Jury finds Buffum guilty of murder; punishment hearing begins Tuesday
Nov. 7, 2011 at 5:07 a.m.
Sentencing will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Presiding Judge: District Judge Skipper Koetter
Defense attorney: Jerry Clark
Prosecutors: Victoria County assistant district attorneys Eli Garza and Keri Miller
A Victoria County jury took a little more than an hour Monday to find Daulton Jakob Buffum guilty of murder.
After the verdict was read, Buffum burst into tears and appeared agitated as he paced around until a court officer approached him, prompting Buffum to continue crying while seated in a chair.
Buffum, 21, was charged with murder in the stabbing death of 20-year-old William Lance Ponton at a house party in the 1500 block of West Beck in August 2010.
He claimed the attack that lead to Ponton's death was in self defense.
Family members of the victim and the defendant had no comment.
Earlier in the day, Buffum had taken the stand.
He echoed previous testimony that party-goer Jacob Reynolds asked him to stop Ponton from flirting with Reynolds' romantic interest, Kenna Rohan.
Buffum said he tried to peacefully confront Ponton about the flirting, but the victim became defensive.
"I stumbled back a bit, then I swung back," said Buffum, who accused Ponton of throwing the first punch with brass knuckles. "Everybody there was drinking. The alcohol is probably what led up to the fight."
After the first fight ended, Buffum said a second fight and a third fight, which he said he did not remember happening, ensued between the men.
Ponton was stabbed during the third fight.
"He was laying there. I remember him holding his stomach and groaning," said Buffum, who held fast to his explanation that he blacked out after the second fight and came to after the stabbing had occurred. "I know it was me that did it, and I'm very sorry for that, but I don't remember."
Buffum, who admitted that he had a semi-sharp pocket knife in his possession that night, told the jurors he had a history of blacking out when his anger levels reach high points.
After learning what happened, Buffum said he attempted to stop the bleeding from a cut he received during the attack before changing clothes and asking his cousin Ethan Ender to drive him to his mother's house.
The defendant also denied testimony by fellow Victoria County jail inmate Joe Cavazos that he asked him for advice on whether he should deny the stabbing or if he should just claim it was self defense.
"I honestly did not tell him the things that he said," said Buffum, who did not graduate from high school.
The defendant's post-verdict tears were not the only ones shed.
The proceedings halted for several minutes in the morning when Buffum began to cry while viewing pictures of Ponton.
Likewise, Ponton's family also lifted tissues to their eyes throughout the trial.
"I'm so sorry that this happened. I've never done anything like that. It's not a good thing to take someone's life," said Buffum, whose pale face turned beet red and eyes swelled with tears. "I'm so sorry to the Ponton family. I pray for y'all to overcome y'all's loss."
"I would never have done it if I wasn't in fear for my life," he added.
During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Keri Miller implored jurors to carefully consider the evidence.
"This is what he resorts to. If you piss him off, he's going to pull out his knife and cut you, stab you or kill you," said Miller.
Defense attorney Jerry Clark continued to argue that his client feared for his life.
"If you have a single doubt, you must acquit," Clark told jurors. "Promise me."
When asked what punishment he will seek for Buffum, Assistant District Attorney Eli Garza replied, "I'm trying to get justice."
Buffum faces five to 99 years or life in prison. A fine of up to $10,000 could also be assessed.