Appeals court upholds murder charge on shooting participant
Kevin Rashawn Wright didn't fire the shots that killed Clayton Junior Jones, but Polk County jurors found him guilty of the murder and the Ninth District appeals court in Beaumont has upheld the verdict.
"Participation in an enterprise may be inferred from circumstances and need not be shown by direct evidence," Justice David Gaultney wrote Aug. 13.
Wright watched a friend, Jackie Welch, fire seven shots into Jones in the yard of Wright's mother in Livingston.
Jurors said Wright solicited, encouraged or directed Welch, convicted both. Both Wright and Welch appealed.
In Wright's case Gaultney, Chief Justice Steve McKeithen and Justice Charles Kreger found the evidence legally and factually sufficient to support the verdict.
"The jury could have reasonably believed that appellant knew Welch was going to shoot Jones," Gaultney wrote.
He added, "Ã¯Â¿Â½the jury could have reasonably believed that appellant, either by words or agreement, encouraged Welch in murdering Jones, and was a participant in the crime."
In May 2006, Wright lived in Houston. In a phone call, his sister Angela told him she fought with Jones and he hit her.
That day, Wright saw Welch, who he knew only as D Black. He told Welch his sister said Jones hit her.
He told Welch he planned to go to the country, to see his mother in Livingston.
Welch said he wanted to go to the country so he could shoot his pistol. He asked if he could go along, and Wright said yes.
Angela picked them up at Wright's apartment. She showed bruises and a bite mark.
When they reached Livingston, Angela stayed at her mother's house and Wright took Welch for a ride.
Wright spotted Jones in a group and kept driving.
Wright drove to his grandfather's house. He and Welch got out and fired Welch's pistol into the woods until they ran out of bullets.
They found bullets at Wal-Mart but a clerk wanted identification and they didn't have it.
Wright called a cousin, Reginald, who showed identification and bought bullets.
All three went to Wright's mother's house, where Welch fired a few more shots.
That afternoon Wright sat on the porch with his sister, his cousin and his friend.
Jones drove up, walked to the porch and started arguing with Angela. As he stepped down he said he would come back and "set it off."
Wright stepped off the porch and exchanged words with Jones.
Welch slid into the back seat of the car. He fired and Jones fell. Six shots followed.
Wright watched Jones die. He dragged Jones across the street.
Wright and Welch drove back to Houston.
Next morning, before dawn, police took a call about a drunk in a ditch.
Polk County patrolman William Jerry didn't find anybody so he asked a dispatcher for the address of the caller.
Jerry got an address and found Angela. She pointed and Jerry found Jones.
In separate interviews on tape, Welch confessed that he shot Jones and Wright said he didn't know Welch would shoot Jones.
At trial, jurors saw both tapes but District Judge Robert Trapp instructed them that they could consider Welch's interview as evidence only against Welch.
Witness Titania Davis testified that the night before the murder, at a night club, she saw a fight between Jones and another man.
Later, Davis said Jones slapped Angela and Angela hit Jones in the head with keys.
Davis said Angela told Jones she would call her brother because he slapped her.
Wright told jurors that he went looking for Jones and that he wanted to hurt Jones.
He said he knew Welch brought a gun. He said they both fired it that day.
Jurors found Wright guilty, and Trapp sentenced him to 50 years of confinement.
Attorney Stephen Taylor appealed on Wright's behalf, arguing that the state failed to prove he was a party to the crime.
The argument was unsuccessful.
"Evidence is sufficient to convict a defendant under the law of parties when he or she is physically present at the commission of the offense and encourages the commission of the offense either by words or by other agreement," Gaultney wrote.
Presence at a crime scene "is a circumstance tending to prove guilt," he added.
Welch's appeal is pending.