FORT WORTH -- Deloris Pulce acknowledges that her son Stephen Heard has disappointed her over and over again.
He has been arrested countless times on drug, alcohol, forgery, theft and assault charges. And he killed Fort Worth police officer Henry "Hank" Nava.
Although Pulce made no excuses for her son, she told jurors Thursday evening that she still loves him and hopes they will spare him from execution.
"I would like to ask y'all to believe me when I tell you that he is very sorry," Pulce said, crying. "We're all very sorry. He has had a lot of problems. But he has had a lot of good things that he has done.
"I would like to ask y'all not to kill him."
Pulce was among 10 witnesses called by defense attorneys Thursday during the punishment phase of Heard's capital murder trial. On Tuesday, a jury of seven women and five men convicted Heard of fatally wounding Nava on Nov. 29, 2005.
Closing arguments are set for 9:30 this morning in state District Judge Elizabeth Berry's court. When the lawyers are finished, jurors will begin deliberating on whether Heard should be sentenced to life in prison without parole or receive the death penalty.
Under state law, for jurors to assess the death penalty, they must find that Heard is likely to commit future violent acts and that there are no factors in his character or background that would make a life sentence more appropriate.
Prosecutors Alan Levy, Betty Arvin and Miles Brissette have portrayed Heard as a violent drug addict, a member of the Aryan Brotherhood and a cop killer.
Defense attorneys Mark Daniel and Tim Moore have characterized him as an intelligent man and a skilled electrician who becomes a totally different person under the influence of alcohol and drugs.
The judge has told jurors that they will be sequestered during their deliberations.
The defense team called as witnesses ministers, correctional officers and drug counselors, all of whom said favorable things about Heard.
Perhaps their most compelling witness, though, was Pulce, 57, a registered nurse. She described how Heard grew up in Texarkana, the oldest of four siblings. He never really knew his father and was raised by her second husband.
As a boy, Heard was active in church choir and played the hand bells. As a 10th-grader, he dropped out of school and joined the Army Reserve, Pulce testified.
Heard has used drugs and alcohol much of his life, she said.
But when he isn't intoxicated, she said, he's a good person.
"There is Steve on drugs and Steve off drugs," Pulce testified.
Heard has twice attempted suicide, she said. The first time, she said, he turned on the gas in his trailer home. The second time, he cut his throat and walked into the woods.
After that, she said, he was admitted to a psychiatric facility.
He has repeatedly been in trouble with the law, she said. In 1988, she pressed charges against him after he took one of her checks and bought $345 worth of clothes. He was put on probation but later violated it and was sent to prison.
Heard has spent eight years in prison.
When he was paroled in the spring of 2005, she allowed him to move into her home in the Texarkana, Texas, area.
"He's my son, and I love him," Pulce explained. "He was making every effort to do right and make this his last time."
At first, he stayed sober, had a job and was trying to get more visitation time with his young son, Jacob.
Eventually, however, he wrecked her car after drinking, and she kicked him out. Sometime after that, she said, he moved to the Metroplex and stopped coming around much.
"When he starts doing things he shouldn't be doing, he stays away from me," Pulce said.
She said she lost contact with him in August 2005. Three months later, she found out he had been arrested in the death of a police officer.
Pulce acknowledged that after his arrest, she told reporters that her son was a drug addict who shouldn't have had a gun and that she would not support him.
Since then, she said, they have reconnected. She said that she has seen positive changes in Heard during his two years in the Tarrant County Jail, and that he has attended Bible study and knows he needs God's forgiveness.
"He is very remorseful," she said. "He hates that he has disappointed me again."