Carnell Petetan deserves to be put to death because he chose to lead a violent life of crime from age 13 and “has left victims everywhere he has been,” a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.
Prosecutors kicked off the punishment phase of Petetan’s capital murder trial Tuesday by calling 15 witnesses, including several who were assaulted by Petetan more than 20 years ago.
Jurors in Waco’s 19th State District Court deliberated about 90 minutes Monday before convicting the 38-year-old former crack dealer and aspiring boxing promoter in the September 2012 shooting death of his estranged wife, Kimberly Farr Petetan.
Three witnesses, including Kimberly Petetan’s now 11-year-old daughter, told the jury that Petetan gunned down his 41-year-old wife at her Lake Shore Drive apartment because he was angry that she called police after a domestic assault in Port Arthur three days earlier in which Petetan allegedly pulled a knife on her and asked her if she wanted to die in front of her daughter.
District Attorney Abel Reyna and prosecutors Greg Davis and Michael Jarrett will continue calling punishment-phase witnesses Wednesday morning. They are seeking the death penalty.
Defense attorneys hope to save Petetan by offering mitigating evidence that he suffers from diminished intellectual capacity that they say makes him ineligible for the death penalty.
Prosecutors dispute that claim and say Petetan was dangerous as a teenager, when he called himself “Don Cartel” and bragged of earning $500 a day selling crack. They also say he was dangerous while serving a 20-year prison term for attempted murder and two assaults and more dangerous after he was released on parole.
Petetan served 19 years and eight months of his 20-year prison term because he was involved in many assaults of inmates and guards, a sexual assault of another inmate at knifepoint and other misdeeds, Davis said.
“Until now, you have seen only a glimpse of this man,” Davis told jurors to open the punishment phase. “He is a liar and he is a deceiver. What you know based on the words from his own mouth is he has absolutely no remorse in his heart for what he did on Sept. 23, 2012. You are going to look into the depraved nature of this man in the next few days, and it’s going to be ugly.”
Defense attorneys Russ Hunt Sr., Michelle Tuegel and Walter M. Reaves Jr. deferred their opening statement.
Number of arrests
Petetan had been arrested 18 times for a variety of offenses by the time he was 16, when he shot a man in his mother’s backyard at Port Arthur and went to prison for 20 years after being certified as an adult.
Ramona Pitre, an in-school suspension teacher at Memorial High School in Port Arthur, testified that Petetan frequently broke the rules and was angry for being placed under suspension. She said he could do the work “if he felt the need to,” but said he seldom did.
Petetan threw his whole lunch tray full of food at Pitre one day, striking her in the head and face and covering her in meat, gravy and vegetables, she said. No student before or since in her 30-year teaching career has treated her with such disrespect, she said.
“I was devastated,” she said. “I’ve never had anything like that happen to me.”
Petetan was 13 and placed on juvenile probation. He later was sent to a Texas Youth Commission facility in Brownwood after he failed to comply with the rules.
Petetan’s juvenile records show a psychologist in 1992 said Petetan was indifferent with no conscience or personal regard for others.
Port Arthur police officer Brian Broussard said he knew the Petetan residence well because of all the trips he made over there answering calls complaining about Petetan.
He said he worked the call in March 1992 when Petetan shot Frederick Nico in the hand and shoulder while Nico was sitting at a picnic table in Petetan’s backyard.
Nico testified that the attack was unprovoked.
In other testimony, Jefferson County Deputy Tony Barker testified that Petetan assaulted a 64-year-old female teacher at a juvenile detention center in 1992, leaving the woman with head injuries and bruises on her face.
Raffiel Dugas, who fought with Petetan at a club in 1992, said Petetan beat him with a chair, leaving scars to this day. Dugas said he was in a coma for a week after the incident, with a broken jaw and missing tooth. Petetan pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to concurrent prison terms with the Nico shooting, Dugas said.
Port Arthur police officer Max Wolgast told the jury about a 1993 incident in which a man in his 70s was shot in the hip and arm. The man was out walking and was injured in a drive-by shooting. Petetan was arrested three days later and ultimately sentenced to concurrent prison time in the shooting with the other assaults.
A former Jefferson County jailer and three former prison guards all testified about incidents Petetan was involved in while he was incarcerated that led to administration sanctions against him.
The men said Petetan set fires and doused another inmate with scalding water in jail and assaulted a prison guard and at least two other inmates while serving prison time.