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May 25, 2013

Brown found guilty of capital murder

GREENVILLE — A jury in the 354th District Court found Micah Crofford Brown guilty Friday of capital murder in the July 20, 2011 shooting death of Stella Michelle “Doc” Ray, his ex-wife.

There was no doubt that the jury would find Brown guilty of killing Ray. Even Brown’s defense counsel told the panel to disregard an option on their jury forms which would have allowed them to find the defendant not guilty.

The question before the jurors was whether Ray was killed because she intended to report Brown to police regarding a previous family violence incident — making him guilty of capital murder and facing a potential death sentence — or whether Ray was killed because Brown was angry Ray was moving to East Texas with the couple’s two small children, making him guilty of first degree murder with a potential sentence of up to life in prison.

In closing arguments, District Attorney Noble D. Walker Jr. maintained Brown murdered Ray while in the course of committing obstruction, retaliation or terroristic threat, any of which would make Brown guilty of capital murder.

“That has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt,” Walker said. “That was his intent.”

Walker reminded the jury that Ray was making a 911 call to the Greenville Police Department at the time she was murdered.

“The defendant knew she was on the phone with the police so he shot her,” Walker said.

But attorney Katherine Ferguson argued that no evidence was presented during the trial showing that Brown was retaliating against Ray, although he told several people following the killing that he murdered Ray because he was angry at the thought of losing contact with the children.

“The only thing that has been proven in this courtroom is that Micah Brown killed Stella Ray because of the kids,” Ferguson said, noting that the shooting was the result of Brown’s “warped, drug-induced, alcohol-induced perception” that Ray was stealing the children. “It was a domestic situation gone horribly, horribly wrong.”

The jury received the case at approximately 12:15 p.m. and returned with the verdict of capital murder about three hours later.

The same panel will now be asked whether to sentence Brown to death by lethal injection or life in prison without parole.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled in the court Tuesday morning.

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