CONROE – The same jury that spent only 30 minutes on Thursday deciding to convict Brandon Ferguson on five counts of manslaughter and one count of aggravated assault took five hours on Friday to determine his punishment should be 15 years in prison.
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After a week of testimony and images that were painful for everyone in the courtroom, prosecutor Warren Diepraam began his part of the punishment phase by asking jurors what value they placed on human life.
He told them what the victims’ families lost was something no one else could possibly comprehend and he reminded them of the veteran law enforcement officers who were traumatized by the horrific scene despite their considerable experience with catastrophic crashes and with death.
Diepraam addressed the concept of rehabilitation raised by the defense.
“Do you think he’s really going to be rehabilitated,” he asked. “Think about testimony – when did you ever see him cry – when he was talking about himself.”
Diepraam also mentioned the possibility of having Ferguson talk to school children, questioning how he could help them, since he does not feel he did anything wrong.
“He still thinks that Curtis Edwards pulled in front of him and is partially at fault,” Diepraam said.
During testimony, Ferguson’s mother also stated she thought the victim was partially responsible, he said, which raised another issue – Ferguson’s parents.
“They’ve enabled him,” Diepraam said.
Ferguson had four previous speeding tickets and went through six cars in five years, with five of those being racing type cars, he said.
“They kept buying him cars and paying for his tickets,” Diepraam said. “They enabled him.”
The prosecutor told jurors he thought going to schools and talking to kids was a “pretty darn good idea – for somebody else.”
Diepraam suggested the car be seized and he or the victims’ families could go talk to kids about what happened and about the consequences, saying the victims got the death penalty for simply being on the road.
“Kayla, now she’s nothing more than a marble slab,” he said. “They can go visit her and that’s all they get to see.”
Even with the maximum sentence, Ferguson would likely be released in his mid-thirties and during his incarceration he would be able to see and visit with his family.
Diepraam asked the jury to send a message to everyone with their sentencing, including the racing community whose online message boards have shown sympathy and support for Ferguson, who they believe was “unjustly accused.”
Apparently, the jury received Diepraam’s message, returning a 15 year sentence.
Everyone on the victims’ side of the issue was satisfied, but the word “happy” would never be accurate in such a situation.
Stacy Watkins, Kayla’s mother, said the trial was very hard, but she felt justice was served.
“Kayla was happy, fun loving, did not meet a stranger, loved everybody, very outgoing and I miss her tremendously,” Watkins said. “I get up every day and wonder how I will accept hat she’s not coming home.”
“He made a poor choice that day and it took the life of my daughter,” she said. “I don’t know how I will accept that – guess someday I will.”
“I also feel for Mr. Ferguson,” Watkins said. “He is a young man, but even when you’re young, you make decisions and there are adult consequences.”
After sentencing, Diepraam said he already planned to send a letter to the parole board in seven and a half years when Ferguson became eligible, and he expects some of the victims’ families will do likewise.