Fitzpatrick guilty of capital murder, state asks for life without parole

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

UPDATE: The state of Mississippi, with the agreement of the family of Deputy DeWayne Crenshaw, waived the penalty phase of Franklin Fitzpatrick’s trial today and asked Judge Andrew Howorth to sentence him to life in prison without parole.
Fitzpatrick was convicted Thursday of capital murder in the Dec. 3, 2010 shooting death of Crenshaw.
Crenshaw’s wife and two daughters addressed Fitzpatrick in court this morning, reminding him repeatedly that his action had cost the life of an “honest, loving, protective” community servant who was a husband, father, grandfather and friend.
Fitzpatrick, who was on parole for two cocaine sale convictions at the time of the murder, was given habitual offender status.
He apologized to the Crenshaw family, choking on sobs as he spoke.
“I don’t know what happened that night,” he said. “I’m sorry. In my right mind, I would never have done this.”
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OXFORD – An Attala County jury of six men and six women took three-and-one-half hours to convict Franklin Fitzpatrick, 28, of capital murder in the Dec. 3, 2010, shooting of Tippah County Sheriff’s Deputy DeWayne Crenshaw.
More than a dozen law enforcement officers were in the Lafayette County Circuit courtroom when the jury delivered its verdict Thursday night.
Fitzpatrick, of Pontotoc, was accused of shooting Crenshaw twice when he and Deputy Rodney Callahan were trying to subdue Fitzpatrick. Prosecutors Ben Creekmore and Kelly Luther asserted, and several witnesses reinforced, the theory that Fitzpatrick grabbed Callahan’s duty pistol from its holster while the three men were, in Callahan’s words, “in a big wad.”
According to testimony, Fitzpatrick had turned violent after a night of taking multiple drugs, including “bath salts,” which Dr. Robert Cox, head of the Mississippi Poison Control Center, said are typically slightly modified from amphetamines, Ecstasy or other illegal drugs. While the defense emphasized that bath salts were not illegal under Mississippi law at that time, Cox – an expert witness called by the defense – said it was already illegal under a federal law that forbade the modification of such substances for human consumption.
Law officers and medical responders alike said Fitzpatrick fought with strength unlike any they’d ever encountered – a common occurrence with the use of certain drugs, Cox said.
Judge Andrew Howorth instructed the jury that the law does not recognize voluntary intoxication as a defense against prosecution.
“Franklin Fitzpatrick killed DeWayne Crenshaw because he set the chain of events in motion that made him responsible for killing DeWayne Crenshaw,” Luther told jurors. “We get to run from danger. (Crenshaw) had to respond to it.”
Defense attorneys Kelsey Rushing, from the Mississippi Office of Capital Defense, and Josh Turner of Oxford focused on raising doubts about the prosecution’s theories. They reinforced repeatedly that several expected evidences never materialized.
“What happened that night? The answer is simply we don’t know,” Rushing said during closing arguments. “There’s no DNA, no fingerprints; nobody saw the gun in his hand.”
Rushing tipped his hand that the defense case was not strong when he argued first against convictions for capital murder or depraved heart murder, then added if jurors found Fitzpatrick responsible for Crenshaw’s death, they had the option of the lesser conviction of manslaughter.
After the verdict was announced shortly before 8 p.m., some Crenshaw and Fitzpatrick family members hugged one another, offering what comfort they could in their shared tragedy.
The jury will return today for the penalty phase of the trial. It can choose either the death penalty or life without possibility of parole.
errol.castens@journalinc.com