AUSTIN, Texas — In day six of testimony in the capital murder trial for the man accused of killing a University of Texas at Austin student in 2016, the suspect took the stand to talk about his troubled childhood and “tell [his] story.”
Twenty-year-old Meechaiel Criner is facing a capital murder charge for the death of Haruka Weiser. She was killed on the UT campus back in April 2016.
After the trial was cut short on Tuesday, court kicked off Wednesday with a document written by the suspect.
The writing said it was for people who like stories about sexual violence.
When Criner was arrested at the Austin shelter he was staying at in 2016, investigators found a tablet in his possession. Prosecutors and defense debated back and forth about the tablet and if it was being used by someone the night Weiser was killed.
During the trial July 18, an investigator showed the jury the document, titled "Enchanting Eyes." It read, "this is only for readers who are 18 or older and likes stories about sex and rape and blood and family sex and more blood." The creator of the story in the document was identified by the investigator as "Mick Criner." Witnesses said that Criner has also referred to himself as “Mick.”
In the tablet were also selfies that appeared to depict Criner.
Before Criner took the stand Wednesday, the judge told him he was "giving up a valuable right to remain silent." Criner decided to take the stand anyway.
"My mother was a horrible parent," Criner said, explaining that he was taken away from his mother during his childhood. He testified that Child Protective Services sent him to live with his grandmother, who then beat him. He said he was removed from her home as well. He then said he went to live with his aunt "for a year or two."
Weiser's father, who was in the courtroom, had his head down through Criner's testimony. He later left the courtroom during his testimony.
Criner said he started getting into a lot of fights in middle school. Criner said, “I hate violence, so I try to stay away from fighting.” He also said he was enrolled in speech therapy and special needs classes.
As he recounted his high school life, Criner laughed and giggled, recalling a time he was arrested for stealing a pair of boots from Wal-Mart.
Criner said he decided to hitchhike to Austin when he was 17-years-old, living in a foster home. James Walters, an officer with Georgetown Police Department, said he ran into Criner on March 23, 2016 at a shell station in Georgetown. Walters said he offered him a ride to Austin and said he had a knife with him. Walters said he took Criner to a hospital, leaving him with some money and a gift card for food.
Criner said that the next day, he started to look for a place to stay. Criner laughed once again when he said he didn’t think to look at a map of Austin when he was confused as to where he was in the city.
“I came across the campus, but I didn't know it was a campus. I thought it was buildings," Criner said, as he walked around the UT campus.
He said he went back to sleep at the garage near the hospital that night.
Criner returned to campus the next day, where he found the UT storage room in the football stadium.
"The place looked like nobody been there for a long while,” Criner said of the storage room.
He said there were a few boxes and a pink lunch box inside. Criner said he slept in the storage room that night.
Criner said he figured someone would kick him out of the storage room the next morning. He said he tried to connect his phone to WiFi and said the name of the WiFi was what made him realize he was at a school. Criner said he left the storage room to find food. He said he found some food, some bags, a basket, a pair of shoes, and some ropes.
“I kept those because I was going to use those to lock the door,” Criner said of the ropes.
Criner recalled two men kicking him out of the storage room. He said he left his two bags. Criner said he left two of his bags and his glasses in the storage room. He said he found the vacant Medical Arts building that night.
“I broke the window,” Criner said, explaining how he got into the building.
Criner excitedly said he found two bikes—one that he said was too small, but he took it anyway. He said he would to try and sell it to someone, and the other bike he said was black with brakes that didn’t work.
Criner added that he also went to the hospital each day to download videos on his phone before heading back to the vacant building.
Criner said on Sunday April 3, the day Weiser died, he got job applications from two places, including the hospital. He said two people tried to mug him while he was searching through a dumpster.
“I have this huge blade,” Criner said.
He said he thinks that made the two people hesitate a bit. Criner said he got on the bike and returned to the vacant building.
Criner then recited his day on Monday, April 4.
"That was supposed to be a good day," Criner said.
Criner said he found a bike and some trash bags. Criner said he found three bags—a black one, a yellow one, and a blue one—along with some clothes and a jacket. In the three bags, he said he found various items, including condoms, gloves, ropes, clothes, a single shoe and a laptop.
Prosecutors said earlier that the blue bag, the laptop, and the shoe all belong to Weiser.
Criner said the bike he found on April 4 is the red one that was still in the courtroom as evidence. He said he also found a shoe, which he "just threw it to the side." Criner said the shoe landed in a fire pit he made.
"At first I didn’t notice, but, yeah, it landed halfway in the fire. I didn’t notice until the smoke started turning black,” Criner said.
Criner said he also found a phone, but it wouldn't turn on and didn't match his chargers. He said he tried to get the sim card out by pulling the back off. When that didn’t work, he said he tried smashing the phone. Criner said the sim card didn't fit his phone, so he said he threw the phone in the fire, too.
Then, that is when Criner recalled meeting the firefighters and police, who testified in court on day three of the trial. Criner continued about police taking him to the youth shelter, Lifeworks, where he said he stayed for a few days. He said he was trying to get a bus pass so that he could return to his stuff at the vacant building. He said he "had to wait at least three or four days."
After that, Criner spoke about being arrested at the shelter.
“I know I’m in jail and all, but that was the most awesome thing that ever happened to me,” Criner said, recounting his arrest.
"Mick, did you kill Haruka Weiser,” the defense asked.
“No sir," Criner replied.
Criner said he did not run into anyone wearing all black on Sunday night and he did not have the red bike yet.
The defense also brought up the glasses found at the crime scene. Criner said the glasses look similar to his. However, he said they are too small and noted his would have bite marks on the ends.
The court then went into a short recess.
After the recess, the prosecution began to question Criner. Prosecutors showed the court a journal, which Criner identified had his handwriting in it. The contents of the journal were sexual and graphic in nature. The prosecution read one of the writings in the journal titled "Therapy Gone Wrong." The story colorfully, and in detail, depicted a rape in which the woman screamed for help multiple times.
“You want us to keep reading this, don’t you?” prosecutors asked Criner.
“I’m just trying to figure you out,” Criner replied.
The graphic nature of the writing caused people in the courtroom to cringe, KVUE's Molly Oak reported.
Criner said he got inspiration from his stories after watching porn.
"So all we have to decide is if you're the person who did it," prosecutors said.
"Pretty much, but I don't like my odds," Criner replied.
The state passed the witness to the defense, and Criner was eventually taken off the stand.
“Are you serious? That’s it,” Criner said when he finished.
Testimony on July 17 centered around physical evidence that was uncovered in the investigation. Hair that may have belonged to Weiser and was found on a T-shirt in Criner's belongings was shown to the jury. It's the first DNA evidence the jury has seen.
The defense will present more evidence on Thursday. Court will resume at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
The case is expected to go to the jury this week.
Reporter Molly Oak is reporting from the courtroom. Follow her on Twitter for live updates.