Attorneys deliver closing arguments in manslaughter trial
KINGMAN – Final arguments were delivered in the manslaughter trial of 58-year-old Golden Valley resident Gerald Richardson Thursday morning, with attorneys focusing on whether the defendant’s actions were reasonable and therefore justified.
Richardson is charged with manslaughter in the October 2018 shooting death of 31-year-old Jessica Mae Orozco. His jury trial began Monday, June 10, with a focus on his justification defense of thinking it was a home intruder at his door the night of Oct. 27, not Orozco.
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.
Prosecutor James Schoppmann told the jury that Richardson’s claim of self or home defense is “offensive to responsible gun owners” and a “mockery to self-defense.”
“This case is about the defendant, Gerald Richardson, blindly shooting through his front door, killing Jessica Orozco,” Schoppmann told the jury during his closing argument. “That is manslaughter.”
He said Arizona law allows for people to defend themselves and their homes from crimes against themselves or their properties. However, the attorney said those laws work as they should by people being held responsible for their actions.
“When you’re reckless with a gun, when you cause somebody’s death, we don’t just say ‘Sorry, we’re done here.’ He has to be held accountable for his conduct,” Schoppmann said.
He then provided the jury with some analogies to how he sees the case. Schoppmann said if someone was hunting and heard a rustle in the bushes and proceeded to shoot thinking it was an animal when in reality it was another hunter, the shooter would be held accountable.
He also provided an example of a realty appointment where realtors arrive to a home with potential buyers. He said under Richardson’s self-defense logic, they could be shot.
“Under that logic, you could be dead,” Schoppmann said.
He told the jury Orozco had the right to be at the residence as not only a family friend, but as the person who was returning the child home from a birthday party. In the defense’s closing argument, attorney Robin Puchek contested that statement. He said Orozco did not have a key to the residence and that in the past she had called or texted before she went over.
“So she’s not an invitee, if the state tries to convince you of that, it’s inaccurate because it doesn’t match up with the evidence,” Puchek said.
“The state is going to ask you to check ‘guilty’ because he killed Jessica Orozco and he did it recklessly,” Schoppmann told jurors.
Puchek noted his client’s remorsefulness, speaking to how he cried the night of the incident as he volunteered information to law enforcement. Puchek also said Richardson’s story remained “remarkably consistent” as he spoke with as many as four law enforcement officers within two hours of the shooting.
He told the jury it cannot make a decision based on passion or prejudice, but rather must rely on the law and evidence provided. Puchek said that evidence provided justifies Richardson’s actions.
“They’ve repeatedly yelled at you ‘It’s reckless, it’s reckless, it’s reckless,’” Puchek told jurors of the prosecution. “You know what? I agree. It was reckless, he’s charged with reckless manslaughter. But he’s not guilty because the evidence shows he had a reasonable belief that his house was being broken into, there was an imminent break-in that was about to occur. He’s allowed to use deadly force to prevent what he believes is an imminent burglary that’s about to occur.”
Speaking to the prosecution’s talking point of there not actually being a burglary, Puchek said that doesn’t matter.
“He doesn’t have to know that, all he has to do is suspect there’s someone at his door who’s about to break in or make unlawful entry,” the attorney said.
And he said the state had tried to convince jurors that Richardson was “trigger happy” by shooting a round through the door. In response, Puchek said his client was within his rights to empty the gun’s magazine into the door and the would-be suspected burglar, but did not do so. It should be noted Richardson told law enforcement he fired the round as a warning shot to scare away who he thought was a burglar.
Following closing arguments, jurors went behind closed doors to deliberate.