MISSOULA -- Four hours into deliberations, the eight women and four men charged with determining Markus Kaarma’s fate asked to review video evidence from the trial late Tuesday afternoon, ultimately ending the day without a verdict.
They will continue reviewing the videos on Wednesday morning, starting at 8:30 a.m. in Missoula County District Court.
Kaarma is charged with deliberate homicide in the April 27 shooting death of Diren Dede, a German teenager who wandered into Kaarma’s Grant Creek garage, apparently looking for alcohol.
Attorneys representing both sides made their final statements amid a packed and tense courtroom Tuesday morning after District Judge Ed McLean read the jury instructions aloud.
Deputy County Attorney Karla Painter painted the defense arguments as hollow distractions and reminded jurors that the case before them was not about Kaarma’s right to own a gun. The law, she argued, didn’t give him permission to “execute an unarmed child.”
“You cannot use deadly force to defend property,” Painter said. “There was nothing in the garage worth stealing. He was defending his pride.”
The real issue, she argued, was Kaarma's state of mind before the shooting.
She led jurors through the days preceding the incident, pointing out Kaarma's irrational behavior, which included aiming a gun at a lawn care worker. Naked, Kaarma allegedly came out of his house with an assault rifle, aiming it at the man and warning that he was lucky.
“His intent was clear, his plan was clear,” she Painter said. “You’re lucky for what? That it’s daytime? That it’s not in my garage?”
The same day, he announced to four people at a local hair salon that he was going to "kill some (expletive) kids."
“His threats were so specific and so angry,” she said. “Certainly he was not fearful. Everyone told you. No, this man was angry. He was in a rage.”
The prosecution's case
Throughout the trial, the prosecution argued that Kaarma premeditated the shooting and along with his partner, Janelle Pflager, lured Dede into his garage by leaving the door open and displaying a black purse inside to entice would-be burglars.
Pflager also installed a baby monitor in the garage and motion detectors in the driveway.
That night, the pair was alerted to Dede’s presence by their makeshift monitoring system. The baby monitor gave them a picture of Dede, holding a light source in his hand.
“You know exactly what he looks like and what he is doing,” Painter said. “He’s unarmed.”
“This is their response,” Painter said, displaying the word on the prosecutor’s monitor: “Show time!”
But when Kaarma grabbed his gun and exited the house, he lost the additional protections that homeowners receive when using deadly force to protect their home, Painter argued.
In fact, Kaarma fired his gun into his house -- where his baby was sleeping -- and without knowing where Pflager was at the time.
“He doesn’t care if he can’t see him because he’s going in firing -- forsaking Janelle, forsaking Finn,” Painter said. “The moment he crossed that threshold, the defendant became the predator and Mr. Dede became the prey.”
Painter also showed the jury the bullet holes in the garage wall, alleging that Kaarma only stopped shooting once he knew his threat had been eliminated.
Dede's mother, Gulcin, sobbed as prosecutors showed photos of the location where her son was fatally wounded. Her husband, Celal, put his arm around her to comfort her.
The couple attended every day of the trial, usually accompanied by their attorneys or German diplomats.
"The only person who rushed to judgment was the defendant," Painter said. "The only person that was targeted was Mr. Dede. He didn’t need to die on April 27. Was he somewhere he shouldn’t have been? Yes. Was he considering taking something he shouldn’t have? Probably. Did he deserve to die for (teenage) transgressions?
"Instead Diren, an unarmed child, was violently and senselessly executed. Please tell the defendant and Mr. and Mrs. Dede though we live in a state with a strong gun culture, it is not one of lawlessness," she continued. "Please tell Mr. and Mrs. Dede that Diren’s life was worth more than a couple cans of beer. Please find him guilty."
The defense's closing arguments
Kaarma's defense attorney, Paul Ryan, shifted the argument in his closing, portraying Kaarma as a terrified homeowner, whose house was targeted by a ring of teenage burglars who knew it was a place to steal marijuana and alcohol.
“There is no one in the courtroom that is happy that (Dede) is deceased,” he said. “It’s difficult. That scares me because I understand how emotional that is.”
He said another exchange student, Robby Pazmino, warned Dede of the danger of so-called "garage-hopping." That night, he alleged, the teens were waiting for their neighborhood friends to come home from a party.
“What he was doing was going to violate the sanctity of someone’s home,” Ryan said. “He had no business being where he’s at. He’s up to no good. He’s looking to go stealing something.”
He said that Kaarma and Pflager created a sanctuary out of their garage and Dede had no business taking anything out of it -- whether alcohol, drugs, or any sort of property.
He argued the evidence suggests there may have been another, unidentified teenager in the garage. In fact, a police K-9 unit followed the scent of a mysterious third person that morning, Ryan said.
A neighbor testified there was an "exodus of cars" leaving the area on the morning of April 27 -- pointing to the defense's theory of a burglary ring.
Ryan contended that the state wants to judge Kaarma by the fact that he left his garage open, insisting that people should run away from threats within their homes.
"He has to hide in his house?" Ryan said. "That's what (prosecutors) are saying right now."
He took the jury through Montana's self-defense laws, honing in on the state's castle doctrine, which gives residents the right to defend their property.
"That’s what the castle doctrine really does," he said. "It gives the power back to the homeowner. If someone comes in, we are given special protection. Why? Because the home is our sacred place because you don’t have anywhere else to turn. You shouldn't have to run out the back door or lock the door if the state tells you to lock up. It’s my house. It’s not the burglar’s house."
Prosecutor Andrew Paul gave a final rebuttal Tuesday morning, asking the jurors once again to return a guilty verdict.
"You get to decide who is telling the truth," he said. "Who has a motive to lie here? Who has something to prove? Now, we have to come together because you are the triers of fact. You need to focus on that night and you need to focus on the defendant's intentions. Whether he acted purposely or knowingly, you have to focus on the indicators that he had to make that decision."
"Was he justified? Can you be justified if Diren was no threat?" he continued. "Can you be justified if Diren is unarmed and hasn’t even turned and faced him?"