Grandparents sentenced to 25 years by Smith County jury

Published: Oct. 3, 2012 at 1:41 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 3, 2012 at 10:50 PM CDT
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TYLER, TX (KLTV) - After nearly five hours of jury deliberation, Kenneth Walker and Shelley Walker each received a 25 year sentence on the charge of injury to a child, causing serious bodily injury.

The Walkers were arrested in March and accused of scalding their two-year-old granddaughter's feet with hot bath water. The girl sustained second degree burns.

The defense and prosecution made their final arguments Wednesday morning.

The defense asked for a probation term of 10 years or less. Defense attorney Cameron Castleberry says the Walkers' granddaughter will one day grow up and be glad to know the jury gave her grandparents a chance.

The State asked for life in prison. The State told the jury they are sending a message to the community with their sentence, and the little girl and the community deserve to know hurting a child is worth life in prison.

Shelley Walker's son took the stand in an effort to spare his mother and step-father from going to prison. That son told the jury neither Shelley nor Kenneth were ever violent or aggressive throughout his childhood. He said they were loving and caring parents.

Before attorneys made their arguments on sentencing, 241st District Court Judge Jack Skeen Jr. addressed an issue that surfaced late Tuesday evening.

The 241st District Court bailiff was informed Tuesday of a statement a juror heard.

That juror was brought in and put on the witness stand. The juror said he was standing outside of the jury room, right by the women's restroom. He said he had just received his phone back after returning a verdict in the Walker trial and as he was checking his email he heard a young lady say shaking her head, "Sorry excuse for people. You should all be shot."

He said the woman wasn't looking him in the eye when she made the statement, but she said it loud enough and in their direction as of she intended for him to hear her.

The juror said he did not know who the woman was, but he knew she was in the courtroom when the verdict was read.

The juror said the other jurors didn't seem to be threatened by the statement. He said they seemed to understand that this was just the reaction of an upset family member.

The juror said the jurors do not believe Kenneth or Shelley Walker had anything to do with the statement and would not hold the statement against the Walkers in sentencing.

Defense attorney Scott Ellis said he'd like to have every jury member questioned individually by the judge to be sure they are not going to consider the statement by the family member in their deliberations when it comes to sentencing.

District Attorney Matt Bingham suggested bringing the other jurors in the courtroom and asking them a condensed version of the questions the first juror was asked. Bingham said he understood why Mr. Ellis would want the other jurors questioned and he didn't have a problem with it.

Judge Jack Skeen Jr. called jurors into the courtroom one by one.

After every juror told the judge they wouldn't hold the statement against the Walkers in sentencing, defense attorney Cameron Castleberry motioned for a mistrial. Judge Skeen denied the motion.

A 5 minute recess was called, then the sentencing phase began.

The Walkers will have to serve at least twelve and a half years, half of their sentence, before becoming eligible for parole. At that time Kenneth Walker would be 67 years old and Shelley Walker would be 72 years old. The Walkers' attorneys said it was likely the Walkers would pursue an appeal.

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