A Bexar County jury sentenced Otis Tyrone McKane to death on Friday in the 2016 murder of San Antonio police Detective Benjamin Marconi.
The jury’s sentence came after four weeks of emotional testimony during the trial from witnesses, investigators, and friends and family of both Marconi and McKane. The jury deliberated for more than seven hours in deciding McKane’s fate.
Marconi’s family issued a statement thanking Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales and prosecutors Tamara Strauch, Mario Del Prado, and Jessica Schulze. “We are extremely proud of all the hard work you put into bringing justice for Ben and finding closure for our family,” the family stated.
Of Marconi, the statement read, “You are eternally missed and we will NEVER forget you — rest easy, sweet Ben.”
McKane did not testify, though he interrupted the punishment phase proceedings Friday to ask Bexar County District Judge Ron Rangel if he could speak. Rangel told him he could not at that time. Later, McKane’s attorneys said he would not request to testify.
Soon after the jury convicted McKane on July 26, he struck a bailiff and tried to leave the courtroom. He was quickly detained.
That bailiff testified during the sentencing phase of the trial as prosecutors attempted to demonstrate that McKane will be a “future danger” and threat to society and therefore deserves the death penalty over life in prison.
“This is a dangerous man,” prosecutor Mario Del Prado told the jury in his closing statement. “What makes him even more dangerous is that when he hears facts that he doesn’t like … that provokes him. … What do you think he’s going to do with a single guard and 143 other inmates and the guard is unarmed [in prison]?”
Marconi, a 20-year veteran of the department, was shot twice in the head by McKane during an unrelated routine traffic stop while the officer was sitting in his patrol vehicle outside police headquarters on Nov. 20, 2016.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Tom Marconi, the detective’s brother, said as he recalled that day. “My brother murdered. I probably blacked out quite a bit from all the trauma.”
While McKane admitted to and apologized for the murder soon after he was arrested, he maintained his innocence in jailhouse conversations with his mother, according to recordings played during the trial.
The defense team argued that there’s not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that McKane will probably be violent again.
McKane’s murder of Marconi and attack in the courtroom does not indicate a pattern of hate for law enforcement, defense attorney Raymond Fuchs told the jury.
McKane has spent four and a half years in solitary confinement, transported and monitored by law enforcement, waiting for trial without any incidents, Fuchs noted.
“It would appear that he became delusional about the result or outcome of the case,” Fuchs said of the bailiff attack, specifically “delusions of freedom. … He will never ever again have this delusion or illusion of freedom.”
He’s never going to get out of prison or see his son again — no matter what the jury decides, Fuchs noted.
“He has nothing to lose,” Del Prado said. “That makes him even more dangerous.”
Beyond whether McKane poses a continued, violent threat to society, the jury could consider, if there were sufficient mitigating circumstances, to warrant life in prison over the death penalty.
Sandra McKane, his mother, testified that her son had difficulties visiting his own son. After his arrest, Otis McKane told reporters he was upset over a child custody dispute and “lashed out at somebody that didn’t deserve it.”
“He was upset,” Sandra McKane said. “He just wanted to see his son, take care of him. … I don’t want him to get the death penalty.”
Otis McKane was raised by a Black, low-income, single mother, who worked hard to raise him and his sisters, defense attorney Joel Perez said. “Otis was not a gangbanger when he was younger, he was an athlete.”
Later, McKane started using drugs, including marijuana and cocaine, Perez said, noting that he was” going through a lot” when he killed Marconi, including money problems. McKane owed about $10,000 in child support.
Perez said he didn’t know if the tension between the Black community and police officers played a role in McKane’s decision to kill Marconi. But the defense attorney closed his narrative by alluding to the need for “society” to stop killing Black people.
“We’ve had enough death in 2020, maybe we ought to stop,” Perez said.
During the prosecution’s rebuttal, attorney Tamara Strauch reminded the jury of the oath they took to make decisions “according to the law and the evidence.”
“Don’t set the law aside,” Strauch said. “Justice is blind and it needs to be blind so that everyone regardless of the color of their skin gets a fair trial.”
Jurors also heard from Saharia Paillett-Hill, the mother of McKane’s son, who testified that she was afraid of him.
“He threatened to kill me,” Paillett-Hill said, recalling an argument they had. Their son was in the car with McKane at the time.
Jurors heard a recording she took with her phone that captured him saying “I’ll kill you! You’re taking my life away from me. I’m going to take care of you. You got to f—— believe that, b—-.”
These are not isolated incidents, Strauch said. “Otis McKane does what Otis McKane wants to do.”