March 10, 2015 | A jury is scheduled to be selected today to determine the punishment of Nash resident who plead guilty to shooting and killing his wife’s boyfriend.
James Austin Friend, 35, entered the guilty plea of murder for killing Larry Gray on February 5, 2015.
Friend waived a jury trial in the guilty innocence portion, but a jury will determine his punishment.
“When a defendant chooses to plead guilty and requests that the jury assess his punishment, there is a generally no question as to whether the defendant committed the charged offenses. The issues relates solely to punishment. If the defendant does not want to accept what the prosecutor has offered, or if the prosecutor makes no offer, then the defendant has a constitutional right to have a jury decide the appropriate punishment. The punishment phase is not limited to the defendant’s criminal history. According to Texas law, the jury can hear about anything the judge deems ‘relevant’ to the defendant’s punishment. This standard is more relaxed than the evidentiary standards in the guilt/innocence phase of trial,” stated Texarkana Defense Lawyer Jason Horton.
102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart will preside over the punishment trial.
The following was taken from the probable cause affidavit submitted by Nash Police Department, Detective Michael Sutton:
Traci Friend and her boyfriend, Larry Gray, arrived in to their home and found Friend in the home. Traced advised James Friend was in the back bedroom of the house with her children and had a gun which he pointed at her and said, “I’m going to kill you.”
Traci advised Gray then stepped in and got in an argument with Friend at which time Friend pointed the gun at Gray and shot him multiple times. Larry Gray passed away on scene prior to officer’s and EMt’s arriving.
A first degree felony carries a term of five to 99 years. If the jury finds that Friend acted with sudden passion the sentence decreases to two to 20 years.