DA: 'Every trigger pulled was motivated by hate, anger' on Calvert's part
SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The capital murder trial got underway in Smith County Tuesday for an East Texas man accused of murdering his ex-wife and kidnapping their son in October 2012.
Before opening statements began, a plea of not guilty was entered for James Calvert by the Smith County court, after Calvert refused to enter one. Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham began opening statements shortly after Calvert's plea was entered.
Calvert made it clear to the court in March 2015 he intended to pursue an insanity defense. Intentions, Bingham said, Calvert still had, according to paperwork filed with the court, indicating he still may do so.
7ONSCENE: Cody Lillich providing live updates during trial proceedings
Bingham began proceedings with what authorities believe happened the day of October 31, 2012, when Calvert allegedly murder ex-wife Jelena Sriraman. Bingham said Sriraman was visiting with a friend that morning, who stopped by to see her and 4-year-old Lucas. Sometime later, two witnesses claimed they heard gunshots, and saw Calvert leaving the home with their son. Sriraman would later be found dead in the carport.
The first call is placed at 12:08 p.m., Bingham said. "You know where Calvert is? Long gone. You know where Lucas is? Long gone."
Bingham said Calvert likely kicked in the the door and shot her to death.
"In total, he either shot Jelena five or six times."
An autopsy diagram presented to the court showed Sriraman was hit many times in the back. Bingham said she was killed trying to get away.
Eleven hours later, hundreds of miles away in Monroe, Louisiana, Calvert was pulled over "by luck," Bingham said. Tyler City Marshals had pictures of Calvert's car from their license plate readers, but at the time of the arrest, Calvert had changed the plates, possibly to avoid being recognized by the software.
The Smith County DA said inside the car, authorities found Lucas, Sriraman's cell phone, a handgun that matched the weapon that allegedly killed Sriraman, another gun in the floorboard near Lucas' feet, and AR-15 and AK-47 rifles in the trunk.
"I don't try to make sense of it, or try to understand why," Bingham said. "[Jelena] had a life she was living... It was taken from her."
Police also found Calvert's iPad, which an expert for the state used to plot Calvert's movements throughout the day. According to the expert, Calvert avoided Interstate 20, instead traveling through Longview, Jefferson and into Shreveport before stopping to eat. Calvert also took his son Lucas to a festival in Shreveport.
Experts said he often checked for Amber Alerts on his son Lucas while Calvert made his escape.
"He wants to know if, and when, they find out," Bingham said.
Eventually, Calvert made a mistake that would lead to his arrest. While driving through Louisiana, Calvert would pass a West Monroe police officer. In the moments that came after, the capital murder suspect would overshoot his exit on I-20. The officer then initiated a chase.
Bingham said Calvert, during questioning by Tyler Police Department detectives in Louisiana, asked for a plea deal.
"Who gets plea deals?" Bingham said. "People who do something wrong."
Bingham also provided the jury with background between Sriraman and Calvert. Bingham explained to the court that the two met at an internet cafe several years before in Croatia, while on a trip with a friend. The relationship would eventually end, and Sriraman would later remarry her husband, Arvin, in 2012. In October of the same year, she would be awarded the right to leave East Texas, along with her two children.
"She has but 12 days to live," Bingham said, after that verdict.
Bingham presented the jury with Calvert's phone records, detailing phone calls and text messages days before Sriraman's death. Calvert was disagreeing with his ex-wife about the relocation of their children. The conversation ends with Sriraman telling Calvert "You can't control me any longer. I'm finally happy and I'm moving on," according to Bingham.
The two agree Calvert would take the children on Halloween. The night before, Calvert allegedly told his brother to close all Facebook accounts with his son in it. After working out details on the arrangement, Calvert would cancel the visit hours before Sriraman would be fatally shot.
Bingham detailed Sriraman's plans to leave town when her daughter was released from school, and said, "Emily never makes it home before her mom is shot to death."
On more than one occasion, the district attorney appeared choked up as he described the fear Sriraman showed concerning Calvert the day of her death.
Bingham said that he does not plan to call Lucas to testify, but argued the conversations between the boy and his therapist should admissible, given that they were for medical treatment. Despite Calvert's objections, the therapist was allowed to testify for a victim of trauma, according to state law.
On the stand, the doctor said she has been treated Lucas since November 2014. She testified that it was important as part of the child's treatment to determine who killed his mother.
Calvert objected to the therapist's testimony, and asked the court whether it was necessary to hear the doctor's testimony at all, considering his son Lucas could testify on his own behalf. Smith County Judge Jack Skeen overrules the objection, and the case proceeds.
The therapist is once again questioned by Bingham. She said Lucas told her he wanted the truth to be known, that James Calvert killed his mother, Jelena; a decision the boy has struggled with since the alleged murder.
A drawing by Lucas was then presented on the court monitor. The therapist explained the picture is of the day Calvert allegedly murdered Sriraman. The words "pop pop pop" are across the top of the drawing, which the therapist said was the sound the gun made. Another picture, labeled "James killing mom", was also presented to the court. The drawing included stick figures that the therapist said shows Lucas sitting on a couch, watching TV when the shooting occurred.
"They [Calvert's children] are very sad children," the therapist told Bingham. "They talk about profound sadness."
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