Houston death row inmate gets resentenced to death after retrial 32 years later

A Houston man, previously put on death row for the 1990 murder of a Sunnyside couple, was resentenced to death by a Harris County jury on Wednesday night, as announced by District Attorney Kim Ogg.

Daryl Wheatfall, 57, initially received the death sentence in 1991 for killing 62-year-old James Fitzgerald and his 67-year-old wife, L.B., during a home invasion over $50 on Dec. 13, 1990.

"These are very difficult cases, they take a real emotional toll on everyone, and I want to give our condolences again to the remaining and living family members of the Fitzgerald family," Ogg stated in the release. "Because of his history of violent acts, including stabbing a prison guard, the jury decided that Mr. Wheatfall was too great of a threat, even at his age, to get off death row."

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At the time, the couple's teenage son was also shot and survived. He testified against Wheatfall at the retrial, which began two months ago.

According to the Harris County District Attorney's Office, Wheatfall's guilt wasn't being argued, but the jury had to consider his punishment after he was granted a retrial because of flawed jury instructions in his first trial.

Daryl Wheatfall

A punishment retrial means redoing the trial so current jurors understand the entire case. Ogg says the jury only had two choices: if Wheatfall should again be sentenced to death or be granted a life sentence, and because the law at the time of the slayings controls parole eligibility, Wheatfall would have automatically been eligible for parole if sentenced to life.

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The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Janna Oswald and ADA Sarah Seeley, who are both Division Chiefs, ADA Brett Batchelor, who is a chief in the DA’s trial bureau, and ADA Savana Hooper.

"They were a very attentive and diligent jury who took their duty seriously and didn’t make their decision lightly," Oswald said. She says Wheatfall continues to be dangerous and sending him back to Heathrow is important.

"He is a danger and a continued threat, not just to the prison population, but to the community at large," she said.