Surprise plea deal in Midtown Houston murder of transgender woman
A Galena Park man on trial for murder Thursday pleaded guilty after his Harris County jury told the trial judge they were deadlocked and couldn’t reach a verdict.
The surprising move resulted in Tariq Lackings, 32, being sentenced to 12 years in prison for the murder of 34-year-old Shante Thompson, a transgender woman who was killed at a street corner in Midtown Houston in 2016.
Lackings will have to serve at least six years before he is eligible for parole and was facing the possibility of life in prison. He cut the plea deal after jurors told the judge they were split 10 to 2 and could not reach a verdict.
In an even more unusual twist, Lackings later asked the judge to let him withdraw his guilty plea after learning that 10 of the jurors had voted in favor of finding him innocent, and only two believed he was guilty.
“That will be denied,” said visiting state District Judge Reagan Clark.,
The motive behind a massive street brawl was a long-simmering dispute between Lackings, a Galena Park cocaine dealer, and the transgender woman. Thompson and her friend 33-year-old Willie Sims were beat with crow bars and homemade maces before being stabbed and shot at the corner of Fannin and Dennis on April 10, 2016.
The plea came minutes before a Harris County judge could have declared a mistrial because of a hung jury.
The jury, which deliberated about seven hours since starting Wednesday afternoon, sent out four notes over two days asking for read back of testimony and other evidence about the late-night melee. On Thursday, the 12 jurors sent out a note saying they were split 10 to 2 and were not able to change anyone’s mind.
After the split became known, the defense and prosecutors hammered out a plea deal and finalized it before the judge.
Lackings admitted to orchestrating the street brawl on a corner street in Midtown Houston where two groups met to settle an earlier confrontation in a fast food restaurant.
Defense attorney Paul Morgan argued that there was not enough forensic evidence to convict anyone and said the eyewitnesses were lying to hide their culpability.
Lackings was originally charged with capital murder for both deaths, but prosecutors dropped the allegations surrounding Sims death and went forward in trying Lackings for Thompson’s death.
The plea deal means the case and any related allegations are completely disposed. The trial began last Friday with jury selection.