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Sentencing phase continues in Calvert capital murder trial

Published: Oct. 6, 2015 at 1:15 PM CDT|Updated: Oct. 6, 2015 at 10:16 PM CDT
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SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Editor's note: KLTV's Kim Leoffler is in the courtroom. Get live updates from the trial here.

The punishment phase in a trial for convicted murderer James Calvert entered Day 2 on Tuesday.

This past week, Smith County jurors found Calvert guilty of killing his ex-wife Jelena Sririman at a Tyler home back in 2012. The prosecution began presenting their case Monday. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against James Calvert.

Read More: Jury finds James Calvert guilty of capital murder

Tuesday in court, prosecutors called David Logan to the stand. Logan was a guard at the Mark Stiles Unit in Beaumont.

Logan, who did not appear to know Calvert, discussed a makeshift handcuff key and razor found in Calvert's cell, adding that they could be a concern for guards. He was also questioned by the defense before stepping down.

The State then called Warden Stephen Bryant to the stand.

Bryant, who also did not appear to know Calvert, said that Calvert could work outside the prison fences with just an armed guard separating him from the public. He echoed Logan's beliefs, saying that the razor blade and handcuff key are a threat to the society within the prison.

After Bryan was allowed to step down, the state called Larry Wiginton to the stand. Wiginton worked with Calvert in the Smith County Jail and described the convicted murderer as "a dangerous inmate" because staff never knew what he was going to do. The officer said it was one of the reasons why he never released Calvert into general population; often times he thought the inmate was trying to escape with a makeshift handcuff key.

The defense took exception to this and asked the officer where the key was for examination purposes. Wiginton said he did not know where the key was but agreed with Cassel that the jury should be able to inspect it to draw their own conclusions. Wiginton also confirmed that Calvert never physically hurt an officer or tired to incite inmates to do something, but often helped inmates with legal matter, which could be considered theft from the county because of the resources used.

The next two witnesses called for the state were two of the officers responsible for Calvert while he's been in court. Officer Ricky Vandergriff was called first.

Vandergriff started by describing his time with Calvert, calling him "uncooperative", and described moments when Calvert would make comments like "Well if I do this, what are they going to do?" He also said Calvert would tell him not to "put your hands on me again" when he tried to escort him in court. The defense passed on cross-examination, and Vandergriff was allowed to step down.

Officer Ronald Sheffield was then called to the stand. Sheffield was also responsible for Calvert and spoke about the difficulty during the pre-trial and trial proceedings. Sheffield said Calvert was not compliant with Judge Jack Skeen during "every single hearing." He also recalled a moment when Calvert was being transported to the courtroom and his papers got wet from the rain. Sheffield said Calvert screamed "You're getting my defense wet" and later threatened to sue him.

Sheffield said one moment in October he tried to put a belt with cuffs on Calvert, but he wouldn't let him. Sheffield said he had to shock him to get them on. And that wasn't the last time Sheffield was forced to use the shock bracelet; he also recalled the last day Calvert represented himself. When he would not stand to address the judge, Sheffield was ordered to administer the shock bracelet.

The state then showed video from Oct. 9, 2014; the first time Calvert was shocked by the ankle cuff. They continued to show multiple videos while Calvert was representing himself when he was being disrespectful to the judge. In one video from February 5, 2015, Calvert can be heard asking Judge Skeen, "Are you going to rule on it right now? Yes or no?"

Many of you have been asking just how much this case is costing the county. According to the Smith County Auditor, as of September 30, 2015, this case cost $471,819.21. The most expensive components of the case were the statement of facts ($88,946.59), expert testimony ($111,858.69), and the prosecution expense (149,005.59).

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