WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Jury deliberation was delayed in the capital murder trial of a former Hirschi quarterback Monday in the 78th District Court.
22-year-old Martez Travon Vrana is one of four defendants charged with the June 2020 murder of Jason Baum, a man whom Vrana said was a friend of his fathers that bought his family Christmas presents one year.
The trial was set for closing arguments and jury deliberation on Monday, June 13, 2022.
However, in a shocking move, Defense Attorney John Stickles moved to reopen the case and called the defendant to take the stand.
Vrana had initially declined to give testimony on Friday, June 10, before the defense rested its case and the prosecution moved to close.
Stickles questioned Vrana first and attempted to establish he knew nothing about the plan his friends carried out. Vrana testified under oath that he was simply taking his friends to buy some marijuana. He said he initially got out of the car to wait around with his friends for the individual who agreed to sell them weed, explaining why his shoeprint was found at the scene.
Recap of Martez Vrana’s Capital Murder Trial
Vrana testified he had left the scene, but that one of them got a text that the dealer was on the way, so they made a U-turn and returned to what would become the crime scene. He claimed the second time, he stayed in the car, heard gunshots, and saw his friends running to his car before getting in out of breath. He also said his friends told him they ran because they also heard gunshots.
During cross-examination, Chief Felony Prosecutor Dobie Kosub attempted to establish a pattern of criminal behavior in Vrana and his co-defendants.
He addressed text messages sent between Vrana and his roommate from March 2020 when they were attempting to carry out a robbery at an apparent poker game. Vrana testified that he and codefendants Dimonique McKinney and Sammy Worthy were prepared to carry out a robbery at gunpoint.
Vrana then said they ended up not going through with it, but that they had guns and were willing to use them. Kosub then questioned Vrana about his involvement with organized criminal activity, particularly as a member of the Crips gang, which Vrana denied multiple times.
When Vrana returned to the stand after the court broke for lunch, he was notably more uncooperative. Kosub even questioned whether or not he had gone over answers with someone during the lunch break.
At a point during Kosub’s questioning, Vrana said he was beginning to feel manipulated.
Kosub continued to attempt to break down the communication between Vrana and a co-conspirator in the alleged robbery attempt at the game in March 2020.
He said that since McKinney and Worthy were also a part of that plan, it helped to establish that aggravated robberies are the norm for the group.
Vrana continuously denied claims that he was ordering McKinney and Worthy to perform some type of robbery.
The conversation switched to the day of Baum’s death, particularly to the stop at the gas station on the way to commit the alleged robbery-gone-bad. Surveillance photos shown to the courtroom by Kosub showed Vrana wearing a long sleeve hooded zip-up jacket, which Kosub suggested was an attempt by Vrana to conceal his identity.
Kosub pointed out that a hoodie seemed like an odd choice in June in Wichita Falls, given the notably warm climate during the summer months. Vrana testified he often wears hoodies or windbreakers without a shirt underneath as a personal fashion choice.
Kosub argued the choice of clothing was an attempt to conceal his tattoos, which would identify him. When asked by Kosub to roll up his sleeves, Vrana responded, “I’d rather not.”
“I don’t care what you’d rather do,” Kosub said.
As questioning continued, Kosub became increasingly more animated and demonstrative.
After the afternoon recess, the prosecution called several rebuttal witnesses, including the detective that originally questioned Vrana on June 14.
This time, however, parts of the interview that had previously been redacted were admitted into evidence.
The redactions indicated the Wichita Falls Police Department was already investigating Vrana for his involvement in a January 2020 aggravated assault.
In that instance, codefendant McKinney pointed a gun at a man and his newborn baby in an attempt to rob them during a drug deal.
Although a grand jury no-billed the charge against Vrana and a witness told the court he never left the car in that incident, Kosub suggested it showed a pattern of Vrana and McKinney conducting robberies with guns.
One of the victims of the January 2020 robbery was produced as a witness. They testified under oath that they followed the suspect’s vehicle after McKinney pulled a gun on her passenger and newborn baby.
During that pursuit, the suspect’s vehicle slowed to a halt, and McKinney stepped out of the car and began firing. The witness testified that she reversed into a parked car, and one bullet struck her vehicle. The witness maintained that Vrana was inside of the vehicle the entire time.
The trial will resume Wednesday afternoon when the prosecution is expected to call the passenger in the January 2020 aggravated assault. Since that witness is currently incarcerated with the Texas Department of Corrections, the witness cannot be questioned until Wednesday.
Vrana is the first of four men to be tried for the 2020 fatal shooting of Jason Baum. Dimonique McKinney, Sammy Worthy, and Antwan Williams are all currently being held in the Wichita County Jail on capital murder charges. Their trial dates have not yet been set.