WICHITA COUNTY (KFDX/KJTL) — The attorney for a Wichita Falls teen charged with capital murder is attempting to avoid an automatic life sentence if he is convicted, by challenging Texas laws on punishment as unconstitutional.
A hearing was held Tuesday afternoon, Nov. 8, 2022, in 78th District Court on defense motions for Zaeveion Denson, according to records.
Denson is one of four youths charged in the murder of Carolyn High, 65, in January 2020 on Cumberland. Police said Denson told them they went looking for someone to rob that night.
His attorney, Gary Smart of Arlington, has filed motions including one that challenges the automatic life sentence for capital offense convictions of defendants who were under age 18 when the crime was committed. The death penalty is not an option, and the defendant would be eligible for parole in 40 years.
Smart says the statute on the penalty violates the fifth, sixth, eighth, and 14th amendments of the Constitution, providing for due process, equal protection, and prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment. In the 16-page motion, he concludes the automatic life sentence requirement denies Denson the opportunity to present evidence in the penalty phase to determine an appropriate sentence, and that whether the sentence is life or another sentence should be the jury’s decision.
The other defendants in this murder case were 17 and 18 at the time.
Besides his capital murder charge, Denson also has a charge of aggravated assault of another inmate filed on Oct. 31, 2022. Corrections officers say Denson and two other inmates attacked the inmate.
They say Denson hit the inmate in the back of the head, and all three punched and kicked him when he fell down, requiring the inmate to be taken to the hospital for treatment.