The following is an except from 'a time to heal, the struggles of a battered woman,' written by Yvonne Jones, who served 7 and a half years of a 21-year sentence for the manslaughter of her 6-year-old son.
Her ex-husband, Christopher Sepulvado was convicted of first degree murder in the killing and was sentenced to death. In this sample chapter from Jones' book, Sepulvado is referred to as 'Harold.'
Trial Number Two Begins
Although we were all disappointed about the mistrial, it did give us more time to prepare a solid case. We tried once again to get a change of venue since Harold's trial and my mistrial had already been held there. The judge denied it, so they began the process of picking the jury. One thing I remember that the judge told the jurors at my mistrial was if they wanted to come back and sit on the jury again, they could. I didn't think they could do that, and I don't think any of them did, I just remember him telling them they could do so.
My attorney had several meetings with the DA, and he tried several times to get me to plead guilty. The day the trial was supposed to begin, my attorney asked to speak to me alone. He wanted me to let him offer the DA a plea of guilty to negligent homicide. I told him that I just did not want to plead guilty to anything. He told me to forget about everybody else and what they wanted because I was the one who would have to do the time if they should find me guilty. I had no time to think about it, so I just asked God, please let me know what I should do. Within a few seconds, I felt a peace that I should let him go ahead and offer the guilty plea.
As he left the room to go talk to the DA, I walked to the window and looked out, and I could see my family gathered in a circle, outside. They were holding hands and were about to pray. My aunt Dorothy looked up and saw me looking out of the window; she reached up as if to grab my hand so I could join them in prayer. Tears filled my eyes as I thanked God for my family, not only for the love and support they had shown me, but also the money Daddy had spent trying to clear my name and keep me from going to prison.
I knew my fate was in God's hands, and whatever happened had to be a part of his plan. My attorney came back and said that the DA was shocked by my offer, but it came a little too late. Thus, the trial began.
The prosecution brought their case first. I could not bear to hear the details of my son's death again, so I stuck my fingers in my ears and tried to block out as much of it as I could. Just the sound of the DA's voice made my skin crawl.
Once the prosecution rested, it was time for us to prove our case. All of my witnesses were called to testify, the doctors who did all the testing, my counselor, and even one of Harold's ex-wives. We subpoenaed both of Harold's ex-wives, but one of them never showed up. Nothing was ever done about it, and she was not made to come. Her baby was one of the other children that Harold was suspected of killing other than Allen.
His first ex-wife sat there and admitted that he had thrown her through a plate-glass window, yet she said he was not a bad person.
The hardest thing to do was watch the child that was once his step-son. My attorney thought his testimony would be a big help in my defense. This child had been placed in an institution because of the abuse he had gone through at the hands of Harold. Just reliving that awful abuse, seeing Harold face to face, and having to tell about what happened to him, set him back and destroyed part of the progress that he had made the past few years.
I was not looking forward to getting on that stand again and telling that story, but knowing that I would be telling it for the last time definitely made a difference. I knew that I could not do it on my own, so I asked God to take full control of everything I said, and especially my emotions. The one thing they condemned me for most was not being able to show any emotion during my testimony.
The fact is, it was not even real to me, and it was as if I was telling the story about someone else.
Things seemed to be so different at this trial, than it was at my mistrial. I watched the jurors all week, and I could tell that they were bored and seemed to have already made up their minds that I was guilty.
Even though we had some good expert witnesses, the jury was not sequestered, it was a small town, and there was no way they had not heard about the case before going to trial.
The week was very long, and we were so tired from having to travel the two hours back and forth every day. Sure, it would have been easier to get a motel close by, but it was the only way we could avoid reporters and TV cameras. Daddy also did not need the extra expense.
After a long, tiring, and painful week, the time had come to hear the closing and let the jury decide the verdict.
We listened intently as the judge told the jurors they had to find me guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.
The jurors were out for about three hours when one of them asked that the charges be read again. After more deliberation, the jurors returned and the verdict was in.
We knew in our hearts that there was no way they could find me guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; the prosecution just did not prove that.
I was asked to stand as the verdict was read. My heart sank to the floor as the juror said, "We the jury, find the defendant guilty of manslaughter."
I could not believe my ears. How could this have possibly happened? Worse still, what was going to happen next?
The judge said that the bail he had set before should be sufficient to stand this time, so Daddy was not supposed to have to pay any more money. I do not know what happened to what the judge said during the time I was found guilty until the time I was taken to the jail to be rebooked for manslaughter, but they charged my daddy another $5,000.00.
We went home that night hurt, disappointed, and tired of fighting. Daddy knew that his other attorney friend had told him not to waste his money because there was a precedent already set and they were going to make me do some time.
He also knew that God was in control and he was the one who would have the final say.
The sentencing date was set for April 7, 1994. That was just four short months away.