Returning to death row is the Harris County man who was found guilty of murdering a Sunnyside couple in southeast Houston in 1990 over a $50 debt.
At the time, Daryl Wheatfall, then 25 years old, was given a death sentence for the southeast Houston murders of James and L.B. Fitzgerald, ages 62 and 67.
Attorneys claim that shortly after the 62-year-old returned from work, Wheatfall and his accomplice, Mack Terrell, broke into the Sunnyside home of the couple.
Terrell grabbed the 67-year-old’s shotgun away from her and pulled out the ammo when she was having difficulty handling it and using the walker she depended on, according to prosecutors.
When Terrell discovered the Fitzgeralds had no $50, he looked throughout the house for whatever cash he could find.
During the most recent hearing, claims were made about a brief altercation between Wheatfall and the couple’s son, James Fitzgerald Jr., which resulted in the 19-year-old being shot.
Fitzgerald Jr. did not discover his parents’ deaths, according to the prosecution, until he awoke in a hospital.
Because the judge in the first case gave the jury instructions that were not correct, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the death penalty in 2015.
In 2015, the highest criminal court in the state declared that the instructions given to the jury during Wheatfall’s 1992 trial that resulted in his execution on death row were illegal.
His trial took place at a period of change in Texas jury instructions addressing concerns of mitigation in capital trials due to rulings from the United States Supreme Court. His case must be referred back to the trial court for a second sentencing hearing, under the appeals court’s ruling.
The jury in his second sentence heard his case on Tuesday from around 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., nearly eight years after the appeal judgement, which resulted in an overnight sequester.
Wheatfall’s counsel requested that the jury consider life imprisonment in lieu of the death penalty, but the Harris County District Attorney’s Office was emphatic about having Wheatfall’s sentence stand.
Attorneys for Wheatfall tried to emphasise Terrell’s involvement in the murder, but on Wednesday, following almost ten hours of deliberation and hearing the final arguments, the jury sent Wheatfall to death row.
The 57-year-old, according to his solicitors, is a different guy now that he had his prostate removed due to cancer, and he now needs a cane to walk.
Assistant District Attorney Sarah Seely contested Wheatfall’s involvement in other events, such as the time he used a homemade spear to stab a Texas Department of Criminal Justice guard during his incarceration on death row, according to ABC13’s news partners at the Houston Chronicle.
In the months preceding the most recent trial, Wheatfall refused to admit any guilt. He admitted before District Judge Kelli Johnson, according to the Houston Chronicle, that he had unintentionally became friends with someone who was “not a true friend.”