Trusted local news leader for Kingman, Arizona & Mohave County
Mon, March 25

Closing statements given by lawyers in Smith murder trial

Attorneys made their closing arguments in the second murder trial of Chip Smith on Monday, and the 14-person jury began deliberations.

Smith is charged with the first-degree murder of Chris Payton.

Payton was found in his 1985 Toyota pickup after it rolled early Aug.

13, 2001, on Santa Maria Road in Golden Valley.

Authorities originally thought Payton's death was caused by the rollover but later determined he died from a bullet to the head.

Prosecutor Lee Jantzen made three main points during his closing remarks.

He noted the prosecution produced an eyewitness to the killing, Ashley Holmes.

Although defense attorney Michael Hruby questioned Holmes' character and said that by fingering Smith she was trying to cut a deal for her boyfriend, Steve Richards, Jantzen rebuffed that argument.

"There's no reason for her to make the story up.

Almost everybody agrees he (Richards) didn't commit the murder."

Holmes testified earlier that she, Richards, Smith and his girlfriend Jacquelyn Butler were all riding in Smith's car the night of Payton's death.

"Her story is corroborated in a lot of ways by Chip Smith," said Jantzen.

"He admits being on the scene, not stopping to help, and going by the house (where Holmes said Smith dropped off her and Richards) on the same night (Aug.

13, 2001)."

Jantzen said Holmes has stuck to her story since she told it to sheriff's detective Steven Parker in August 2001.

Hruby said several aspects of Holmes' story have changed over time, however, and that she told lies to six different people before talking to police.

In his closing arguments, Hruby referred to Thursday's testimony of private investigator Austin Cooper, who noted the distance from the ditch where Payton's truck overturned to a windowsill where a bullet landed was more than 180 feet.

The bullet, which was found by a Golden Valley firefighter in an abandoned trailer, did not tie Smith to the killing, said Hruby.

There wasn't enough human DNA on the bullet to test, and experts from the state Department of Public Safety crime lab in Flagstaff couldn't even identify what type of bullet it was, Hruby added.

Payton didn't have any bruises or wounds on his body consistent with being beaten with a 9 mm rifle, said Hruby.

"Pistol-whipping doesn't happen in the real world," he said.

Hruby said a simulated trajectory demonstration he put on, with the help of the court's bailiff and Dr.

Joe Collier, on Friday was "hokey" and "a terrible demonstration." Said Hruby, "It was slapped-dashed together, kind of like the state's case." The simulation had attempted to show that Smith couldn't have fired a shot from 1 to 2 feet away from Payton, as Holmes claimed, because such a shot would have struck the roof of the pickup.

There was no evidence of a bullet striking the interior of Payton's truck.

Hruby noted that Holmes said the lighting on Santa Maria Road the night of Payton's death was "almost as light as this courtroom." He also questioned her statement that she didn't see a muzzle flash from the 9 mm rifle Smith supposedly used to shoot Payton.

Although Holmes became emotional while on the witness stand, Hruby pointed out she didn't cry during her recorded interview with Parker, and was looking around the room.

On Monday, Hruby called Smith "a blind man," but Jantzen later refuted that claim by noting that Smith's optometrist testified that he wasn't blind, only that he couldn't drive legally.

Referring to Thursday's testimony by Stacey Peck, Jantzen noted she said she was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Smith on at least a couple of occasions, thus proving he saw well enough to drive.

Deliberations in the first Smith trial took two days, and that trial resulted in a hung jury.


This Week's Circulars

To view money-saving ads

For as little as $3.49*