Morgan Junction murder trial: Defense rests its case

April 1, 2014 at 3:48 pm | In Crime, West Seattle news | 18 Comments

gavel.jpg3:48 PM: We promised an update if there were major developments in the Morgan Junction murder trial – and here’s one: After both sides concluded their questioning of defendant Lovett “Cid” Chambers, the defense rested its case at 3:30 this afternoon. That means both sides have now presented their versions of what happened the night Chambers shot and killed Travis Hood on January 21, 2012; the prosecution has declined the opportunity to present rebuttal evidence; so jury instructions will be prepared and presented, and lawyers for both sides will deliver their closing arguments. We’ve just had an indication there are some significant issues to debate regarding the jury instructions, so we can’t say for sure whether the closing arguments will happen tomorrow.

The trial began in early January with two months of motions and arguments involving just the lawyers and the judge, before the jury was chosen in mid-February and began hearing testimony after opening statements on February 19th. All our reports are linked in our most recent full-length update; our next one, covering today, will be published sometime late tonight/early tomorrow.

4:23 PM: Just worked out in a court session with the lawyers and Judge Theresa B. Doyle – the jury will come in at 11 tomorrow, so their instructions won’t be presented any earlier than that. Judge Doyle granted each side 2 hours for closing arguments, and there was general agreement those were highly unlikely to start before court resumes after lunch (1:30 pm), which in turn means that jury deliberations won’t begin any sooner than sometime Thursday.

WEDNESDAY MORNING NOTE: The next long-form story is running late but will be up before today’s proceedings begin, barring major breaking news.

18 Comments

  1. Tracy, thank you so much for your expert reporting — it’s like listening to Nina Totenberg explain what’s happening in the Supreme Court.

    Comment by Jann — 4:33 pm April 1, 2014 #

  2. Thanks for the kind words. My mom (gone 15 years) was a lawyer, and spent time (not in this area) working on both prosecutors’ and defenders’ staffs, so I picked up a little extra from her, enough to maintain a fascination with, and dedication to understanding, how all this works. – TR

    Comment by WSB — 4:44 pm April 1, 2014 #

  3. It seems like the prosecution drove fairly straight down a predictable and understandable path. The defense then appears to have circled the block, then took a right turn, then got out of the car without connecting a lot of the dots. It will be interesting to see where the jury takes it, but your recounting of each day’s testimony seems to paint a picture that will make for a relatively brief deliberation. Thank you for your excellent coverage throughout.

    Comment by TW — 5:02 pm April 1, 2014 #

  4. Interesting, TW. I’ve read the same reports, and I think they actually might have a lengthy deliberation or even a hung jury. Because they only need one juror to focus on that shovel and have reasonable doubt, or another juror to think about how nobody checked the car door for DNA and believe that because of that the prosecution hasn’t fully made its case. Or yet another juror could believe that Jamie Vause’s fugitive felon status makes his testimony unreliable about what exactly happened before the shooting.

    Comment by Community Member — 5:54 pm April 1, 2014 #

  5. Community Member’s been blaming the victim, and Vause this entire time (we’ve been going back-and-forth in the comment section). Notice that CM’s NEVER – not ONCE, taken into account Chamber’s series of felony convictions, or the fact that Chambers was the only one with a gun that night (a convicted felon with a gun, at that). No, Community Member insists on victimizing Hood, the dead victim, and Jamie Vause (for having a criminal background). The double standard and hypocrisy is staggering.

    The night Chambers was arrested, he didn’t know what happened as he was remarkably intoxicated. Now he’s got a “self defense” story that contradicts every witness account. Chambers followed these young men to their truck, fired 3 shots killing Hood, and that’s that. He’s a murderer, and I’m convinced the jury will convict him as such.

    “…lengthy deliberation or even a hung jury.” Good heavens.

    Comment by ScubaFrog — 6:44 pm April 1, 2014 #

  6. The thing is, it’s the jury that decides that not us on the comments. You could certainly be right, but nothing about the coverage has shown any motive for the non defense scenario in my opinion (which as previously stated, is irrelevant).

    Comment by Jeff — 7:14 pm April 1, 2014 #

  7. Scubafrog, I really don’t understand the personal vitriol. All I’m saying is that it is certainly possible for members of the jury to question whether the prosecution hasn’t made its case beyond a reasonable doubt. In fact, it is their duty to do so. Clearly there was enough evidence to charge Mr. Chambers; perhaps there is enough evidence to convict. But, as there is a shortage of witnesses to the actual shooting, the jury might not find their job to be as clear-cut as you think.
    .
    Even convicted felons are entitled to an impartial jury (in theory anyway), and I am under the impression that the jury will be considering a murder charge, not a charge of unlawful weapon possession. (Aside to WSB – does he jury have the weapons charge as well?)
    .
    Have you ever been through a jury voir dire? I think it is likely that potential jury members were actually asked ahead of time whether the accused’s status as a felon would affect their judgment on the case, and any jurors who said that they would find the accused guilty on that basis alone would have been excused.
    .
    Do remember that the jury doesn’t have to like Mr. Chambers, or believe he did the right thing, in order for them to decide that the prosecution hasn’t made it’s case. Scubafrog – on other threads you like to hold up George Zimmerman as some sort of hero, and you like to call unarmed 17-year-old Travon Martin a thug. But note this – Zimmerman’s jury did not have to agree with your position to find Zimmerman not guilty. In fact, members of Zimmerman’s jury said that they believed it was murder, but there wasn’t enough evidence to convict.

    Comment by Community Member — 7:28 pm April 1, 2014 #

  8. It just seems to me that with the impairment of the accused (due to the alcohol) and his following the victim down the street (presumably after being/feeling threatened), the reasoning behind the legal definition of “self defense” suffers some serious flaws.

    Comment by TW — 7:48 pm April 1, 2014 #

  9. Oh, and by the way, I haven’t posted anything blaming the victim. I’ve just gone back and re-read all my comments, to see if I said had said anything that might have been misunderstood, and no, really, I haven’t said anything remotely bad about either Mr. Hood or Mr. Vause.
    .
    I merely pointed out that it would be possible to have one of the twelve jurors doubting Mr. Vause’s version of events. That is really not victim-blaming.
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    A terrible tragedy has occurred, whatever verdict comes back.

    Comment by Community Member — 8:28 pm April 1, 2014 #

  10. Have you ever been through a jury voir dire? I think it is likely that potential jury members were actually asked ahead of time whether the accused’s status as a felon would affect their judgment on the case, and any jurors who said that they would find the accused guilty on that basis alone would have been excused.

    .

    I went through a voir dire just yesterday, and CM is correct. Potential Jurors have to go in with a totally clear and open mind; unhampered by any preconceived opinions, any prejudice they may have if they have been the victim of a crime themselves, especially a similar crime.

    .

    I was not selected for this Jury, simply because I was #43 out of #43 potential, and even though probably a good dozen or so were excused either due to hardship claims accepted by the Court, or one or the other Lawyer asked to have them excused.

    .

    Anyway, out of consideration for the Trial and the Court, I’m not going to go into too much specific detail, under the presumption it hasn’t gotten to the point of deliberation and a decision, but, I will say that the Lawyers would ask potential Jurors if they were associated with any pro-gun, or anti-gun organizations. Some were pressed further, asked if they would be able to hear the Case with a totally open mind, and without bias either way, depending on their answer to that question, the same thing was asked to those who said they had been crime victims themselves.

    .

    Potential Jurors were asked if they had strong feelings either way about the Police, and if they had any bias against, or were hugely supportive of Police in general, would they be able to set those feelings aside and not let them influence their opinion.

    .

    At one point, the Judge had to make an admonishment, reminding that the Defendant was innocent at this point, and as the Judge had mentioned at the beginning, that the State had the burden. The Defendant has no burden, the Defendant is not required to take the stand, the Defendant is not required to put anyone else on the stand.

    .

    We have the luxury here, in regards to this fascinating case, and with WSB’s thorough coverage, to come to our own conclusions, to discuss and debate. If we chose, we could go to the scene of the incident, and explore it. We can go back and look at the News Reports from the time of the incident. We can look up statistics related to similar incidents. The Jurors sitting in on this case don’t have that luxury; they are to steer clear of any outside influence, that could influence them on the decision of innocence or guilt. This goes beyond the stock admonishment we’ve seen on TV, going all the way back to Perry Mason, where Jurors were told not to read the News papers, or to walk away if they start to hear the case discussed on TV/radio, or in person.

    .

    Again, this is not a Jury here in this comment section, but I do have to say, from my experience yesterday and from the discussion that has gone on here, ScubaFrog would definitely be excused, and my guess is that Community Member would quite likely get picked, provided CM was not so far up in the Jury Pool like I was yesterday. I have a hunch that if I would have been within that first 25-ish, or whatever it was, I probably would have been chosen, as I didn’t express any strong feelings one way or the other, and raised my (number) card maybe only a couple of times when the general questions were being asked.

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 10:09 pm April 1, 2014 #

  11. Anybody interested in what the jury was asked – there are the pixel equivalent of stacks and stacks and stacks of documentation from this trial, available for public download via King County ECR Online, and I know I saw documents slugged “jury questionnaire.” I downloaded the proposed jury instruction this afternoon to follow along as the lawyers started arguing the points, for example. With more than 2 years of history in this case and copious trial preparation, it is a huge, huge, huge archive. Some docs are so big they couldn’t be downloaded – for example, the defense had a 600-and-something page pretrial document I wanted to see, but ECR can’t handle it. These are the online files where the charges, the notes from hearings all along the way, etc., are all uploaded, usually within a few hours of being filed with the court. You have to set up an account to access ECR (and pay .15 per page even if you are not physically “printing” anything) but it’s open to the public – TR

    Comment by WSB — 10:29 pm April 1, 2014 #

  12. miws the fact is that none of us here are on the jury. Need I remind you that you WEREN’T SELECTED, #43 aside. How narcissistic can you be Mike, ‘I probably would have been chosen, cm too because we’re so enlightened and objective – but not you scuba frog. No ScubaFrog, you’re not worthy of jury duty’. The lack of empathy by some posters in regards to Mr. Hood’s murder are startling.
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    The nerve. Hopefully these attitudes are only reserved to comment sections online. I hope these posters don’t react to other citizen’s Free Speech (I realize Free Speech doesn’t apply here)in their everyday dealings with society. I can just imagine Mike or CM hearing a differing opinion in the real world, and rushing at the poor citizen, trying to silence him/her with their self-righteous assertions, slander and libel.
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    My opinions are my own Mike/CM – and I have a right to them. CM’s unwarranted attacks, and Mike’s baseless prediction are interesting if unfortunate. We’re ALL entitled to our own opinions in this case. We don’t have to be objective, we’re not jurors. And what a great forum to talk about Tracy’s fantastic coverage, and how we each view the proceedings. WSB has done a stellar job covering this case, and I’ve made up my mind on Chamber’s guilt. My opinion – just like any other Seattleite who’s not on the jury, has no bearing on this case. The jury will make up their own minds. I’m not sure why Mike and CM are so threatened by the facts I repeated in regards to the case.
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    I feel passionate about the case because I am a West Seattleite. A young man my age was murdered in cold blood by a known felon, right up the hill from me. Chambers victimized all of us that night, and I hope he spends the rest of his natural life in prison, where he can’t rob another bank, or murder another man in drunken rage.

    Comment by ScubaFrog — 2:02 am April 2, 2014 #

  13. Scubafrog, I really don’t understand why you persist in describing my and others’ posts as “unwarranted attacks” and “lack of empathy”, etc.
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    Of course you have a right to your “opinion”, but you don’t actually state it as an opinion, you generally state it as an aspersion against anyone who states a willingness to respect the jury’s decision.
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    And you seem to be determined to either misread others’ posts, or to intentionally twist what they say. Which is it? Poor reading skills, or malice? misw’s thoughtful post NEVER said anything close to anyone not being “worthy” of jury duty. He merely described the jury selection process.
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    Do you really think that intentionally twisting what other people have said somehow adds weight to your own posts?

    Comment by Community Member — 7:23 am April 2, 2014 #

  14. First off, thank you to the WSB for such great and in-depth coverage of this trial. It was been a fascinating read every day of the trial. Really appreciate the time you have put in to attending and writing up all of the detail about the proceedings.
    .
    It will be interesting to hear what the closing arguments actually cover. Realizing we have been privy to information and side discussions that the jury has not been allowed to hear. Their take on a lot of this may be considerably different than our own.
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    I will say that, in my opinion, following someone 100 yards or so up a street, passing the doors of two establishments that you frequent and are known at and not seeking shelter sounds far more like pursuit and less like fear for personal safety. It will be interesting to see if the prosecution points this out during their closing arguments.
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    I will say, that the idea that a felon in possession, who drinks heavily on a regular basis and his defense says is paranoid, is wandering around our neighborhood does not give me warm fuzzies.

    Comment by Jordan — 7:47 am April 2, 2014 #

  15. Community Member. I think you layed a very good, thoughtful analysis of the case. I like that you discussed the issues. Others who don’t agree do what they like to do. If you don’t agree they attack the messenger instead of debating the issues with facts. Thank you for not getting drawn into that debate. Love those that use Capital Letters and exclamation points too. Reminds me of highlighting in a text book with a yellow market before an exam…everything is important.

    Comment by Dale — 8:48 am April 2, 2014 #

  16. TR, with respect to all your hard work on this trial, what we seem to have here in the comments is our own little “media circus”. Not an atmosphere condusive to justice – so easy to taint a jury, are they 100% sequestered (I missed this part)? I’d be glad to hear why I am wrong about this. I question the appropriateness of comments for or against the defendent during the trial.

    Comment by Kathy — 9:35 am April 2, 2014 #

  17. ScubaFrog, sorry I hurt your feelings.

    .

    I’m just trying to view this case with an open mind, and trying to determine if Mr. Hood was truly a victim, that did nothing to instigate or escalate this incident, or if Mr. Chambers genuinely and justifiably felt threatened, and was simply Standing his Ground….

    .

    Mike

    Comment by miws — 9:48 am April 2, 2014 #

  18. The jury is under orders not to look at any form of local news media, and she knows we publish in blog format, so she has explicitly named various formats of publication including “blogs.” If any juror is seeing any story, let alone the comments, s/he is violating their vows as a juror. But unless any lives in West Seattle, they are not likely to just randomly bump into WSB – we don’t print a hard-copy product, so you’re not going to see a headline in a box on the street; we don’t have billboards; unless you deliberately seek us out, you won’t find us.
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    And no, discussing it is NOT a media circus. If anything, this trial is desperately undercovered. I’m rather embarrassed (on behalf of my profession in general) that I have been the only reporter in court. Three other news organizations have written/produced one story each about it – one of those, without even *actually coming to the courthouse*. For so many reasons, IMHO, this deserves more coverage. But these are different times for my profession, and few will commit to something like this, unfortunately. /soapbox – TR

    Comment by WSB — 10:22 am April 2, 2014 #

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