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Trial begins with video confession in Burleson death penalty case

Trial for man facing death penalty for alleged shooting, kidnapping, killing and pursuit underway
Trial for man facing death penalty for alleged shooting, kidnapping, killing and pursuit underway 01:56

NORTH TEXAS — The first day of Jerry Elders' capital murder trial featured a video of his confession to investigators that he had shot a police officer, kidnapped and later shot a woman, and that his friends had nothing to do with it.

Elders faces the death penalty for the April 14, 2021, murder of Robin Waddell in Johnson County, in connection with a chain of events that morning across Burleson, Joshua and eventually up into Cooke County.

The Burleson Police officer who was shot and survived, Joshua Lott, is expected to be a witness in the trial.

Elders, who was in court in a suit, appearing much heavier since his arrest three years ago, pleaded not guilty to the indictment after it was read.

Prosecutor Stephanie Miller told the jury they would hear evidence of how Elders was with two friends early in the morning when Lott pulled them over. Elders, she said, told his friends he was going to shoot the officer and then did three times.

The car they were in was later found burning. Meanwhile, investigators believe Elders hid nearby at Waddell's property, then confronted her, stealing her pickup truck and taking her with him.

In the video interview, Elders says Waddell grabbed the wheel, causing the truck to crash through the gate of the Joshua Police Department, which is when he said he panicked, shooting her twice and pushing her out of the truck.

A Texas Ranger testified Monday that license plate scanners later helped track down Elders as he was driving north.

Opening statements and testimony got off to a slow start, as Elders' defense attorneys Bob Gill and Miles Brissette continually objected to prosecutors failing to present evidence and testimony in the right order.

They also filed a motion as the trial was underway, to suppress the video interview and any evidence investigators found after it because Elders clearly says in the beginning of the video that he wants a lawyer. The questioning stops, then begins again later when Elders says he wants to make sure his friends aren't held responsible for anything that happens.

Judge Lee Gabriel still allowed some portions of the video interview to be played, but it was not clear exactly what her ruling was. Gabriel would not allow reporters to stay in the courtroom after opening statements, explaining she understood there was a Johnson County rule that prevented it. She did allow a camera in the court but would not allow microphones to be placed so the proceedings could be clearly heard. Other members of the public were allowed to stay in the courtroom.

The trial is expected to last at least two weeks.

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