A Wake County jury on Tuesday began deliberating the fate of a man charged with two counts of first-degree murder, even though prosecutors and defense attorneys agree that the defendant only pulled the trigger on one of the two shooting victims.
Wake prosecutor Howard Cummings said in closing statements that Donovan Jevonte Richardson, 24, should be convicted of the first-degree murders of both Arthur Lee Brown and David Eugene McKoy because the two were killed in 2014 during a night-time burglary and robbery in Fuquay-Varina.
Richardson may not have shot McKoy, Cummings said, but Richardson is equally responsible because he was acting with co-conspirators who had a common plan.
“He’s guilty of his crime and he’s guilty of the crime committed by the other person,” Cummings said. “In very general terms, two people go into a home. One has a gun. There is criminal responsibility for both of them.”
But Richardson’s attorney, Joseph Zeszotarski, told jury members that the fatal shootings were not premeditated or deliberate. He described the shootings as a “robbery gone bad.”
Gregory A. Crawford was sentenced to life in prison last year for shooting and killing McKoy. Prosecutors say Richardson shot and killed Brown.
“When Gregory Crawford shot Mr. McKoy it was not in the furtherance of burglary, it actually ended the burglary,” Zeszotarski said. “It was contrary to the plan and ended it.”
Moreover, Zeszotarski said that prosecutors had to rely on one of Richardson’s co-accomplices to show that Richardson was even in Brown’s home the night of the shootings.
Prosecutors say Richardson and Crawford of Fuquay-Varina broke into Brown’s home in the early morning hours of July 18, 2014. They said a third accomplice, Kevin Bernard Britt, waited outside in a vehicle for the burglars.
Brown, a popular 74-year-old construction company owner, and his friend and longtime employee, McKoy, 66, were both shot and killed in Brown’s home. Cummings said the robbers took guns and cash from the house.
Richardson could face the death penalty if he is convicted of first-degree murder.
Britt has not gone to trial. Zeszotarski said Britt has been offered a plea deal by prosecutors and will plead guilty to accessory after the fact of first-degree murder, accessory after the fact of conspiracy to commit first-degree burglary and accessory after the fact of conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Zeszotarski told the jurors that if the offenses are consolidated, Britt could face a minimum sentence of a little more than four years in prison in exchange for his testimony against Richardson. Britt has already spent nearly three and half years in the Wake County jail awaiting trial and would serve a little over a year in prison with credit for time served.
“He would be sentenced to a minimum of 52 months for what he says and his desire to do what he thinks the state wants him to do,” said Zeszotarski, who called Britt’s testimony an act of “self-preservation.”
Cummings told the court that Brown tried to defend himself against the intruders by reaching for a .38 revolver he kept at his bedside, but Richardson fired three shots from a .9 mm handgun that struck the construction company owner twice in the chest and once in the right hand.
The next morning the defendant told Mr. Britt, ‘I shot and possibly killed somebody. The man pointed a gun at me so I shot him. The guy was gonna shoot me first,’”
Zeszotarski said prosecutors were “stretching the evidence too far.”
“The bigger question is who went inside and what was the state of mind of those inside,” he said. “The whole theory that the state is putting forth is based on inference and speculation evidence of how it occurred and the chain of events of what happened; I can’t say and neither can the state.”
After starting deliberations Tuesday, the jurors went home for the night without a verdict. They are scheduled to resume Wednesday morning, though snow could cancel court proceedings Wednesday.
Wake County Superior Court Judge Graham Shirley told jurors they could also find Richardson guilty of second-degree murder or not guilty.