Jury gives Husband two life sentences in killing of Wiggins police officers

Published 5:48 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A jury Monday ordered Ronald Husband to serve two life terms in prison, sparing the Maxie man convicted of killing two Wiggins police officers the death penalty.

The jury took a little more than an hour to decide Husband’s fate and handed the sentences down at about 6:30 p.m. after a day of harrowing testimony and a twist.

Husband was convicted Saturday of killing Wiggins patrolmen Odell Fite, 48, and Brandon Breland, 23.

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They died from gunshot wounds after they responded to a domestic violence call at a Stone County home. Husband, while resisting arrest, managed to grab one of the officer’s guns and used it to shoot and kill both men. The trial was moved to Meridian because of pretrial publicity.

The surprise came when the jury’s unidentified forewoman sent the judge a note before testimony in the sentencing phase began. She told Circuit Judge Roger T. Clark that she was wavering on her decision to convict Husband, 48, after rethinking evidence presented last week.

Defense attorney Allison Steiner called for a mistrial, according to The Meridian Star, while prosecutor Chris Schmidt urged Clark to ignore the juror’s second thoughts.

Clark denied Steiner’s motion and dismissed the juror for the penalty phase. Two other jurors were replaced by alternates for unrelated reasons.

“Even though a juror now has second thoughts about her participation in the verdict, the verdict was rendered, it has been entered into court records and accepted by the circuit court clerk,” Clark said. “She was polled along with all the other jurors at the time of the verdict and at no time did she voice any concerns.”

The prosecutor called just one witness Monday. Frances Arnold, who testified against her former friend last week, told jurors that Husband attempted to rape her, which led her to call for help.

The rape allegation and Husband’s history of violent felonies, including sexual battery and aggravated assault, were not allowed during the trial and came as new information to jurors.

Steiner called Husband’s pastor, wife and mother to the stand to try and save Husband from the death penalty.

“Spare my husband’s life,” Husband’s wife, Teresa, pleaded.