October 31, 2009 10:01:00 PM
After three hours of deliberation today, an Oktibbeha County jury sentenced 29-year-old Bobby Batiste to death for the capital murder of his rommate last year at 21 Apartments.
The jury of eight men and four women deliberated for three hours before returning its decision. Family members of victim Andreas Galanis were in tears after Circuit Court Clerk Angie McGinniss announced Batiste''s sentence.
"I finally have closure over what happened to Andreas," said Matthew Sfirakis, a close family friend who said he was "like a brother" to Galanis. "We''ve just got to move on. We''ll move on one step at a time. He''s in a better place. He''s an angel. He''s looking down on us."
"He didn''t deserve what happened to him," Sfirakis added.
Sfirakis comforted Galanis'' sister, Christina, and mother, Katerina, throughout the week-long trial. Christina Galanis, 26, was emotional after the sentence was read, as well, and credited the Oktibbeha County Sheriff''s Department for arresting Batiste the day of the killing, and for all their subsequent work on the case.
"I want to thank the sheriff''s department for doing such a great job and treating us like family," Christina Galanis said.
District Attorney Forrest Allgood admitted the trial took an emotional toll on all involved.
"People have the wrong notion about these things," Allgood said. "It''s very taxing emotionally. It''s very taxing mentally. I meant what I said in my closing argument. This isn''t something you do lightly. I believe very passionately in the death penalty. I think it''s appropriate; I think it''s a deterrent ..."
Katerina Galanis declined to comment, but spoke earlier in the day on the witness stand of the tremendous loss she has faced.
"My life is, somehow, it''s half gone," she said. "Andreas was our protector. He was the man of the house. He was the one who was always giving us advice, and he took it upon himself to do things in our house and protect our house."
Katerina Galanis later went on to say how even her personality has changed since the death of her son.
"I''m a cold-blooded person," she said. "I cannot say I love anybody anymore."
Batiste''s mother, Annie, spoke earlier in the day on the witness stand, but couldn''t be reached for comment after the sentence was read in court. On the stand, she called Bobby Batiste a "sweet, kind-hearted person."
The defense called nine witnesses to speak on Batiste''s behalf before sentencing. Among the group were former employers, school teachers, coaches and others.
Batiste growing up
All spoke of Batiste as a kind young man who would never hurt anybody. Batiste had to wipe tears from his eyes while his mother was on the witness stand and defense attorney Jim Lappan showed the courtroom photos of his client during different phases of his life, including infancy, his elementary school years and, lastly, as a teenager.
But Allgood emphasized during questioning that most of the witnesses interacted regularly with Batiste as a teenager, but he will turn 30 in December. Allgood also said Batiste "deceived" a lot of people in his life into thinking he was a nice person.
Batiste pleaded guilty in 2004 to credit-card fraud in Kemper County and was accused in his trial this week of spending more than $4,500 of Galanis'' money on a debit card without Galanis'' knowledge prior to killing him. Batiste also had two girlfriends when he was arrested March 7, 2008 for Galanis'' murder, neither of whom knew about the other.
''Destroyer of dreams''
Allgood called Batiste a "parasite" earlier in the week and Saturday referred to him as a "destroyer of dreams."
Lappan throughout the week didn''t deny Batiste killed Galanis. His argument was that the incident didn''t happen in the commission of a robbery and didn''t warrant a capital murder charge, which made Batiste eligible for the death penalty.
Batiste said in police statements he used Galanis'' debit card regularly and that Galanis knew about the frequent transactions. Testimony this week by tellers at M&F Bank, located at the corner of Highway 12 and South Montgomery Street, said Galanis told a different story when he went into the bank the afternoon before his murder and realized $4,507 was missing from his checking account.
Galanis told at least two M&F Bank employees that he never even activated his debit card. The card and his pin number were still sitting in a box in Galanis'' bedroom, he told the bank employees.
But Galanis'' M&F Bank statements show the card was activated at the branch ATM at Highway 12 and South Montgomery Street on Dec. 25, 2007. Galanis was in Biloxi visiting his family at the time.
In the few months after Christmas 2007, someone spent more than $4,500 while using Galanis''s debit card without his knowledge. Galanis told at least one teller at M&F Bank he suspected Batiste had used the debit card without his permission.
What happened the morning of March 7, 2008 is still unclear. Batiste said Galanis threatened to shoot him over the missing money, then jabbed at him with a sword. A fight then ensued, during which, Batiste said in his statement, he put a rim adjuster in his bookbag and used it to strike Galanis three or four times in the head.
Photos of the crime scene shown Thursday in court gave jurors an idea of the violence which had taken place. Blood stains were found all over the carpet in at least three rooms in the apartment, and blood was spattered on walls and ceilings. Galanis'' head and face were covered with abrasions and contusions.
Allgood believes Batiste could have killed Galanis because Galanis had filed a police report the night before his death about the missing money.
Batiste tried to clean up the crime scene before sheriff''s deputies arrived. Galanis'' mother became worried when her son didn''t show up in Biloxi for a flight to Florida and asked the Sheriff''s Department to check on him.
Batiste had put a sheet on the floor in the back of his Ford Explorer and admitted in his videotaped statement he was about to put Galanis in the vehicle and leave the scene when the first deputy arrived. Batiste has been in custody since he was arrested during the evening hours of March 7, 2008.
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