The following was sent as a press release from J. Staley Heatly, 46th Judicial District Attorney.
VERNON (KFDX/KJTL) — It took a Vernon jury just about one hour today to convict Robert Thomas, III, of capital murder in a case that occurred in May of 2017.
Thomas was sentenced by 46th Judicial District Judge Dan Mike Bird to life in prison without parole.
The case involved the murder and robbery of Jerry McBride, a Vernon business owner who operated an establishment called the Cowboy Club.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, May 20, 2017, McBride was gunned down as he was closing up his establishment at around 1:50 a.m.
According to eyewitnesses, the robber came into the club with a bandana covering his nose and a cap pulled low over his face. He then began shooting at McBride, hitting him eight times before reaching into his pockets and taking his money. On the date of the crime, an eyewitness identified someone other than Robert Thomas, III, as the perpetrator of the crime.
That person, Charles Harvey Bryant, was initially charged with the offense but District Attorney Staley Heatly later dismissed the charges against Bryant and charged Thomas with the killing.
“The evidence against the defendant was overwhelming,” stated Heatly. “We had a significant amount of independent evidence like phone records, video footage, and forensic evidence that indisputably linked the defendant to the murder.”
According to Heatly, faulty eye-witness identification is one of the leading causes of wrongful conviction in the country.
Despite the identification of another person as a culprit, it took the jury less than an hour to convict Thomas of the killing.
“I really have to commend the Vernon Police Department and Texas Ranger Jake Weaver for doing a thorough investigation that eventually led us to the true killer. Their relentless and thorough work uncovered the evidence we needed to bring Thomas to justice,” Heatly said.
Thomas was alleged to have committed the offense with a co-defendant who remains charged with the crime and is awaiting trial in jail.