Appeal from the 230th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 1417457
consists of Justices Jamison, Wise, and Jewell.
Hill Jamison, Justice
convicted appellant Demarkice Demond Stepherson of
manslaughter and further determined that he used a deadly
weapon in committing the offense. The trial court sentenced
appellant to fifteen years in prison. In two issues,
appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to
support both his conviction and the deadly weapon finding.
Concluding that the evidence was sufficient to establish
appellant's guilt and that he used his hands as a deadly
weapon, we affirm.
was charged with causing the death of his cousin Stanley Rice
by striking him with his hands. At trial, several
eyewitnesses testified to an altercation between the two men
occurring on February 9, 2014. At that time, appellant lived
at his great-grandmother's house along with at least two
younger cousins, K.L. and T.L., and K.L.'s mother,
Brittany Paley. Rice had previously lived in the home, but
apparently had been told not to return. On the day in
question, Rice's former girlfriend, Sheila Cunningham,
drove him to the house to retrieve some of his possessions.
When they arrived, Rice opened the garage door to collect his
testified that from inside the house, he heard the garage
door rise and went to look out a window. K.L. talked briefly
to Rice through the window and then went to tell Paley, who
was also in the house, that Rice was outside. According to
K.L., appellant overheard this and immediately put on his
shoes and went outside. When K.L. followed appellant outside,
he saw appellant jump at Rice and strike him twice in the
face with his fist. The blows caused Rice to fall to the
ground, and appellant then got on top of Rice and continued
to strike Rice in the head and body with his fists. K.L.
attempted unsuccessfully to pull appellant off of Rice. K.L
warned appellant that the police were on the way, and
appellant responded, "I'm not getting up till the
police come." Eventually, Paley pulled appellant off of
Rice by the neck, and Rice got up and walked away. According
to K.L., Rice had a busted lip, a cut under his eye, and was
bleeding from his nose.
testified that when he came outside after hearing screaming,
he saw appellant on top of Rice, striking Rice in the head
with his fists. Appellant said, "Why are you talking
about my grandma? She['s] in the hospital sick."
was called to testify by the defense. She stated that she
told Rice to leave, but he said he needed to "get some
clothes or something." She then attempted to call her
aunt about the situation when Rice and appellant began
fighting. She said that appellant "jumped" Rice,
but she did not actually see who threw the first punch. She
insisted, however, that they were hitting each other and that
it was not just appellant hitting Rice. She yelled at them
both to stop and eventually broke up the fight, grabbing
appellant and pulling him off of Rice.
testified that after she and Rice arrived at the house,
appellant came out of the house and confronted Rice before
striking Rice with his fists. When Rice fell, appellant got
on top of Rice and continued striking Rice with his fists,
mostly on the head and face. Cunningham heard appellant say,
"You were talking about my granny." Cunningham
screamed for appellant to stop and told him she had called
the police. When Rice finally got up, he and Cunningham left
the property. Rice said he was afraid and wanted to leave.
According to Cunningham, Rice had a busted lip, a swollen
eye, and several cuts and bruises, and he appeared to be in
pain and very upset. They waited a short distance away for
the police to arrive. After speaking to the police,
Cunningham drove Rice to a friend's house. She and the
friend urged Rice to go to the hospital, but he refused,
saying that he already had a doctor's appointment
scheduled for the next day.
Duy Nguyen of the Houston Police Department testified that
when he met with Rice and Cunningham, Rice appeared to have
fresh wounds, including a bruised eye that had blood in it
and a swollen lip. There was blood on Rice's face and
sweater, and Rice was holding a rag to his head to stop the
bleeding. Nguyen offered to call an ambulance, but Rice
refused the offer. Photographs of Rice that Nguyen took that
day were introduced into evidence.
Wright testified that Cunningham brought Rice back to his
residence after the altercation. Rice would not eat anything
and just wanted to sleep. The following day, Wright checked
on Rice around noon, and he appeared to be doing better.
However, when Wright came back around 3:00 p.m., Rice was
lying on the floor. His body was cold, but Wright said that
at first he detected a faint pulse. But, when Wright checked
a second time, he detected no pulse, so he called an
ambulance. Rice was pronounced dead at the scene.
Officers Heidi Dougherty and Juan Ramos testified that they
transported appellant to the Homicide Division's
headquarters. As they were walking him to their patrol
vehicle, appellant said, "Y'all act like I murdered
[him]." Appellant also said, "He talked about my
grandma, so I whooped his ass."
videotaped statement was also played for the jury. In the
statement, appellant confirmed much of the other
witnesses' descriptions of the altercation, including
that he hit Rice twice, knocking him to the ground, and then
got on top of him and continued to hit him after he fell.
Appellant stated that he felt Rice "was trespassing at
my house, " and "if someone raise[s] your garage
up, pow, you can shoot them because that's on your
property." Appellant further explained that the
"whole family" was mad at Rice because he had
failed to pay rent when he lived at the grandmother's
house. Appellant was mad at Rice, so he didn't stop
hitting Rice even with others trying to pull him off. He also
insisted that Rice was trying to throw him off or
"flip" him, so he kept hitting Rice. He said that
he thought he would beat Rice, and Rice would leave and not
come back. Appellant asserted that if not pulled off of ...