FORT WORTH (KFDX/KJTL) — The capital murder trial of James Irven Staley, III, for the death of 2-year-old Jason Wilder McDaniel, is set for closing arguments by the prosecution and the defense to begin at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 13, 2023, at the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center in Tarrant County.

Closing arguments come after nine days of testimony from both the State of Texas, represented by Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie and Prosecutor Lisa Tanner, as well as Staley’s defense team of attorneys Mark Daniel and Terri Moore.

Following the reading of the charge and closing arguments on Monday morning, the trial will then be placed into the hands of a jury of 12 men and women to deliberate and ultimately return a verdict to the court.

A running live blog of closing arguments can be found below. This story will be updated frequently as testimony and cross-examination of various witnesses progress.

11:59 a.m. — Gillespie recalls the times during which several witnesses testified Wilder exclaimed “No James” and that no one listened, and Gillespie urged the jury to return a guilty verdict. Gillespie then walked directly in front of Staley, and while looking into his eyes and pointing directly at him, told the jury that returning a guilty verdict would be them saying, “No James” to Staley.

11:57 a.m. — Gillespie recalls testimony given by Sgt. Charlie Eipper, that he sat and comforted Amber McDaniel the morning she found Wilder deceased. Gillespie walks over, staring directly at Staley, saying that Sgt. Eipper did what any man does, and comforted a grieving mother.

11:55 a.m. — Gillespie urges the jury to return a verdict of guilty, saying Wilder was protected under the law, and alleging Staley committed the offense of capital murder. Gillespie at this point was standing directly in front of Staley and pointing at him. Staley was observed to be shaking his head in disagreement with Gillespie’s words.

11:53 a.m. — Gillespie tells the jury that the GoPro video was accessed two days later, according to testimony regarding the metadata on the video, suggesting Staley watched the video of him slapping Wilder two days after Wilder died.

11:51 a.m. — Gillespie tells the jury that over 79 days, Wilder McDaniel went from a happy, healthy, two-year-old boy to deceased. Gillespie walks over and points directly to Staley while standing in front of them, saying the only thing that changed was Staley becoming involved in his life.

Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie takes the remaining 9 minutes of the State’s time for closing arguments.

11:49 a.m. — Tanner points to Staley, telling the jury they’ve seen pure evil in the courtroom and urging them not to let it walk out the door. She said Wilder’s family has been waiting 1,828 days for justice.

11:48 a.m. — Tanner showed the jury the video of Amber McDaniel reacting when Detective Chad Nelson asked her about blood in the crib. She said it was the moment Amber realized Staley did something.

11:47 a.m. — Tanner again references the video of Staley slapping Wilder, showing the jury a segment in which Wilder is crying after the slap occurs. Tanner alleges Wilder said “let me down” from a couch, which is much closer to the ground than the crib railing. Audible sniffles and crying can be heard throughout the gallery.

11:45 a.m. — Tanner shows the jury text messages when Staley himself said Wilder was doing great sleeping in the crib. Judge Young notified Tanner she has about 15 minutes remaining in her closing argument.

11:43 a.m. — Tanner shows the jury a picture from the video of Staley slapping Wilder, claiming that the idea that the slap didn’t cause Wilder to lose consciousness, but a fall that caused significantly less external bruising caused his death is preposterous and alleged the defense is grasping at straws.

11:41 a.m. — Tanner clarifies that while it is possible for a fall from a crib to be fatal, although it is rare, the evidence, in this case, is not consistent with a fall.

11:39 a.m. — Tanner tells the jury that the point of Dr. Suzanne Dakil’s testimony was to show that two people, Dr. Dakil and Dr. Stephen Hastings, came to the same conclusion, that Wilder was murdered, after examining the evidence from two different lenses.

11:38 a.m. — Tanner recalls Dr. Hastings’ testimony in which the defense, during cross-examination, said, “all we have here is a little petechia”, and Dr. Hastings listed off a multitude of other signs of potential homicide present during Wilder’s autopsy.

11:36 a.m. — Tanner recalls testimony from Dr. Hastings, who said “if you want to kill a child without leaving findable evidence, smothering is the way to go.” She said she’s not sure whether the defense loves or hates Dr. Hastings because they’re totally fine with the fact that he said the cause was undetermined, but they don’t elaborate on his findings, in which he said it’s his opinion that the child was murdered.

11:34 a.m. — Tanner alleges that if it were Amber McDaniel’s DNA found on the pillow, the defense would not be claiming it was innocent DNA, but they’d be alleging Amber McDaniel committed murder.

11:33 a.m. — Tanner brings up a woman named Esperanza, who is mentioned in a multitude of texts admitted into evidence. Tanner said Esperanza is Staley’s cleaning lady, and Esperanza would have been the person who washed the sheets and fluffed the pillows, and Esperanza’s DNA wasn’t found on the pillow.

11:30 a.m. — Tanner produces the pillow processed and entered it into evidence. Tanner tells the jury she’s placed a red clip everywhere there’s blood on the pillow, and a black clip everywhere Staley’s DNA appears on the pillow.

11:28 a.m. — Tanner recalls Bevel’s testimony that there was some form of a struggle and that blood found on the pillow is evidence of that struggle. She also said the autopsy suggested a struggle as well.

11:26 a.m. — Tanner alleges that if Wilder fell, the resulting injury would have some kind of blood spatter pattern, but none was found. She alleges the only way the blood pooling on the floor could’ve gotten there was if Wilder was placed there and if his body was staged.

11:23 a.m. — Tanner recalls the apparent bloody palmprint on the pillow found in Wilder’s crib. Tanner alleges that Staley’s defense team has the same power of subpoena that the State has, and if anyone was able to dispute whether or not that was a palmprint, the defense would’ve called them to testify.

11:21 a.m. — Tanner reminded the jury that it’s not anyone’s job to determine the credibility of an expert witness other than the judge.

11:20 a.m. — Tanner alleges Tom Bevel wrote a sloppy report, and that the defense has gone to great lengths to discredit Bevel. Tanner questioned if the sloppy reporting changes the conclusions Bevel came to after reviewing the evidence.

11:18 a.m. — Tanner asked the jury to recall Staley’s emotions on the morning Wilder was found deceased inside Staley’s home on the morning of October 11, 2018, in which Staley doesn’t comfort Amber McDaniel at all, and that he was texting Amber Campisi, the sister of the mother of his daughter, Brooklyn, and that having a text exchange like this was not normal.

11:16 a.m. — Tanner alleges to the jury that Staley had the power in the relationship between Staley and Amber McDaniel.

11:15 a.m. — Tanner tells the jury that they have pretty heavy-duty evidence of Staley’s manipulation, that he manipulated Wilder in a video sent after the slapping video, and that Staley could have manipulated the situation by knowing Amber McDaniel’s passcode.

11:13 a.m. — Tanner references statements made by Moore during her closing arguments, in which she referenced a phone call with Jason Odom. Tanner recalls the inaccuracies discovered during Odom’s testimony, in that a call Odom said lasted about an hour actually only lasted for 8 minutes.

11:12 a.m. — Tanner alleges the video of Staley slapping Wilder proves what is in his heart.

11:11 a.m. — Tanner tells the jury that Amber McDaniel, Wilder’s mother, thought she found her “Prince Charming” in James Staley and that Amber ignored the red flags she may not have seen. Tanner tells the jury that typically, a child will grow up with a large therapy bill and that cases like that typically don’t have fatal endings.

11:10 a.m. — Tanner alleges to the jury that Staley is unlucky in this case because he got caught and that his manipulation doesn’t work in the face of the evidence.

11:07 a.m. — Tanner tells the jury that if Staley is not guilty of this crime, he must be the most unlucky man on earth.

11:06 a.m. — Prosecutor Lisa Tanner begins the final closing argument to the jury with 53 minutes and 57 seconds remaining. She begins by thanking Mrs. Moore for finally addressing the elephant in the room, the video of Staley slapping the child. Moore objects, stating this puts a burden of proof on the defense. Judge Young overrules her objection.

Judge Everett Young dismisses the jury. The court enters into a brief recess, which will resume shortly with closing arguments from Prosecutor Lisa Tanner.

10:54 a.m. — Moore told the jury to take opinions, speculation, and emotions out of this, and look at hardcore evidence. She said the case “has reasonable doubt written all over it.” With that, the defense has finished its closing arguments.

10:53 a.m. — Moore told the jury that the evidence is not clear and convincing of a homicide and that Dr. Stephen Hastings hasn’t changed his medical opinion in four years, and that if Dr. Hastings can’t call it a homicide, the jury can’t call it a murder.

10:51 a.m. — Moore told the jury damage to the frenulum is the first thing that WFPD detective Betty Dean looked for, and again said it is a tell-tale sign of a smothering death.

10:50 a.m. — Moore alleges that the prosecution has not met the burden of proof. She asked why Staley would scream about performing CPR on a child which he knew was already dead. She reaffirmed she believed the State’s case has reasonable doubt.

10:49 a.m. — Moore said the prosecution needs to prove that an accident didn’t happen while Staley and Amber were swimming and drinking wine in the pool on the night of October 10, 2018.

10:48 a.m. — Moore reiterates a point made by Daniel during his closing argument, that petechiae are not a specific finding to smothering, and that petechiae would be present as well if there were an accident that lead to Wilder’s death.

10:46 a.m. — Moore continues to ask where the hardcore evidence is that Staley murdered Wilder McDaniel. She said, “there’s a first time for everything”, and that a child’s first time attempting to escape from a crib might be the most dangerous.

10:43 a.m. — Moore tells the jury that “we don’t convict people on a hypothesis”, alleging the State wants to use the slapping video as a way to work the jury up and convict Staley for something that was probably a horrible accident.

10:42 a.m. — Moore tells the jury that Dr. Galaznik provided a plausible alternative to the narrative that Wilder was murdered by Staley, and that it’s the State’s job to rule that out. Moore alleges this alternative involves Wilder busting his lip on the crib railing, then bleeding in the crib, then trying to get out of the crib, taking a tumble, hitting his head on the hardwood floor, becoming unconscious, and not resuming breathing.

10:40 a.m. — Moore alleges Amber lied about knowing Jason Odom because it contradicts the narrative of a big fight the night before. Moore alleges Amber then lied about her internet history by saying Staley had the passcode on her phone.

10:38 a.m. — Moore alleges Amber McDaniel lied about the night before Wilder was found dead in Staley’s home because she didn’t expect the police to find the phone call between Staley and Jason Odom (no relation to Amber Odom McDaniel) in which Odom alleges to have heard Amber’s voice during the phone call.

10:36 a.m. — Moore shows the jury a clip of Amber’s interview with police following Wilder’s death, and points out that Amber said, “he’d been awake for two days, but everything seemed normal.” She alleges that the entire story changes on January 2019.

10:34 a.m. — Moore alleges Amber then sends derogatory texts to the police after WFPD officers planted the seed of his murder.

10:33 a.m. — Moore brings up Amber McDaniel’s initial interviews with the police in which she said Wilder fell from the crib. Moore then claims Det. Nelson planted the seed of Wilder’s murder during the October 11, 2018 interview when he brings up the blood in the crib.

10:32 a.m. — As closing arguments continue, several people have attempted to enter the gallery of Auxiliary Trial Room A, but were turned away by bailiffs because the courtroom is currently at capacity.

10:30 a.m. — Moore tells the jury while pointing at and speaking toward James Staley, that he has the presumption of innocence as he sits in the courtroom, and the burden belongs to the State to prove otherwise.

10:29 a.m. — Moore alleges to the jury that Staley was planning a future involving Amber and Wilder, and again urges the jury to read the loving text messages sent by James Staley to Amber McDaniel.

10:27 a.m. — Moore reiterates a point made by Daniel, that the text messages admitted into evidence prove that Staley has a “potty mouth”, but does not prove he murdered Wilder McDaniel in October 2018.

10:26 a.m. — Moore reminds the jury of Amber McDaniel’s words during her testimony in which she said the text messages sent by Staley that were inflammatory and derogatory regarding her son, Wilder, were things she thought Staley was saying to get a rise out of her.

10:24 a.m. — Moore tells the jury that even though it is rare for children of Wilder’s age to fall from a crib and die, it is still possible, and they shouldn’t convict Staley because that kind of fall is so rare.

10:23 a.m. — Defense attorney Terri Moore has about 57 minutes remaining she is able to use for closing arguments. She begins by addressing the slapping video to the jury and then said it was vile and inflammatory, and it probably makes them want to go slap Staley. Moore then said the State is using the video to make the jury deliberate with negative emotions against Staley, and that the State has no case without the video.

10:21 a.m. — Daniel tells the jury that nobody wins in this case. He said Amber has lost her child, and that there was nothing more tragic. He said Staley’s name has been smeared and he will never recover from this.

10:19 a.m. — Daniel tells the jury that mothers have a “sixth sense” when it comes to their children. He then claims everything the jury has seen is consistent with a fall from a crib.

10:18 a.m. — Daniel asked the jury to take a look at the things about the case that he alleged the State sought to ignore.

10:16 a.m. — Daniel accuses the State of “cherrypicking” text messages to show the jury in order to make a case against Staley.

10:15 a.m. — Daniel alleged that amylase testing of saliva was ordered by Det. Nelson and never performed. Daniel questioned why that never happened, during which time Prosecutor Lisa Tanner objected and said it was improper. Judge Young sustained the objection.

10:13 a.m. — Daniel recalled testimony from Dr. Suzanne Dakil of a “smearing pattern” in the blood found on Wilder’s pillow.

10:11 a.m. — Daniel said, “they brought you DNA like that means something”, stating again that it’s unknown what DNA was transferred to the pillow from items it was packaged with, or that it would make sense that Staley’s pillow from Staley’s home would have Staley’s DNA on it.

10:09 a.m. — Daniel alleges to the jury that Bevel’s opinion that Wilder’s body was staged following his death has no corroborating evidence, and urged the jury to look at the difference in the U-shaped blood pattern Bevel referenced during his testimony.

10:07 a.m. — Daniel said the prosecution went on a “shopping expedition” to find someone who would give them the opinion they wanted. Daniel then criticized Tom Bevel, the crime scene reconstructionist called to testify by the State and said his work was sloppy and that the State likely spent thousands of dollars for his opinion.

10:04 a.m. — Daniel alleges to the jury that the prosecution tried to convince Dr. Stephen Hastings, who performed Wilder’s autopsy, to change his opinion of Wilder’s death, which he ruled undetermined.

10:02 a.m — Daniel tells the jury that the prosecution has done a “masterful job” of avoiding the fact that there are no injuries on Wilder’s face, which Daniel said should’ve been present if Wilder was indeed smothered.

10:01 a.m. — Daniel tells the jury that Prosecutor Lisa Tanner is likely going to get up and tell you about petechiae found during Wilder’s autopsy. Daniel then tells the jury petechiae is nonspecific of smothering.

9:59 a.m. — Daniel produces a new pillow and alleges to the jury that DNA could’ve been transferred in a number of ways and that the “murder weapon” that was processed was corrupted.

9:56 a.m. — Daniel told the jury about Staley’s cooperation with law enforcement in the direct aftermath of Wilder being found deceased inside of his home on October 11, 2018.

9:55 a.m. — Daniel told the jury that the video of the slap is merely evidence that Staley can slap a child, and said Gillespie should have Staley charged for that offense.

9:53 a.m. — Daniel mentioned “Amber Odom, now Amber McDaniel, bless her heart”, and told the jury something was kind of strange with what Amber told the police during initial interviews as compared to what she told the police in January 2019.

9:52 a.m. — Daniel tells the jury that James Staley has a dark sense of humor and that he makes twisted jokes, but he has a soft side. Daniel asks the jury to read more text messages showing Staley’s love for Amber and Wilder, and that he was planning for the future.

9:50 a.m. — Daniel mentions to the jury how it’s human nature to want to place blame on someone when a child dies. He rebuts something mentioned by Gillespie, and argues that it’s a requirement of the jury to analyze the evidence, and not just go with their gut.

9:48 a.m. — The defense attorney for James Staley, Mark Daniel, begins to present closing arguments for the defense.

9:46 a.m. — Gillespie discussed the slap, and alleged Staley was using that to create an injury history of shortfalls by Wilder, and then said he’s interested to see how the defense counsel explains that video. With that, he sat down, leaving 54 minutes for Prosecutor Lisa Tanner to close after the defense has an opportunity to close.

9:45 a.m. — Gillespie expands further on Staley acting guilty by nature of offering Amber McDaniel an untrackable card to “buy her silence”, Gillespie alleges. He also mentioned an HP laptop that’s memory was wiped, then pointed out he kept the GoPro video and asked the jury to ponder what else he may have had on that laptop that he got rid of.

9:43 a.m. — Gillespie tells the jury that guilty people act in guilty ways and that Staley acted guilty after Wilder’s death. Gillespie then said that Staley didn’t get in bed with Amber, Wilder’s mother, that night, then he doesn’t console Amber, then he makes an unusual trip to the office.

9:41 a.m. — Gillespie tells the jury that evidence exists that Staley may have been off his mood stabilizers at the time of Wilder’s death, based on what he told WFPD Det. Chad Nelson the morning Wilder was found deceased.

9:39 a.m. — Gillespie recalls testimonies from Staley’s sister, Bea Staley, his friend, Brad Prigmore, and his secretary, Amber Koch, who all testified that he was either “manipulative” or “very manipulative”, and then recalls that the scene of Wilder’s death was also manipulated.

9:38 a.m. — Gillespie reminds the jury that evidence of the relationship between Staley and Wilder can be considered, according to Texas law and the judge’s charge to the jury.

9:37 a.m. — Gillespie references a text message sent by Staley the night before Wilder was found deceased, in which Staley said he’d have to beat Wilder if he didn’t stop crying.

9:34 a.m. — Gillespie references text messages between Staley and her sister, Bea Staley, who testified in the second week of testimony, and claims Staley in those messages was bragging about what he did to Wilder.

9:32 a.m. — Gillespie references an Agatha Christie novel in which the main character said something to the effect of the fact that she would say silly things about killing her husband so no one would think she was being serious. Gillespie then makes eye contact with Staley as he tells the jury how Staley thinks he’s so much smarter than anyone else.

9:28 a.m. — Gillespie tells the jury that circumstantial evidence, of which there is a lot in this case, are just puzzle pieces the jury is tasked with piecing together.

9:27 a.m. — Gillespie tells the jury that the GoPro video of Staley slapping Wilder in the face is direct evidence of the defendant’s relationship with the victim, and should be considered by the jury as evidence.

9:25 a.m. — Gillespie mentions Amber McDaniel, Wilder’s mother, and eliminates her as a suspect due to her love for her son. He also recalled the fact that Amber has pending charges of her own, and that she will one day face a jury of her peers.

9:23 a.m. — Gillespie begins to discuss possible suspects for Wilder’s alleged murder, ruling out any kind of intruder and limiting the possible suspects to just those inside Staley’s residence the night before Wilder was found deceased.

9:21 a.m. — Gillespie recalls for the jury a number of derogatory text messages sent by Staley to Wilder’s mother, Amber McDaniel, as evidence of murderous intent.

9:20 a.m. — Gillespie recalls for the jury different expert witnesses the State called to take the stand, all of which claimed there was no evidence of a natural death or accidental death. He recalls testimony given by child abuse pediatrician Dr. Suzanne Dakil, “His death is a result of child physical abuse.”

9:18 a.m. — Gillespie presents two questions to the jury. Question 1 is “Was Wilder McDaniel murdered?” and the second question is “Whodunnit?”

9:16 a.m. — Gillespie mentioned the claim made by the defense that Wilder was too tall for his crib, which was a claim refuted by Wilder’s own pediatrician.

9:15 a.m. — Gillespie begins debunking several claims made by the defense in their opening arguments. Gillespie mentioned a frenulum injury, which he said the defense said is always present in smotherings, but Gillespie said an expert testified that frenulum injuries are actually rare in suffocation cases. He continues debunking other claims made by the defense.

9:13 a.m. — “We spend nine days methodically building our case,” Gillespie said to the jury. “Now you know it is 100% true, and it is 100% accurate, and yes, it is really quite something when you see the full picture of what the defendant did to Wilder McDaniel.”

9:11 a.m. — Wichita County District Attorney John Gillespie begins presenting the closing argument for the State of Texas, telling the jury their most important work is ahead. “You have heard things you’ll never be able to unhear, you have seen things in this case that you will never be able to unsee.”

9:10 a.m. — Currently, every available seat in Auxiliary Trial Room A is occupied. The courtroom is currently standing-room only.

9:08 a.m. — The jury charge mentions that the presumption of innocence is enough to acquit the defendant, James Staley, and it is the burden of The State of Texas to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant is guilty.

9:06 a.m. — Judge Everett Young reads, during the jury charge, that the defendant, James Irven Staley, III, has elected not to testify on his own behalf.

9:00 a.m. — During the jury charge, Judge Young tells the jury their decision must be unanimous.

8:58 a.m. — Judge Everett Young is currently reading the charge to the jury, instructing them on their deliberations. After the charge is read, closing arguments will begin. The State has the right to open and close these arguments, meaning the prosecution will have the final word before deliberation begins.

This is a developing story. Stick with Texoma’s Homepage for updates as the capital murder trial of James Staley in connection to Wilder McDaniel’s death takes place at the Tim Curry Criminal Justice Center in Fort Worth, Texas.