A Houston man who had previously been sent to death row for killing a Sunnyside couple in 1990 was resentenced to death by a Harris County Jury late Wednesday, District Attorney Kim Ogg announced.
“These are very difficult cases, they take a real emotional toll on everyone, and I want to give our condolences again to the remaining and living family members of the Fitzgerald family,” Ogg said. “Because of his history of violent acts, including stabbing a prison guard, the jury decided that Mr. Wheatfall was too great of a threat, even at his age, to get off death row.”
Daryl Wheatfall, 57, was first sentenced to death in 1991 for killing 62-year-old James Fitzgerald and his 67-year-old wife, L.B., inside their home over $50 on December 13, 1990.
The double murder was investigated by the Houston Police Department.
The couple’s then-teenage son was also shot, but survived and testified against Wheatfall in the retrial, which began two months ago and lasted four weeks for individual jury selection and then four weeks of testimony and deliberation.
Wheatfall’s guilt was not in question. Jurors only had to consider Wheatfall’s punishment after he was granted a retrial because of flawed jury instructions in his first trial. However, a punishment retrial means redoing the trial so that jurors understand the entire case.
The jury had only two choices: whether he should again be sentenced to death or be granted a life sentence. Because the law at the time of the slaying controls parole eligibility, Wheatfall would have automatically been eligible for parole if sentenced to life.
The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Janna Oswald and ADA Sarah Seeley, who are both Division Chiefs, ADA Brett Batchelor, who is a chief in the DA’s trial bureau and ADA Savana Hooper.
After the sentence, Oswald thanked the jury for their time and attention.
“They were a very attentive and diligent jury who took their duty seriously and didn’t make their decision lightly,” Oswald said.
She said ensuring that Wheatfall be sent back to death row was important because he continues to be dangerous.
“He is a danger and a continued threat, not just to the prison population, but to the community at large,” she said.
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