The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

April 12, 2013

Palestine man sentenced to 55 years for murder

Staff Reports
Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — A Palestine man was sentenced to 55 years in prison Friday by an Anderson County jury for fatally shooting another local man almost three years ago in a dispute over a riding lawn mower.

A jury made up of five men and seven women convicted Chester Alan Staples, 50, of Palestine, on the murder count (55 years) and another 50 years on the possession of a firearm by a felon around 4 p.m. Thursday, after deliberating for approximately four hours. The sentences will be run concurrently. Staples will be eligible for parole after he serves half of the 55-year sentence.  

Authorities have said Staples shot and killed Tracey Matthew Polley, 35, of Palestine, shortly before 7 p.m. on May 25, 2010 outside the deceased man’s residence in the 4400 block of Texas 155, approximately 3 miles north of the Palestine city limits.

The shootout occurred after Staples, who was critically injured in the gunfight, apparently traveled to Polley’s residence with a truck and trailer to pick up a lawn mower he had sold to the now-deceased man, authorities have said.

The men, who were acquainted with one another and both convicted felons, quarreled over the lawn mower that Staples had sold to Polley, but Polley still owed him money for. When Staples went to get the lawn mower, the fight erupted, authorities said.

Staples was armed with a .22 caliber revolver and Polley with a .38 caliber revolver, according to authorities.

Staples hit Polley with five shots, including one which penetrated the man’s heart. Polley shot Staples in the face and the palm of his hand. In Texas, if you are a convicted felon, you cannot use self defense if you are already violating another law (possession of a firearm by a felon).

Polley was pronounced dead at the scene, while Staples was first transported to Palestine Regional Medical Center before later being lifeflighted to Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler.

The state was represented by Anderson County Assistant District Attorney Stan Sokolowski. The defendant was represented by Palestine attorneys Melvin Whitaker and Stuart Whitaker.

The trial started Monday with jury selection, presided by 349th Judicial District Court Judge Pam Foster Fletcher.

The punishment part of the trial started at 9 a.m. Friday and concluded around 2:30 p.m.