March 12, 2015 | The wife of James Austin Friend, Traci Friend, described to the jury the events leading up to the death of her boyfriend, Larry Gray, while testifying Wednesday.
She described the following events while while testifying:
Traci described how the marriage was an on and off again marriage until the two started discussing a divorce. Shortly after, a new man, Larry Gray, started staying at her home with the children. Traci further testified that she did not tell the Defendant that she was seeing anyone.
Traci also described how the Defendant threatened to kill her new boyfriend in a text message about a month before the murder occurred. Traci stated that James talks like that sometimes when he is drunk.
On the day of the murder, Traci went to Walmart for about 15 minutes. When she came back, James was in the back bedroom with all the kids on the bed pacing around the room with a gun in his hand. “I opened the door and he was pacing,” she stated.
She further stated that Larry was in the kitchen, and James pushed past her and went into the kitchen. One of the sons ran around the table and tried to stop him and got in front of him. “He never put the gun down,” stated Traci.
“He pushes past me and ran around the table and just shot Larry,” Traci stated.
Traci stated the James hit Larry while Larry was on the ground.
Traci told the son to run, and he ran out the door. Then, James went on the door shortly after.
“I tried to help Larry and keep the kids safe at the same time,” stated Traci. “Larry was trying so hard to breath.”
Defendant plead guilty to the crime of murder, but he is arguing “sudden passion” to try to reduce the range of punishment.
Criminal Defense Attorney Jason Horton describes the situation as follows:
Whether or not someone acts with “sudden passion” is not related to guilt or innocence of murder as defined by the Texas Penal Code. It is only after a conviction, or a guilty plea in this case, that the definition of “sudden passion” comes into play. According to the Texas Penal Code, “sudden passion” means passion directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual killed or another acting with the person killed which passion arises at the time of the offense and is not solely the result of former provocation. If the jury finds that the defendant acted as a result of sudden passion, his punishment decreases the potential punishment range from 5-99 or Life to a range of 2-20 years in prison.
What the State is alleging here is that, even if the defendant was provoked when he saw his former girlfriend with her current boyfriend, that provocation does not meet the definition of sudden passion because of the time delay in seeing the couple and the killing. Sudden passion is more akin to a husband killing a man immediately after walking in on his wife with that man. It’s not that he didn’t intentionally cause the man’s death; rather, the issue is whether he should be subjected to spending the rest of his life in prison for a crime he committed when outside influences caused him to act in a manner he is unaccustomed to.
The trial is scheduled to continue Thursday.