Jury sentences Walters to 32 years in prison
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Oct. 16, 2004 -- John Arlin Walters was sentenced Friday to serve 32 years in prison for the fatal shooting of his brother in January.

A Hopkins County jury reached the sentence shortly after 8:30 p.m. Friday following more than three hours of deliberation.

During the punishment phase of the trial, family and friends of both the defendant and the victim, Russell Lowell Walters Jr., testified to their general character and their opinions as to what kind of sentence John Walters should receive.

Defense attorneys called several witnesses who all testified that they knew the defendant to be a law-abiding man, known for walking away from conflict, especially with his brother, and no known history of violence.

Prosecutors called Joanna Day, who testified that she was afraid of her ex-husband, John Walters, who had frequently emotionally and psychologically abused her during their marriage and whom she divorced due to his violence.

"Yes, he got angry with me. All the time he was angry with me. he was mad at little things. He didn't like me to question what he did, where he was," Day testified.

She also stated that John Walters took his anger out on her by pinching her arm so hard it left a bruise the size of a baseball on one occasion. She also testified to instances in which Walters pulled the hair out of her head; woke her up burning her head with a cigarette lighter after finding a package of cigarettes in her purse; knocking her on the bed and "choked met'til I was almost unconscious," then striking her on the side of the head. She also said that on one instance the defendant was abusive toward her son.

After admitting she didn't want to even be at the trial because she was so afraid of John Walters, she asked the jury to send him to prison so he could not be released on probation and be free on the streets.

Walters' son and two daughters -- Jason Walters, Julie Erhardt and Jamie Lennon -- all testified that the defendant was moody and on medication, and that none of them had ever seen their father exhibit any signs of violence or abuse toward their former stepmother.

John Walters' current wife, Ellen Marie Walters, testified that not only had she never witnessed her husband exhibit violence toward her or anyone else, but that he "doesn't use degrading language. He never has."

"He loved me when I didn't love myself," Ellen said. "He loved [her daughter from a previous marriage] like his own child. He loved all my children. My children love him. He's the father they never had. ... I understand probation. I know what it is. I ask you give it."

When asked if her point in testifying was to ask the jury to give her father probation instead of a prison sentence, a very emotional Jamie Lennon said, "Please yes, I would beg you please."

When the punishment verdict was read, the defense counsel had the jury polled by name, during which all 9 women and three men on the jury affirmed the sentence was their decision.

Defense attorneys Scappy Holmes and David Moore agreed to stay on the case to begin working on an application for an appeal to the court's decision.

"I hope you die in prison a sad and lonely death. That you are not comforted by your family. You took a life and there's no reason," Russell Walters' daughter Russann Dean told her uncle following the verdict.

"My pappy was the greatest man I've ever known," the victim's granddaughter Jordan Fout said to her great-uncle. "He was always there for me, he taught me more in life than anyone else. He wanted me to be a successful woman, and now he'll never see. All I have left left of my pappy are memories."

Russell's daughter Renee Allen called her uncle a "coward" for shooting his own brother in the back.

"I'll never get over the way I lost him," Allen said. "It broke my heart not to be able to tell him goodbye to give him a hug and tell him I love him one last time. He had to die with strangers. ... I hope you never have a day of freedom the rest of your life. Your parents would be ashamed. Granddaddy [Walters] was so proud of the Walters name. You shamed it. You made the last months of your mother's life a nightmare."

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