SMITH COUNTY (KYTX) - Dr. Bobby Nichols was sentenced to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine by a Smith County jury Thursday afternoon.
On Wednesday, Nichols was found guilty of murdering his wife, Rosalind.
TYLER (KYTX) -- The punishment phase in the murder trial for former dentist Dr. Bobby Nichols started Thursday morning. Nichols was convicted of first degree murder Wednesday night for killing his wife Rosalind on June 29, 2012.
Prosecutors called Lee Ann Rozell, the custodian of records at Southside Bank, to testify.
Rozell identified a copy of Nichols' banking records as being an accurate representation of his finances. She certified for the court that Nichols wrote a check for $103 to Tucker's Beverages in Winona while the murder case was pending. Prosecutors said that was in violation of Nichols' bond.
The state's next witness was Emily McKinley. McKinley is the inventory manager of Tucker's Beverages. She said Nichols was in the store again on Saturday, January 19, 2013.
The state's next witness was Jenn Alderson. Alderson manages Tucker's Beverages.
Alderson said Nichols made purchases on Saturday, January 19. She said Nichols bought a 1.75 liter bottle of Smirnoff and a 1 liter bottle of Canadian whiskey. She said he paid in cash.
The state rested without mention of a note police found in the Nichols' kitchen the night Rosalind was murdered. The note read "I want to kill you" and has been a contentious issue throughout the trial. It has not been made clear in hearings, which have always been conducted outside the presence of the jury, who wrote the note.
It has never been introduced into evidence.
The defense's first witness was Antoinette McGarrahan.
McGarrahan had previously testified in the case regarding a decline in Nichols' "executive functioning." She said the purchase on Saturday was indicative of that as well as Nichols' alcohol addiction.
"[Nichols] would be at a low risk for repeating acts of violence," McGarrahan said.
Assistant District Attorney Jason Parrish asked if the alcohol purchase could also be attributed to stress and a lack of caring.
"I think a lot of factors were probably involved in that decision," she said.
Parrish then asked McGarrahan her thoughts on Nichols' purchase of an erection enhancement device following his wife's death. McGarrahan said people who suffer from Parkinson's Disease do exhibit erectile dysfunction.
Defense attorney Bradley Lollar called Charles Martin. Martin first met Nichols in high school.
"What do you think about him?" Lollar asked.
"I think something just happened to him that could happen to any of us," he said. "We're all human."
Parrish asked how often Martin saw Nichols. He said it was approximately every two months, and that Rosalind was usually there as well.
Parrish asked if Martin was aware that Nichols smoked marijuana ten years ago, and whether he was aware that Nichols would abuse nitrous oxide at his dental clinic. Martin said he was unaware and did not approve.
"Is it fair to say there are things you don't know about him?" Parrish asked.
"I would assume so," Martin said.
The defense's next witness was Saundra Liveris. Liveris is Nichols' daughter.
"My father, my dad, has always been loving, kind and gentle with me," she said. "He's held me up during tough times."
"How was your relationship with Rosalind?" Lollar asked.
"Since my dad and she married she never really accepted me," she said. "She never really understood me and I think she resented my dad taking care of me while I was hospitalized."
"A few days after I [began staying in their home] Rosalind was packing my bags," she said. "[Rosalind] wanted me out."
Lollar asked about the death of Rosalind's son in a car accident. Liveris said she came to Tyler to attempt to comfort her step mother.
"She acted like I wasn't in the room," Liveris said. "I tried to give her a hug and she just pushed me away."
Liveris said she would avoid seeing her father to prevent conflict with Rosalind.
"Have you ever known your father to be violent?" Lollar asked.
"Never," she said.
Liveris said she was "in disbelief, shocked and horrified" when she heard Nichols shot Rosalind.
The defense rested.
With the jury out of the courtroom the state objected to the potential inclusion of an allowance for a "sudden moment of passion" finding on the part of the jury. That finding would essentially lessen Nichols' actions to a second degree felony, limiting prison time to a maximum of twenty years.
Citing prior court rulings, Assistant District Attorney argued that there was no evidence supporting that Nichols was under the immediate influence of sudden passion.
"There was no physical contact here," Vance said. "She yelled at him and hurt his little feelings."
"He had time to think about it," Vance said. "All we have on the record to indicate sudden passion is [Nichols] claiming he was in a fog and didn't know what he was doing."
Lollar asked the court to consider Nichols' 911 call and subsequent police interviews. Lollar said the fact that a protracted argument resulted in Rosalind throwing Nichols out of the house was enough to justify the sudden passion finding.
"Surely it should be up to the jury and not the state to decide," Lollar said.
"It's not my opinion," Vance said. "It's the Court of Criminal Appeals' opinion."
Vance said it has to be up to the court to decide whether the charge is included as a special issue in the instructions to the jury for deliberations.
Judge Kerry Russell decided the sudden passion charge was appropriate in Nichols' case and agreed to include it in the instructions to the jury.
Vance began his closing argument by telling the jury that he's unapologetically passionate about the punishment for Nichols' actions.
"That guilty verdict carries no weight without the appropriate sentence to go with it," Vance said. "The sentence gives it legs. Nothing says more about the standards and values of community than what they give a someone who takes the life of a human being."
Vance asked the jury not to think about Nichols, but about Rosalind instead.
"The only way to make it clear...that its disgusting and unacceptable is to give him a life sentence," Vance said. "Give him what he took from Rosalind Nichols."
Vance said nothing would send a stronger message to the community than a life sentence.
"Every step you take down from there tells Bobby Nichols that there's something about what he did that you're okay with," Vance said.
Vance argued that the jury shouldn't consider the argument that Nichols was under the influence of sudden passion.
"What about the hour while that gun was in the drawer? Wasn't that time for cool reflection?" Vance asked. "This is a predator who stalked his prey to the point where she couldn't do anything."
Vance said testimony about Nichols having Parkinson's Disease was only evidence that he's more dangerous than he would be otherwise.
"He's 75 years old," Vance said. "What does he have to lose?"
Vance reminded the jury that Nichols bought liquor in violation of his bond conditions.
"Do you know who that's a slap in the face to? Each one of you," Vance said. "There's no character in a cold-blooded killer."
Lollar then began his own closing argument on behalf of the defense by thanking jurors for their service.
"I appreciate Mr. Vance's passion. I do," Lollar said. "But I want you to consider the testimony you've heard over the last two weeks."
Lollar said the jury faces a very broad range of punishment options.
"The legislature anticipated that there are many different circumstances under which one human being kills another human being."
Lollar recounted testimony from a slate if character witnesses that Nichols is a respected man with a "sterling reputation" in the Tyler community.
"He has a reputation for being a peaceful man," Lollar said. "A law abiding citizen."
Lollar asked the jury to balance the bad and the good of Nichols' life when coming up with his sentence. He reminded the jury of Nichols' frail health, including Parkinson's and a heart problem.
"This crime certainly was a crime of passion," Lollar said. "This was not the type of offense that was planned for a long time, thought out."
Lollar argued that Nichols has been honest from the beginning about his inability to remember the events surrounding the murder of his wife.
"I think those interviews at that time show you that he was under the influence of sudden passion that night," Lollar said.
Lollar argued that Nichols is a person if ordinary temper who finally broke under the stress of fighting with his wife.
"The state asked why didn't Dr. Nichols leave that night," Lollar said. "Well I say why didn't Rosalind leave?"
Lollar argued that the murder may never have happened if Rosalind had not been drinking that night. He also said Nichols decision to turn himself in that night "should count for something in the sentencing."
"Bob Nichols was an abused spouse," Lollar said.
Lollar argued that Nichols health will prevent him from being a problem in prison, or in life.
"I have been privileged to come to know Dr. Nichols," Lollar said. "I hope you'll give him a five year sentence. And if anyone asks you why you did it, you say you have sat through two weeks of a trial and you believe he was an abused spouse."
Vance resumed his argument by reminding the jury not to "become Bobby Nichols." He asked the jury whether they thought a person of normal temper would have killed their wife that night or simply gotten in their car to leave.
Vance took issue with Lollar's suggestion that Nichols was an abused husband.
"Can you imagine sending that message? "If your spouse or girlfriend says mean things to you, kill them,'" Vance said. "It would be open season!"
Vance said the jury should not listen to Lollar's efforts to "blame the victim" by denouncing Risalind's drinking that night.
Vance said Liveris was another victim of her father's crime.
"If he really loved her, he would have left that night," Vance said.
"And [Lollar] said this wasn't thought out," Vance said. "Really? Then why did [Nichols] tell police he'd been thinking about this for years?"
Vance asked the jury to take a minute and think silently about how Rosalind must have felt as she bled out in her living room.
"For every minute that she spent dying, you use that minute to fight for a life sentence," Vance said.