Man Sentenced to Death for 1984 Killing of SMU Student

The capital murder trial of Donald Andrew Bess came to a dramatic conclusion last Friday when he was sentenced to death for the sexual assault and murder of 20-year-old college student Angela Samota in 1984.

(Please see the previous post "Murder Trial of Man Accused of 1984 Killing of SMU Student Begins" for background information on the crime.)

During closing arguments in the sentencing phase of the trial, Dallas County prosecutors stated that Bess needed to be held accountable for destroying the lives of so many people.

One of the prosecutors asked jurors, "If Donald Bess isn't deserving of a death sentence ... then who is? Who's done this much harm? Who's tormented this many people?"

The jurors had previously heard testimony from several of Bess' victims during the course of the trial, including his former wife and two women he was convicted of sexually assaulting. At the time of his trial, Bess was serving a life sentence for rape.

In their closing arguments, Bess' defense attorneys acknowledged that even though he had done "weird stuff, bad stuff," he could still live out the remainder of his sentence in prison at no risk to the general public.

They also highlighted several mitigating factors about Bess for the jury, including his record of good behavior in prison, his relatively poor health, his age, and his childhood spent with an alcoholic and controlling mother.

In the end, it took the jury less than one hour to make their final decision.

The consensus among jurors was that it was the prosecution's entire case, not one point, that enabled them to reach their difficult decision.

According to one juror, "It was the most difficult decision I've ever had to make in my life. But the writing was on the wall."

Related Resources:

& Man Sentenced to Death in 1984 Murder, Rape of SMU Student (Dallas Morning News)

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