The victim’s family cried. Jurors cried; but Joshua P. Stephenson did not.
A Lubbock County jury on Wednesday sentenced the 21-year-old Idalou man to life in prison for raping an 87-year-old woman in her home earlier this year.
After deliberating for more than an hour and a half with his fellow jurors, one juror wiped tears from his red eyes as Judge Jim Bob Darnell read the sentence sending Stephenson away for what prosecutors Matt Powell and Sunshine Stanek said was one of the worst crimes they had ever seen.
“It was a brutal, brutal crime and very deserving of a life sentence,” Stanek said following the trial.
Stephenson shocked his attorney Tuesday when he unexpectedly pleaded guilty at what was to be the start of the guilt/innocence phase of his trial.
But defense attorney Marvin Williams was not shocked by the jury’s verdict in the ensuing punishment phase.
“I was not surprised about it, taking into consideration the age of the victim,” Williams said.
Stephenson planned to appeal the sentence.
He pleaded guilty to breaking into the woman’s home in the 4300 block of 63rd Street and forcibly raping her.
Jurors saw evidence the rape occurred hours after Stephenson broke in and stole the woman’s ATM card.
He tried to use the card and returned to rape the woman, evidence showed.
The mother, grandmother and great-grandmother suffered severe trauma from the rape and required stitches to repair the damage Stephenson caused.
He was already in jail for using her ATM card when DNA evidence linked him to the rape.
From the onset of the trial, prosecutors said they would ask for a life sentence and asked jurors repeatedly during closing arguments to send Stephenson away for life.
Williams asked only that the jury take its time deciding what to do with his client.
“Don’t go back there and just make a knee-jerk reaction,” Williams said. “Go back there and think about things.”
Powell walked to a large dry-erase board and wrote the word “rape” in large letters.
“ ‘Rape’ — some of you can’t even look at the word,” he said. “Can you imagine going through it. Can you imagine enduring it.”
Powell chronicled the degrading and demeaning process a rape victim goes through, ending his summation with a photograph of the now-88-year-old woman projected in front of the court.
At least two jurors were crying when the jury returned after about an hour and 40 minutes.
A family member read a letter the victim wrote Stephenson after the sentence was handed down.
“His savage and terrifying crime changed my life and how I foresaw it,” she wrote.
Stephenson must serve at least 30 years in prison before he can become eligible for parole.
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