Good morning court watchers,
This is John Ensslin, Legal Affairs reporter for the Gazette, coming to you live today from the courtroom where closing arguments are about to begin in the first-degree murder trial of Terry Lamaire Gaines.
Gaines, 24, is accused of killing Michael Allen Davis, 27, on April 3, 2009 in a parking lot outside Mr. Biggs Event Center in Colorado Springs following a concert by California rapper E-40.
On Wednesday, Gaines testified that the shooting was in self-defense and that he shot Davis thinking that he was reaching for a gun.
Prosecutors contend the shooting was a senseless, cold-blooded murder. They noted that Gaines fired all nine shots in his Glock .45 caliber handgun.
Judge Jann DuBois is reading the instructions to the jury. The courtroom is packed.
If Gaines is found guilty of first-degree murder, he faces a sentence of mandatory life in prison without parole.
Closing arguments come after the jury heard five days of testimony.
He is also charged with vehicular eluding for leading police on a high speed chase following the shooting until he was arrested on southbound Interstate 25 just north of Pueblo.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Diana K. May begins her closing argument.
“Cold-blooded violent murder,” she says.
She shows a series of nine photographs on the project of the wounds Davis sustained.
“Shot one, shot two, shot three,…” she said as the images flash before the jurors.
May describes how the case against Gaines is the result of “good police work” including that of Colorado Springs Police Officer Jeff Mitchell who saw Gaines driving away from the event center and pursued him.
Gaines claimed Davis had ripped him off in a marijuana deal several years before the shooting. He also said Davis made a threatening gun-like gesture with his hand.
“We have a motive in this case,” May said. “He (Gaines) is pissed off.”
His actions leading up to the shooting showed deliberation, she said.
“He (Gaines) has to track him (Davis) down and know where he was seated in that vehicle.”
May disputes the claim of self-defense, stressing the number of shots Gaines fired.
“POW POW POW POW…” She says. “With Michael laying there hopelessly bleeding.”
May questioned why – if the shooting was in self-defense – did he not tell his mother and sister and others about it immediately after the shooting.
“You can’t tell me that that’s not something you’re going to share with your family,” she said.
May said the reason why he didn’t mention it is “because he wasn’t thinking that.”
“That is something he came up with after learned there was a gun in the car (that Davis was sitting in.)” May said.
May said self-defense isn’t available to Gaines because he provoked the use of force and he was the initial aggressor.
“He tracked Michael down,” May said.
“Is it reasonable to go track down someone?” she later asked.
“Michael has no weapon displayed. He has no weapon out,” she added.
And what does Gaines do? she asked. He tells Davis “Do you remember me?” and opens fire, May said.
May said the self-defense theory only came up after Gaines learned from police reports that there was a gun in the car Davis was sitting in.
“Oooh, there’s my defense,” she says.
Gaines defense attorney William Griffin begins his closing argument. But first, he returns the Glock handgun in a box. May had held it up at one point during her closing argument.
“I’m not going to stand up here with a fancy Power Point presentation. I’m not going to wave a gun in your face,” Griffin said.
“This is not a complex case,” he said.
He asked the jurors to focus on the moment when the two men confronted one another and Gaines saw Davis reaching for something in the car.
“That moment is what this case is about.” Griffin said. “That moment, those few seconds, are crucial because that moment affected so many people’s lives.”
He alluded to the packed courtroom. He said both the Davis and Gaines family have suffered losses.
“It’s a simple question,” Griffin said of the case. “What happened in that moment?”
He urged the jurors to use their common sense. Why would Gaines kill a man in front of several hundred witnesses and many Colorado Springs police officers over a disputed marijuana deal three years before the shooting?
“Is that the action of a man who had a premeditated plan, who had an intent to commit murder?,” Griffin asked the jury. ”
“Or is that the action of a person who had a reaction to something he did not expect?” he asked.
Griffin disputed May’s argument that Gaines never mentioned the self-defense theory until the case came to trial.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is the first time he’s had the opportunity to tell anyone his story,” Griffin said. “He didn’t have that chance until yesterday.”
“Don’t let Mrs. May try to convince you that he could have done that anytime he wanted to,” Griffin added. “Lawyers got in the way frankly.”
Griffin begins to pick up bags of evidence out of a box. A bag of bullets. A left shoe with a bloody sock. A champagne bottle found in the parking lot.
After holding up each bag, he repeatedly asked “Does that help prove what happened in that moment?”
“It doesn’t do anything to answer that question that you have to answer,” he said. “What happened in that moment?”
“You may not like the lifestyle Mr. Gaines has led,” Griffin said, alluding to his client’s history of selling marijuana and carrying a gun.
“But that’s not what you’re here to decide,” he said. “It’s your job to decide what happened in that moment.”
Griffin said his client’s testimony was consistent because he was telling the truth.
“Mr. Gaines sat there and answered their questions despite Mrs. May’s efforts to push his buttons and show you that he’s an angry man.”
May is now presenting her rebuttal argument. She takes the gun back out of the box and suggests the nine bullets fired into Davis do tell the jury what happened in that moment of the shooting.
“Michael’s gone, because of the defendant’s actions” she said. “What happened in that moment is why we’re here.”
She challenges Griffin’s question of why would Gaines shoot someone in front of so many people and police officers.
She said the shooting occurred far from where the police and event center security were stationed that night.
“Why do people rob banks all the time when everyone knows there’s a video?” she asked. “Why do we have a show called America’s Dumbest criminals?”
“He thought he was going to get away with it,” May asserted.
She challenged Gaines’ testimony that he wasn’t aiming the gun.
Look at the autopsy photos she asked the jurors. The fatal wounds were to the victim’s center mass, she said.
May repeatedly returns to the number of shots fired.
“He (Gaines) has the ability to use a lesser amount of force,” she said. “But he doesn’t he unloaded his weapon into (Davis.)
“Nine shots,” May said. “This isn’t something that was just random.”
“It’s beyond reckless,” May later added.
The arguments are over. The jury now has the case.
I’ll end this blog here. Stay tuned to gazette.com for the verdict.