Jury finds man guilty of robbing mom

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, April 13, 2019
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It took a Wise County jury a little more than half an hour Wednesday to find a Chico man guilty of robbing his mother last summer.

Justin Russell Carlton

Justin Russell Carlton, 28, was found guilty of the second degree felony charge of robbery, stemming from an incident on Aug. 28.

Carlton’s mother, Cheryl Walls, called 911 during an argument with her son in her vehicle. Walls testified that after she pressed an emergency button on her phone, her son grabbed the phone from her hand and wouldn’t give it back. Carlton also had a box cutter in his hand.

Walls dropped her son off at his home nearby and returned to her home where she called the Wise County Sheriff’s Office and told dispatchers her son was high on methamphetamine and possibly other drugs and was acting “crazy.” She also said Carlton had threatened to kill any officer that attempted to detain him.

According to the 911 call played for the jury, Walls said her son grabbed her arm, took her phone and threatened her.

She later testified that when she called the sheriff’s office, she was more concerned about the safety of her son than her own safety.

Although she was the victim in the case, Walls signed an affidavit of non-prosecution, asking the district attorney’s office not to pursue criminal charges in the case.

“Just to be clear, I understand that I called police for fear of my son hurting himself as again he needs help for certain issues and I do not wish to participate in the prosecution of these allegations against my son as I am certain there are more deserving criminal matters to be tried in which the victims do wish to aid the state,” she stated in an affidavit filed last week.

Assistant District Attorney Jay Lapham in his closing remarks to the jury, pointed out their job was to render a verdict based on the facts and evidence of the case and hold Carlton accountable for his actions.

“The district attorney’s office operates for everyone. We hold everyone to the same standard. What happens when he gets on drugs again? What if he wants your phone? If you find him ‘not guilty,’ what message is that sending him? That his behavior is OK? That his mom will fix it? He was 27 when he committed this offense. He wasn’t a juvenile,” Lapham said.

Defense attorney Paul Belew argued to the jury that Carlton’s actions that day did not constitute robbery but instead a cry for help.

“(Walls) called and said she was having issues with her son,” Belew said. “She wanted someone to come out and diffuse the situation, and they did.”

Carlton elected before the trial, which began on Tuesday, to have District Judge Brock Smith assess punishment in the case.

Lapham pointed out that Carlton has previous felony convictions, including a robbery conviction from 2010 in Tarrant County in which he received a 12-year sentence.

If those previous convictions are proven true, the punishment range for the latest robbery conviction would be 5 to 99 years or life in prison, Lapham said. The judge could also grant probation.

The date for the sentencing hearing has not been set.

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