The son of Jennifer Hailey -- the only witness to her murder and himself an attack victim -- testified Monday afternoon in the trial of Stanley Griffin.
Now 11-years-old, the boy testified that he woke up late on the night of September 19, 2010 to find Griffin on top of his mother in her bedroom. He said he recognized Griffin and said his first name, only for Griffin to identify himself as "Michael from Huntsville" and tell the boy to go back to his room.
A few minutes later, the then-nine-year-old returned to his mother's room and saw her passed out on the floor. Soon after, he says Griffin started strangling him. He then allegedly grabbed a garden trowel and struck the boy in the head and neck.
The boy, still sporting scars where he was hit, said he awoke in a different part of the house with a comforter over him. Dazed and confused, he came upon his mother on the floor, saw his own wounds in a mirror, started remembering things, and eventually called his grandmother for help.
Later, a video was shown of the hospitalized child picking the picture of Griffin out of a set of photos and identifying him as the person who attacked.
Under cross examination, defense attorney Stephen Gustitis brought up several recorded statements the son had made to authorities and medical professionals in the hours and days following the trial, including how the attack took place and what was said during it. Each time, the son either could not remember saying those things or denied saying them. Later witnesses would testify that their transcripts were accurate to the best of their recollection.
The defense team says the murder of Hailey and the attack on her son were undeniably horrific crimes, but that inconsistencies in the "small details" will give a jury reasons to find the defendant not guilty of capital murder.
Monday, through Gustitis, Griffin pleaded not guilty to capital murder, which was a murder charge elevated by a charge of kidnapping.
Brazos County District Attorney Bill Turner told the jury during opening arguments that DNA evidence found at the home on Pedernales Drive and on the bodies of Hailey and her son will prove Griffin was the killer, but they also argued that, by the letter of the law, the now-47-year-old kidnapped the child by virtue of ordering him to go back to his room with the idea that harm could come to the child if he didn't comply.
A murder can be elevated to the capital level if certain other crimes are committed in conjunction with the killing. Among them are burglary and kidnapping. Capital murder, unlike any other level of murder, is punishable by death, which the state is seeking.
In his opening statement, Gustitis noted Griffin had been convicted of another attempted murder by strangling in 1990 and served 12 years in prison.
Gustitis argued that because of the prior conviction, prosecutors were looking for anything they could to elevate the murder of Hailey to capital. The state originally got a burglary charge added on by a grand jury two months after the crime, then in June 2011 tacked on a kidnapping charge. The burglary charge was later dropped by the state, but the murder remained a capital offense because of the kidnapping.
Gustitis said authorities never suspected a kidnapping and never investigated one, and that Hailey's son never once said he had been kidnapped. Gustitis also said the son was inconsistent with his story of how the crime happened with the people he discussed it with in the days after. As a result, Gustitis asked the jury to find Griffin not guilty.
During later testimony, the prosecution worked to show that just because authorities had not investigated a potential doesn't mean additional charges can't be tacked on later.
Early witnesses focused on the hours leading up to the murder. Griffin and a friend had driven to and from Houston on September 19, 2010. He was eventually dropped off late that night near the Pedernales Drive home of Hailey.
The first police officer on the scene described arriving to find Hailey dead and trying to administer CPR while questioning her son about who had done this.
The boy's grandmother provided emotional testimony of the morning she got the call from Hailey's son saying his mother was dead.
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