A Hopkins County jury returned guilty findings in the burglary trial of Cash Allen Price, officials reported just after 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Price, 33, was accused on two counts of burglary of a building, a shop/barn and a storage container, on April 5, 2020.
Jury selection was held Monday. The trial immediately followed Monday and continued Tuesday morning, Oct. 13, at Hopkins County Civic Center to allow for social distancing between jurors as well as among court officials and the public. The jury was given the charge and began deliberating in both burglary cases after 11 a.m. and returned a guilty verdict before 1 p.m. Oct. 13.
Prosecutors closed their case Tuesday morning. The defendant after twice consulting with his attorney, Clay Johnson, Tuesday morning opted not to testify. The defense then also closed, opting not to put on a case. Johnson reminded the jury that the burden of proof was on the state, but that the defense was not required to do so.
Eighth Judicial District Judge Eddie Northcutt denied Johnson’s request to include as an option in the charges the lesser included offense of criminal trespass, citing case law regarding criminal trespassing as a lesser included offense in burglary cases.
Johnson in his closing statements argued that the evidence presented by Assistant District Attorney Zachary Blackmon better fit the definition of criminal trespass then burglary of a building. He argued Blackmon did not present all 5 elements required for a burglary conviction, as outlined in the charge and read by Northcutt.
Northcutt instructed the jury to consider whether the defense proved within a reasonable doubt all 5 elements of each alleged burglary when determining guilt or innocence of Cash Price in the two building burglaries: whether the defendant intentionally, knowingly or reckless less entered each building; that the structure entered was a building; that the building was not open to the public; that the property owner did not grant permission to the defendant to enter the building; the defendant entered the building with the intent to commit a felony theft or assault. He said the defense must have proven each of the five elements of burglary within a reasonable doubt ccording to the legal definitions and parameters of the law.
Blackmon asked the jury to use their common sense to why the shop door was pried open and a 5-gallon bucket filled with tools, saddles moved from their designated spot to by the door, chainsaw stacked on toolboxes and a toolbox placed at the door entrance to be used as a step. He noted the pair arrived in a Budget van rented from Canton, which was involved in a vehicle ramming with the owner’s vehicle, That the owner recognized identified the defendant as the person who stood 10 feet from him him the day he found him and the other man at his storage building. The locks on the storage container were cut as well according to the owner’s testimony, Blackmon said during his closing statements.
Blackmon encouraged the jury to consider all evidence presented, testimony given as well as recordings played during the trial, and to request them for review if needed. Blackmon reminded them of the pieces of recorded phone conversations in which Price denied having anything to do with part of but not all charges against him, and that in Texas slightly guilty is considered guilty.
The property owner, who reported finding Price and another man in his storage building then confronted them, was among those called to testify Monday as did officials. Hunt County Sheriff’s Investigator Kenneth Peters testified Tuesday morning to locating Price April 4 walking in grass. Price was wet and muddy from being in the rainy weather.
Wanda Allen, as assistant jail administrator at Hopkins County Sheriff’s Office and custodian of records for the jail, testified that clips from audio recordings were from Price’s conversations with others using a jail phone; conversations on that phone are recorded. During one call, the list of charges on which Price has remained in Hopkins County jail since his arrest April 4 was stated. included theft of copper, two burglary of building charges, fraudulent use or possession of more than 5 items of identifying information and unlawful use of a criminal instrument. Price denies involvement in 4 of the charges, and maybe barely having anything to do with one charge. In another recorded conversation, he was asked why he ran if he didn’t do anything wrong. In another conversation, breaking and entering was discussed as a misdemeanor charge but copper theft as a felony offense.
Johnson in his closing statements argued the items in disarray in the shop building could have simply been moved by the owner while he worked inside the shop, not as a result of a burglary or intended theft. Johnson contended the evidence failed to place Price at the storage container, and that the door shown in the photos presented by prosecutors wasn’t even open. The defense attorney asked the jury to take into consideration the fact that no DNA evidence nor any fingerprints taken at the scene were presented as evidence tying Price to the alleged offenses.
Blackmon argued that the owner testified to seeing Price at his storage building and that if Price stuck his head in the door to look around or even so much as a fingernail breached the seal of the building, that is considered entry according to the law.
Burglary of a building is a state jail felony offense. State jail offenses are punishable upon conviction of 180 days to 2 years in state jail and a fine of up to $10,000, unless the the individual has previously been finally convicted of any felony. Then, the charge could be enhanced.
According to jail reports, Price has remained in custody since his arrest April 5, 2020; he was served while in custody with a warrant for violation of parole.
A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 16, officials reported.