Jurors must decide manslaughter or self-defense in Richardson trial
KINGMAN – The jury trial for Gerald Richardson, 58, charged with manslaughter in the October 2018 shooting death of Jessica Mae Orozco, focuses on the defendant’s claim that he believed someone was breaking into his home.
Richardson told detectives he was asleep on his couch when Orozco arrived to bring a child home from a birthday party. He wasn’t expecting anyone and believed the person trying to enter his residence through the front door was an intruder.
He fired one shot from a handgun that struck Orozco, who was transported to Kingman Regional Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. Richardson is charged with manslaughter.
Richardson’s jury trial began Monday, June 10 in the courtroom of Judge Derek Carlisle. Before attorneys gave their opening statements, the judge read a description of the manslaughter charge faced by the defendant.
Conviction of manslaughter requires the jury to find, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Richardson caused Orozco’s death and that he was aware of “but showed a conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of death.”
“The risk must be such that disregarding it was a gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable person would observe …” the judge explained.
Prosecuting attorney James Schoppmann laid out the state’s interpretation of the alleged events of Oct. 27, 2018. He said Orozco, 31, had taken her adopted son and the daughter of Richardson’s girlfriend out to a movie and pumpkin carving for the boy’s birthday. Richardson’s girlfriend and her daughter lived with him in Golden Valley at the time.
Upon returning to the defendant’s residence after birthday festivities, Richardson’s front door was unlocked and Schoppmann said at least one of the children said Orozco knocked. Testimony from the 11-year-old daughter of Richardson’s girlfriend revealed that the child saw Orozco put her hand on the door but is unsure if she knocked. That same witness said Orozco cracked the door open a few inches two to three times. After the last time, Orozco turned to face the children at which time they saw her “fall.”
The 11-year-old witness said she and the other child thought Orozco was playing a Halloween prank until they saw the blood.
It was around that time, after the children got the attention of the adults inside the residence, that Richardson dialed 911.
Schoppmann told jurors they will hear from witnesses who will speak to how Orozco was shot in the back and was “never in that home.”
“The evidence will show that this was reckless, that blindly shooting through a door is callous,” Schoppmann said. “Some of the defendant’s own words in the 911 call and in an interview … are ‘I shot through the door.’ The evidence will show that’s reckless.”
Robin Puchek, Richardson’s attorney, said the state’s overview of the events was “pretty accurate,” again highlighting that Richardson didn’t think Orozco was bringing the child home that night.
Richardson said his front door started to open and he saw the silhouette of a person, leading him to believe it was someone trying to break into his home. He eventually fired one round through a “partway open door,” Puchek said. The attorney told jurors that a crime scene investigator, who is set to testify, found the door was open about 4 inches.
Puchek continued by saying in Arizona, deadly force can only be used to repel deadly force. However, he noted it’s a little different when it comes to home defense.
“If you reasonably believe that someone is actually breaking into your home or they’re eminently or about to break into your home, then you may respond with deadly force,” Puchek said.
On Tuesday, Puchek cross examined the 11-year-old girl. She said she saw Orozco place her hand on Richardson’s door but is unsure if Orozco actually knocked. The child said she didn’t hear anyone in the home, and that she is also unsure of whether Orozco put a foot inside the residence through the partially open door.
However, she told a law enforcement officer the morning after Oct. 27 that Orozco could have briefly stepped inside the residence through the partially open door. On Tuesday, she said she was unsure. Puchek asked if her memory would have been clearer back in October than it is now, months later. The witness said, “Yes.”
Schoppmann had another opportunity to question the witness during redirect examination. The attorney asked her if on the night of Oct. 27 she heard anyone in the home ask anything to the effect of “Who is it?” She said she heard nothing like that.
Richardson’s trial continues at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, June 12, 2019.