Attorneys sparred over the legal definitions of murder during closing arguments Monday in the murder trial of Loren Wade, the former ASU football player who shot and killed a man in a Scottsdale nightclub’s parking lot.
Defense attorney Ulises Ferragut attempted to attribute the crime to a “heat of passion.”
The question was not whether Wade is responsible for the death of another former Arizona State University football player, Brandon Falkner, Ferragut said.
“The question is what is the level of responsibility.”
Ferragut told the jury it must choose between manslaughter and the lesser charge of negligent homicide.
Prosecutor Juan Martinez, in his rebuttal, recast the choice as one of first- or second-degree murder.
In an hourlong address to the jury, Martinez wove together a tale of the events leading up to Falkner’s death in the early morning hours of March 26, 2005.
Falkner and three friends wound slowly through the parking lot at Scottsdale and McDowell roads before pausing near Haley Van Blommenstein, Wade’s then-girlfriend. As they spoke, Wade strode across the asphalt toward her.
A minute earlier, Van Blommenstein had called a warning to her friend. “Go, go. I’m saving your life,” she said to Levise Robertson, who then drove away.
Van Blommenstein must have known there was killing on her then-boyfriend’s mind, Martinez argued, because she’d just gotten off the phone with him.
To convict Wade of first-degree murder, the Maricopa County Superior Court jury must find the shooting was premeditated.
“Premeditation is not what most people think,” Martinez told them. “All that murder needs is a thought.”
“What do you think (Wade) was thinking when he approached Falkner’s car with a gun in his hand?” Martinez asked.
On Wade’s behalf, Ferragut spent more than an hour rehashing the evidence.
Ferragut spoke of the gun’s malfunctioning thumb safety and the gunshot wound’s angle. The shot had not been straight on.
Ultimately, Ferragut tried to show that no one knew exactly what happened — whether the gun malfunctioned, how far away from Falkner’s head the gun had been — and that doubt was enough to bar the jury from a finding of first-degree murder.
The jury begins deliberations today.