March 30, 2015 – Last week in the Eighth Judicial District Court of Rains County, Brandon Couch was found guilty in the 2012 murder of his grandmother, Mattie Couch, by a jury Wednesday afternoon and on Thursday was sentenced to 40 years in prison by Judge Paul Banner, the presiding judge and fourth judge assigned to the case.
According to a press release from the office of Rains County Attorney Robert F. Vititow, a jury was selected on Monday, March, 23, 2015, in the Eighth Judicial District Court of Rains County in Cause No. 5354, The State of Texas v. Brandon Couch, for the felony offense of Murder (of his grandmother, Mattie Couch). The offense occurred on November 14, 2012. The defendant and his grandmother were 33 and 78 years old, respectively, at the time. The Honorable Judge Paul Banner, the presiding judge, was the fourth judge assigned to the case. Katherine Ferguson of Greenville represented the defendant.
Rains County Attorney Robert Vititow began presenting the evidence Tuesday morning. The State and the defense closed their cases Wednesday afternoon, and after closing arguments, the jury returned a verdict of guilty.
The defendant elected to have the judge assess his punishment. The State and defense began punishment evidence Thursday morning. The defense put on evidence that the defendant had attempted to commit suicide approximately four years earlier and had metal fragments lodged in the frontal lobe of his brain from the gunshot which may have affected his ability to control his impulses, according to the defense expert. The State presented defendant’s prior convictions for drug use and assault of his father, as well as evidence that the defendant stabbed another person; the assaults and stabbing occurred before defendant’s attempted suicide (and brain injury). The State argued that the defense had no objective evidence and could not provide the Judge any authority to indicate that the murder was due to defendant’s brain injury and not due to the use of drugs and simply being plain mean.
The defendant faced a range of punishment of five to 99 years or life, and up to a $10,000 fine. After hearing the evidence, the judge determined Thursday afternoon that the appropriate punishment in this case was 40 years confinement in prison.
Vititow said, “although I believe the defendant should have received the maximum sentence of 99 years in prison, I always respect and abide by the fact finder’s verdict and assessment of punishment; that’s simply how the system works.”
The defendant and his grandmother lived together for a number of years. According to the testimony, neither the defendant’s mother nor his father, Gary Couch, would provide him a place to live so his grandmother let him live with her. The defendant had a drug problem.
Approximately one year before he shot his grandmother, he was on drugs and scared her. She attempted to call 911; he pulled the phone out of the wall and shook her. Although Mrs. Couch initially filed charges with the Sheriff’s office, she decided she didn’t want to prosecute her grandson and refused to answer calls from the County Attorney’s Office and the Sheriff or come to the door. The defendant was convicted of the misdemeanor offense of Assault, and served 180 days in the County jail for the offense. There was no evidence to indicate either that the defendant shot Mrs. Couch or that their relationship worsened because she filed charges on him.
Additional evidence during guilt stage of the trial showed there was no forced entry into the residence, and the victim was holding a glass in one hand and piece of pizza in the other when she was shot in the chest with 20 gauge Winchester birdshot sometime before 3:00 p.m.–indicating it was someone she knew. The defendant ran when he saw peace officers. He was caught and arrested later that night at 10:30 p.m. with a shotgun and some shotgun shells which were consistent with Winchester 20 gauge shells containing bird shot. One of his friends testified that “he [the defendant] told him he ‘thought his grandmother was sorry just before he pulled the trigger.'”
Vititow commended the court personnel and the citizens of Rains County who served as jurists for the excellent job they did. The jury obviously took their job very seriously. Law enforcement is a joint effort which includes the officers, the prosecutors staff, all of the court personnel and the citizens of Rains County who served as the jurists.