Coming to an early end, Markus Kaarma’s attorneys rested their case Monday morning after showing a brief video of Kaarma crying upon learning he was accused of murder by Missoula police.
The trial resumed briefly after lunch, with prosecutors calling one rebuttal witness before Missoula County District Judge Ed McLean dismissed jurors until 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, when they will hear closing arguments.
In the meantime, prosecutors and Kaarma’s defense team hashed out jury instructions in closed chambers with McLean on Monday afternoon.
Kaarma is charged with deliberate homicide for the April 27 fatal shooting of Diren Dede, a 17-year-old German exchange student who was looking for alcohol in Kaarma’s Grant Creek garage.
Prosecutors argue the fatal shooting was premeditated, while Kaarma’s defense attorneys contend he shot Dede in self-defense after his home was targeted by a ring of teenage burglars.
In the video played Monday, Kaarma asked about the status and age of the man he shot, and was stone-faced as he learned Dede had died and was a teenager from a local high school. When the officer left the room, Kaarma put his head on the table and sniffled.
In the next clip, Kaarma was in the interview room with several more officers, when he learned he was going to be charged with deliberate homicide and began to cry.
The officers allowed him to make a phone call to his partner, Janelle Pflager, and he told her the news.
“They said they talked to the prosecutor, and she wants to charge me with murder,” he said, tearfully. “Did you talk to my mother?”
After the phone call, he blew his nose and wiped his eyes with the tissues provided to him by police.
“How is that deliberate homicide?” he asked Detective Guy Baker.
“That’s just the way the statute reads,” Baker responded.
Kaarma was then handcuffed and taken away.
After playing the video, lead attorney Paul Ryan announced the defense rested its case.
The trial resumed after lunch when prosecutors called their rebuttal witness, Missoula Police Officer Ross Coyler. Coyler was on patrol with a training officer the morning of April 27 and they responded to the shooting.
They drove by a row of cars at the bottom of Grant Creek while they were following Dede's ambulance out of the neighborhood. The defense suggested the row of cars was evidence of the teenage burglary ring that conspired with Dede and a friend to break into the Kaarma garage.
However, according to Coyler, the cars were actually his friends and part of his car club. He listed all of the cars by make and their owners by name.
The defense called Officer Jeff Lloyd first thing Monday morning.
Lloyd stayed with Kaarma in the hour after the shooting and said Kaarma lit the wrong side of a cigarette and seemed distressed. He told Lloyd that he felt like someone had been watching him through the windows.
Kaarma also asked Lloyd if burglaries and shootings were common in the area.
On cross-examination, Deputy County Attorney Andrew Paul redirected the questions.
“Did he ask you any questions about the well-being of the person that was shot?” Paul asked.
“No,” Lloyd said.
“Did he ever use the term self-defense?”
No,” Lloyd said.
The defense also called expert witness Dr. Douglas Johnson, a psychologist who is employed by the Department of Defense to research the way soldiers respond under duress.
Johnson studied at the University of California in Los Angeles and Harvard University and was paid $23,000 to research and testify on behalf of the defense.
During his examination, he explained that in life-and-death situations, even “trained professionals make really bad tactical decisions.”
“The worst thing for us is to have them shoot someone they are working with,” he said.
Stressors are intensified in novel, unpredictable and uncontrollable situations, he said. And reactions to stressful situations differ for people who suffer from mental ailments, like anxiety.
Under cross-examination, Paul pointed out Kaarma doesn’t have any military training and attempted to draw attention to the difference between Kaarma and the subjects Johnson studies.
“You work with elite soldiers. You are not comparing the elite soldiers with the defendant, are you?”
“No,” Johnson said.
Closing statements will begin Tuesday morning and the jury is expected to begin deliberations Tuesday afternoon.