FORT WORTH, Texas – A jury began deciding Chante Mallard's (search) punishment Friday after her lawyer argued that drugs clouded her judgment when she let an accident victim die a slow death while lodged in the broken windshield of her car.
Mallard, 27, could receive anything from five years probation to life in prison for murdering Gregory Biggs.
It took less than an hour Thursday for jurors to convict Mallard, who after a night of drinking and using drugs struck Biggs, 37, with her car about 3 a.m. on Oct. 26, 2001. She drove home with the man crumpled in the windshield and left him in her garage to die.
Medical experts testified that Biggs was alive for one or two hours after being hit and probably would have survived had he received medical treatment.
Mallard tearfully told the jury Thursday that she was sorry, adding that she didn't call for help because she was scared and didn't know what to do. But prosecutor Richard Alpert said Friday that the case "is all about selfishness."
"Some people lack the moral fiber to do the right thing," he said. "A man is laying in her car moaning and bleeding and she needs someone to tell her what to do? Any decent person would call for help."
Defense attorney Jeff Kearney told jurors that Mallard would not have left the man to die if she hadn't been under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and Ecstasy (search). "Please give her a chance to show that she can do something good," he urged.
"Please don't throw this life away," he said. "Throwing another life away accomplishes nothing."
While Kearney pleaded for leniency, Alpert said Mallard deserved to spend the rest of her life behind bars.
"If your sentence gives her a chance to see the light of day again she will have gotten away with (murder)," the prosecutor said.
Biggs' son, Brandon, did not ask jurors for a particular sentence but told them he'll never get the chance to share important milestones with his father.
"He'll not be here to see me get married. He'll not be here to watch me grow old and launch out into a profession," he said.
Brandon Biggs testified earlier in the week that his father took medication for bipolar disorder (search) and mild schizophrenia (search). He said Biggs had been homeless for a couple of years after loaning a girlfriend money and then losing his truck and home.
Biggs' battered body was found in a park the day after he was hit. Authorities had no leads in the death until four months later, when one of Mallard's acquaintances called police and said she had talked about the accident at a party.
Officers went to Mallard's house and found the bloodstained, dented car. They also found the passenger seat burned in the back yard.
Mallard pleaded guilty earlier this week to tampering with evidence by burning the bloody car seat. She faces two to 10 years in prison on that charge.
A friend of Mallard's and his cousin pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence by dumping the body. Clete Jackson and Herbert Cleveland received prison sentences of 10 years and nine years, respectively.