Jury begins deliberations in Poncho Delgado murder-arson trial

Becky Campbell • Mar 27, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Editor's Note: Press Staff Writer Becky Campbell is reporting live from the Poncho Delgado murder trial in Jonesborough. Follow her on Twitter @CampbellinCourt.


2:46 p.m. - Jury is filing into the courtroom.For the first time, Poncho is standing; He's been allowed to sit in his wheelchair throughout the trial as the jury filed in and out.

A jury began deliberation before noon today in the first-degree murder and arson trial of a man who said he didn't know the victim and was not at the man's house when the stabbing occurred.

Poncho Juan Delgado, 44, is accused in the May 25, 2006 stabbing death of 41-year-old Robert Curtis. He was stabbed 36 times in the heart and lung, then his house was set on fire, according to police and fire investigators.

Curtis's body was found by firefighters when they responded to the blaze on East Fairview Avenue.

Jurors heard two full days of testimony this week and then closing arguments this morning.

Assistant District Attorney General Dennis Brooks said the evidence is clear to show Delgado committed the murder and set the house on fire, but defense attorneys Jim Bowman and Donna Bolton have tried to show just the opposite.

It might boil down to four people who testified — Delgado, his sister June Lopez Little, his cousin James Hale and an acquaintance, Bonnie Peck. Little, Hale and Peck all testified Delgado told them he killed a man and needed help. Delgado testified he was not at Curtis' house the night Curtis was killed, and he didn't know what he meant when he told an investigator, "I didn't mean to kill that guy."

A psychological examiner, William Stanley, who tested Delgado several months after the murder testified Delgado is has a borderline intelligence level and Stanley believes Delgado uses words he doesn't understand so he'll "fit in" with the people around him.

Brooks told the jury that Peck, Little and Hale were not his choice of witnesses, but instead were Delgado's choice because those were the people he chose to acquaint himself with after the killing.

Bowman said all three had reason to lie to police about Delgado — Little because she needed help with a probation violation, Peck because he conned her for a ride to Bristol but didn't deliver the $50 rock of crack cocaine he promised and Hale because Delgado said he was racist.

"Poncho Delgado is not dirt, nor for that matter are any of the witnesses who testified in this case. The community that they live in is not a pile of dirt," Bowman said to the jury when he began his closing argument. He was referring to testimony from Investigator Jason Abernathy who used that exact quote to explain how officers determined where to go looking for answers about the homicide.

Investigators found Peck and Hale at Tyler Apartments, one of the city's low-income public housing complexes and an area known to police for drug activity.

And Delgado testified that's where he went the night in question, but he said he only went to Hale's apartment for a pair of shoes after he broke his flip flops running from a pack of dogs.

Peck testified Delgado approached her that night, was covered in blood and asked for a change of clothes. Peck said her brother gave Delgado clothes and let him clean up, but didn't have shoes to fit him. Delgado got shoes from Hale.

Live updates from court:

11:16 a.m. - Jury handed case for deliberation.

11:15 a.m. - Judge picks two jurors names as alternates, they are released from the case.

11:00 a.m. - Jury back in; judge reads additional instructions.

10:46 a.m. - Brooks wraps up; judge takes quick recess for jury before he finishes reading instructions.

10:46 a.m. - Brooks: Who knows he had to die the way he did, but he did.

10:415 a.m. - Brooks: Motive is something we do not have to prove.

10:45 a.m. - Brooks: one thing we don't have to prove is why did the many died that night.

10:42 a.m. - Brooks: he succeed; he made the defendant comfortable enough to say something.

10:41 a.m. - Brooks addresses things Abernathy said to Delgado on video; "he's trying to get the defendant comfortable enough to talk to him."

10:40 a.m. - Brooks: video is "a million miles away" from Delgado's innocence

10:38 a.m. - Brooks: if anything, these witnesses have bias for Delgado; their character might be flawed, but biggest asset in a person's life is their family.

10:37 a.m. - On a side note, more of Delgado's family is here today; several have attended the trial this week.

10:36 a.m. - Because state has burden of proof, prosecution always gets final word in closing arguments.

10:35 a.m. - Bowman takes his seat; Brooks gets his second go at closings.

10:34 a.m. - Bowman to jury: You stand as a shield for every soul that sits (in defendant's seat).

10:32 a.m. - Brooks had objected to that question as argumentative during that testimony; Bowman: "Well, this is arguments so I'll ask you," he said to jury.

10:31 a.m. - Bowman repeats a question he'd attempted to ask Abernathy on the stand - 'I didn't intend to go to Walmart this weekend.' "Did I go to Walmart?"; Bowman says it doesn't mean that at all.

10:29 a.m. - "Did Poncho Delgado understand what he was saying? That's a judgement you have to make," Bowman says.

10:27 a.m. - Bowman: he says "I'm a dummy." It's a shame we put people in the position to feel that way.

10:26 a.m.- Bowman: Clearly an important piece of evidence you will consider in this case is that video.

10:25 a.m. - Bowman: Is there anyone here who doesn't believe June Little would say whatever serves her purpose?

10:23 a.m. - Bowman: June Little is a corrupt individual; she will come forward with evidence only when she believes it will serve her purposes.

10:22 a.m. - Bowman: "You wouldn't trust his judgement....in anything in your life."

10:21 a.m. - James Hale is Delgado's cousin who gave him a pair of shoes the night of the homicide; Hale said Delgado told him he'd killed a man. Hale admitted he's an alcoholic, drinks everyday, all day.

10:19 a.m.- Bowman: "Mr Hale is a pitiful character", says he drinks as much as he can everyday.

10:14 a.m. - Bowman talks about Bonnie Peck's testimony about Delgado's bloody clothes, spot of blood on floor he left behind; she didn't tell police about blood spot, but said it on witness stand.

10:11 a.m. - Bowman: Investigator (John) Sipos didn't find anything that tied Delgado to the crime.

10:10 a.m. - Bowman: fire marshal couldn't say if there was accelerants or not, just that fire was intentionally set.

10:08 a.m.- Bowman disputes Brooks' assessment of Delgado choosing his witnesses. "Most of them happen to be his relatives and we don't choose our relatives."

10:07 a.m. - Bowman: everyone has baggage; tells jurors it's their responsibility to judge witnesses "by considering some of their baggage."

10:07 a.m. - Brooks will likely point out during his second closing that state does not have to prove motive.

10:07 a.m. - Bowman: state has no proof as to why this killing occurred.

10:05 a.m.- Number of injuries to victim doesn't prove what happened prior to killing.

10:04 a.m. - Bowman talks to jury about premeditation, intention, knowing.

9:58 a.m. - Bowman says subtle message there is if a defendant doesn't meet someone's definition of "good folk" they don't deserve equal treatment, fair treatment.

9:55 a.m.- Bowman referring to testimony from Abernathy; says Abernathy probably regrets those words "because he's a good man."

9:55 a.m. Bowman: Poncho Delgado is not dirt, nor for that matter are nay of the witnesses who testified in this case. The community that they live in is not a pile of dirt."

9:54 a.m. - Defense attorney Jim Bowman starts his closing.

9:53 a.m. - Brooks: We have given you the best evidence we could from that night from this man's associates.

9:53 a.m. Brooks says Delgado's denial of being at Curtis' removes the element of provocation, so manslaughter shouldn't be considered.

9:51 a.m. - Brooks: "Mr Curtis died an extremely cruel death. the number of wounds is astounding, staggering."

9:48 a.m. - Delgado testified Tuesday that he uses words he doesn't understand so he will "fit in."

9:47 a.m. Brooks points out portion of video where Delgado says he doesn't want to "incriminate" himself, and "I didn't intend to kill that guy. I'll tell you that right now."

9:47 a.m. - Brooks points out that Delgado says he'd drank a beer before he got to the police dept., got sick in parking lot; that's consistent with June Little's testimony.

9:46 a.m. - On video, Delgado tells Investigator Jason Abernathy he hadn't eaten in two days, been staying in the woods.

9:44 a.m. - Brooks now replays part of the video of Delgado at police department; tells jury to pay attention to his words, what he says he was doing during the two days since murder.

9:43 a.m.- Brooks: 'If all that isn't enough, we've got the defendant's words.'

9:42 a.m. - Brooks: Peck testified about knives, one had hooked blade; June testified one of the knives had a hooked blade;

9:41 a.m. - 'Mr. Hale lives in a drunken world I can't imagine," but what would cause him to lie.

9:41 a.m. - "James Hale said (Delgado) had on clean clothes, but he didn't have any shoes."

9:40 a.m. - 'Bonnie Peck sees blood on his clothes and shoes; she testified he got a change of clothes but they didn't' have any shoes that would fit him.

9:38 a.m. - Brooks: witnesses don't have the same moral code as us; most people would call 911 when they see, have information about a crime;

9:37 a.m. - 'His sister can be attacked for her motivation' for talking to police; Brooks says Bonnie Peck and James Hale have no motivation to lie against Delgado.

9:36 a.m. - 'Look at other parts of the case' and compare to testimony to see if it fits.

9:34 a.m. - Asst. District Attorney Dennis Brooks begins closings: says he didn't pick his witnesses, Delgado picked them. 'These are the people' he associates with.

9:31 a.m. - Three witnesses - Delgado's sister June Lopez Little; his cousin James Hale and an alleged acquaintance, Bonnie Peck - testified he said he'd killed a man that night.

9:31 a.m. - During Delgado's testimony Tuesday, he completely denied knowing Curtis, being at his home May 25, 2006 and killing him.

9:30 a.m. - If not guilty on 1st degree murder, panel will consider 2nd degree murder; if not guilty on that, deliberations go to voluntary manslaughter.

9:29 a.m. - Cupp tells jury they can consider two lesser included charges if they don't convicted Delgado of 1st degree murder.

9:18 a.m. — Jury in courtroom now; Judge Robert Cupp will read part of the jury charge, explain the law before closing arguments.

9 a.m. — Back for day 3 of Poncho Delgado's murder trial; judge and attorneys discussing jury instructions before closings.

Delgado, 44, is charged with first-degree murder and arson in the May 25, 2006, stabbing death of Robert Curtis. Emergency personnel responded to Curtis’ East Fairview Avenue home that night on a fire call. Prosecutors and investigators said Delgado stabbed Curtis to death, then set his house on fire.

Two days of testimony concluded Tuesday, and Judge Robert Cupp recessed court in lieu of having closing arguments late in the afternoon. Delgado had taken the stand in his own defense. The trial resumed at 9 this morning.

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