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Murder or suicide? Jury deliberations continue today

Defendant claimed woman shot herself

POSTED: March 19, 2009 6:48 p.m.

Closing arguments

Watch portions of the closing arguments in the murder trial of Solomon "Troy" Hester.

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Solomon "Troy" Hester

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Only God, Allison Brownell and Solomon "Troy" Hester know what happened the day Brownell was shot to death, Hester’s lawyer told a jury Thursday.

And though Hester later gave a statement to investigators, "in a tragic situation, your memory’s not that accurate," Hall County Public Defender Brad Morris said.

A Hall County Superior Court jury deliberated Hester’s murder case for about three hours Thursday before breaking for the day without a verdict. Jurors will return to the courthouse to continue deliberations this morning.

The jury got the case after hearing nearly three hours of closing arguments from the prosecution and defense.

Morris, one of two lawyers to speak on Hester’s behalf for the defense, told the jury they should not hold it against his client that Hester did not take the witness stand.

"No inference harmful or hurtful ... shall be drawn by the jury," when a defendant chooses not to testify in a trial, Morris said.

Hester told a 911 operator that Brownell shot herself on the night of Oct. 1, 2007, in their Belvedere Drive home and later repeated the explanation to investigators. Morris said he didn’t believe Brownell’s death was "a contemplated suicide situation."

"I think it’s the danger of having a loaded gun around and being intoxicated and flinging it around," Morris told the jury.

"I don’t know whether it was an accident or an emotional thing or it’s what she decided to do. But that’s not something for you to decide at this level."

Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Bagwell said Hester’s case "is based on deception and lies."

"As soon the defendant pulled that trigger, he began plotting his story," she said.

Bagwell said Hester planted a gun in Brownell’s left hand "in the most illogical way" with the thumb on top of the grip.

"She couldn’t even grip a gun that way," Bagwell said.

The prosecutor blasted the testimony of a forensic pathologist hired by the defense who said Brownell’s injuries appeared to be self-inflicted. Noting that defense witness Emily Ward’s opinion ran contrary to the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, Bagwell reminded the jury that Ward had been paid at least $2,400 for her testimony.

"Discard her opinion," Bagwell told the jury. "She’s a hired gun."

Defense attorney Brett Willis said the movement of the gun by first responders could raise sufficient reasonable doubt to acquit.

"That’s crucial," he said of the decision by deputies to move the gun before photos were taken so that paramedics could attend to Brownell. "The position of the gun in her hand was absolutely critical, and they moved it."

Willis discounted the testimony that a self-inflicted gunshot would have been "awkward" in the position shown by the evidence.

"That’s why they want you to convict — because it’s awkward," Willis said.

The defense attorney noted that the state’s medical examiner said the shot would not have been impossible for Brownell.

"Of course it’s not impossible," Willis told the jury. "That’s what happened."

Willis told the jury to "stand up and hold the state to their burden of proof. Render a not guilty verdict – this man’s innocent."

Bagwell, who as the prosecutor got the last word, said the physical evidence "does not lie."

"It’s subject to different interpretations, but it does not lie like people," she said.

"Any way you slice it, it’s murder," Bagwell said.



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