ROCKWALL, Texas—The prosecution and defense gave final arguments Monday morning in the trial of a Bowie County man accused of murder in the fatal hit-and-run of  Texarkana, Texas police officer Jason Sprague last year.

The jury was sent to lunch shortly after noon by 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart with instructions to begin deliberations at the Rockwall County courthouse at 1:15 p.m., in the case of 22-year-old Justin Miles Sanders. Before hearing more than three hours of closing arguments, Lockhart read the jury instructions on the law they must follow and gave three options: convict Sanders of felony murder, convict Sanders of criminally negligent homicide, or acquit the accused outright.

“He felt like not getting a ticket for violating a city ordinance or not getting a misdemeanor charge for possession of marijuana was more important than this officer’s life,” argued Assistant District Attorney Samantha Oglesby Monday morning. “He saw he was being stopped. He saw the officer holding a flashlight and waving his arms, and he (Sanders) said, ‘No. Not today.’”

First Assistant Public Defender Will Williams argued Sanders should be set free.

“He’s just a kid who deserves to walk out of this courthouse,” Williams said during his hour and a half closing.

Williams described witnesses as “liars” who testified they saw Sanders speed, jump a curb, run over Sprague, hesitate and drive away in the early hours of June 14. Members of law enforcement who took the stand during the trial are “under pressure” from the “brass,” to assist in getting Sanders convicted, Williams argued.

The jury must find Sanders was in the process of committing another felony, either evading arrest in a motor vehicle or aggravated assault on a public servant, when he caused Sprague’s death, to convict on the murder charge. Murder is punishable by five to 99 years or life in a Texas prison.

Criminally negligent homicide is punishable by six months to two years in a state jail.

A verdict could come today.

Read tomorrow’s print or online editions of the Texarkana Gazette for full coverage of the trial.


Published: 03/31/2014