifteenth day overall of the trial, and the eleventh of the punishment phase following Robertson's February 7 conviction on capital murder charges.
Robertson, 45, was found guilty of the kidnapping and death of Annie Toliver from August 2010. Toliver, the mother of Robertson's ex-girlfriend, was stabbed more than 30 times. It was an attack that started in the College Station Walmart parking lot. Her body was dumped by Robertson in Fort Worth, who then led police on a chase that ended with Robertson crashing his SUV into a patrol car.
The back and forth of prosecution and defense witnesses in the punishment phase -- and indeed, in the closing arguments Monday afternoon -- has focused on the defendant's youth and his mental state.
In order for a sentence of death to be rendered, the Brazos County jury must believe unanimously that Robertson presents a danger to others in the future, that there are no mitigating circumstances that would warrant a life sentence over death, and that Robertson is not mentally retarded.
Because of questions asked by the jury during its deliberations, it appears clear that they have decided Robertson is a future danger.
The latter two have been the fronts the defense team has been fighting on. Robertson grew up in extreme poverty living on a farm field his family worked in Alabama. There were regular pesticide sprayings that could have harmed him, his lawyers and expert witnesses contend. Robertson says he was sexually abused by his brother-in-law, and he was teased regularly in school for not being smart and for being poor.
The prosecution's counter: many people experience some or all of the same life experiences as Robertson did, yet not many commit capital murder.
Experts have also gone back and forth on Robertson's mental state. Defense witnesses contend Robertson is mildly mentally retarded by virtue of a low enough IQ and sufficient deficiencies in the way he has been able to function and is currently able to function day-to-day, some of that caused by the pesticide exposure as a child and while his mother was pregnant. The prosecution's own expert characterized Robertson as having "borderline intellectual functioning," a step above mental retardation.
As a result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, mentally retarded people cannot be executed.
The only other option the jury has if they don't decide on the death penalty is life in prison without the possibility of parole.