The prosecution rested its case Wednesday in 35th District Court in the attempted capital murder trial of Pecos man Michael Bien, who formerly lived in Brownwood.
The February 2013 session of the Brown County Grand Jury returned indictments for criminal attempt — capital murder and criminal solicitation, alleging that Bien tried to hire a hit man to kill his ex-wife's brother.
Defense attorney Jason Johnson began putting on witnesses Wednesday afternoon. Witnesses included private investigator Mark Johnson, who has assisted Joel Johnson in preparing an entrapment defense. Johnson told jurors in his opening statement last week, and sought to establish in his cross-examination of state's witnesses, that Bien was goaded by longtime friend Mickey Westerman into going along with a murder-for-hire scheme.
Through Mark Johnson, Joel Johnson introduced numerous cell phone records documenting phone conversations between Westerman and Bien.
Before District Attorney Micheal Murray closed the state's case, prosecution witnesses included First District Attorney Sam Moss, who was Bien's classmate at Brownwood High School.
Moss testified that he was in his office in November 2012 when he was informed that he had a visitor — Bien. Moss said he hadn't seen Bien in nearly two decades.
Bien told Moss about issues he was having issues with his ex-wife. Bien was "mad at the world" and wanted to find a way to get revenge on his ex-wife and her family, Moss testified.
Bien asked Moss to bring a forgery case against his ex-wife, saying she had forged Bien's name on bank loan documents when they were still married. But Bien also said he'd given her permission to write his name on the documents, so that wasn't a criminal act, Moss testified.
After Bien left his office, Moss said, Murray learned that the man in Moss' office was Michael Bien. Murray told Moss that he'd recently received a call from the Texas Rangers indicating there was a murder-for-hire investigation under way involving Bien.
Another state's witness, Hugh Box — Bien's ex-father-in-law — testified that he'd initially had a good relationship with Bien but the relationship deteriorated.
Box said he loaned Bien money to set him up in a feed store business and a steel business in Pecos but said Bien often did not show up for work, and Box lost money.
Murray asked Box about the truthfulness of statements attributed to Bien in which Bien claimed Hugh Box was trying to hire a hit man to kill Bien. That was false, Box said.
Hugh Box's son, Koh, the man Bien is accused of trying to have killed, testified that he'd never had any problems with Bien and that he was heartbroken at learning Bien is accused of trying to have him killed.
Bien and Westerman were longtime friends, according to earlier testimony. The prosecution alleges that Bien sought out Westerman to put him in touch with a hit man to kill his ex-wife's parents and later her brother. Westerman ended up working with the Rangers as a confidential informant.
Murray told jurors in his opening argument that Bien had wanted to cause his ex-wife to suffer after their marriage ended. Bien was arrested in Brownwood in December 2012.