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Jury pool asked if they'd consider maximum 40 years for convicted Texas high school shooter

James Hartley, Fort Worth Star-Telegram on

Published in News & Features

FORT WORTH, Texas — Potential jurors for the trial to sentence a 15-year-old boy found guilty of capital murder in the death of a fellow Lamar High School student in Arlington were asked Monday about their past experience on juries, their biases and if they could, under any circumstances, seriously consider the maximum sentence of 40 years.

Opening statements are scheduled to be presented Tuesday morning in Tarrant County Juvenile Court once jury selection is complete. The teen also was convicted of three counts of attempted capital murder.

The 15-year-old pleaded “true” to capital murder and three counts of attempted capital murder, Tarrant County Juvenile Court Judge Alex Kim told the potential jurors. He has been adjudicated guilty. The jury will be asked to determine a disposition ranging from no time to 40 years.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram generally does not publish the names of juveniles who are accused of crimes, unless they are charged as adults.

The charges stemmed from a March 20 shooting in which investigators said the 15-year-old suspect brought a shotgun to Lamar High School and fired into a crowd of students on the steps outside, killing 16-year-old Ja’Shawn Poirier and wounding another student.

Assistant Criminal District Attorney Lloyd Whelchel took a special interest in whether potential jurors could ever consider a sentence of 40 years, the maximum sentence under Texas law for a minor who is not tried as an adult.


Most potential jurors asked the question said they would have to understand the circumstances first, but couldn’t count out the maximum sentence. Others said they couldn’t justify a 40-year sentence because of the age of the teen.

Whelchel also asked those in the jury pool about their past experience serving on a jury and any biases they might have including those stemming from professions or personal experiences that would prevent them from being fair and impartial until both sides have made their cases.

At least one potential juror told Whelchel they could not be fair or impartial because of past experiences, either their own or the experiences of their family or friends, with school shootings or lockdowns at schools.

Defense attorney Lisa Herrick asked the jurors why they think minors commit crimes, getting answers including their upbringing to having too much time on their hands.


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