Apr. 28—The sentencing phase began Tuesday in a death penalty trial for a Texas man after a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder, two counts of kidnapping and robbery by force or fear.
The jury gave its verdict Monday in Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley's courtroom in the case of Joseph Fidel Alliniece, 32, of Missouri City, Texas, after about 90 minutes of deliberation. Alliniece was found guilty of killing Norman resident Brittani Young, 27, who was a former girlfriend, on April 24, 2018.
Norman police responded shortly after Young's death inside a residence at the Emerald Greens Apartments. Alliniece had fled the scene, and a search ensued. That night, Alliniece was found and arrested by Oklahoma City Police Department officers, then brought to Norman for questioning.
Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said Tuesday that he was pleased with Monday's verdict, and was ready to move into the sentencing phase of the trial.
Several times during the opening of the sentencing phase Tuesday, Alliniece's defense team requested a motion for a mistrial based on statements made by the state's attorneys in sentencing opening statements.
Cleveland County District Judge Lori Walkley denied the motion.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Austin said during the state's opening Tuesday that the state's evidence will prove Alliniece has a history of violent behavior, that the crime was heinous, atrocious and cruel and that he is a continued threat.
Defense attorney Raven Sealy opened by telling jurors that the state must prove each point beyond a reasonable doubt.
"Obviously we have had a difference of opinion up until now, but we respect your verdict," Sealy said. "Mitigation is what you want it to be ... You never, ever, ever have to vote for death. I suspect you want to punish Joe Alliniece. Do that by sending him to prison for the rest of his life."
State's witnesses ranged from Alliniece's family members, to deputies and an inmate who testified about incidents that occurred while he was in custody.
Brenda Alliniece, the defendant's mother, said her son internalized emotions, and her divorce from his father when he was around 11 affected him a lot. She described him as well liked growing up, a football player who received a college scholarship and a son who was protective of her.
She said he sometimes acted angry around her, but not always with her, often verbalizing his frustrations to her. He also blamed her for things sometimes.
Brenda confirmed to the state that Joseph was sentenced and put in prison after assaulting two girlfriends, including one outside her house. She said she was asleep during that incident, but saw a Bandaid on the girlfriend's head a day or two later covering a wound.
Brenda said she tried to help Joseph turn his life around after he got out of prison, but later suspected him of throwing a brick through her window while a friend and Joseph's sister were at her house.
Brenda noted that, according to a police report from that incident, she had told officers Joseph verbally threatened to kill her. However, she didn't file any charges against him.
Brenda said she also sought a mental assessment for Joseph, but he declined to go in for testing or treatment.
Brenda said she didn't know about Joseph's plan to come to Oklahoma, but sent some money to her son through a close family friend. She testified that she didn't talk to Joseph or Young until the day of the murder.
According to state's evidence presented last week, Joseph used Young's friend's phone to call his mother after the murder and once Young's friend and her toddler were inside. After the call, Brenda, who had been at work, knew she had to get home.
She said she received another call from Joseph after he was arrested, during which he blamed her for the murder and called her names.
Upon cross examination, Brenda clarified that Joseph never hit or harmed any family members.
Joseph's older sister, Shamira Alliniece Harris, said she last had contact with her brother in December 2015. She said his legal problems generally involved girlfriends, and the two of them had tension because she was protective of their mother.
Harris testified that she awoke one night in fall 2015 to her mother's window shattering. She said she saw Joseph's car outside, but not him.
She also testified that in fall 2015, he called her and said he would kill his mom and himself. Another time, she said she received a concerning call from a close family friend that prompted her to call the police.
During his phone call to his mom after he was arrested for murder, which she answered, Harris described Joseph as cross and agitated.
Jessica Ferrell, one of Joseph Alliniece's former girlfriends and Young's friend from Texas, testified that dated him when she was about 15 or 16. She described an incident during which she, Alliniece, Young and one of Alliniece's friends were at a hotel together.
While Young and the friend were outside and she and Alliniece were alone, she said he tried to kiss her on the neck. When she asked him to stop, she said he put one hand on her throat and put her back against the wall, then kissed her neck some more. She asked him to stop, and he let her go.
Jurors also heard from two correctional officers from Fort Bend County Jail, who testified that while Alliniece was incarcerated, he attacked two inmates at the facility, placing one in a headlock and biting him on the cheek in 2010, and bruising another's face after hitting him in 2011. During the latter altercation, Alliniece received injuries that caused bleeding. No charges were filed from the incidents on either side.
Jurors also heard from witnesses regarding a sexual battery count that was filed against Alliniece just days before his trial began in early April. At the time of incident, he had been trying on jury clothes, testimony confirms.
The state played an April 2 video from the jail that shows a female inmate, who was being discharged, entering a bathroom area of the jail, and Alliniece going in shortly after her. She then leaves and he lingers in the area.
The inmate, Karen Haase, who had been incarcerated for public intoxication for several days, testified that she went to get a drink of water from the bathroom. As she opened the door, Alliniece started coming in, and grabbed and squeezed her chest with his hand, she said. She then got out and reported the incident.
"It brought up a lot of stuff from my past," she said.
Cleveland County Sgt. Kaylie Graham reviewed the video after the incident was reported. She and another deputy later interviewed Alliniece, who brought up the bathroom incident but denied any wrongdoing. However, he admitted going into the bathroom when he knew Haase was inside.
Alliniece's defense said he wasn't on his medications April 2, and upon cross examination, Graham said the defendant wasn't directly asked if he was off his medications. However, she testified that he received his Miranda rights and claimed to understand when he was being questioned.
The sentencing part of the trial will continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
Jamie Berry covers police and court news for The Transcript. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, 366-3532 or @JamieStitches13.