A man is serving five years in prison for a deadly stabbing at a South Austin motel party last year that witnesses said resulted from a fight over stolen cell phones.
Arthur Davis, 37, was expected to go to trial a second time this week after a Travis County jury deadlocked on a verdict in April following four hours of deliberations. He instead pleaded guilty Friday to murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, felonies punishable by up to life in prison.
State and defense lawyers did not come to an agreement on punishment in the plea negotiations, and prosecutors said they had requested a sentence of 25 years in prison. But District Judge David Wahlberg, who presided over the trial more than four months ago, handed Davis the minimum punishment for each offense and said the terms would be served concurrently.
The case had been a difficult one for jurors in April as it fell to them to weigh the credibility of the witnesses, the majority of whom had criminal histories and ties to either the defendant or the victim, and had admitted to drinking and doing drugs at the party.
State witnesses in the week-long trial said Davis stabbed Robert Spencer Manning, 22, and Manning’s friend, Mark Ramirez, then 21, about 3 a.m. on Feb. 27, 2013. Ramirez told jurors they had been hanging out at the Country Garden Inn & Suites when a friend of his invited Davis and his friends.
Amber Romero, who arrived with Davis, said they went over so that Davis could sell Ramirez and Manning cocaine, but when Davis did not sell enough, her boyfriend took their cell phones. They left soon after but returned because they wanted to try to make more money, Romero said.
In closing arguments, defense lawyers Tamara Needles and Jackie Wood argued the state had erred in relying on inebriated witnesses and shoddy interrogation procedures to identify their client as the killer. But prosecutors Leslie Booker and Andrea Austin countered that the bulk of the testimony and physical evidence supported their theory that Davis committed a senseless murder.