The clock is ticking towards five o’clock Thursday evening and the jury is still deliberating whether or not Daeveion Mangum, 20, should be found guilty of murdering 60-year-old Michael Castagne in his office on the 500 block of E. Arapahoe Rd on November 17th last year.
The question is not whether Mangum committed the murder or not, but rather if he reacted because he believed Castagne was attempting to commit sexual assault against him that evening — that it was a crime of self defense.
The family of Mangum — his wife, mother, aunt and one of his brothers — sit on one end of the empty hallway on the sixth floor of the Frank Crowley Courthouse. Mangum’s wife, Dashunna, talked to their one-year-old on the phone, asking how her "baby girl" was doing. His mother nodded off — she works night shifts at a nursing home and hasn't had a solid day's rest since the trial started.
Castagne's sister, her husband, and former attorney and personal friend Dan Cutrer, sit silently on the opposite end of the hall. As the time slips towards 5:30 p.m., Castagne’s brother-in-law says to Cutrer, “It’s amazing how badly you can distort the truth, just make a story of someone and throw him under the dirt. It’s disgusting." He's referring to the defense's attempts to show Castagne was a serial predator, preying on straight, young, vulnerable men.
No one would learn the fate of Daeveion Mangum that evening. Another sleepless night awaits them all.
At 9 a.m. Friday morning, the verdict is read. Mangum is guilty of murder, facing five years to life imprisonment. With that, the punishment phase of the trial begins.
Both the prosecution and defense present new witnesses and information. In what would become another daylong deliberation, the jury appears to be divided, unable to agree on the years Mangum should receive for his crime. The central question: What is the appropriate sentence for bludgeoning a 60-year-old man 32 times in the head then setting his body on fire?
If they did agree that Mangum acted out of “sudden passion” — committing a violent crime, especially homicide, in which the perpetrator commits the act against someone directly because of a provocation at the time of the offense — Mangum’s potential sentence would be reduced to between two and twenty years.
New witnesses presented Friday further complicate this already-convoluted case, and pulled at the heartstrings of the jurors.
Rosemary Sheer, Castagne's sister, speaks of how Castagne, her oldest brother, became something like a parent to her when she was 27, after their mother died. He was the one she leaned on during the most trying times of her life — their mother's death, then a brother's death. Shortly after, their father passed too. She would call him two to three times a week, she says, when she was going through a divorce.
"I miss my brother," Sheer said, her voice trembling. "I miss him so much."
Then Cutrer takes the stand. Cutrer and Castagne became acquainted in 1990, after meeting on a forum during the 300 band modem era of the '80s. They remained friends and for many years, up until Castagne's death, had dinner together every Tuesday night.
“Every Tuesday about 4:45 I look at the clock and realize Mike’s not coming and won’t be coming anymore and it’s crushing,” Cutrer said. “He was one of the most docile, easy-going people I’d ever met, which is why we got along so well.”
Cutrer was one of only perhaps a “half dozen” people that knew about Castagne’s pornography website, JockPhysical.com. Castagne gave Cutrer a complimentary subscription to the site, but Cutrer said he never looked at it.
Cutrer appears to be one of the only people that knew Castagne as both a successful manager at multiple high-class bars in the Dallas area, a kind friend and a pornographer. Castagne hid this aspect of his life from his family and coworkers.
The day brings more complexities. After a brief recess, the judge decides to allow Castagne’s 1985 conviction of sexual performance by a child and fondling of a child to be heard in front of the jury, which he had excluded the day before. Today he deemed both Castagne’s sister’s testimony and Cutrer’s to have opened the door to presenting evidence to sway the jury’s opinion on Castagne’s character.
So the jury came to know this: In 1985, at 30 years old, Castagne approached a 16-year-old boy in a convenience store asking if he’d ever thought about modeling, according to the defense. The boy apparently said he was interested and Castagne led him outside to the back of the convenience store and took a photo of his genitals.
Castagne then asked the 16-year-old if he’d be interested in porn. The boy said he might be, but that he was only 16. After he was arrested (the boy told his mother about the occurrence), Castagne told the police that he then told the boy he’d have to lie and say he was 18 if he wanted to do porn.
Castagne also told the boy that before doing videos with girls, he’d have to first do an audition video similar to the ones that would later be published on JockPhysical.com, the defense told Cutrer during cross-examination. Cutrer says he was not aware of Castagne’s 1985 conviction until after his death.
Neither was anyone else. Prior to September 1, 1997, the sex offender registration laws in Texas did not require a person convicted of or adjudicated for a sex offense before 1991 to register as a sex offender. However, in 2005 the registration requirement was made “retroactively applicable” to those whose reportable conviction or adjudication occurred on or after September 1, 1970.
Castagne never registered, which is a felony offense in Texas. But it's also a common offense: Enforcement of this law change is difficult unless the individual re-offends and is caught for it.
After his conviction, Castagne completed five years probation and then took care to keep “meticulous” records of the clients he worked with. If he had been registered, however, he would not have been legally able to operate a sexually-oriented business in Richardson.
The defense argues that this conviction showed a pattern of manipulative behavior — “grooming” — that would continue throughout Castagne’s interactions with clients, including Mangum.
The defense then asks Mangum’s wife, Dashunna, and mother, Kizzie Sanders, to take the stand. Dashunna begs the jury to give Mangum the minimum sentence, so he can be with his two young children, a one-year-old girl and two-year-old boy.
“He’s a real good father,” she said, crying. “He was trying to provide for his family. Please, give him the two years (the minimum sentence if they found that his crime was a crime of passion). This is so hard on his children. He was just trying to provide for them.”
When Sanders takes the stand, she was composed and serious. She spoke about him as a child. “Everybody loved him,” she says. “He was a people person, had lots of friends. People grasped on to him because he had a free spirit and free mind. He was trying to help his family, but he went the wrong way. … I wish I had known, been there to tell him …”
Now she's crying. “I was his father and his mother,” Sanders says. “I wish I had known he was doing this. He thought he was doing the right thing. You do your best to provide for you and yours. He went on the internet, he went the wrong way. He sees good in everybody.”
After closing arguments, the jury retreats to the back room for another five hours. They are wrestling with the idea of sudden passion, asking at one point Friday afternoon if they could come up with the years Mangum would serve before agreeing on whether or not Mangum’s actions were out of sudden passion.
When they return after 4 pm, having been overheard in heated argument by the court reporter, their faces appeared stoic and exhausted. The charge is read: Mangum is sentenced to nine years in prison with no fine. They come out with an affirmative on the sudden passion defense. The verdict had to be unanimous.
Mangum’s family says they feel the outcome was much better than it could have been, and that they were grateful for that. “It could have been way, way worse,” said Sanders. “It’s a blessing. Overall, we think it’s fair.”
“We still get to visit him, we don’t have to go to a grave site to visit him,” his Aunt Audria Stanley adds. “We apologize to (Castagne’s) family. They lost someone. We still get to see ours.”
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