Court denies appeal of convicted East Texas murderer - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Court denies appeal of convicted East Texas murderer

Isaiah Christopher Roberts. (Source: Gregg County Jail) Isaiah Christopher Roberts. (Source: Gregg County Jail)
Isaiah Roberts in court. (Pool cam) Isaiah Roberts in court. (Pool cam)
Longview police are on the scene of a shooting in the 300 block of Thelma Street. Longview police are on the scene of a shooting in the 300 block of Thelma Street.
Longview police are on the scene of a shooting in the 300 block of Thelma Street. Longview police are on the scene of a shooting in the 300 block of Thelma Street.

A court has denied an appeal for a man convicted of killing two women in Gregg County.

A Gregg County Jury found Isaiah Christopher Roberts, 32, guilty of capital murder, in April of 2016, for the deaths of Kimberly Rayson and Chanda Martin. Roberts was sentenced to life in prison, with no chance for parole.

After reviewing Roberts motion for appeal, the court concluded that evidence supported the jury's findings of Roberts' guilt for capital murder.

In June of 2014, Roberts shot Rayson, 35, Martin, 38, and a third woman at a home in the 300 block of Thelma Street in Longview. The third victim was transported to the hospital and survived.

Police say that after the shooting Roberts took off in his truck leading law enforcement agencies on a chase that would travel down Highway 271 through Longview and into the Tyler at speeds of over 100 miles per hour.

Roberts based his appeal on four points, including that the jury's guilty verdict was not supported by legally sufficient evidence, saying that the court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence he claimed was obtained from an unlawful seizure.

He also argued that the court erred in overruling his motions for a mistrial - which he said should have been declared because of people in the gallery wearing shirts in support of one of the victims.

Martin and Roberts were married in 2014 and were divorced the same year. Attorneys presented evidence at trial arguing that the murder of Martin was a result of anger and jealousy of a new man. Roberts' older brother testified in court about a text message he received stating that he was going to get rid of the new man in her life.

He also added in the text, "Not just him ... her too." Martin's mother also received a worried text from her daughter, stating that she feared Roberts would "do something to her."  The court also took into account neighbors testimonies, who witnessed the execution-style murders, others that heard gunshots ringing out. 

The court memorandum states that ample evidence established Roberts was the person who murdered Martin and Rayson. Evidence removed from both the crime scene and his truck further supported the jury's findings on the element of the identity as well as testimonies from family, friends, officers, and witnesses at the scene.

Roberts detailed his points of appeal in his appeal.

He argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of an allegedly unlawful seizure of cell phones and other electronics. Specifically, Roberts argued that the warrant allowing the search of his car failed to specify that these items could be seized.

The court argues that photographs taken at the scene demonstrated that a weapon was clearly visible to officers from outside of Roberts' truck window. The vehicle was towed to a secure lot at the Longview Police Department. The vehicle was searched after a warrant was authorized and detectives found "ammunition, weapons, and evidence of involvement in the murder."

A detective testified that a cell phone, iPhone, laptop, and Verizon tablet were all found during the search of the vehicle.  A second warrant was issued so that they could search those items. Nothing from the laptop, tablet, or iPhone was admitted into evidence. 

Roberts also argued that the jury charge was erroneous because it failed to charge the jury on the lesser-included offense of murder. The trial court denied the request, adding " I don't think that's been raised by the evidence."

The appeals court agreed. In order to be entitled to a lesser-included offense instruction, the record must "contain some affirmative evidence that would permit a jury rationally to find that, if a defendant is guilty, he is guilty only of the lesser-included offense."  The court overruled, arguing that the evidence was firmly established that Martin and Rayson were both murdered in the same place at the same time. 

Roberts argued in his appeal that the trial court erred in overruling his various motions for a mistrial. Roberts motioned for a mistrial because of people in the gallery, watching the trial, reportedly wore shirts with a photo and hashtag justice for Kim written on the back. Roberts argued that the shirts could have been leading to a jury.

The state responded by stating that the five individuals wearing shirts were seated in the third row of the audience, and the distance between the third row and the prosecutor made it difficult for the state to see the writing on the shirts. The jury was removed while the audience was seated, and all five individuals wearing the shirts were removed from the courtroom before the jury was brought back in.

Although Roberts motion for mistrial was overruled, he failed to either object on the record or request the immediate remedy of providing an instruction for the jury to disregard the objectionable matter. The record demonstrates that the failure to request an instruction to disregard the t-shirts was the result of a trial strategy because it appeared that the jury may not have actually seen the shirts.

A mistrial is appropriate only when the objectionable event is so inflammatory or pervasive that a curative instruction is not likely to prevent the jury from being unfairly prejudiced against the defendant.

The appellate court concluded the affirmation of the trial court's judgment sustaining the sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole. 

Read more:

Related: Tyler man charged in Longview double murder found guilty by jury

Related: Suspect in double homicide identified after high-speed police chase

Related: Dash cam video shows murder suspect speeding through Tyler

Related: Trial underway for man accused of killing two Longview women

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