Judge to decide sentence for Yazdi



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Posted on November 19, 2013 at 12:17 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 19 at 11:13 PM

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Texas -- A judge in Williamson County will decide a convicted murderer's punishment this week.

After days of testimony and a postponement, Fred Yazdi's sentencing began Tuesday morning.

Yazdi's parole officer testified first saying Yazdi was a complicated person but a good man and good father.

Yazdi also took the stand Tuesday, providing emotional testimony in his defense. He talked about shooting Texas State University student Enrique Recio in February of 2012.

"I never meant for him to die. I had nothing against him. I did not know him," said Yazdi, crying on the stand. 

When Judge Bert Richardson called on Yazdi to testify, he discussed his background. He told the court that he moved to the U.S. in 1982. He also said he wanted to go to law school, but didn't have the money or the desire to pursue it, so he began working security jobs. That's when he learned how to use a gun.

Yazdi told the court that in one instance, he helped the Houston Police Department apprehend a burglary suspect. When asked how that night was different than the night in question, he said he was not sleepy. He was able to see the suspect in full daylight and did not have to fire his gun.

Yazdi got emotional when asked why he quit a job working with juvenile offenders, saying he felt many of the kids were minorities and "destined to be in that environment." He said he could not handle it.

A large number of family members were in the courtroom, including Yazdi's father who is very ill, and his mother who could be heard crying before the session started.

Last month Yazdi waived his right to let a jury decide his punishment. That means the chance to downgrade the charges from first degree murder to second degree murder under the "sudden passion" defense was taken off the table. That charge would've allowed Yazdi a lesser punishment.

"With the removal of the jury, the judge can already take into account sudden passion. He's heard all of the evidence that the jury heard. He knows even additional information that the lawyers know, and he can take all of that into account," said Yazdi's defense attorney Keith Hampton.

Late last month the jury found Yazdi guilty of shooting and killing 23-year-old Enrique Recio in February 2012. It happened after Recio crashed his car near Yazdi's home and approached the house.

Yazdi's legal team claims Yazdi believed Recio wanted to rob him and acted in self defense.

Prosecutors disagree, saying Recio was shot once as he tried to run away, and twice more as he lay on the ground. On the stand Tuesday, Yazdi disputed that fact.

"The prosecutor told the jury I fired first, and then I went over the fence and point my gun at him and killed him. It wasn’t like that. I was at the same place when I fired all three times," said Yazdi on the stand.

Recio's father, Henry Recio, also took the stand, telling the judge his life was ruined the day his son died and Yazdi should pay.

"It was just the, the worst day of our lives," Recio said. "I remember clearly on Saturday night I get the call from the bond service and the murderer was already out and I hadn't even seen my son yet."

Defense attorney Bob Phillips urged the judge to consider Yazdi's elderly father and the rest of his family and to be lenient.

"Even if you give him the minimum of 5 years, it is extremely unlikely that this 80 year old, afflicted man will ever see his son again," Phillips said as Yazdi and his father cried.

In her closing arguments, Prosecutor Lytza Bragg described Yazdi as a "ticking time bomb" who neighbors still fear.

"The making gun motions to people, approaching people in the middle of Avery Ranch, proclaiming himself the 'Avery Ranch Killer,'" said Bragg.

"To say that he is no longer a danger or a low danger to the community is laughable," she added.

Yazdi's first degree murder conviction carries a possible sentence of five to 99 years in prison.

The judge is expected to hand down Yazdi's punishment at 9 a.m. Wednesday.