Spooner found guilty in Darius Simmons case; phase 2 of trial begins
Jaclyn Brandt, Tom Murray, Jay Sorgi and the Associated Press
Courtney Gerrish, Steve Chamraz were joined by 620WTMJ's Jeff Wagner.Photo: Video by tmj4.com
MILWAUKEE - A jury has found the man accused of shooting his 13-year-old neighbor guilty of first-degree intentional homicide.
According to TODAY'S TMJ4's Tom Murray, John Spooner's defense attorney urged the jury to find his client guilty of reckless homicide, rather than intentional homicide.
The second phase of the trial started after the verdict Wednesday afternoon. It involves whether Spooner is guilty by reason of insanity.
Spooner, 76, shot 13-year-old neighbor Darius Simmons after accusing him of stealing.
Video from Spooner's surveillance system shows Spooner advancing toward Simmons with a gun.
The prosecutor told jurors Spooner intended to kill him.
"You can see the intent. Look at him holding his chest. Look at how close they are together and it's point blank range," said prosecutor Mark Williams.
Spooner fired once at close range, then a second time as Darius tried to get away.
The defense asked the jury to find Spooner guilty of a lesser homicide charge.
"Nothing in the testimony gives you a statement that he intended to kill this young person," claimed defense attorney Frank Gimbel.
The jury deliberated for barely an hour.
The verdict is only one of two phases for the trial. In phase two, the defense will try to persuade the jury that Spooner has a mental disease or defect. The defense has the burden on proof in this phase.
Psychiatrist Basil Jackson said Wednesday that Spooner once killed a kitten that his daughter brought home because he didn't want a cat.
"There was a sudden loss of control in his personality related to a variety of factors at that particular moment on that particular day," said Dr. Jackson.
The psychiatrist, who was hired by the defense, says that sort of anger prompted Spooner to momentarily lose control during the several seconds that he fired two shots at the boy.
The victim's mother and her attorney told TODAY'S TMJ4's Tom Murray they don't buy that defense.
"The family, I don't think, will ever understand how this man could shoot and kill a 13-year-old boy, a neighbor that he barely knew," said John Safran.