The Associated Press
An East Texas jury found a retired dentist guilty of murder Wednesday in the fatal shooting of his wife during an argument at their home last summer.
The Smith County jury deliberated a little more than an hour Wednesday afternoon before returning its verdict on Bobby Ray Nichols in Tyler. The penalty phase of the trial is scheduled to begin Thursday morning. Nichols, 76, could be sentenced to up to life in prison.
Earlier Wednesday, Nichols testified told jurors that he was “in a stupor” and did not intend to fatally shoot his wife during an argument at their home last summer.
Under questioning by prosecutors, Nichols said he only meant to scare his wife of 26 years, Rosalind Nichols, 71, with his 9mm handgun the night of June 29.
“I was in a stupor and don’t remember anything from that night. It was the gunshot that woke me up,” Nichols said.
Under questioning by his attorney, Brad Lollar, Nichols testified about the tensions that built between him and his wife during their marriage.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Jason Parrish told jurors that Nichols wanted his wife dead, but that she bled to death slowly from her abdominal wound.
“It took her minutes to die. Not a minute. Minutes,” Parrish said.
Lollar told jurors that Nichols could not please his wife, that they argued often and that Rosalind Nichols became angry when her husband stayed home and angry when he went out.
“All I can tell you is, this is a good man. He killed his wife, and he shouldn’t have done it,” Lollar said.
Prosecutor Richard Vance had the last word. Pointing to Nichols, he said, “The only way to believe what came out of this thing’s mouth is for you to adopt the mindset of a murderer. It takes a big man to get up on the stand and criticize his dead wife. It takes a big man to kill a defenseless woman.”
Earlier in the day, experts for both sides testified about Nichols’ bouts of depression, dependence on alcohol and the mental impairment associated with alcohol abuse or his Parkinson’s disease. However, they said he was capable of criminal intent when he shot his wife.
Outside the jurors’ presence, Lollar asked state District Judge Kerry Russell to allow the jury to consider a manslaughter charge. Russell denied the request. Manslaughter is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.