Man found guilty of murder in Texas court shooting
GALVESTON, Texas (AP) — A Houston man who admitted shooting his daughter outside a Texas courthouse was convicted Tuesday of capital murder for the death of a 79-year-old bystander.
Bartholomew Granger, 42, testified in his own defense that he didn’t shoot Minnie Ray Sebolt last March when he opened fire on his daughter outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in downtown Beaumont. Granger said he was angry with his daughter for testifying against him in a sex assault case.
The daughter and her mother were among three women who were wounded. Granger took responsibility for his daughter’s injuries that left her in a coma for three months, but he insisted he shot no one else.
Jurors returned their guilty verdict after about one hour and 45 minutes of deliberations.
Granger and his lawyers were seated at the defense table when the verdict was read. He had no discernible reaction, but winked at the lead prosecutor, Jefferson County assistant district attorney Ed Shettle, as he was escorted by deputies from the courtroom.
“Amazing,” Shettle said, shaking his head and turning back toward spectators in the courtroom.
The punishment phase will begin Wednesday and could go into next week, Judge Bob Wortham said. The same jury will hear testimony to decide whether the former truck driver and rapper heads to prison for life without chance of parole or to death row. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
“This is the best feeling I’ve had in over a year and a half,” Deborah Ray Holst, Sebolt’s daughter, said. “All I’m waiting now is for them to convict him with the death penalty.”
She said the verdict helped Sebolt’s family and also Granger’s daughter and her family “to not be afraid any more, especially if he gets the death penalty. They can live in peace.”
Asked about Granger’s exit from the courtroom, she responded: “Having the audacity to wink, how dense is that? Nobody can be that stupid.
“There’s no doubt that he needs to be on death row. And that he needs to get the needle. He is a menace to anyone.”
The trial was moved 75 miles to Galveston, so jurors didn’t have to walk past the crime scene each day.
In closing arguments earlier Tuesday, Shettle said recordings of jail phone calls showed Granger saying he was proud of the attack.
“I ask you to do what you know in your heart,” Shettle told jurors. “Find him guilty.”
Defense attorney Sonny Cribbs said if there was any doubt that Granger fired the bullets that killed Sebolt — a contention the defense raised — Granger should not be found guilty of a capital crime.
“Our position is he’s not guilty of capital murder,” Cribbs told jurors. “He might be guilty of murder.”
From the witness stand Monday, Granger explained how he emptied the 10-bullet magazine of his illegally purchased semi-automatic carbine, saying he fired toward his daughter. Then, when he saw his daughter was still moving while lying in the street, he ran over her with his pickup truck in an attack that was captured on courthouse surveillance video and shown to jurors.
His daughter, her mother and Granger’s estranged wife had testified against him in a trial in which his daughter accused him of sexual assault. He denied that charge.
Prosecutors said he parked outside the courthouse for hours waiting for the women to show, then pounced when he spotted them late in the morning of March 14, 2012. Sebolt also was outside at the time, accompanying a relative to the courthouse.
“I didn’t kill her,” Granger testified. “I didn’t have any more bullets. How could I have killed her?”
Sebolt was shot twice and died in the revolving door at the courthouse entrance.
Prosecutors spent all last week building their case against Granger. His daughter, now 22, was among those who testified.
Under questioning from his own lawyer, Granger recalled in detail how he ran at his daughter and pulling the trigger of his gun. He remembered her falling and crying out, “Daddy, stop!” He then ran over her with the truck.
He abandoned the bullet-riddled truck about three blocks away, walked inside a construction business and took several people hostage. Granger, who at some point was wounded, eventually was overpowered by his captives and police moved in to take him into custody.