EMOTIONAL: Anne Pressly's mother, Patti Cannady, is comforted following her testimony in penalty phase of the trial of her daughter's killer. Brian Chilson photo.
Court ended Wednesday without a decision on whether Curtis Lavelle Vance will spend the rest of his life in prison or die for the 2008 beating death of KATV anchor Anne Pressly. Vance was found guilty earlier today of capital murder, rape, theft of property and residential burglary.
After a short break following the verdict, jurors came back to begin hearing the prosecution's case for why Vance should die for the crime -- called aggravating circumstances -- and the defense's argument of why his life should be spared -- called mitigating circumstances. Now that he has been convicted of capital murder, life in prison without parole or death are the only two punishments the jury is allowed to consider.
"I'll never get to see her walk down the aisle," Cannady said. "I'll never have grandchildren. That's why I tore up the pictures. There's no one. There's no one."
In closing, Cannady read a letter from a 7-year-old Anne, which said in part that her mother "helps me when I'm sick. I will love her as long as I live." After reading the rest of the letter, Cannady said she would remember the members of the jury for the rest of her life because they had stood up for truth and justice.
Though the defense hadn't cross-examined any of the others brought forward during the penalty phase by the prosecution, Teri Chambers rose and asked Patti Cannady about whether she had supported Anne spiritually and emotionally during her childhood. Cannady agreed that she had. Once Chambers released the witness, John Johnson stood up and asked Patti Cannady how she would feel if her words were used to help "that man" -- then pointed at Curtis Vance. Cannady said it would make her feel horrible.
For their first witness, the defense called Curtis Vance's aunt, who said that Vance's mother Jackie was a teenage mother who was often in trouble with drugs, alcohol and the police. She said that Curtis and his brothers were often left in the care of their grandmother who would "throw whatever was closest" when the children misbehaved.
Next up was Charles Thompson, an attorney for the Arkansas Department of Human Services. Thompson noted to Judge Piazza that the DHS had filed a motion that his testimony be kept secret. Piazza denied that motion. Thompson then read from several documents from the DHS archives outlining social workers' contact with the Vance family going back to 1989. These documents often cited instances in which Curtis and his brothers were allegedly being neglected by their mother, who told case workers that she was hooked on crack cocaine. In one instance, Curtis Vance's four-year-old brother was found wandering beside a busy highway and returned to the home by DHS workers. In another, Vance's mother left Curtis and his brothers, then all under 10, alone for most of the day in their locked apartment. Vance's mother eventually surrendered custody of her children to their grandmother.
Testimony from defense witnesses continues at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.