evading, injury to officer sentencing

Antonio Trammel

Antonio Trammel, of Marshall, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Wednesday for the May 13, 2019, evading arrest incident that caused seriously bodily injury to Marshall Police Officer Zachary Lastra.

Jurors in the case additionally found the defendant guilty for a second charge in the indictment — evading arrest with a previous conviction, and sentenced him to the minimum two years for that crime.

“Because it was out of the same episode, they are required to run concurrently,” noted presiding 71st Judicial District Judge Brad Morin.

Because of the Trammel’s prior felony convictions, the defendant was facing an enhanced sentence of 25 years to life for the first charge. He faced 2-10 years for the second.

The state asked the jury to assess a punishment of 50 years for the serious bodily injury and the maximum 10 years for the evading with a previous conviction.

“It’s definitely what this defendant deserves,” said Harrison County District Attorney Reid McCain said in closing arguments. “Y’all need to send a message that this kind of behavior in Harrison County is not going to be condoned.”

VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENT

In his victim impact statement, an emotional Officer Lastra said there’s no way to describe how Trammel’s actions have affected his family as well as the Marshall Police Department.

“It was a cowardly act, what you did — plain and simple,” said Lastra.

The officer said he doesn’t know if the defendant knows God, but he himself is a believer and believes that it’s only because of divine intervention, along with the assistance of fellow officers and medical intervention, that he’s alive and able to stand before the defendant in court this week.

And “it’s the only reason you’re not (on trial) for a murder of a police officer,” Lastra told Trammel.

Lastra, who wasn’t visibly moved by the apology Trammel offered to him while on the stand Wednesday, said he hopes the defendant cries out to God and ask him for forgiveness.

Reflecting on Trammel’s lengthy criminal history, which dates back to age 19, the officer told Trammel he hopes he takes this time behind bars to make a positive change in his life.

“You have a chance to turn it around,” Lastra encouraged. “I hope you take that chance, because I believe what I’ve been through, something good is going to come out of it.”

The jury took 30 minutes to return a guilty verdict in the case. They spent about 40 minutes deliberating on punishment.

GUILT/INNOCENT PHASE

During the guilt/innocent phase of the trial, Johnathan Hyatt, representing Trammel, argued that the injury was not a direct action of his client running.

“He ran and officer Lastra went through that window, not because my guy pushed or shoved him, but because of an accident,” said Hyatt.

He told jurors if they took a closer look, the injury was caused by an inadvertent shove by another officer.

“Our entire contention is he went into that window as a direct result of being accidentally pushed,” Hyatt argued. “We didn’t try to say serious bodily injury didn’t occur. Officer Lastra did get hurt and he did get hurt seriously, but it’s not a direct result of my client.

In his arguments during the guilt/innocent phase, McCain said the defendant intended to run, and as a direct result, serious bodily injury occurred to the officer.

Showing a video from Lastra’s body cam, the prosecutor pointed out that the officer was right on the defendant and reaching for him when his injury occurred.

“He is grabbing him when his arm goes through the window,” McCain argued.

He said in the event the other officer did bump Lastra, it’s irrelevant.

“This is a fortunate case where we have body cameras,” the DA said.

PUNISHMENT PHASE

In his closing arguments during the punishment phase, Hyatt asked jurors to show compassion to his client.

“I’m not trying to diminish the suffering he’s gone through,” Hyatt said of the officer, “but we’re going to ask for mercy.”

Hyatt said since Trammel graduated from high school, he’s been in and out of jail, but served no more than four years for past felonies.

“My client is saying this happened; it certainly wasn’t his intent,” Hyatt argued.

“He got himself in this situation, but he’s a part of this community, too,” the defense attorney contended. “We’re just asking for your compassion.”

In his closing arguments, District Attorney, McCain, said at some point, after committing “felony after felony” one has to be held accountable.

McCain further argued that a troubled childhood doesn’t justify one’s actions.

“Lots of people have (rough) childhoods; lots of people don’t beat up women twice, (commit) theft, break in people’s home,” the prosecutor said. “Lots of people with bad childhoods don’t do that. They go and be productive citizens.”

McCain said, in this case, Trammel has found himself in a deep bind. He said the defendant even looked back at the injured officer while fleeing and didn’t stop to render aid.

“He saw he was hurt. He kept going because he didn’t want to be held accountable,” the prosecutor said.

McCain noted that the heavy presence of law enforcement at trial spoke volumes to the severity of the injury in this case.

“These officers came here today because they know how serious this is,” said McCain. “All of these doctors told you how close he was to dying; and, because of that, Officer Lastra’s career may be over.”

During the punishment phase, Officer Lastra took the stand, describing to jurors the physical therapy he had to undergo as a result of his injury. He said doctors haven’t released him to work yet, and have advised that it’ll take them at least 18 months to see if the damage has lifelong effects.

“Even as I sit here now, my arm is throbbing in pain,” Lastra informed.

He shared how the incident has also impacted him mentally.

“It’s very hard to put into words – the mental toll it’s taken on me,” said Lastra. “The night terrors, shaking, the cold sweats and reliving it over and over and over again…”

The officer said he’s concerned whether or not he’ll be able to perform his job properly again, due to his arm.

“If someone tries to fight me or run again, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to do my job,” said Lastra.

Testifying for the state, MPD Officer James McConnell noted how it took a collaborative effort from various law enforcement agencies to search for Trammel during a 24-hour manhunt.

“We used every resource that was available at the time,” said McConnell. “We even called DPS helicopter with their night vision to help search the location.”

For the defense, the defendant himself took the stand, blaming most of his past transgressions on a dysfunctional relationship and being at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people.

He also apologized to Lastra.

“I hope you have a smooth road of recovery. No matter what happens today… no hard feelings,” Trammel said, looking at Lastra in the gallery.

Questioning the defendant, McCain asked if he’d ever been sorry for his past offenses. Trammel said yes.

McCain said judging by his record, he hasn’t learned yet.

“Don’t you think at some point after being sorry so many times, you’ll learn?” McCain asked.

“Since 2002, you’ve picked up nine charges — four of them felonies — assault family violence, burglary of a habitation and the two cases you got today,” the DA pointed out.

First Assistant District Attorney Madison Hood served as co-counsel for the state in this case.