A jury on Wednesday heard two recordings of Kevin Edison Smith confessing he killed Krystal Jean Baker 13 of Texas City in 1996.
After 10 hours of testimony that included two Texas Rangers a Chambers County Sheriff’s Department captain five forensic scientists a medical examiner and the president of the New Black Panthers Party the state rested.
Judge Carroll E. Willborn Jr. released the jury Wednesday to give himself time to determine what charges must be deliberated after both the state and defense rested following two days of testimony in the 334th District Court in Anahuac.
The judge released the jury after 10 minutes of testimony from a surprising defense witness — Capt. Brian Goetschius of the Texas City Police Department — and an exchange in which Smith told his surprised attorney he did not want to testify.
Smith’s attorney Stephen Taylor asked Goetschius about the initial investigation after Baker’s reported disappearance March 5 1996.
Goetschius established a time line of events leading up to the discovery that Baker had been found dead in Chambers County and said the case had gone cold for years until Smith’s arrest in 2010. Smith was charged with Baker’s murder after he was charged in another case and his DNA was entered into a nationwide database.
Taylor asked Willborn to excuse Goetschius and requested a side bar.
With the jury out of the courtroom Taylor had Smith sworn in to testify and explained the process of testimony to his client.
I have to answer questions?” Smith asked. “I just want to tell my story.”
Taylor said: “It’s no different than any other witness you’ve seen for the last two days. You’ll get to tell your story through the questions and answers.”
Smith appeared confused and repeated himself.
Taylor explained again his story would be told if he followed the process.
“Nah” Smith said. “I don’t want to testify.”
Taylor threw his hands up looked down and shook his head.
“The defense rests your honor” he said.
Jurors were asked to return today because Smith must be judged under the Texas Penal Code that was in effect in 1996. Willborn said he wanted to review the old laws to make sure instructions to the jury were clear.
At question are the charges and related punishment to whether a sexual assault as defined by the defunct code had taken place because in a recorded confession Smith claimed Baker said she was 18 and was a willing participant in a sexual act.
The jury heard the 15-minute confession recorded at the Chambers County sheriff’s department Oct. 19 2010.
Black Panther Party President Quanell X Chambers County District Attorney Cheryl Lieck arresting officer Brad Moon and deputy Sherry Wilcox were present.
The confession came after Smith and Quanell X met at the Chambers County jail.
Quanell X said he went to the jail after Smith’s family retained him to assure he was being treated fairly.
“I met with Mr. Smith to make sure he was not mistreated or abused or coerced or threatened into giving information” Quanell X said. “I wanted to know that his rights were not being violated.”
Special prosecutor Randy McDonald asked: “And did Mr. Smith indicate that he was being treated unfairly?”
“He did not” Quanell X said. “As I told the family if I believed he was innocent I would stand by the brother to the end. But at the end of the day it’s about justice. Right is right wrong is wrong regardless of the color of your skin.”
After Moon read and explained the Miranda warning Smith described how he was hanging out with friends drinking beer at a Texas City gas station when he saw Baker walking on the highway.
“I drove up next to her and said ‘Hey how you doing get in” Smith said. “She got in and I asked her how old she was and she said she was 18 but she gave me a fake name.”
Smith described how they drove around and he offered Baker a drink of beer which she declined and started to talk about them having sex.
“She told me she wanted to go to Bayou Vista but I told her I wasn’t going there” Smith said.
Smith said he pulled his white Chevy pickup behind a gas station and performed a sexual act with her but after he finished Baker became enraged.
“I tried to give her money but she just went crazy and started kicking me and hitting me” Smith said. “I freaked out; I panicked. I tried to get out of the truck.”
Quanell X interrupted Smith and said “Tell the truth.”
Smith said he used his hands to restrain Baker and tried to quiet her.
Lieck asked Smith about ligature marks found on Baker’s neck during the 1996 autopsy.
Smith said he had a welder’s belt in a bucket in the truck and he pulled it out.
“I had a strap like a tool and I held it like that” Smith said. “I freaked I was panicking and I tried to bring her back. She was just laying on the front seat dead. I tried to bring her back.”
Smith said he drove around not knowing what to do when he found himself on Interstate 10 in Chambers County as it was getting dark.
“I just took an exit and rolled around” Smith said. “I picked her up and laid her down got in and drove away.”
A second confession a recorded phone conversation Smith made to a family member also was played before the court. In the second confession the family member asks Smith if he killed Baker.
Smith pauses then admits to the crime.
Before the trial Lieck said if Smith is convicted of murder he would face 40 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
The Baytown Sun is a sister paper to The Daily News. Contact Mike Gunning at firstname.lastname@example.org.