A 20-year-old Red Oak man was found guilty on Thursday for his part in the murder of a 17-year-old in Waxahachie.
Jude Shawn Vaughn Jr., 20, was convicted of felony murder for his involvement in the shooting death of Gabriel Richie, 17, on Nov. 14, 2017.
Vaughn was not, however, convicted of capital murder as previously charged by an Ellis County grand jury, which carries a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. He will return to the 40th District Court of Ellis County at 9 a.m. Friday for the punishment phase of his trial.
The murder charge is a first-degree felony that carries a minimum two years up to 99 years in a state prison facility. The 12-person jury deliberated for about two and a half hours before reaching their verdict.
Vaughn's co-defendant, Trevis LaDavoin Baudoin, 20, previously accepted a plea deal in November for shooting Richie. The agreement sentenced Baudoin to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Shawn rejected the same deal offered by Tarrant County Assistant Criminal District Attorney Timothy Rogers, who was appointed as the special prosecutor in the matter. He pleaded not guilty to both of the charges Tuesday in the 40th District Court of Ellis County.
Records from the Ellis County Clerk's Office show that the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office agreed to waive the death penalty in the punishment phase in the event Vaughn had been found guilty of capital murder.
Both the state and defense rested their cases during the second day of trial Wednesday. Day three began with the state and the defense delivering their closing arguments.
After both sides rested Wednesday afternoon, court reconvened at 12:24 p.m. Thursday for the closing arguments.
Judge Bob Carroll, of the 40th District Court of Ellis County, read the 14-page charge document to the jurors, explaining to them that it is their duty to find the defendant guilty or not guilty based on the evidence presented over three days of the trial.
Carroll stated that the jury needed to first select a presiding juror and then decide whether Shawn was guilty of capital murder, felony murder, robbery or theft. If the jury could not reach a consensus on these four charges, Carroll explained that they would have to rule the defendant “not guilty.”
Tarrant County prosecutor Julie Harbin began the state’s closing argument at 12:49 p.m. Harbin argued to the jury that Vaughn did not have to fire a weapon himself to be found guilty of capital murder. Although Baudoin was the one who pulled the trigger, Harbin said Vaughn could be held criminally responsible if he encouraged or directed someone else to commit an offense.
In Vaughn’s case, Harbin argued that he was the one who wanted to rob Richie. It was also Vaughn who picked up Baudoin, Vaughn parked his vehicle near Richie’s house, Vaughn who patted Richie down as Baudoin pointed a gun at his head and Vaughn who drove off after Baudoin shot the victim.
“They drove off while Gabe lay dying, alone in his house,” Harbin expressed to the jury. “Jude is guilty of capital murder. Plain and guilty.”
Defense attorney Phillip Hayes gave his closing argument shortly after Harbin concluded hers, asking the jury that if Shawn was guilty of capital murder, then where was the evidence for it?
Hayes circled back to the jury’s job in the trial, emphasizing that the prosecution had to answer two questions to prove his client of capital murder – did Baudoin intentionally murder Richie, and should Vaughn have anticipated that Baudoin would kill Richie?
Hayes argued to the jury that it was nobody’s intention to murder Richie that night – not even from Baudoin.
“Nobody knew he was hit,” Hayes explained. “If the intent was to kill him and Gabe got out of the car, you’d get out of the car and follow him.”
He also pointed out to the jury that Vaughn was devastated after learning that Richie was dead, based on testimony from his girlfriend Tysheanna Hollins.
“He cried in her pillow about it happening,” Hayes recalled to the jury. “If you’re surprised something happens, that means you didn’t reasonably anticipate it happening.”
Hayes also addressed the video interrogation with Waxahachie Police detective Barry Owens submitted into evidence Wednesday morning. He explicitly pointed out that not only was he cooperating with the detective, but he signed consent forms for the police to search his phone and vehicle.
“What did he say time and time and time again in that three-hour video?” Hayes asked the jury. “’I didn’t know he had a gun.’ The worst thing any evidence shows is that he was involved in a theft. Period. You cannot convict somebody for something they didn’t do.”
Tarrant County Assistant Criminal District Attorney Timothy Rogers gave the final remarks, arguing to the jury that Vaughn's continued role and complicity in the robbery is what constitutes him as guilty for capital murder.
“The fact he didn’t react when he heard a gun cocked behind him and shows he knew the gun was there and he was lying,” Rogers argued. “From that moment on, he’s guilty of capital murder.”
He also criticized Hayes’ remark that Vaughn was solely guilty of theft, stating that, at the very least, his actions constitute robbery.
“Saying this is theft is insulting to the memory of Gabe Richie,” Rogers stated to the jury.
The jury adjourned at 1:46 p.m. and begin deliberation at 3 p.m. Thursday.
The jury reentered the courtroom at 5:46 p.m. to deliver the verdict, finding Vaughn guilty of felony murder. The court adjourned at 5:51 p.m. with Carroll stating the court will reconvene 9 a.m. Friday for the punishment phase of the trial.