A Stafford woman, Misty Salem, was found guilty of murder in the second degree in the shooting death of her husband, Sam Salem.
Sentencing for Misty Salem of Stafford is set for 11 a.m. on Aug. 25 after she was found guilty of murder in the second degree. The 10 women, two men jury delivered their verdict at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, July 14. Salem had been charged in the shooting murder of her husband Sam on March 10, 2016 at their home in Stafford.
When the verdict was read, there was a gasp from her family, including her sisters and father, and friends and some cried. Salem looked at her family and yelled out, "You knew there would be a chance that justice wouldn't be served."
Salem's defense attorney Monique Centeno asked for the jury to be polled. One-by-one, Senior District Judge John Sanders asked each juror if they had voted for murder in the second degree and one-by-one they all said that was their verdict.
Following the verdict, Salem was immediately taken into custody and placed in handcuffs but left in the courtroom.
The Judge thanked the jury and dismissed them but ask them to remain for a while so he and the prosecution and defense attorneys could visit with the jury on why they chose guilty on second degree murder.
After meeting with jury for half an hour, Sanders and the attorneys returned to the courtroom to discuss a sentencing date. Members of the jury also came back to the courtroom and sat near the audience instead of in the jury box.
Following the verdict, Sanders denied Centeno's motion for Salem to remain free on bond until sentencing. Sanders said since Salem was now convicted of murder in the second degree, he didn't feel it would be right for her to be out of jail and denied the motion.
As Salem was being led out of the courtroom, she yelled for the family and friends to "do something about this. This is (expletive.)" Several family and friends stood up and a sheriff''s officer stepped up and told everyone to sit down which they did.
Law enforcement quickly removed the jury from the courtroom and protected them. Then the audience left and went outside where a couple of people were yelling about the lack of justice and that it wasn't right that someone who was abused finally stood up for herself and was being sent to jail.
Because of the tension still outside the courtroom, St. John Police and Stafford County Sheriff deputies escorted jury members to their vehicles.
As far as the verdict goes, Sanders said jurors told him the big thing that swayed them to the guilty verdict was the professionalism of the State witnesses that Assistant Attorney's General Adam Zenter and Will Manly presented and their forensic evidence. Getting to see the path of the bullet and where people had to be during the shooting was a big factor. That kind of evidence was important to them and they felt confident with their verdict, Sanders said.
Another big part of the decision was there was confusion in testimony of who said what and where people were during the events. Things were jumbled, Sanders said.
After two days of testimony, Sanders told the jury they had three choices in their deliberations: guilty of murder in the second degree, guilty of manslaughter or not guilty, Sanders said.
The jury started deliberations Thursday, April 13 about 4 p.m. and continued until 5:30 p.m. when they decided to break for the evening and come back on Friday, July to continue deliberations. Jurors began deliberating again about 9 a.m. and after continuing deliberation through lunch, they reached a verdict at 1:30 a.m. on Friday, July 14.
Salem was originally charged with second degree murder in the shooting death of her husband, Sam Salem, on March 10, 2016 at their home in Stafford.
Salem admitted that she shot her husband Sam, but during her testimony, she said she feared for her life and for the lives of her children. She claimed Sam had assaulted her on several occasions before the fatal shooting. There were photos in evidence that showed Salem's bruise marks. Salem claimed one time the assault was so bad she almost lost an eye. In the past he had stepped on and hit her in the face, pulled her hair, hit her arms and kicked her in the back.
"He was just crazy sometimes," Salem said.
During cross-examination, Salem said he tried to make people think she was crazy.
A former police officer testified that she had been called to the Salem house several times and had arrested Sam once for domestic violence.
Another witness, Casey Denio, a friend of Salem, said she had seen Sam slap and pull Salem's hair and she had to come between them at one point. She said she had seen Sam smacked her more times than she could count.
But, most of the final day of testimony Thursday, July 13 was dedicated to Salem. When Salem's lawyer Monique Centeno was asking questions, Salem was very upset and cried. She had difficulty answering questions and remembering details.
She said she and Sam had a 12 year relationship. At first, things were good between she and Sam when he first moved in and when she got pregnant. But when their son Braden was 6 months old, Sam started to become violent and attack her. Then things got worse and he would hit here were no one could see. Then he got hooked on drugs and he was like a monster, Salem said.
During cross-examination by Will Manly, assistant attorney general, Salem said Sam had been through rehab and she thought he had gotten better and she took him back in.
On the night of the shooting, Salem said they went to her son Chris's house for a barbecue. Sam had drunk her whisky and she was mad about that. She admitted she drank and did shots at the party.
When they went home, she said they started arguing again and Sam hit her several times. Both of them were screaming as was confirmed by other witnesses. She claimed she was frightened for her life and for the lives of her children and just reacted.
She said she didn't want to kill Sam and hadn't prepared to kill him the day of the shooting.
At the time of the shooting, Sam was in the bedroom sitting on the edge of the bed and she went to another room to get a gun she had locked in a gun box. She said the gun was already loaded. She asked her mother to take her son Braden across the street to the neighbor's house then she went into the bedroom and shot Sam at very close range with her eyes closed. After the shooting Sam said, 'Misty, theres a lot of blood,' said Salem who couldn't believe she had shot him. She said she wasn't angry after the shooting but was in shock.
Salem said she went to him and tried to stop the bleeding. She was screaming and that was confirmed by other witnesses. She was screaming and saying she did it when police arrived.
During final arguments, Assistant Attorney General Adam Zenter, said this was no spur of the moment action. Sam was in the bedroom not doing anything that threatened Salem at the time. Salem went to the next room to get the gun. She had to unlock the gun case and told her mother to take her son Braden to the next door neighbor. When they arrived at the neighbor's house, the neighbor Clayton Maddox who got a bat and went to see what was happening. He heard the shot as he arrived at Salem's house.
Zenter said this was a lot of time so this was not something that was done on the spur of the moment. Plus, Salem had several ways to get out of the house before reaching the bedroom and chose not to do it but to shoot Sam. Evidence showed Sam was shot at very close range. If Salem was so frightened of Sam, why didn't she shoot him from the door way or across the room rather than go right up to him and shoot him at short range, Zenter said in his summation to the jury.
Zenter said Salem had told her mother to get her son out of the house because she was going to kill him.
Centeno finished her closing remarks reminding the jurors that she didn't mean to kill Sam and she had opportunity to kill him earlier in the day but didn't so this was an act of spur of the moment self defense.