TAMPA - Before he ever threw an infant onto Interstate 275, Richard McTear lived a life infused with brutality.
McTear was convicted last week of first-degree murder, and other charges, including kidnapping, burglary and aggravated child abuse. Evidence showed he beat, choked and bit his former girlfriend, Jasmine Bedwell, in a jealous rage and then took her baby and killed him.
As both the prosecution and defense presented evidence Monday over whether McTear should be sentenced to death in the murder of little Emanuel Wesley Murray Jr., a picture of violence emerged.
According to the defense, McTear was beaten, stabbed and rejected by his mother, sexually abused by a cousin and aunt and introduced to drug and alcohol abuse when he was a toddler.
A year before he killed Emanuel, who wasn't yet 4 months old, McTear beat another former girlfriend after he found her at home with a male friend. That former girlfriend, Louvena Cromartie, testified McTear beat her so badly, her eye socket fractured. She wasn't sure how many blows he delivered because she was knocked unconscious by the first hit.
Afterward, she said, McTear called and apologized and said he would take responsibility. He pleaded guilty to felony battery and was given probation.
McTear was on probation when he beat Bedwell and killed her baby.
Jurors heard from Bedwell on Monday, although she did not take the stand. Another witness read “victim impact” statements from her and the baby's father, Emanuel Wesley Murray Sr., who was in prison on weapons charges when his son was born and died.
“My son Emanuel, better known as Lil' E, will never get to meet his brothers and sisters,” Bedwell said in her brief statement. “ He never got see or even feel the presence of his dad, Emanuel Murray, Sr. He didn't even get a chance to see his first birthday.”
Jurors have not been told that Murray Sr. was in prison when his son was murdered, and were not given an explanation for why the baby never saw his father.
No one, Bedwell said, “will ever understand the pain I feel every day for losing my first child.”
Murray Sr. said in his statement that his son “had a loving family who cared about him deeply. This has been a stressful situation for me and my family every day. Emanuel Wesley Murray, Jr. will never be able to do the things that most kids do, through no fault of his own.
“We pray that no one else will have to go through what we go through every day.”
Circuit Judge William Fuente told jurors they could not consider the victim impact statements in their determination over McTear's sentence. Although victims have a right to deliver such statements, the law provides they are to be given no weight in determining whether a defendant should be sentenced to death.
Defense lawyer Theda James urged jurors to show McTear mercy in rendering their verdict.
“You can have justice for Emanuel with a sentence of life without possibility of parole,” James told jurors. “A sentence of death would only be vengeance.”
A life sentence, she said, would be “a living death.”
McTear, she said, had a horrific childhood, bounced around from home to home because his mother spent most of his life in prison. When he was 12, she was living with her lesbian lover, and McTear didn't approve, James said.
McTear got into a dispute with his mother's lover, and even though he was on crutches, his mother kicked him out of the house, James said. He went to live with a cousin in the Robles Park area and was “immersed in crime.”
He was selling drugs, and one day, his mother wanted them. When he refused to give them to her, James said, his mother stabbed him in the neck and back. He was hospitalized and still bears the scars.
McTear's father, Richard A. McTear Sr., testified his son lived with him off and on. McTear Sr. described himself as a combat veteran with a lot of mental health issues. McTear Sr. said he heard his son's cousin was killed in retaliation for something the defendant had done.
Defense expert psychologist Steven Gold testified McTear suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his violent and unstable childhood, which included “betrayal trauma,” because of the damage inflicted by his mother.
McTear, he said, is “constantly irritable and easily set off” because he is always on the lookout for possible danger.
McTear was also sexually abused by a 13-year-old cousin when he was 7 or 8, and by an aunt who kissed him and put her tongue in his ear when he was about 10, Gold said.
“He basically concluded that any person could be dangerous,” Gold said. “Whenever he felt that someone was betraying him, it was as if his life was in danger … It's important to understand there was nothing logical about this. We're talking about basic reflexes.”
Gold said he talked to McTear's mother, who is intensely remorseful about the role she played in her son's life.
“I've never spoken to a parent who was so distraught and was so honest and frank about how guilty she felt about how she treated Richard,” Gold said. She “felt largely responsible for the path that his life has taken.”
Regarding the beatings of Cromartie and Bedwell and the baby murder, Gold said McTear was following a pattern he established as part of his mental illness. He was “acting on automatic pilot,” Gold said.
He said McTear has tried to deal with his problems, turning to religion at times. He even studied to become a pastor before turning back to drugs, Gold said.
The defense is arguing one reason to spare McTear's life is he would do well in prison. But Gold appeared to contradict that in his testimony.
Prison, he said, “would only intensify his psychological difficulties,” Gold said in response to a defense attorney's question about how McTear would cope behind bars.
But then James clarified that she was referring to a prison environment with appropriate treatment. In that case, Gold said, McTear would do well.