, Port Arthur, Texas

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May 8, 2013

Granger sentenced to death in courthouse shooting

GALVESTON — After disrupting his capital murder trial several times with profanity-filled outbursts, a Texas man erupted in one final chaotic fit when a jury sentenced him to death on Tuesday for killing a bystander while trying to shoot his daughter outside a courthouse.

Bartholomew Granger’s courtroom rants against his daughter, prosecutors and the judge had intensified since he was convicted last week of capital murder in the death of 79-year-old Minnie Ray Sebolt, who was walking outside the courthouse in Beaumont when she was shot in March 2012.

Granger, 42, showed no remorse as he admitted opening fire on his daughter and running her over with his truck because she had testified against him in a sexual assault case, but he insisted he didn’t kill Sebolt. His daughter and her mother were among three women wounded in the attack.

Even as his attorneys worked to convince the jury to sentence him to life in prison without parole, Granger instead focused on denying the sexual assault allegation, angrily insisting he was not a child molester and denigrating his daughter.

Those outbursts got him thrown out of court, and they culminated Tuesday as Sebolt’s daughter began reading a statement after the jury announced its sentence following less than two hours of deliberations.

As Deborah Ray Holst stood in front on him and began reading her statement, Granger shouted, “I didn’t kill your mother!” and that he didn’t want to hear her statement. Holst then asked Judge Bob Wortham if Granger could be shocked.

“Tase me. Inject me with poison,” Granger said.

“I would love to do it myself,” Holst responded.

He was removed from the courtroom but returned minutes later with what officials later said was a spit mask — made of cloth and nylon, and used to stop inmates from spitting on guards — covering his mouth.

But he continued to interrupt Holst. At one point a bailiff put his hands over Granger’s mouth in an effort to quiet him, but he became increasingly agitated. At least seven bailiffs and deputies were needed to subdue him as Holst finished her statement, saying her mother was a caring person who always had a smile on her face and calling Granger “an evil, evil non-human.”

After Holst finished, Wortham told Granger, “I think you removed any doubt from the jury’s mind about the correctness of their verdict.”

Earlier Tuesday, Granger interrupted prosecutors during their closing arguments in the trial’s punishment phase by laughing and saying he wasn’t a child molester. Wortham warned Granger about not talking. When Granger held up in the direction of jurors a yellow legal pad with the word “DEATH” drawn on it, Wortham had Granger removed from court for the rest of the closing arguments.

As he testified on Monday, against the advice of attorneys, Granger called his case a “mockery of justice” and a “lynching.” He was then restrained and temporarily removed from court.

Following the jury’s sentence, Holst said outside the courthouse that she “couldn’t be happier” with the decision.

Lead prosecutor Ed Shettle said it wasn’t Granger’s behavior in court but his actions during the courthouse shooting, his lack of remorse and his potential to hurt others that led jurors to their decision.

“Bartholomew Granger got the death penalty because he deserved the death penalty,” Shettle said.

James Makin, one of Granger’s attorneys, said he had hoped the jury would have decided against a death sentence, but added: “I’m a realist.” Makin said he doesn’t believe in the death penalty but acknowledged, “If I had a gun in that parking lot that day (of the courthouse shooting), I probably would have done something with it.”

Granger testified during the trial that he emptied the 10-bullet magazine of his illegally purchased semi-automatic carbine, saying he fired toward his daughter. Then, when he saw his daughter was still moving while lying in the street, he ran over her with his pickup truck. The daughter spent three months in a coma.

The trial was moved 75 miles to Galveston, so jurors didn’t have to walk past the crime scene each day.

Granger’s daughter, now 22, was among the witnesses who testified against him.

Prosecutors said Granger parked outside the courthouse for hours, then ambushed the women when they appeared at the courthouse in the late morning. Sebolt also was outside at the time, accompanying a relative to the courthouse. She was shot twice and died in the revolving door at the courthouse entrance.

Granger subsequently came under fire from police, abandoned his bullet-riddled truck about three blocks away, walked inside a construction business and took several people hostage. At some point he was wounded and eventually overpowered by his captives, and police moved in to take him into custody.

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