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Forty Years

He could have faced five years in prison, or the rest of his life. On Friday, a judge sentenced him to 40 years. If he serves the whole sentence, he will be 83 years old when he gets out.

A jury found Jon Thomas Ford guilty of murder Friday in the strangulation of Dana Clair Edwards, and — after listening to her father and a dozen of the defendant’s friends during a punishment hearing — sentenced him to 40 years in prison.

Ford was taken into custody after the sentence was announced.

Because they were potential witnesses, parents Darrell and Deborah Edwards spent most of the four-week trial sitting in a corridor outside the courtroom — a black backpack always by their side.

On Friday, when Darrell Edwards finally took the witness stand as the state’s sole punishment witness, he told jurors the backpack contained the ashes of his daughter and her dog Grit, who was found dead a week after she was killed Jan. 1, 2009.

“This long period of time has been devastating psychologically,” Darrell Edwards, who wore a lapel button over his suit jacket that said “I (heart) D.C.,” told the jury. “We refer to it as another day in purgatory.”

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Dana Edwards, 32, was described during the trial as an idealist, a class president in high school and an academic standout through graduate school.

She attended medical school but dropped out after a serious accident left her with lasting physical maladies. She went to work for her parents and lived in the condo just outside Alamo Heights that they used as their office.

Authorities said Ford, now 43, strangled Edwards there in the first hours of 2009, after both attended the same New Year’s Eve party. The two dated several years but Edwards had broken it off three months earlier.

Ford’s head briefly sank as state District Judge Maria Teresa Herr read the guilty verdict — his only explicit display of emotion throughout the trial.

It took jurors less than eight hours over two days to reach the guilty verdict and about an hour to decide punishment.

I talked a bit about this case last week. It is difficult to talk objectively about it, and maybe it will never be easy. I had a running supply of news about the trial as it happened, even if I didn’t read every article. The best I can do is post the compendium of news I received:

Photo by Craig KapitanThere are more articles at the Express News‘ website, mySA.com.

I also wanted to mention, with gratitude, Express News reporter Craig Kapitan, who tweets as @hearsaySA. He attended and live-tweeted the entire trial. He tweeted this photo of jury members meeting Dana’s family. Prosecutor Catherine Babbitt reportedly said that was the first time she had seen that happen in 22 years practicing law. Take what you will from that.

Something one of the prosecutors, Kirsta Melton, said about the case stuck with me, and it ought to haunt everybody a bit:

“Nothing is more dangerous than … evil cloaked in the appearance of good,” Melton said. “It was that gentlemanly disguise, that quiet tone … that caused Dana Clair to let him in.”

Jurors should not feel guilt about their part in a trial that was spurred by Ford’s own bad decisions, she added.

“Jon Thomas Ford had every advantage. Every benefit. People have given him the very best from day one,” Melton said. “He knows right from wrong … and yet he chose to kill.”

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  • Billy46_ca

    I was surprised at the tactic used by the defense in the punishment phase of having a parade of people starting with his sister say what a gentle soul Ford is and how the jury got the verdict wrong.  As Kapitan observed at one point it was almost like one class preaching another.  The photos of the jury drove this home as it was a very diverse and working class looking group, our peers.  And all of the Ford witnesses for the most part are well off types and mostly anglo.  Wouldn’t this have been a time to ask for mercy rather than tell this hard working jury how wrong they were?

  • http://davidcwells.me/ DCW

    Thanks for your comment. I hadn’t thought of that. It did seem as though arguments at the punishment phase, in addition to going overboard with the number of witnesses, seemed to be skipping ahead to the appeal. This was not the time to tell the jury they were wrong. They’re not going to go back on their verdict.