Jury chooses life sentence for Curtis Lavelle Vance for the murder of TV anchor Ann Pressley

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Normal Jury chooses life sentence for Curtis Lavelle Vance for the murder of TV anchor Ann Pressley

Post by Wrapitup on Fri Nov 13, 2009 1:00 am

By CHUCK BARTELS, Associated Press Writer Chuck Bartels, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 22 mins ago

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A jury sentenced a man to life in prison Thursday for the beating death of a popular Arkansas television personality, sparing him the death penalty after hearing testimony about his rocky upbringing by an abusive, drug-addicted mother.



Jurors deliberated less than three hours before recommending that Curtis Lavelle Vance, 29, be sentenced to life in prison without parole for the death of Anne Pressly. They also handed down a life sentence for rape, 20 years for burglary and 10 years for theft.

Pressly, 26, was an anchor on KATV's "Daybreak" program and had a bit part in the President George W. Bush biopic "W." She died Oct. 25, 2008, five days after a brutal assault that crushed her face and left her gasping for air.



Vance's mother testified Thursday that she was abusive, and a doctor said Vance showed signs of paranoia. Pressly's mother, Patti Cannady, told jurors Wednesday what it was like to lose an only child.

After the verdict was read, Cannady mouthed "It's OK" to prosecutor Larry Jegley, nodded, and tucked her hands over her heart. But as she left the courtroom, Cannady stopped and turned at the door. She leaned toward the defense attorneys and said, "You protected someone who should have never been protected."

Vance, who had appeared uncomfortable during much of his mother's testimony, showed no emotion as the sentence was read.

Jacqueline Vance Burnett had told jurors she was an abusive mother who had a number of crack-fueled run-ins with the law.

Burnett said she worked as a prostitute to earn money for drugs and once snapped after a "date" fell through. She said Vance had been left in charge of a younger brother and that when she returned, the brother was smearing feces on a wall. Burnett said she threw Vance into a brick wall several times until he nearly passed out.

She also told jurors she would buy drugs with money her children received from Social Security after their fathers died and that she had spent time in prison for burglary, forgery and theft.

Burnett said she has since gone through rehab and she apologized to Vance from the witness stand for throwing him against the wall. He mumbled something, then said "I love you, momma."

During closing arguments, prosecutor Larry Jegley called Vance's upbringing "an American tragedy," but he noted that siblings and other family members have led successful lives and said Vance's situation was a result of his own choices.

"Do I like it? No," Jegley said after the sentence was read. "But they can consider all of them. That's the law."

Defense lawyer Katherine Streett had urged jurors — who had convicted Vance a day earlier of capital murder, rape, burglary and theft of property — to have the "courage" to not impose the death penalty.

"The decision you're about to make may speak as much about you as it does about Curtis Vance," Streett said. If mitigation in this case ... has any meaning to you in a significant way, you do not have to kill him," Streett said.

Vance's attorneys did not comment after the sentence.

Another brother, B.J. Montgomery of Little Rock, testified that Vance played with him, made sure he did his homework and protected him from their mother. At times Vance would cook for the rest of the family, Montgomery said. "That's my brother, and I love him," he said.

Vance's girlfriend, Sheanika Cooper, said he often spoiled their three children, two girls and a boy.

A psychiatrist had told jurors Vance showed signs of paranoia and compared the man's brain to a car with bad wiring.

"Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't," said Dr. Shawn Agharkar, who teaches at Morehouse and Emory universities.

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Normal Re: Jury chooses life sentence for Curtis Lavelle Vance for the murder of TV anchor Ann Pressley

Post by Wrapitup on Fri Nov 13, 2009 1:05 am

(CNN) -- A jury sentenced an Arkansas man to life in prison without parole for killing a television anchor, officials said Thursday.

The Pulaski County, Arkansas, jury on Wednesday convicted Curtis Lavelle Vance, 29, of capital murder, residential burglary, rape and theft of property in the October 2008 slaying of Anne Pressly, 26.

Pressly, the morning news anchor for CNN affiliate KATV, was found beaten and unconscious in her home. She died five days later.

Vance's sentencing phase began after he was convicted Wednesday of capital murder, rape and burglary.

Jurors were tasked with deciding whether the aggravating circumstances in favor of the death penalty outweighed the mitigating circumstances.

"Tonight, they have come back with a sentence, a sentence that they believe, and we share with them, is the harshest possible sentence for this gentleman going forward, where he will now spend the rest of his natural life in a 6-by-9 cell with nothing to think about but what he has done," said Guy Cannady, stepfather of the victim.

"It's not until he's carried out of Tucker Max in a pine box will he really meet his true judgment," Cannady added, referring to Arkansas' Tucker Maximum Security Prison.

He said he was not disappointed that Vance did not receive the death penalty.

Prosecutor Larry Jegley said the jury gave Vance "everything they could give him except the death penalty."

Asked if there were too many mitigating circumstances, Jegley said, "I don't know. I can't speak for the jury. Cases like this, all you can do is put 'em in front of 12 good people and ask them to follow the evidence and do what their conscience demands."

Attempts by CNN to reach members of Vance's defense team were unsuccessful Wednesday and Thursday.

"There really aren't any winners tonight," Cannady said. "Nothing that's been done here will ever bring Anne back. We'll never see her smile, we'll never hear her laugh, we'll never know the joy of her presence with us until we see her again in heaven."

Among the defense witnesses presented Thursday was Vance's mother, Jacqueline Vance Burnett, CNN affiliate KARK reported. Burnett cried on the stand as she spoke about her battle with crack addiction and admitted abusing her son when he was a child, including an incident when he was 7 years old and she slammed his head into a brick wall, the station said.

A doctor testified earlier Thursday that Vance had told him school was easy for him before that incident, but difficult afterward. Both doctors said they believe Vance has frontal lobe damage to his brain as well as cognitive impairment, according to KARK.

Vance was linked to the killing through DNA, however, and police said at the time of his arrest last year they were "110 percent" sure he was guilty.

He had given several statements to police, including one saying he was at Pressly's home and another admitting to her murder. Defense attorney Steve Morley told CNN affiliate WREG as Vance's trial began earlier this month that such evidence presented an obstacle for the defense, but said he hoped jurors could be persuaded to spare his client's life.

KARK reported that jurors heard recordings in which Vance apparently confessed to beating Pressly with a piece of wood.

Pressly's mother, Patti Cannady, told NBC last year her daughter fought hard for her life, breaking her left hand in the process.

"I found my daughter beyond recognition, with every bone in her face broken, her nose broken, her jaw pulverized so badly that the bone had come out of it," Cannady said. "I actually thought that her throat had possibly been cut. Her entire skull had numerous fractures from which she suffered a massive stroke."

DNA evidence has also tied Vance to a rape in April 2008 in Marianna, Arkansas, about 90 miles east of Little Rock, police said in December.

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