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Guilty Verdict in Windshield Case

June 27, 2003|Lianne Hart | Times Staff Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas — A Texas jury on Thursday took less than an hour to convict Chante Mallard of murdering a homeless man she struck with her car and left to die in her garage as he dangled from the shattered windshield. At the sentencing hearing after the verdict, Mallard, 27, apologized and accepted responsibility for her actions. She did not testify during the trial.

Mallard, a nurse's aide, said that a half-tablet of Ecstasy she took hours before the crash affected her judgment. "I was scared and didn't know what to do," she cried. "I couldn't think and do the right thing.

"I have ruined the lives of other people. I have put people through pain. I am so sorry," she said. Mallard said she doesn't deserve probation. "I do feel like I need to be punished," she said.

In closing statements Thursday, prosecutor Christy Jack said Mallard was guilty of murder because she failed to stop and get medical help after hitting Gregory Glenn Biggs, 37, on a Fort Worth freeway in the early morning hours of Oct. 26, 2001.

Had Mallard sought aid, Biggs could have survived his injuries, Jack said. Instead, Mallard left him alone in her garage, "turned off the lights, shut the door and left him to die. It was Greg Biggs' darkest night."

Defense attorney Jeff Kearney argued that the crash was an accident and Mallard was too impaired by drugs to act responsibly. He also said prosecution witnesses were not credible.

The prosecution's blood-splatter expert had scant credentials, Kearney said. Mallard's confession was taken by a police veteran who interviewed a frightened Mallard without witnesses, he said. Prosecution testimony was questionable, and "we're not at a point where we start guessing people into the penitentiary," Kearney said.

Mallard's testimony at the sentencing hearing Thursday mostly mirrored the story that her friend Titilesee "T" Fry told the jury during the trial. Fry got immunity from prosecution in return for testimony against Mallard.

On the night of the crash, Mallard said, she and Fry partied for most of the night, sharing a tablet of Ecstasy, smoking marijuana and drinking at Joe's Big Bamboo Club.

Mallard said the Ecstasy affected her more profoundly than it had the one other time she had taken the drug. "I was real loose. I had no control over myself," she said.

After the club closed, Fry got behind the steering wheel of Mallard's gold 1997 Chevy Cavalier while Mallard sat in the passenger seat. Fry drove to her own house and went inside. Mallard moved to the driver's side and headed toward the freeway.

As she rounded a curve that connected one freeway to another, "I hit Mr. Biggs," said Mallard, crying. She said she didn't see him walking along the freeway. "When I hit him there was a loud noise and all this glass started flying in the car. There was a lot of wind."

As Biggs flew through the windshield, "I never saw his face," Mallard said. "He was on the floor, underneath the dashboard on the passenger side. One leg was, like, somewhat out of the front glass, from the crease of the knee down." Mallard said she was screaming and crying. "I didn't know what to think. I was scared and asking God to tell me what to do," she said.

Mallard exited the freeway, and stopped, she said. At some point, she said, she walked around to the passenger side of the car toward Biggs. "I touched his leg for half a second and I started yelling and screaming again," she said.

Mallard said she doesn't remember getting back into the car, but found herself driving again when she heard Biggs moan. "It was the first time I heard him," she said.

As she drove toward her home, it never occurred to her to stop at a nearby fire station or call the police on a pay phone at a convenience store, Mallard said. When she pulled into her garage, "all I could see was his backside. His legs were in and crossed over each other. I ain't ever seen nothing like that before; I ain't never seen no one like that before," she said, sobbing.

Mallard said she stumbled into the house and called Fry. She didn't call her parents or her brother, who is a firefighter and an emergency medical technician. "They would have been so ashamed of me," she said. "I was scared to tell my family."

Fry drove to Mallard's house and took a look in the garage while Mallard continued to cry in the living room. The pair decided to go back to Fry's house, said Mallard.

There, Mallard called a former boyfriend, Clete Jackson. "I told him I had an accident and hurt someone." Back at Mallard's house, Jackson went into the garage and "he freaked out," said Mallard.

Jackson testified during the trial that he and a friend pulled Biggs's body out of the windshield, wrapped him in a blanket and dumped him in a nearby park. Jackson and his friend pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and were sentenced to prison.

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