Mother of shooting victim forgives defendants
Aug. 16, 2013 at 3:16 a.m.
Jerry Paul James' mother forgives the men responsible for her son's death.
"Hatred and revenge are something that will make you physically sick. I don't have time to hate," Rebecca Casey James said Friday after Dedrick Bonner and Donnell Dilworth were sentenced for the April 24, 2012, murder of her son.
"I forgive them."
Bonner was sentenced to life in prison without parole for capital murder.
Dilworth was sentenced to seven years for his role in the shooting death at Regency Suite Apartments.
Both men stood and apologized to Rebecca James in court following her victim's impact statement.
"I'm truly sorry for what I did to your son and all the pain I caused you and your family," Bonner said, patting his chest at his heart. "I ask for your forgiveness."
Seated in the witness chair, James said, "I've already decided to forgive you. It's too hard to try to live and hold anger. You have my forgiveness."
Dilworth, too, apologized and asked for forgiveness.
The men's attorneys, Lee Lewis for Dilworth and Jerry Clark for Bonner, both said it was the first time they knew of convicted defendants apologizing to a victim's family.
"It was their idea," Lewis said. "We had to ask permission from the judge. This was kind of their last request because they probably won't see Mrs. James again. They wanted to let her know they are both deeply sorry."
Before the jury began its deliberations Friday, Victoria County Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler made an opening statement.
The two men showed an "ever-escalating pattern of behavior in frequency, type and violence," Tyler said.
"You have to determine whether these are good young men who are threatened by their environment, or are they threats to their environment," Tyler said.
Tyler then called city of Victoria fingerprint analyst Maria Perez to the stand to verify that a series of past court documents were associated with the two defendants.
Clark did not offer any witnesses, and Lewis called Elicia Ellis, Dilworth's mother, to the stand.
Ellis said Dilworth was a straight-A student and played football in junior high school and high school.
"He was a good kid - funny and friendly," she said.
Ellis said her son changed in 2007 when his stepfather died.
"He started hanging with the wrong people. He dropped out of high school," she said.
In his closing statement, Lewis described Dilworth as "a young kid who did something stupid. He's a smart young man who could have a bright future. Things changed when his role model died."
Clark, in his closing remarks, said Bonner made a horrible, spur of the moment decision, and a tragedy occurred.
"I still don't believe that any of you believe my client went down there to kill a man."
Friday was an emotional day in court.
James cried twice.
The first came when Ellis was on the stand talking about her son, Dilworth.
"She lost him before the trial, and I can understand how that feels. I could empathize with her," James said.
"But she can still see her child. On Jerry's 39th birthday, we bought balloons and flowers and had to go to the cemetery.
"And Jerry's children - how do you explain death to a child?"
James also cried briefly while giving her victim's impact statement, then apologized.
"I'm sorry," she said, wiping the tears away. "I didn't intend to do that."
Dilworth, too, showed emotion Friday.
When his sentence of seven years for murder was read aloud, he beamed, smiling at his friends and family in the courtroom gallery.
Then, he put his head down on the table for several minutes. Sitting back upright, he dabbed at the moisture in the corners of his eyes.
He could have been sentenced to life or up to 99 years in prison.
In addition to the life sentence for capital murder, Bonner was sentenced to 35 years for aggravated assault for wounding Allaceia Stephney during the same incident.
His sentences will run concurrently.
Dilworth was found not guilty of aggravated assault during Thursday's proceedings.
Both men were also fined $10,000.
Clark said he was disappointed in the capital murder conviction and plans to appeal.
"The jury did what it felt it needed to do. I don't ever question a jury's decision," Clark said. "But we believe there are some valid points on appeal.
"It was an emotional case. There are no winners."
Lewis, too, said although disappointed in his client's murder conviction, he respected the jury's decision.
"This jury had to answer a lot of hard questions. They worked very hard to come to its decisions."
Tyler said justice was served in the case.
"The measure of justice is the process. Did we have due process?" Tyler said.
"Did jurors deliberate and consider all the evidence? They did all that.
"It's the process, not the outcome."