GRANBURY -- It took a jury less than 40 minutes to find a Hood County woman guilty of murdering her 73-year-old mother last year.
Brenda Kiernan, 50, faces a maximum of 99 years in prison for fatally shooting Natha Hudson with her .38 Special in the back of the head. The punishment phase of the trial continues today.
Kiernan left Hudson's body in the room where she was killed for perhaps as long as two weeks before calling authorities because a buzzard was circling their Pecan Plantation home.
Her attorney argued that the strain of caring for her demanding mother for years drove Kiernan insane and caused her to snap.
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But after the verdict, a prosecutor said that Kiernan told too many lies during the initial police investigation for her defense to overcome.
"You can't have everything," said Lori Kaspar, an assistant district attorney who helped try the case. "You can't say, 'I don't know how it happened, it was an intruder, it was an accident,' and then say, 'I'm not guilty because I'm insane.'"
The defense called one witness Wednesday, the slain woman's sister, Wyvone Lawson.
Lawson said her niece had no life of her own other than taking care of her mother, a woman she described as a brittle diabetic with a heart condition that required extensive surgery the summer before she was murdered.
"Sometimes I feel like Natha treated Brenda like a servant," Lawson said. "I thought that if Brenda was going to be working for Natha like that, she should have been paid a salary and not have to be on the dole, stealing money from Natha's purse. It took away her dignity."
Floyd Jennings, a Houston-based psychologist called by Hood County District Attorney Robert Christian, told the court that although Kiernan may suffer from bipolar disorder and chronic alcoholism, her condition does not meet the legal definition of insanity.
The insanity defense requires that Kiernan not understand that her actions were wrong, Jennings said.
"She communicated to me in multiple ways that she knew that her conduct was wrong," Jennings said. "She acknowledged that she was horrified after seeing her mother lying there with blood trickling from her nose and ear. She told [Texas Ranger Danny] Briley that she made things up because she did not want to tell him what happened. And she knew that she might in fact have to spend a long time in jail had she told anyone about her conduct."
After spinning several stories for Briley, who investigated the case and ultimately arrested her, Kiernan finally said that her gun went off by accident while she was playing with her mother's hair.
"The thing is I didn't want to say that because I didn't want to go to prison for the rest of my life," Kiernan said during an interview recorded Oct. 21, 2009, the morning of the arrest. "If I told anybody that, they wouldn't believe me.
"It honestly was an accident. It wasn't premeditated. And after it happened, I was trying to hide it."
Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752