MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - The sentencing phase began Monday morning in the capital murder trial of Michael Lee.
On Saturday, a jury found Lee guilty of capital murder. The state is arguing that Lee be given the death penalty, but the defense is pushing for life without parole.
On Monday, the state called some of Kyser's friends and family members to the stand to tell the jurors about Kyser's life.
Kyser's father, Ben Miree, spoke about the deep relationship he shared with his son. He said they both frequently enjoyed fishing and hunting together.
"My parents are both gone," said Ben Miree. "Losing a parent is no preparation for the grief of losing a child."
He said, "Having a good child is something you're not entitled to. What I need to realize for myself is Kyser was a gift. I shouldn't be greedy and ask for more than those 23 years."
Ben Miree said that if he could talk to his son, who he called his "little buddy" he would like to tell him he loved him. He said his son's way of conducting himself was an inspiration to him.
"Kyser was my hero," he said.
Michael Lee's head hung throughout the testimony. Kyser's friends and family members cried in the courtroom.
The state also called Miree's college friends, Pete Dale and Wyatt Smith, who shared their recollections of Kyser's intelligence and character.
Dale recalled how Miree always wanted to learn new things. He taught himself to play the guitar, and he was teaching himself to fix a truck.
Dale also recalled that Kyser wanted to dunk a basketball, so he bought a workout video that promised to teach someone how to dunk a basketball in 90 days. According to Dale, that plan didn't work.
Dale said, "If your path crossed with Kyser, you'd leave the experience with a new friend."
Dale recalled that Kyser was the president of their fraternity at Vanderbilt. He said the fraternity hired a janitor, and Kyser soon became friends with that janitor. Dale said the janitor would meet Kyser in his room upstairs, and the two would drink coffee and watch TV.
Wyatt Smith told funny stories like when Kyser spent months working on a rocket for a competition, only to have the rocket explode in front of the judges.
Smith said, "Our world is a lesser place because he's not in it."
The state also called Kyser's former girlfriend, Sarah Wright. She spoke about the immense fear she suffered after the murder, saying she even had her mother sleep in her bed because she was afraid to be alone.
Wright showed pictures of the last weekend they spent together on Ono Island.
Wright said she misses Kyser everyday.
Kathryn Miree, the victim's mother was the state's final witness.
She said Kyser "was a joy. The sort of child that was easy to raise. He was full of energy."
She told stories of how Kyser took a cross-country road trip, eating hamburgers all along the way.
"How can you prepare to lose a son?" Kathryn Miree asked. "I wanted to meet his wife. I wanted to meet his children."
She said Kyser was truly a special person.
"Every mom thinks their son is special, but he was really special," she ended.
The defense called clinical psychologist, Dr. Marianne Rosenzweig, who conducted extensive interviews with Lee's family and researched his background.
Rosenzweig said, based on an IQ test, Lee is borderline mentally disabled.
Defense Attorney Glenn Davidson said, "The state will tell you (Michael Lee's) a monster. Felicia will tell you he's not."
The psychologist went in detail about Lee's upbringing. She said Lee grew up as a happy, easygoing child growing up near Atlanta.
She testified that trouble began when Lee's adulterous father beat his wife. The couple eventually divorced. Rosenzweig said Rosenzweig said that this left a terrible impact on Lee and he became a different child after his parents separated — picking fights and becoming distant.
Rosenzweig said in middle school, Lee began hanging with the wrong crowd and getting into drugs.
The expert said she would diagnose Lee with ‘major depressive disorder,' and she said he's received treatment with antidepressants.
But she showed a brighter side to Lee as well. She spoke about Lee's love for his mother, and his love for his father, despite the damage that was caused to the family.
Rosenzweig spoke about Lee's first job at Taco Bell. She even showed a picture of Lee that was taken on his first day. Rosenzweig said Lee would give most of his paycheck to his mother to pay the bills.
The expert also showed baby pictures of Lee, and she read a short book that Lee wrote when he was 5 years old.
However, despite his love for his family, she said Lee got involved in crime. Lee was arrested numerous times while he was young for charges varying from harassment to trespassing to assault.
Lee has spent time in jail, at boot camps and at psychological facilities. Lee was also placed in programs for substance abuse and anger management.
Rosenzweig said in studying Lee's reports, she found that Lee has "obsessive thoughts of his father beating his mother."
The expert said when Lee gets angry, he starts hitting, cursing, selling drugs and eventually gets ‘locked up.'
When Lee was 14, his estranged father became ordained as a baptist minister, and Lee told Rosenzweig that "was the happiest day of my life."
Lee recalled spending the day with his father, excited that the two could become close.
But soon after, Lee's father was sentenced to five years in prison for trafficking cocaine.
Rosenzweig said Lee thought his father was a hypocrite, and he felt betrayed.
The expert said Lee felt that he would be stuck in the street life, and that he would eventually end up in prison.
Lee later had a couple of long term girlfriends. But when his latest relationship failed with LaWanda Drinkard, he attempted to commit suicide by cutting his arm.
He was sent to the hospital for treatment.
Rosenzweig said she would diagnose Lee with major depressive disorder.
She said Lee is easily angered, and likely to damage property and assault others. She said Lee "acts on impulse, then feels guilty."
She said Lee was being treated with anti-depressants. But she said at the time of the Miree shooting, he had stopped taking them because he was no longer on Medicaid.
Rosenzweig said since Lee was arrested in the summer of 2010, he has been written up 19 times at the Mobile Metro Jail for violations like bad language, indecent exposure and intimidating and assaulting staff workers.
But she does not feel that he would pose a risk for inmates or officers if he was in prison for life without parole.
She said research shows that as prisoners age, they are less likely to behave that way.
In Cross examination, Prosecutor Jo Beth Murphree pointed out that there are many families with parents who fight or are unfaithful, but in most cases, the children do not commit capital murder.
Murphree also pointed out the suicide attempt could've been an effort to seek attention instead of a suicide attempt.
Court will reconvene at 9:30 Tuesday morning.
The defense is expected to call up Lee's mother, Felicia Lee, and Lee's cousin.
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