Jury deliberating sentence in Huston-Tillotson student murder

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist SCOTT McKENNEY

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on November 8, 2013 at 9:22 PM

Updated Friday, Nov 8 at 9:40 PM

AUSTIN -- A Travis County jury started deliberating the murder sentence of Kaitlyn Ritcherson, 21,  just before 6:00 p.m. Friday.

Ritcherson was found guilty of murder for the December 2011 stabbing death of 21-year old Fatima Barrie. The two women, who did not know each other, got into a fight outside of a club in Downtown Austin. Ritcherson stabbed Barrie in the heart.

Ritcherson's lawyers argued that she was acting in self defense but after nine hours of deliberations, the jury found her guilty Thursday.

Friday, the sentencing hearing began.

"This is going to be about not just what she did that night, but who she is. Because you're going to hear in this portion of the trial this wasn't her first time with a knife," Travis County Prosecutor Meg McGee told jurors. 

Jurors heard nearly eight hours of testimony.

The focus Friday morning was on an incident in 2009. A then 16-year old Ritcherson got into an argument with her mother and older brother. At some point during the argument, she pulled a knife out of the kitchen on her brother.

The prosecution called both Ritcherson's mother and brother to the stand.

"It was early morning and Kaitlyn wanted to leave the house to go get something to eat and I told her no she could not go and so we argued about that," said Patrica Ritcherson, Kaitlyn's mother. 

Patricia Ritcherson said her daughter, who was on juvenile probation at the time, had a curfew. She went on to say they pushed and shoved each other. So she called her son, Donald or DJ, downstairs to help restrict Kaitlyn and keep her from leaving.

"We started arguing," said Donald Ritcherson.

"Who started arguing," asked Travis County Prosecutor Gary Cobb.

"Me and my sister," Donald Ritcherson answered. "And then we were moving from room to room somehow we ended in the kitchen. That's where she grabbed the knife."

Donald said their mother got in between her children and he was able to take the knife from his sister.

Kaitlyn Ritcherson called 911 after the incident and told officers her brother hit her. Both Patricia and Donald denied that. Kaitlyn Ritcherson was arrested that morning. 

Prosecutors also pointed out that Ritcherson took a knife to junior high school and took her mother's car without permission.

The state also called Barrie's mother, Patricia Davis, to the stand. She told jurors her daughter's death is like a bad dream and that she misses her very much.

After lunch, the defense called Patricia Ritcherson back to the stand. She became emotional when telling jurors all she'd done to keep her daughter on the right track.

She told jurors Kaitlyn's behavior changed after Patrica and her husband divorced and that things got worse after Kaitlyn's father died.  Doctors put her on anti-anxiety and depression medication.

During Cobb's cross examination, Patricia, Kaitlyn, people watching the trial and most of the jurors started crying.

"You've done everything you can to keep your daughter from doing bad haven't you," Cobb asked Ritcherson.

"Yes," she replied.

"Would it be fair to say your efforts have failed," Cobb said.

"I  would say she's not made the best choices to this point," Ritcherson responded, crying.

The court had to briefly recess.

Ritcherson faces between 5-99 years in prison. During closing arguments, her attorney, Charlie Baird, asked jurors to be lenient, telling them Ritcherson was acting in self defense.

McGee argued that the incident with Ritcherson's brother was a "dress rehearsal" for the stabbing of Barrie.

She also mocked Ritcherson for crying, saying she was "crying on cue."

In his final argument, Cobb asked the jury to sentence Ritcherson to no less than 35 years in prison.

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