RALEIGH (WTVD) --After a one-day delay caused by winter weather, a Wake County jury heard closing arguments Tuesday in the trial of a man accused of beating and stabbing a Raleigh mother to death and returned a guilty verdict after just an hour and a half of deliberations. It's a death penalty case, so the jury will next be asked to consider whether Travion Smith should be executed.
The death-penalty phase will begin at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning. ABC11 will have a live stream available.
Smith was accused, along with two other suspects, of the murder of 30-year-old Melissa Huggins-Jones, who was found by her 8-year old daughter beaten and stabbed to death inside their North Hills apartment in May 2013.
In her closing argument, defense attorney Phoebe Dee told jurors there are some facts in the case that are not in dispute. She said Smith was with Ronald Anthony Jr. and Sarah Redden in the neighborhood breaking into cars on the night of the murder.
She called Huggins-Jones' murder "brutal" and "senseless". She was "beaten to death over some stuff," said Dee.
But she said Smith did not kill her and he and Redden "were just there."
She described Smith as being someone who was heavily under the influence of Anthony, who she said has an outsized personality.
She also admitted that Smith was not completely truthful with police during a 7-hour interrogation.
"Did he tell the whole truth to the police? No," said Dee.
In his closing, prosecutor Jason Waller told jurors Smith and Anthony climbed up to a second-floor balcony and got in to Huggins-Jones' apartment through a sliding door. Redden allegedly acted as lookout.
Waller attacked the defense idea that Smith was under Anthony's influence.
"Where is the evidence that Ronald Anthony made Travion Smith do anything," he asked.
Waller also pointed out that Smith told others details about the case that only someone in the room would know. He said Smith was the first to hit Huggins-Jones to keep her from screaming.
Smith did not testify in his murder trial and the defense did not put on evidence - instead asking Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway to dismiss the charges. The request was denied.
Smith's decision not to take the witness stand in his defense came after the prosecution rested Friday morning following a state medical examiner's testimony about the wounds Melissa Huggins-Jones endured before her death.
Medical Examiner Lauren Scott told the courtroom that it would have taken several minutes to an hour for Huggins-Jones to die, and that she would have been aware she was dying.
Last September, Anthony pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The plea deal spared him the death penalty.
Charges against Redden, who agreed to testify against Smith, remain.
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