A jury on Monday found Da Ryan Simms guilty of capital murder in the 2014 shooting death of Round Rock resident Jerrod Stanford after deliberating for less than two hours.
When District Judge Rick Kennon announced that the verdict meant Simms was automatically sentenced to life in prison without parole, Simms’ mother, Kathy Freeman, stood up in the courtroom and screamed, “What? Life? That’s my child.” A bailiff escorted her out of the courtroom.
Freeman said outside the courtroom that she did not know about the automatic sentence for capital murder if the death penalty is not being considered. “They are trying to lock my son up because he is black and they are white,” she said.
Stanford’s family declined to comment outside the courtroom after the verdict, but one relative said, “It’s a sad day.”
Prosecutor Dee McWilliams said he was glad Stanford’s family got closure and justice after nearly four years in Simms’ case. Another man who has been charged with murder in Stanford’s death, Kendall Ellis, has yet to face trial.
Defense attorney Jon Evans said he was disappointed by the verdict. “I feel this young man has been made the scapegoat for another person’s crimes,” he said.
During closing arguments Monday, Evans suggested a woman who testified against Simms could have been responsible for Stanford’s death while prosecutors said all of the physical evidence led directly to Simms.
Evans said the testimony of Lindsey Hanks during the trial was not believable. Hanks pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery in exchange for testifying against Simms and Ellis. Hanks told jurors she was a prostitute who went to Stanford’s house Sept. 5, 2014, after he called her for sex. She said Simms and Ellis later arrived with guns to rob Stanford and she then heard two shots before finding Stanford death in the bathroom.
Evans said Hanks was delusional because she testified she never had sex with Stanford but that they became friends so fast he gave her money to buy a cellphone. Investigators found a used condom in the toilet, Evans said.
“What is there to prove that Lindsey Hanks didn’t act alone that night?” Evans asked. He said Hanks was the mastermind of the crime because she knew the layout of Stanford’s house, knew where his possessions were and was always in control of the keys to Stanford’s truck after it was stolen.
When police arrested her, Evans said, she had Stanford’s driver’s license as well as his Social Security card and some of his credit cards in the trunk of her car.
Hanks also never told police during her interviews that “somebody else dragged her into this and she didn’t do it,” said Evans. She said awful things about Stanford during her interviews with police, including that he deserved what he got, Evans said.
Investigators also could not say when the handprint of Simms that was found in Stanford’s bathroom was placed there, Evans said.
Prosecutor Whitney Wester said during closing arguments that Hanks had taken 25 Xanax before her interviews with police and was suicidal.
Wester said all the physical evidence in the case showed that Hanks was telling the truth. A pizza receipt confirmed Hanks’ story that she ate pizza with Stanford, and videos from a gas station, a convenience store and a McDonald’s corroborate her stories about where she went and who she was with after Stanford was killed, Wester said.
The bullet casings found in Stanford’s house confirmed Hanks’ story that Stanford was first shot while standing near a couch and then shot in a bathroom, Wester said.
Wester also said that witness Leroy Hall, who testified Monday morning that Simms told him while they shared a jail cell that he shot Stanford, knew a lot of facts about what had happened. Hall said Simms told him he had been wearing Air Jordan Retro 11 shoes when he shot Stanford and investigators later found a bloody footprint of the shoe at the scene, Wester said.
Hall said that Simms told him Simms and another man had returned after the murder to clean up the scene, which corroborated Hanks’ story, Wester said.