Jury weighs death penalty inTV anchor killing - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Jury weighs death penalty inTV anchor killing

Curtis Vance Curtis Vance
Anne Pressly Anne Pressly

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The mother of the man convicted of killing a TV anchorwoman told jurors considering whether to impose the death penalty that she was an abusive mother who had a number of crack-fueled run-ins with the law.

Jacqueline Vance Burnett, 46, said she deliberately became pregnant as a teenager so she would be kicked out of her all-girls high school in Chicago, then took solace in crack cocaine after her husband became unfaithful and her sister moved into her home.

"When she let the smoke out of her mouth, she didn't have a problem in the world and I wanted that feeling," Burnett said.

Her son, Curtis Lavelle Vance, 29, was convicted Wednesday of capital murder, rape, burglary and theft of property in the death of KATV personality Anne Pressly after a brutal attack Oct. 20, 2008. The 26-year-old Pressly was an anchor on the "Daybreak" program and had a bit part in the President Bush biopic "W." She died five days after the attack without regaining consciousness.

The jury is expected to begin deliberating late Thursday whether Vance should be executed or spend the rest of his life in prison.

Burnett said she worked as a prostitute to earn money for drugs and snapped after a "date" fell through. She said Vance had been left in charge of a younger brother and that, when she returned, the brother was smearing feces on a wall. Burnett said she threw Vance into a brick wall several times until he nearly passed out, then took him a hospital and told him to never tell anyone what happened.

"He ain't told nobody yet," she said.

Burnett told child services workers that Vance fell from a bunk bed. A home visit from a social worker revealed nothing out of order, Burnett said.

"When I was on crack I kept a nice, clean house," she said.

Burnett also told jurors that she would buy drugs with money her children received from Social Security after their fathers died and that she had spent time in prison for burglary, forgery and theft. Her mother watched the children while she was incarcerated, she said. Vance's mother said she has since gone through rehab.

Vance appeared uncomfortable during much of his mother's testimony, fidgeting, interlacing his fingers and putting his head between his elbows as he rested them on a table. She apologized to him from the witness stand for throwing him against the wall. He mumbled something, then said "I love you, momma."

Defense lawyer Katherine Street patted his right forearm in a subtle request to have him stay silent.

In separate testimony, a paralegal who compiled documents regarding Vance and Burnett's life read school and court records, revealing that Burnett had been placed in the all-girls school after stabbing another child in the eye with a pencil in sixth grade.

At a break in the trial, Burnett and other relatives gathered with Vance, hugging him over the courtroom rail.

Earlier Thursday, a psychiatrist told jurors Vance showed signs of paranoia and compared the man's brain to a car with bad wiring.

"Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't," Dr. Shawn Agharkar testified.

Agharkar, who teaches at Morehouse and Emory universities, said Vance initially didn't want to meet with him even though the psychiatrist's testimony could help spare his life. The doctor said Vance felt the entire community was against him and that the Marianna man had difficulty weighing options.

On cross-examination, deputy prosecutor John Johnson asked whether it was possible that Vance was not paranoid - because after Pressly's high-profile killing people really were against Vance.

"Even paranoid people have enemies," Agharkar acknowledged.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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