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Boating death sentencing trial day 4: Jury gives Hampton life sentence

Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 9:22 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2022 at 1:05 AM CDT

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Thursday was an emotional day for both families in the courtroom as Judge Austin Reeve Jackson read the verdict. However, before the jury’s almost four hour deliberation, they heard closing arguments from attorneys on both sides.

Prosecuting attorney Elizabeth Anderson saying, “We are asking for a life sentence. And why is a life sentence the appropriate amount of punishment for this man? Because he recklessly committed a crime of manslaughter. This was not an accident. Nowhere in this charge does it talk about an accident, this was a crime.”

Defense attorney Mishae Boren said the jury got to hear from Hampton himself.

“He got up here and testified, waived his fifth amendment privilege, he didn’t have to do that. But it’s very important for you to have context,” Boren said. “I told you when we started this, you were probably going to hear from him. That’s a decision he can only make himself, we can’t make that for him.”

The family of Roberto embraced as the verdict was read. A family member of Hampton let out cries. Noah Coltman with prosecution reminded the jury of all the potential this 14-year-old boy had.

“Be a veterinarian, buy a house for his mom, anything you saw in this case make you think that he wasn’t capable of doing that? We are all poorer for the defendant’s actions on June 2, 2019,” Coltman said.

Hampton is sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole. As of Thursday evening, there’s no word yet on when he will be eligible for parole.

9:50 a.m. update - The defense continues its argument for a “just sentence” and calls life in prison a “savage sentence.” They emphasize that giving a sentence in this case will “close the book” on it but it is uncertain if Roberto’s family will be able to achieve closure through it. They ask if a life sentence would help Hampton’s two children. The defense closes its argument by stating that when they first visited Hampton in jail, they saw a man who was “extremely remorseful.”

Prosecutor Noah Coltman gets up to deliver the state’s final closing argument. Coltman states that if the jury gives Hampton life in prison, it would be with the possibility of parole.

“He has an opportunity. That is more than he gave Carlos,” Coltman said. “Despite all the prison sentences that he’s had, he still got out to have an opportunity to rehabilitate himself. He had every opportunity at rehabilitation. He didn’t want it.”

Coltman closes by saying Hampton stole “a son, a brother, that’s what he stole.”

After Coltman closes, the jury is sent off for deliberation.

Closing arguments began Wednesday morning in the sentencing trial of a Tyler man who plead guilty in the 2019 boating-related death of a 14-year-old boy on Lake Palestine.

Jeffery Joe Hampton plead guilty to a charge of manslaughter in connection with a June 2, 2019 incident when Roberto Carlos Bermejo Hernandez died after being struck by Hampton’s boat while playing with friends and family in the water at Lakeway Harbor. Hampton was accused of fleeing the scene after crashing through a dock and pier where Hernandez was playing.

In their initial closing argument, the prosecution stated they wished the jury could have known Roberto through his life and not his death. They began to highlight the charge itself and explained the specifics of how parole would or would not work based on whether the jury found that Hampton used his boat as a deadly weapon. They talked about the reckless manner in which Hampton used his boat and the effect the boat’s propeller had on Roberto. The prosecution believes a life sentence is the appropriate punishment and asked the jury to deliver that.

“It’s a crime, not an accident, using a deadly weapon to kill somebody,” the prosecution said. They continued, emphasizing that Hampton plead guilty and himself stated he was reckless. The prosecution said that despite Hampton’s insistence that the boat wasn’t a deadly weapon because he didn’t intend to kill, the state law still says it is a crime.

As the defense then began its closing argument, they began talking about Hampton’s decision to waive his Fifth Amendment rights and testified to the jury. They emphasized that people who know Hampton testified that he’s not an aggressive person and was attempting to get his life back together before this incident happened. They agreed that Hampton was an inexperienced boater and behaved recklessly.

The defense urged the jury to “seek justice, not revenge.”

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