Prosecutors beginning Tuesday will seek the death penalty for two men — one accused of bludgeoning two Baytown teens before leaving their bodies in a burning house, the other accused of two north Houston robberies that turned into fatal shootings.
Jurors have been selected to hear weeks of testimony in two Harris County courtrooms before deciding the fates of Joseph Francois Jean and Teddrick Batiste.
In opening arguments Tuesday, prosecutors are expected to tell jurors that Jean, 38, told police that he had used a baseball bat to kill two teenage girls after sneaking into his ex-girlfriend's home in April 2010.
Jean said he went through an unsecured window of Victoria Wiley's townhouse, according to court documents. Jean said he was dousing the hallway with gasoline when one of the teens came out of a bathroom, startling him. He knocked that girl down and got a baseball bat.
He told police he "blacked out" and did not remember anything after that, investigators said.
Wiley's 17-year-old daughter, Chelsey Lang, and her 16-year-old cousin, Ashley Johnson, were found in the home after firefighters extinguished the blaze.
The girls were home alone for a sleepover. Wiley and her 15-year-old son, Naquiel, stayed with friends and family.
Jerald Graber, one of Jean's attorneys, said Jean maintains his innocence and will plead not guilty.
"He says he didn't do it," Graber said. He said Jean is anxious about the two-week trial.
"For anyone facing a trial, it's nerve-wracking, but especially for someone who's looking at the death penalty if the jury convicts him," Graber said.
Investigators said Jean stalked and harassed Wiley for years after she ended their two-year relationship in 2006.
That harassment included Jean taking clothes, jewelry and purses from Wiley's house and burning them, just after the relationship ended.
Days later, Jean beat Wiley for calling the police, according to police reports.
Let out of prison early
He later pleaded guilty to attempted burglary and retaliation in exchange for a three-year prison sentence. He was behind bars about a month before being released on mandatory supervision.
Wiley told police he soon began harassing her with text messages and phone calls.
Jean later pleaded guilty to "harassing communications" and was sentenced to 10 days in jail. His parole also was revoked. He was sent back to prison.
Nine months before the double homicide, he was again let out early.
Jean has been charged with more than 25 crimes, including drug possession and assault, beginning in 1990. His capital murder trial is expected to last about two weeks.
Shooting, police chase
On June 6, Teddrick Batiste is expected face a three-week death penalty trial, accused of shooting Horace Holiday and stealing his Cadillac for the chrome rims.
Batiste, 23, is accused of killing Holiday at a gas station near Aldine Mail Route and Eastex Freeway about 3 a.m. April 19, 2009.
Driving the victim's car, Batiste led police on a chase north on Eastex Freeway before the vehicle was stopped with spike strips, authorities said.
Batiste also was implicated in the robbery and shooting death of a tattoo parlor owner a month earlier.
Another murder charge
Batiste and Leon Thompson III, 21, were charged with capital murder, accused in the April 8, 2009, fatal shooting of parlor owner Steve Robbins at the Black Widow in the 2000 block of Mangum.
Charges against Thompson are pending. He remains in the Harris County Jail without bail.
If Batiste is convicted of Holiday's murder, jurors could hear evidence about the tattoo parlor shooting in the punishment phase, said Assistant Harris County District Attorney Traci Bennett.
Batiste's attorneys did not return calls for comment.
Five people have been sentenced to death since Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos took office in January 2008.
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