Stinnett guilty on both counts
Decision on whether he will get death penalty upcoming
By JUSTIN STORY
Lawrence Robert Stinnett was found guilty Thursday of intentional murder and kidnapping in Warren Circuit Court, and he will learn next week whether he will be sentenced to die for his crimes.
A jury of six women and six men deliberated for five hours before convicting Stinnett, 50, on both charges, which stemmed from the Feb. 3, 2006, death of Stinnett’s girlfriend, Christina Renshaw.
Jurors heard testimony over nearly four weeks that Stinnett beat Renshaw to death on that night at the 1712A Highland Way apartment the couple had shared.
At one point during the attack, Renshaw was “hog-tied” with electrical cords, resulting in ligature marks around her neck, wrists and one ankle.
Stinnett sat at his table facing forward and flanked by his defense team, showing no emotion as Warren Circuit Judge John Grise read the verdict.
Afterward, Stinnett was led from the courtroom in handcuffs, followed closely by his attorneys, Vince Yustas, of the Department of Public Advocacy, and Jonathan Hieneman, a Campbellsville attorney contracted through the DPA.
“Lawrence was very stoic about the decision. He has turned over the control of the case back to his lawyers,” Yustas said in an e-mail Thursday night.
“We must now present the evidence about his life to show the jury that Lawrence, particularly with his mental problems, is not evil, not a person who should be eliminated from the human race.”
Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron received hugs from many of Renshaw’s relatives, including her father, Claude Lovan, who testified earlier in the trial that he received a call on his cell phone from Renshaw’s cell phone and listened to the beating for nine minutes.
The penalty phase of the trial began this morning with jurors hearing evidence in an effort to determine Stinnett’s sentence. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Claude Lovan, Renshaw’s father, delivered a tearful statement this morning during the penalty phase of the trial.
Lovan spoke of how Renshaw’s oldest son, Sean, 15, now lives with Lovan and his wife, Cheryl.
“Sean is getting to where he cannot remember his mother’s voice and he is afraid he’s forgetting her,” Lovan said, reading from a written statement while struggling not to cry.
Lovan described the impact of Renshaw’s murder on her family, including her three children.
Reading part of the note written by Sean, Lovan said that the effects of Renshaw’s death on her family may never be fully felt.
“She will not see me graduate, she will not see me get married ... I hate you and will never forgive you for this,” said Lovan, quoting his grandson.
Lovan said that Renshaw’s birthday was a “very slow crawl” each year, but the family goes out to a park each year to release balloons with messages to Renshaw inside.
Lovan described the four-year process of waiting for the case to go to trial as a “roller coaster ride,” with each delay making the family feel as though Renshaw’s death were happening again.
“I really know of no way to express to you the full magnitude of the loss to our family of Christina,” Lovan said.
Martin Scott, detective for the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, testified that Stinnett developed a lengthy felony record in Oklahoma during the 1990s.
In 1992, Stinnett was convicted of possession of a controlled dangerous substance (cocaine) and possession of drug paraphernalia and in a separate case that year he was convicted of grand larceny.
The following year, Stinnett was convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and in a separate case in 1993 he was convicted of false declaration to a pawn broker and receiving stolen property. He was given a 20-year prison sentence on each count because of his prior convictions.
In 1998, Stinnett was convicted of two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. One count was for crack cocaine possession and the other was for marijuana, Scott said. He was also convicted in the same case of possession of drug paraphernalia.
In 2000, all of Stinnett’s convictions were combined into one 20-year sentence, and Stinnett was paroled on Oct. 3, 2002, Scott said.
Jurors will hear additional evidence on Wednesday.
Closing arguments delivered
Cohron’s closing argument to jurors Thursday urged them to consider Stinnett’s words and deeds before, during and after Renshaw’s death.
Stinnett left five hostile voice mails on Renshaw’s cell phone on the morning of Feb. 3, 2006, the profanity-laced messages containing a number of death threats.
After his arrest, Stinnett called a former girlfriend, Wanda Jermigan, from Warren County Regional Jail on Feb. 5 or 6, 2006. In the conversation that was recorded and played for the jury during the trial, Stinnett acknowledged his role in Renshaw’s death, saying “I’d never killed anybody before.”
“He said what he was going to do, he did it and he admitted he did it,” Cohron told jurors at several points during his argument.
Stinnett acted as lead counsel in his own defense during the trial, having requested the responsibility after conflicts developed with his attorneys over trial strategy.
On Thursday, Stinnett and Yustas both delivered closing arguments before the jury, Stinnett pleading his case for nearly two hours after telling jurors he would respect whatever result the jury delivered.
Stinnett reminded jurors of his history of mental problems, bringing up testimony from medical experts about his past struggles with depression and drug and alcohol abuse.
He also brought up his earlier claim of having overheard Renshaw engage in sexual intercourse with multiple partners over the course of a three-hour cell phone call shortly after midnight on Feb. 3, 2006, arguing that this was the triggering event that led him to “embark on a lifetime date with doom.”
Soon after that phone call, he and a co-defendant, Alanda Lewis, left Oklahoma City, where Stinnett was living in a hotel, for Bowling Green, ending up in Renshaw’s apartment that night.
Testimony from Bowling Green Police Department Detective Brett Kreilein, the lead investigator in the case, indicated that there was a 176-minute cell phone call between Stinnett and Renshaw during that time period.
Kreilein and Stinnett’s former attorney, Bette Niemi, both testified that interviews of witnesses turned up nobody who had had sex with Renshaw during her relationship with Stinnett.
Stinnett ultimately attempted to persuade the jury that Lewis deserved more of the blame for Renshaw’s death, and accused her of lying on the witness stand when she was called by prosecutors.
Stinnett denied Lewis’ claim that the two had sex while they roomed together at an Oklahoma City hotel and said that she was staying with Stinnett because she had nowhere else to go.
“You’ll find that Alanda Lewis was ultimately and unwittingly being the instigator and the key factor in the terrible outcome of this tragedy,” Stinnett said. “Alanda Lewis somehow weaseled her way into sticking with the defendant like she did.”
Stinnett brought up Lewis’ prior testimony that, during the attack on Renshaw, Stinnett offered Lewis $500 if she would cut Renshaw’s throat.
Lewis, who testified that Stinnett showed her how to do it, did not take the knife Stinnett was offering.
“The fact that Christina’s neck was not cut only supports the lack of intent to kill Christina,” Stinnett said.
In his closing argument, Yustas told jurors that Lewis’ testimony was motivated by a desire to get a better deal for herself, and that the testimony of Nakesha Jenkins should hold more weight.
Jenkins, a former cellmate of Lewis, told jurors that she overheard Lewis recount how she and Stinnett beat Renshaw with objects wrapped inside towels.
Yustas also addressed the possibility that Stinnett was acting under the influence of extreme emotional disturbance, which argues that a defendant’s actions can be excused if they were triggered by an event that pushed the defendant into a temporary state of emotional disturbance.
The argument, which has been used in other murder cases, asserts that the defendant’s actions were reasonable from the standpoint of a person in the defendant’s situation.
Yustas argued that Stinnett’s actions were reasonable under the circumstances as Stinnett perceived them.
“Lawrence went on at length at the trial about what he saw as a conspiracy theory, you can tell from his thinking that he honestly believes in his conspiracy theory,” Yustas said, alluding to Stinnett’s belief that evidence was lost, misplaced or destroyed and Renshaw was unfaithful, despite testimony to the contrary. “If you don’t think there’s any merit to it at all ... don’t let it undermine the rest of his case, don’t let it dilute the defendant’s case.”
Yustas argued the kidnapping charge against Stinnett was without merit. He recalled testimony from Lewis, who said that she was the one who tied the electrical cords around Renshaw’s arms, ankles and neck and that it was Stinnett who released her.
Yustas also said Renshaw’s brief restraint inside her own home did not sufficiently terrorize her to merit a kidnapping charge against Stinnett.
“She was moved from her kitchen a few feet to her living room, she wasn’t confined anywhere,” Yustas said of Renshaw. “She was in her own house, it wasn’t like they took her and tied her up and locked her in a building somewhere.”
If Stinnett had not been convicted on the kidnapping charge, the jury would not have been able to recommend a death sentence.
Cohron argued that the extreme emotional disturbance defense was without merit, saying that the three-hour phone call that the defense claimed acted as a triggering event happened more than 12 hours before the attack.
In the interim, Stinnett traveled more than 700 miles, stopped at a bank, a pawn shop, two fast-food restaurants, made phone calls to his supervisor and former girlfriends and drove with Lewis as his passenger.
Cohron also argued that Renshaw was unlawfully restrained by Stinnett.
“He’s stomping her, she’s on her knees, she’s begging for her life, the attack continues, that is being restrained,” Cohron said. “She was hog-tied, she wasn’t going to be allowed to move, that is restraint.”
Labels: Crime, Punishment