On Tuesday, a Lamar County jury convicted Patrick Earl O’Neal, Jr., 39, of the murder of Anthony Massey, according to First Assistant District Attorney Benjamin I. Kaminar.
“The defendant shot Anthony Massey in the back and killed him while he was sitting on a friend’s UTV,” said Kaminar. “Massey had gone along for a ride with John Burton. On the way, O’Neal flagged them down and got into an argument with Burton. The argument ended with an exchange of gunfire between Burton and O’Neal. O’Neal fired six shots at the UTV and hit both Massey and Burton in the back.”
Jurors saw the body camera video of the first officer to arrive on the scene and heard testimony about the location of evidence recovered on site and from the UTV. They also heard from the medical examiner who performed an autopsy and watched a portion of O’Neal’s interview with detectives after the shooting.
The defendant took the stand in his own defense and claimed that he was only responding to Burton’s threats against him. On cross-examination, O’Neal admitted that Massey had never posed a threat to him and that he had fired all of the rounds at the UTV. After deliberating for under an hour, the jury returned a verdict of guilty.
“Texas law does not allow a defendant to claim self-defense if they kill an innocent bystander,” said Kaminar. “Patrick O’Neal decided that Texas’ self-defense law allowed him to fire at people indiscriminately. The jury followed the law as properly instructed by Judge Tidwell and convicted him of murder.”
During the punishment phase, jurors heard testimony about O’Neal’s history of domestic violence, including an assault earlier that same day.
“With their guilty verdict, the jury told this community that killing innocent people won’t be tolerated,” said Assistant District Attorney Erin Lewis. “Mr. Massey was an innocent bystander who lost his life in a senseless manner and the citizens of Lamar County gave his family justice.”
The jury was also presented with evidence of the defendant’s previous criminal history, including probation for burglary and car theft. O’Neal was sentenced to 45 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young said, “Today, our citizens held Patrick O’Neal accountable for his actions. They sent the message that shooting a bystander in the back and killing them is unacceptable in Lamar County.”
The case was tried in the 6th District Court before Judge Wes Tidwell. Benjamin Kaminar and Erin Lewis prosecuted the case on behalf of the State. O’Neal was represented by Paul Rosemergy.