Courts & Crime

Texas man gets life without parole in motel clerk killing

FORT WORTH — In an unusual move, defense attorney Tim Moore urged a Tarrant County jury Tuesday to convict his client, Malcolm Strickland, of felony murder, acknowledging that there was no question that Strickland fatally shot motel clerk Michael Myers while robbing him in April 2008.

In fact, Strickland admitted the shooting when he took the stand in his own defense Monday, also an unusual move in a capital murder case.

But Strickland insisted, as did Moore in his closing argument, that he did not intend to kill Myers, and intent is a crucial element in a capital case.

"The state has not proven capital murder," he said.

Before the trial began, prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty, so Strickland, 20, faced an automatic life sentence with no possibility of parole if convicted. The maximum sentence for felony murder is life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Prosecutor Amy Collum told jurors that Myers' murder was "the most clear-cut textbook case of capital murder that you're ever going to get." She played a motel surveillance videotape showing Strickland walking, gun in hand, through the Best Western at 6500 Interstate 35W.

The cameras did not record the actual killing, Collum said. But they do show Strickland jumping over the counter where the 59-year-old clerk was found dead of three gunshot wounds. That supports other evidence that Strickland killed Myers, stole $189 from the cash register and cut off Myers' wallet from a belt chain, she said.

The jury agreed with Collum, deliberating about two hours and 15 minutes Tuesday before convicting Strickland of capital murder. Judge Wayne Salvant of Criminal District Court No. 2 immediately sentenced Strickland to life without parole.

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