Conviction upheld of man convicted of killing Wharton County game warden

Sonny Long

March 16, 2011 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated March 15, 2011 at 10:16 p.m.

HOUSTON - The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld the conviction of a man sentenced to death for fatally shooting a state game warden in Wharton County four years ago during a poaching arrest.

Defendant James Garrett Freeman raised six points of error from his trial, including one challenging the trial judge's decision to not move his trial from Wharton County. The appeals court Wednesday rejected each of the challenges.

Freeman's defense attorney, Stanley Schneider, of Houston, said he will continue to appeal.

"I am surprised," Schneider said. "I would thought they would have sent it back for a new trial."

Schneider said another reason for appeal was that a bailiff told the jury to keep their voices down and quit arguing.

"In 37 years of doing this, I've never heard of that happening," he said.

Freeman had led authorities on an hourlong chase in Wharton County while they were trying to pull him over for using his .22-caliber rifle to shoot a bird sitting on a fence.

Investigators say spikes thrown on the roadway disabled Freeman's truck. He then got out and opened fire with a pistol and an assault rifle, killing Hurst, 34.

The decision comes four years to the day that the pursuit began that ended in Hurst's death the following morning, his 34th birthday.

Parks and Wildlife Capt. Rex Mayes, of Victoria, said Wednesday was a solemn day for him and other game wardens. He said Hurst was an outstanding guy and they still miss him.

Mayes planned to spend time with Hurst's family Wednesday evening.

Wharton County District Attorney Josh McCown could not be reached for comment.



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