Sentencing Begins Today in Valero Capital Murder Trial

The jury will decide today if Rockwell should be sentenced to death for the March 2010 double murder

By Chris Van Horne and Elvira Sakmari
|  Saturday, Jan 28, 2012  |  Updated 8:22 PM CDT
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The sentencing phase for the man convicted of killing two men during the robbery of a Valero convenience store, will start today. The Tarrant County jury must decide between a death penalty and life imprisonment for Kwame Rockwell.

A Tarrant County jury found Rockwell guilty of capital murder Monday afternoon, for killing two men during the robbery of a Valero convenience store in southeast Fort worth on March 23, 2010.

During the capital murder trial, prosecutors said Rockwell, 34, and two other men entered a Valero station on Mansfield Highway, robbed the check-cashing business and shot and killed a deliveryman and a store clerk.

Daniel Rojas, the 23-year-old store clerk, was shot in the head, and 70-year-old Jerry Burnett, a Mrs. Baird's deliveryman, was also shot and died in the hospital 10 days later.

Jurors were shown several clips from the 12 surveillance cameras that were working in the store. The video shows three masked men entering the store, Rojas complying with their demands, giving them the money and holding up his hands.

Part of the video was released by Fort Worth police back in 2010, but jurors saw a dramatic part of the video not publicly released that shows Rojas on the floor crying before he was shot in the head. Members of his family wept in court while the video played.

During the trial, jurors also heard testimony from a key prosecution witness. Chance Smith, a co-defendant that took a plea deal in exchange for his testimony, discussed what led up to the crime.

Smith, who says he served as the lookout, agreed to serve 20 years for pleading guilty to the lesser charges of aggravated robbery.

Smith said that in early 2010, he worked at Rockwell's car dealership across the street from the Valero, and that Blackwell was struggling financially.

Smith testified that after he cashed his IRS check at the check-cashing business in the store, a sum totaling around $5,000, Blackwell and three other men joked about robbing the business while drinking beer in the car dealership's garage.

Smith said at first they were just jokes, but those jokes turned more serious. He testified that the group originally planned on robbing the store's owner in his car before he left for the bank.

The jury deliberated for almost three hours before handing down the guilty verdict. The trial lasted about two weeks.

Lawyers, the families and witnesses have been instructed by the judge not to talk about the trial until sentencing is complete.

Randy Seibel, of Granbury and Tyrone Pierre Thomas, of Fort Worth await trial.

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