A Texarkana man convicted of murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison by a Bowie County district judge earlier this year isn't entitled to a new trial, according to an appellate court opinion issued Friday.
Brandon Eric Brown, 25, and Marquell Smith, 23, are both serving time in connection with the February 2015 killing of 24-year-old Christopher Guilbeau. Smith was found guilty and sentenced to 60 years by a Bowie County jury in February 2017.
Brown elected to have his case decided by 202nd District Judge John Tidwell. At the end of Brown's bench trial in March 2017, Tidwell found Brown guilty and sentenced him to 50 years.
On the day of the shooting, Guilbeau gave cigarettes to a homeless man and asked him if he knew anyone who might wish to buy some methamphetamine, witnesses testified in Smith's trial. Guilbeau and Devonte Evans rode together to the duplex where Evans expected to find Smith a willing buyer in hopes of receiving a cut of the payment Guilbeau would receive.
After speaking with Smith, Evans returned to Guilbeau's passenger seat and waited for Smith. In the apartment, after Evans left, Smith asked Brown for his gun and Brown gave it to him. Brown and Shamari Newton waited in the apartment "chilling" and watching television as Smith, armed with Brown's pistol, went to Guilbeau's truck. Smith shot Guilbeau three times and threatened to kill Evans if he told. Newton testified at Smith's trial that Smith threatened her as well.
Newton testified that after Smith returned to her apartment, Brown served as a lookout while Smith hid Guilbeau's body and that Smith and Brown discussed selling Guilbeau's truck in Oklahoma. The men left Newton's apartment in Guilbeau's truck with Brown behind the wheel.
Brown and Smith were arrested the night of March 5 in Tulsa, Okla., driving Guilbeau's pickup. The truck had been flagged in a national crime database as wanted in connection with a missing person following a report from Guilbeau's stepfather the day before. Guilbeau's body was discovered in a brush-covered area not far from Newton's apartment March 6.
Newton was initially charged in the case as well. She is currently serving a term of probation for failing to report a felony.
On appeal, Brown argued that Tidwell should have a granted a motion to suppress statements he made to police. Brown mentioned a lawyer during his videotaped interview with detectives but never directly requested one. The 6th District Court of Appeals headquartered in Texarkana ruled that Tidwell's decision to deny Brown's motion to suppress was not an error. The higher court noted that Brown brought up the subject of a lawyer but never asked for one "unambiguously."
On appeal, Brown argued that there was not enough evidence to support a murder conviction in his case. The higher court ruled that although Brown didn't pull the trigger, he is just as guilty as Smith for participating in the crime because of the state's "law of parties."
If Brown wants to continue to pursue an appeal, he can take his case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Brown is currently being held at the Robertson Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Abilene. According to TDCJ, Brown will be eligible for parole March 20, 2040. He is scheduled for release March 20, 2065.