Dwayne Hardeman, whose 2016 conviction and life sentence in 35th District Court were overturned by an appeals court, was released Thursday from the Brown County Jail on a $10,000 bond.
Hardeman, who was transferred from a state prison to the Brown County Jail on March 15 after the conviction was overturned, appeared in court for a status hearing earlier Thursday.
District Judge Steve Ellis set the bond through the county’s Indigent Defense and Pretrial Services office and set an April 22 plea negotiation conference for the 47-year-old Brownwood man.
A 35th District Court jury convicted Hardeman in August 2016 of assault after prosecutors alleged he choked his then-17-year-old stepdaughter. After finding two prior felony allegations to be “true” for enhancement purposes, the jury sentenced Hardeman to life in prison.
The 11th Court of Appeals in Eastland overturned the conviction, ruling that jurors should have had the option to consider a lesser included offense of simple assault — a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum one-year incarceration — for Hardeman.
Instead, jurors only had the option of convicting or acquitting Hardeman of the felony charge of assault family violence by occlusion, the appellate court wrote in its opinion.
At Hardeman’s trial, prosecutors Elisha Bird and Christina Moss put on evidence that Hardeman choked his fiance’s daughter in 2014. The girl testified that Hardeman had raised her since she was 3 and was her stepfather.
The state relied heavy at trial on the girl’s initial allegations to police, the appellate court wrote. On the day of the assault, the girl told officers she was arguing with Hardeman when he grabbed her, placed both hands around her neck and choked her after she told Hardeman she wanted to leave.
At the trial, the girl testified she traveled to Stephenville with others in September 2014 to go to a park, where she took several prescription pills to get high, the girl testified. Upon returning home, the girl and Hardeman argued over her drug use. The girl testified that, in her drug-induced state, she was trying to run toward a road occupied by moving vehicles and that Hardeman tried to stop her by grabbing the collar of her shirt.
Hardeman did not choke the girl, who was able to get away run down the street, the girl testified.