In Texas, man gets 4 mos. for killing wife, 15 yrs for wounding man
Thursday, January 6, 2005 Posted: 5:03 PM EST (2203 GMT)
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- A man sentenced to just four months in prison for killing his wife, after a jury concluded he acted in a blind fury, drew a 15-year term for wounding her boyfriend.
Jimmy Dean Watkins pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempted murder for shooting Keith Fontenot on December 22, 1998. Watkins' estranged wife, Nancy, was killed with multiple gunshots as she tried to dial 911 during the attack.
The jury at his 1999 trial found Watkins guilty of murdering his wife but decided he acted with "sudden passion" when he discovered her with Fontenot.
In a decision that provoked an outcry, the jury recommended 10 years' probation. Because of the jury's recommendation, the most the judge could have given Watkins was six months behind bars. He sentenced Watkins to four months.
Another wrinkle was added to the case in 2003, when two defense witnesses who gave key testimony pleaded guilty to perjury. They had claimed that Nancy Watkins and Fontenot had taunted Watkins in the hours before the shooting.
The Watkinses' son, Eric, now 16, glared at his father in court Wednesday and testified that he wished his last memory of his mother was not seeing her dying on the kitchen floor.
"I will never call you Dad again," the boy, now Eric Braley, told Watkins. A year after his mother's death, he was adopted by his former school counselor and her husband.
Watkins had admitted the attack but claimed temporary insanity. Texas defines "sudden passion" as being so overcome by rage, resentment or fear that the defendant is "incapable of cool reflection." Jurors said they recommended probation because they didn't think Watkins could be rehabilitated in prison.