Defense rests in German exchange student shooting

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2014 5:28 PM
Defense rests in German exchange student shooting

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Videotape of Markus Kaarma crying in a Montana police station after he shot and killed a German exchange student was one of the last pieces of evidence put up by defense attorneys in his murder trial, whose outcome hinges on how jurors interpret Kaarma's use of a state self-defense law.

Kaarma sat alone in a room at the Missoula police station, his head down on a table as he cried after being told he would be charged with deliberate homicide in the shooting of Diren Dede, 17. Witnesses have testified Dede was prowling in Kaarma's garage.

After showing the video, the defense rested Monday in Kaarma's trial for deliberate homicide, pinning its case on Montana's so-called "stand your ground" law. That law allows the use of deadly force if a person has a reasonable fear for his or her life or property.

Witnesses have testified that Kaarma had been burglarized at least once, amid a rash of neighborhood burglaries, and felt he could not rely on police to protect his home, his girlfriend and their young child.

Prosecutors argue that Kaarma was intent on luring an intruder into his garage and then harming that person. Kaarma left his garage door partially open, with a purse inside, when motion detectors alerted him to someone inside the structure. Kaarma killed Dede with four shotgun blasts early on April 27.

If convicted of deliberate homicide, Kaarma could face a minimum 10 years in prison.

Defense lawyers presented less than two days of testimony in which they attempted, among other things, to discredit the testimony of police officers who suggested that Kaarma was attempting to track and shoot his victim again after wounding him in the arm.

Defense witness Douglas Johnson, a U.S. Navy psychologist and expert in brain behavior in high-stress situations, testified Monday that Kaarma was in a "fight or flight" situation that can trigger extreme responses. Johnson said under those circumstances a person's perception of a threat — not the actual threat — can elicit a response. Kaarma, witnesses have testified, did not know if Dede was armed in the darkened garage.

Closing arguments begin Tuesday.

A juror was dismissed and replaced by an alternate Monday. No reason was given for the dismissal.