Editor’s note: The story is running as when it was first published on June 28, 2003.
FORT WORTH — Brandon Biggs took the stand Friday for the second time this week, turned to the woman who had just been sentenced to 50 years for killing his father, and forgave her.
“To Chante, I personally would like to say that I accept your apology, but in return, I hope you will accept my forgiveness. I hope you will accept the forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
“While forgiveness is given, restitution is still required.”
There were no gasps, no screams, no celebrating when state District Judge James Wilson announced the jury’s sentence for Chante Jawan Mallard, who struck Gregory Glenn Biggs on a Fort Worth freeway and then left him to die lodged in the windshield of her car.
There were only silent tears.
But all that changed after the heart-wrenching victim impact statement by Brandon Biggs, a 20-year-old ministerial student.
One juror wailed. Mallard, a 27-year-old former nurse’s aide, and her family openly wept. Spectators wiped tears from their eyes.
“There are no winners in a case like this,” Brandon Biggs said as he turned his attention directly to the Mallard family. “Just as we all lost Greg, you all will be losing a daughter.”
The jury of seven men and five women deliberated for about 2 1/2 hours before assessing Mallard’s punishment for killing the 37-year-old former bricklayer, who wound up on the streets after losing his pickup and his home.
Mallard -- who had been drinking, smoking marijuana and taking Ecstasy the night she hit Biggs -- also received 10 years in prison for helping dump his body and burning one of her car seats in an attempt to conceal the crime.
The sentences will run concurrently.
Mallard must serve half of her sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
Outside the courtroom after the verdict, her attorney, Jeff Kearney, said Mallard and her family were distraught. He said she will probably be an old woman before she gets out of prison because convicted killers usually aren’t released the first time they are eligible for parole.
“We were hoping it would be somewhat lighter than that to give her the opportunity to, at some point in time, get out and have some kind of life,” said Kearney, who handled the case with Reagan Wynn. “... My guess is she’s not going to get out of the penitentiary for 40 years or something like that. So, in effect, her life has been taken.”
He said the case will be appealed.
Prosecutor Richard Alpert, who tried the case with Christy Jack and Miles Brissette, called the punishment just, but the win bittersweet.
“It’s hard to take much pleasure in it knowing that both families are pretty devastated and that our community had to go through such a terrible crime,” Alpert said.
After the punishment was read, Mallard’s more than two dozen supporters appeared stunned, covering their mouths, bowing their heads and burying their faces in their hands.
Other than some sniffling, the courtroom was quiet.
Then Brandon Biggs took the witness stand for the third time since the trial began on Monday.
This time, however, he wasn’t responding to prosecutors’ questions. He was speaking from the heart.
“First of all, I would like to thank the jury,” Brandon Biggs said. “To the Mallard family, we would like to say we are sorry for your loss as well.”
Brandon Biggs told the family that, while they will have phone calls, correspondence and visitation with Mallard, his family has nothing. He asked that they pray for, guide and protect Mallard as she serves her time in prison.
During closing arguments, prosecutors Alpert and Jack had asked for the maximum sentence of life in prison. Defense attorneys pleaded for compassion and mercy.
Jack told jurors that “killing Gregory Biggs was simply a bump in the road of [Mallard’s] life.”
She asked the jury to imagine what Biggs was thinking as he lay in Mallard’s car.
“Do you think he wondered, ‘What did I ever do in my whole life to deserve to die like this?’” Jack said.
In his final summation, defense attorney Kearney asked jurors not to give up on Mallard, but rather administer “justice tempered with mercy.”
He said Mallard was truly remorseful for her actions, accepted responsibility for killing Biggs and wanted to be punished. He reminded jurors that she had been a good student and a hard worker who came from a supportive, loving family.
“There is so much good left in her,” Kearney said. “Yes, she did get off track in her life and, God knows, she is sorry for it.”
In his closing, Alpert agreed that Mallard had a loving family who raised her well and with good values. But, he said, Mallard rejected them, entered a life of selfishness and almost got away with murder.
He told the jury to send a message so that no one will ever dare “gamble with another’s life.”
“Look within yourself and find the moral fiber that you have -- and she clearly lacks,” Alpert said.
The bizarre nature of the crime captured nationwide attention, and TV and print reporters from across the country camped out on the steps of the Tarrant County courthouse for the five-day trial.
Kearney argued that the intense publicity, including Court TV’s telecast of the trial, hurt his case.
“Whenever you put a camera in a courtroom and the jury knows that the entire world is watching, people act differently on camera,” Kearney said. “Witnesses act differently. Judges act differently. Jurors act differently. Lawyers act differently.”
He said he also believed that the trial should have been moved out of Fort Worth as the defense had earlier requested.
“That’s one reason why this case grabbed the national media attention, because many of the facts that were reported by the Fort Worth Police Department early on turned out not to be true,” Kearney said. “But it’s hard to get that out of people’s minds.”
Alpert said the media presence had no effect on jurors.
However, both lawyers agreed that neither side had ever tried a case like this before -- and probably never will again.
And both praised Brandon Biggs.
“I thought Brandon was a wonderful young man,” Kearney said at a news conference outside the courthouse.
Alpert said he was struck by Brandon’s character the first time he met him.
“His level of maturity and sensitivity and just reasonableness is just astounding,” Alpert said.
“I think that the highest compliment to Gregory Biggs that we could give him is his son Brandon. He’s just an amazing young man.”