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story.lead_photo.caption Alonzo Guerrero

A Texas appellate court headquartered in Texarkana affirmed Wednesday the life sentence for an inmate who drenched a correctional officer with human waste.

Alonzo Gilbert Guerrero, 25, squirted a bottle of liquified feces out of his cell in administrative segregation July 20, 2017, at the Barry Telford Unit in New Boston, Texas. He soaked Correctional Officer Rebecca Smith with the substance as she looked into his space during a routine security check.

At trial the jury heard testimony from more than two dozen witnesses, many of whom traveled more than eight hours, concerning Guerrero's criminal history and his often threatening and disruptive behavior as an inmate. Office of Inspector General Investigator Will Buttram testified under questioning from First Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp that Guerrero had three prior felony convictions before being found guilty of felony harassment in Bowie County.

The offense is usually punishable by two to 20 years in prison, but prosecutors were able to use Guerrero's convictions to enhance the penalty range to 25 to 99 or life.

Guerrero was convicted of burglary of a habitation in Victoria and Refugio counties before being convicted in 2016 of arson in Victoria County. He received two-year prison sentences on each of the burglaries and was serving a four-year term for arson when he was charged in Bowie County for the assault on Smith.

Guerrero picked up a four-year term for arson for setting a fire in the Victoria County jail. Numerous correctional officers from multiple Texas prisons testified to his history of assaulting officers by hurling his bodily fluids and excrement and threatening to harm and sexually assault them.

On appeal, Guerrero argued that the life sentence he received violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment outlined in the 8th Amendment. While Guerrero complained that the punishment he received does not fit the crime, the higher court noted that Texas law allowed the jury to consider more than just the offense for which they convicted Guerrero.

"In considering whether Guerrero's sentence is grossly disproportionate, we are to consider the underlying offense, the enhancements alleged in the indictment, other prior criminal history, and the disciplinary violations he committed during his confinement in jail and prison," the opinion states.

The opinion took note of the suffering endured by Guerrero's victim. A witness to the assault testified at trial that after removing her protective eyewear, Smith looked like an "old coal miner" and that the substance covered her "from head to toe" and dripped from her hair.

Smith testified that she undressed before getting in her car to go home and shower, that she missed a month of work and that she has had to undergo blood testing on a regular basis to determine if she has been exposed to a pathogen.

"Guerrero did not simply assault Smith; he exposed her to the long-term possibility of contracting a debilitating or even fatal disease," the opinion states.

Crisp lauded the higher court's ruling.

"The court of appeals was not persuaded by (Guerrero's) argument and, in a published opinion written by Chief Justice Morris, detailed the virtual mountain of horrific evidence the jury had available for consideration in determining punishment. In addition, the jury was able to consider the disgusting facts that were presented in the guilt innocence phase of the trial. Guerrero's case is a terrific example of how the enhancement laws work in Texas for repeat offenders. Offenders that continue to engage in criminal conduct face increasingly harsh consequences," Crisp said.

Guerrero is at the Coffield Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The agency's website does not list a parole eligibility date.

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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