A 12-year-old girl who shot her father dead while he was sleeping acted in self defense after years of sexual abuse, a jury has found. (Daily Mail)
The girl from Katy, Texas grabbed Mark Nelson’s gun from under his mattress and shot the 38-year-old in the back of the head in April 2009.
But after four days of deliberation, a jury cleared the girl, now 15, of murder, believing she had been choked and sexually abused by her father.
In the three week trial, her attorneys insisted she ended the years of physical and sexual abuse after he watched her bathing inside a tub.
The girl told her father to leave the bathroom and he said she would regret it. Her attorneys claimed she feared for her safety so shot him.
But prosecutors had claimed the girl thought her father was too strict.
They noted that she had never mentioned the abuse before the murder, or even shortly after.
But Houston psychiatrist Dr George Glass, testified that it is not uncommon for a child to lie about physical and sexual abuse, ABC News reported.
At first, jurors were divided, with four believing she had not acted in self defense.
‘I saw from the beginning that she did have some abuse and that made it an easy decision,’ juror Yvette Cardenas told the Chronicle.
‘We had people who agreed and some who didn’t – and trying to change their minds was very hard.’
She added that the jury repeatedly returned to evidence that Nelson had choked the girl in an incident before the fatal shooting – as well as choking two other women on separate occasions.
‘That was the one that made everyone believe he was a violent man and that she was scared for her life,’ she said.
After the verdict, the girl – who had faced a jail term of 40 years if convicted – and her family embraced each other and jurors.
Her maternal grandmother Diane Jackson said the family was relieved that the girl could return home with her mother.
‘We’re very happy. We already knew she wasn’t guilty. She wasn’t guilty; not for the things that had happened to her,’ Jackson told KTRK-TV.
But Mark Nelson’s mother – the girl’s paternal grandmother – said she was outraged at the decision.
Leona Nelson told the news channel: ‘She’s been set free so she can do whatever she wants on the streets.
‘That was the best defense in the world for a little girl to accuse your father of abusing you because people do not want to believe that a 12-year-old child would go in there and kill her father unless he abused her.’
The girl is attending high school and told KTRK-TV she is planning on going to college, perhaps to become an attorney.