Jury sentences Hollis Daniels to life in prison
LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - After 20 hours of deliberations, a Lubbock jury has sentenced a former Texas Tech student to life without parole for the 2017 murder of a Texas Tech police officer.
Hollis Daniels began the trial by pleading guilty to killing Floyd East, Junior inside police headquarters. The trial lasted almost three weeks in the 137th District Court, before Judge John “Trey” McClendon.
Hollis Daniels’ parents and extended family and friends cried and hugged, thankful that the jury spared Daniels’ life.
One of East’s sisters took the stand to read a victim impact statement.
She looked at Daniels directly and said in part, “You showed him no mercy, and like the coward you are, you didn’t give him a chance to fight for his life. I pray that justice show you the same, no mercy, and may you rot in hell.”
Carmen East, the widow of Officer Floyd East, issued this heartfelt statement to supporters and the Daniels family on Friday:
“To the Lubbock and to the El Paso community, from the entire family and I, we say thank you for five long years of your support and your love. To the Daniels’ family, my condolences. Nobody wins. We all grieve, we all go and we will try to go on and find some peace.”
The family created Texas 635, after Officer East’s badge number, to provide emotional support to the surviving family of law enforcement.
In her closing argument, elected District Attorney Sunshine Stanek asked the jury to give Daniels the death penalty.
Stanek said it was one of the hardest things she’s had to do, to ask the jury to kill this man, because she did not feel other officers and inmates would be safe if he spent the rest of his life in a TDCJ unit.
Stanek said, “I stand by my statement,” when we asked her about it Friday.
Daniels’ family and his attorneys were relieved by the jury’s sentence.
Throughout this sentencing phase, the defense argued Daniels was not in his right mind when he pulled the trigger. They argued he had years of untreated depression and drug abuse, and at the time of the shooting, he was suicidal and high on Xanax and marijuana, an argument Officer East’s wife also addressed:
“To all students from Texas Tech and all universities who are considering suicide or who find themselves in a dark place, reach out to the services in your community and make it a true effort to heal and volunteer to all types of humanitarian services. Give yourself, use your God given gift to love, it will fill your soul.”
FULL COVERAGE: Shooting at Texas Tech Police Department
Closing arguments presented Wednesday
The courtroom heard more testimony from Daniels and the closing arguments from the State and the defense on Wednesday.
Both sides had two hours to deliver their closing arguments before the jury was dismissed for deliberation.
The defense played a recorded jail call between Daniels and his father. The two discussed God, thankfulness, and answered prayers.
In the call, Daniels told his father “I said, ‘Lord, can you not get my attention any other way?’ Now, he has my attention.”
Daniels’ father told his son he was “still in awe” about how his own prayers had been answered. He also stated he prayed for the East family every night.
Daniels stated he could not think about how the East family was doing but also prayed for them.
The State has presented a letter Daniels wrote while in custody in 2017. Daniels compared himself to a wolf, saying:
“Wolves will always be faster, stronger and meaner. I will always be a wolf. I have blended in with sheep perfectly. I have surrounded myself with sheep. The wolf lives a life of freedom, roams. Sheep follow blindly.”
Daniels told the State he believed the things he had written in the letter at one point in his life. He also stated he had once thought of himself as “deceitful” and that he had a better understanding of the world than others.
The State told Daniels when he shot East, it had not been in the “heat of the moment,” that Daniels was thinking. Daniels stated his thoughts were clouded by “Xanax and depression.”
Daniels also discussed lessons he learned from his AA books, saying “In order to regain the ability to choose to recover, you have to have the spiritual experience. I think sometimes our will is weak but it’s never gone.”
The State and the defense are presenting their closing arguments. The State is seeking the death penalty for Daniels. DA Stanek referenced his history of being manipulative. Stanek also pointed out that thousands of people listen to rap music and use drugs, saying Daniels cannot use these things to explain the shooting.
The defense referenced his extensive drug use and poor mental health, saying he was not thinking rationally when the shooting occurred. The team stated Daniels no longer poses a threat and still can contribute to those around him while in prison. The defense is fighting to keep him off of death row.
KCBD’s Shaley Sanders covered the trial from within the courtroom.
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