By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A Cleveland man charged with murdering three women and wrapping their bodies in plastic to disguise them as trash is responsible for their deaths but had not planned them, his lawyers argued on Wednesday in a bid to save him from the death penalty.
The 14 charges against Michael Madison, 38, include aggravated murder, rape, kidnapping and gross abuse of a corpse in the deaths of Shetisha Sheeley, 28; Angela Deskins, 38, and Shirellda Terry, 18. If convicted he could be sentenced to death.
Defense attorney David Grant, who called no witnesses during the 12-day trial, told a jury on Wednesday that his client was reckless and frequently impaired by drugs and alcohol. Madison has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
"Michael Madison’s life was pretty much out of control," he told the jury of six men and six women at the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas court in Cleveland.
"He was not a planner," Grant said in closing arguments, noting that the defendant would have had to plan the killings to be eligible for execution.
Prosecutors, who showed the jury grisly video of Madison's victims, disputed defense claims that the killings were spontaneous.
"It happens three times and he keeps saying it was all accidental," Assistant Prosecutor Chris Schroeder told the court. He called Madison a deliberate killer who wrapped his victims in multiple layers of garbage bags and left them "in the vicinity of his apt where he could look down on his trophies."
The jury began deliberations on Madison's guilt following closing statements. If they find him guilty of the most serious charge, aggravated murder, the trial will enter a second phase in which the same jurors will determine whether to recommend a death sentence or a prison term.
The judge would then make the final sentence decision.
East Cleveland Police found the first of the three women in July 2013 after a complaint about foul odors coming from garage behind Madison's apartment. The bodies of two more women were discovered nearby the next day.
Madison was arrested at his mother's Cleveland home after a two-hour standoff with police.
Grant said Madison made no effort to cover up his crimes, including the smell of the decomposing bodies, and that he told police he wanted to be caught.
(Editing by Scott Malone)