Special note: This story was be updated multiple times as closing arguments continued.
LUBBOCK, Texas — Closing arguments were given Wednesday in the Capital Murder trial of Hollis Alvin Daniels III. He admitted in open court on February 6 that back on October 9, 2017, he shot and killed police officer Floyd East Jr. The jury heard testimony and will decide if Daniels will spend life in prison or be put to death.
Previous coverage: With his life on the line, Daniels takes the stand in a Lubbock courtroom
East arrested him that day but during his arrest officers missed a stolen gun he had on his person. Daniels used the gun to shoot and kill East inside the police station on the campus of Texas Tech University. Daniels ran off but was captured about 90 minutes later.
Prosecutor Baron Slack in closing arguments
In closing arguments, Baron Slack with Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney’s office spoke to the jury.
“You were told in those jury panels that the main distinction is that the state seeks to kill Hollis Daniels. The defense wants to spare his life. It’s not that simple,” Slack said.
“It’s an evidence-based question,” he continued.
Slack asked rhetorically, “What type of evidence would you look at when making a determination? What are you going to look at?”
He played a video Daniels saying, “My mentality at the time is, ‘I had a gun on me. I had Xanax on me.’ My dumb*** just f***ing escalated the situation.”
Slack then characterized the situation this way: “So, it’s you or me. Your future or my future. Your next or last breath. No more embraces with your family.”
Previous coverage: ‘I don’t want to die’: Hollis Daniels testifies in capital murder trial
Slack said Daniels shot an innocent and good man. It was callous even if East had not been a police officer.
As far as future danger to society, Slack said, “People in the future do not deserve to learn the hard way.”
“No one else deserves to find out what is already known,” Slack said to the jury. “It’s uncomfortable to look at, it’s uncomfortable to think about.”
“It’s not just about a police officer,” Slack said. “[It’s about] a cold-blooded killer; it’s about a lot of people.”
Slack pointed to the testimony about Xanax, but discounted it as a genuine target of blame, instead focusing on Daniels and his choices.
“Yet he demonstrates high level thinking, aware of where he is, who he is talking to, inventive to lie and to hide pills,” Slack urged the jury. “He knew he was going to get arrested. So, can anyone … attribute these behaviors to Xanax?”
“‘F*** cops.’ That’s who he chose to be,” Slack declared. “Then you start to see a change in behavior. A death sentence over his head – starts reading books. Christianity. It’s too little too late.”
Slack said when Daniels had the gun at his ankle (a refence to Daniels’ testimony and explanation Tuesday), he could have just kicked it under a desk. Instead, he chose to pull out the gun and shoot East. Slack described it as an execution.
“There is more than a probability that he will always be a threat if he can execute a police officer,” Slack stated. “All of the blame rests at the feet of Hollis Daniels.”
Slack said the only mitigation (or excuse) was the lifestyle Daniels himself created.
As for Officer East, Slack said, “He lived well and he died well – in service to others, to sacrifice for others.”
Mark Snodgrass then began speaking for the defense.
Closing arguments from the defense
“This is a senseless, senseless tragedy. Not one good thing is going to come out of this,” Snodgrass said.
Concerning Officer East, he said, “What a giving, kind man.”
“His very first words were Reid accepting responsibility for his actions,” Snograss said. In testimony Tuesday, it was said his full name is Hollis Alvin Reid Daniels. His friends and family know him as Reid.
“We’re not trying to hide one thing from you,” Snodgrass said. Moments later, he added, “Reid Daniels got on the witness stand and told you more stuff than the state did.”
“It’s an open book. They didn’t give you that evidence, Reid did,” Snodgrass said. “This is a horrible crime, but look at the full picture.”
Snodgrass pressed the case that Daniels (Reid, as Snodgrass called him) was intoxicated. He claimed Daniels was still testing positive for a “boatload of Xanax” in the jail three days after he was arrested.
“I hate what Reid Daniels did.”
“What evidence do they have? What’s going to show you he’s a danger? Anything could happen to anybody. But what true evidence do they have to show you that? They don’t have any,” Snodgrass declared.
“Follow your own moral compass. Follow what your gut tells you,” he continued. “There is no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he will commit future acts of violence.”
With that, Snodgrass was done and the court paused for a lunch break.
Byrne: reserve it for the worst of the worst
After lunch, the defense continued to make closing statements with attorney Lauren Byrne.
She said, “The death penalty should be reserved for the worst of the worst.”
Byrne continued referring to Hollis Daniels as Reid, just as Snodgrass had done.
“What he did is horrible, but he is not beyond all hope, he is not beyond all repair,” she said. “Reid has accepted full responsibility for murdering Officer East.”
“This is not a new-come acceptance of responsibility. That has always been there.”
As for the drug abuse and suicidal thoughts, Byrne said, “They are not excuses, but they are explanations as to how he got here and how oct. 9 2017 happened.”
She added, “His parents are not bad parents. They are not responsible for his actions on this day.”
“Reid wasn’t even aware of his family’s mental health history until recently,” Byrne said. “That doesn’t make it right.”
“His father’s side of the family: depression, suicidal ideations, related substance abuse and overdoses; things he didn’t know. On his mom’s side: depression, thoughts of suicide.”
She assured the jury that no matter what, “He is going to spend the rest of his natural life in prison.”
There were times, Daniels needed an intervention. But the closest he got was a family doctor writing a prescription, she said, and sending him on his way. Byrne made the case that by the time his mom called a crisis hotline, it was too late.
At the time of his arrest, she said, he tried goading the officers to shoot and kill him. She said that’s not the behavior of a master manipulator but someone who really struggling with suicidal behavior. She said it was “beyond a miracle” that the officers did not shoot him.
Speaking of the Xanax Byrne told the jury, “It’s not an excuse, but it is absolutely an explanation about how we got here.”
“From the time he sobered up, he’s had over 5 years of no issues in this jail. He’s had the opportunity,” she told the jury.
He is loved and not a lost cause, Byrne said.
“Reid has pled guilty. It doesn’t get undone,” she said of Daniels. “Do not compromise your vote. You are the difference between life and death.”
Chip Lewis on close
“Reid Daniels will never step foot out of TDC until he’s in a coffin,” Chip Lewis said as he took over from Lauren Byrne on the defense.
“The death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst. Not just the worst crime,” he told the jury.
Chip B. Lewis is a high-profile attorney having represented Robert Durst and also having been Harris County Assistant District Attorney.
“I promised you we would bring you everything, childhood on up, every minute of incarceration,” Lewis said. “I watched y’all when this young man testified, and I was certain many of you were struck by just how brutally honest and unscripted he was.”
Lewis said prosecutors only had one bit of evidence for future danger – a subscription for National Geographic which was described as graphic reading material.
“That’s all they had as evidence of a future danger.”
During his time in jail and sober, Lewis said, Daniels never once engaged in criminal violence.
Lewis continued, “The death penalty is reserved for only the worst of circumstances. This killing couldn’t be much worse, but the circumstances of future danger and of this young man are within those special issues.”
In simple terms, Lewis was making a legal argument that Daniels is not a future danger and therefore by law the jury could and should spare his life.
Lewis ended with, “Godspeed, good luck, God bless everyone.”
Lubbock County Criminal District Attorney Sunshine Stanek then stood up. In most cases, prosecutors get the last word in closing arguments.
Sunshine Stanek on closing
“The law does not require you to set aside your feelings and your emotions,” Stanek said.
“Two weeks ago, you had to watch it. You had to watch that video that no one should ever have to watch,” she told the jury referencing the video of the moment in which Daniels shot and killed East.
“He is a future danger.”
“Everything he chose his entire life is what puts him here today,” Stanek declared. “That should scare the living daylights out of you if what he was saying on the witness stand was true.”
Officer East trusted Daniels, Stanek said. And it cost him his life.
She said, “He treated him with compassion. He trusted the lies he heard from the back seat of his car. He trusted him to take his handcuffs off. He trusted him to go to the bathroom. He trusted him enough that he told him he would let him smoke on the way to the jail.”
“He had every resource to deal with his problems his entire life,” Stanek said. “The point is, he put himself into a downward spiral by his choices and by his actions.”
“Excuses,” she said as she listed Hypoglycemia and a lack of action by the suicide hotline.
“He didn’t turn himself in, he got caught,” Stanek reminded the jury. “From the get-go, he was proud of what he did. That’s a character trait. Do you trust this individual?”
“‘That was my first killing. I’m not sure how I feel about it,’ Daniels said in the video,” Stanek repeated.
Stanek reminded the jury that Daniels asked East about his family right before pulling the trigger.
“The reason why he asked is because he wanted him to have a good thought in his mind when he died,” Stanek said. “That’s unfathomable. Evidence of future danger is right there.”
“You don’t ask those things if you’re not rational or logical.”
She described a lifetime of fooling people.
“As a prosecutor, this is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do — to ask you to kill this man,” Stanek said.
East’s widow, Carmen, and his stepdaughter were left in tears when Stanek finished her closing statement.
Stanek wrapped up at 2:41 p.m. The jury then went into deliberations.
More stories will follow on EverythingLubbock.com.
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