Strong, Experienced Teams Face Off in Olsen Trial

While their definitions of "success" are different, the two legal teams in the Christian Olsen capital murder case can both claim to have achieved it in previous trials where the death penalty has been sought.

Olsen, 21, is accused of killing his Bryan neighbor, 68-year-old Etta Jean Westbrook, in June 2007. His trial begins Monday. Authorities say Olsen admitted to the murder following his arrest. The state is seeking the death penalty if he is convicted.

He is also accused of killing 63-year-old Geraldine Lloyd, one of the women he was living with. He allegedly killed Lloyd nearly six months before Westbrook, burying her in the backyard.

The Westbrook and Lloyd cases are being tried separately. (Learn more about the murders by clicking here)

A jury of ten women and four men will decide whether Olsen is guilty, and if so, whether death or life without parole is the appropriate punishment.

News 3's Steve Fullhart will provide live coverage throughout the Olsen trial courtesy of his blog here at KBTX.com. Get up-to-the-minute updates from gavel to gavel. Plus, you can interact with Steve throughout the trial by submitting your questions and comments to the blog.

Under District Attorney Bill Turner, officials in the DA's office say the state has sought death 14 times in Brazos County prior to this coming trial. In 12 of those cases, juries decided on death, while the other two convicted received life without parole.

Assistant District Attorney Shane Phelps will be the state's lead attorney in the Olsen trial. His office says he has prosecuted three death penalty cases, with two ending up with death sentences and one with a life sentence. Phelps also served as a chief prosecutor in the Attorney General's office, where he supervised a number of other capital murder trials.

Olsen will be represented by local attorney Billy Carter, who says he has provided defense in ten previous cases where death was sought. Only three of those ten accused received the death penalty, he says.

For Judge Steve Smith, this will be just the second case in his 361st District Court where death is sought. That previous defendant, Ynobe Matthews, was sentenced to death and executed for the 2000 murder of a College Station woman.

There are currently two inmates on death row who were convicted of crimes committed in Brazos County, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety's website.

Carl Blue was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend. Blue went to the woman's College Station apartment in August 1994, throwing gasoline on her and lighting her on fire. She died less than a month later. A second woman in the apartment was also set on fire, but survived. Blue later claimed it was a prank gone wrong.

Marcus Druery awaits execution for a Halloween 2002 murder. The 29-year-old was convicted of shooting a man that had been driven to Druery's property, then taking cash and drugs from the victim and setting his body on fire.

Also on death row currently is Lawrence Brewer, who was convicted of dragging a handicapped black man to death in Jasper County in 1998. He was tried and convicted in Brazos County after a change of venue.

Since the death penalty was reinstated in Texas in 1976, 13 people have been sentenced to death after being convicted in Brazos County. That is 18th most among the state's 254 counties, according to TDCJ.


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