A Pierce County jury today convicted Joseph Lester of second-degree murder in the 2011 stabbing death of Keisha Lewis.
Jurors, who got the case Wednesday after more than a week of testimony, delivered the verdicts about 1:30 p.m. They found Lewis, 25, guilty of second-degree murder. They also found he was armed with a deadly weapon at the time, knew Lewis was pregnant and also that the murder was domestic-violence related. Their finding of aggravating factors will allow prosecutors to seek a sentence outside the standard range.
Lester is to be sentenced March 8. Superior Court Judge Frank Cuthbertson, who presided over the trial, ordered Lester jailed without bail until sentencing.
Lester showed little emotion as Cuthbertson read the verdicts. Relatives of both Lewis, 21, and Lester broke into tears when the verdicts were announced.
The defendant did not deny killing Lewis but testified during trial that he was afraid of her the night he stabbed her because she’d stabbed him in the leg a few weeks before during an argument. He also claimed to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder after being a victim of multiple acts of violence himself.
Prosecutors told jurors Lester killed Lewis in cold blood, arguing that he should be convicted of first-degree murder. Jurors could not agree on that charge. Prosecutors also pointed out Lester killed Lewis within sight of a car where the couple’s 9-month-old daughter was sitting in a safety seat.
The killing occurred on Halloween in the front yard of a duplex in the 6000 block of 57th Avenue West in University Place.