UPDATE: 10:03 P.M. — After more than eight hours of deliberation, the jury has adjourned and will resume Wednesday at 9 a.m. The jury is staying in hotel rooms overnight. Judge Joseph Chase says they will be “pretty isolated” until the deliberations resume. The judge says officials stripped the room clear of reading materials, including bibles.
Stay with KTTC News for the latest developments.
ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) — Closing arguments began for the second-degree murder retrial of Rochester man, Alexander Weiss Tuesday morning.
Weiss shot and killed 17-year-old Muhammed Rahim after a car crash in northeast Rochester in January 2018. In May, Weiss pleaded not guilty by means of self-defense, but the jury couldn’t reach a decision and the judge declared a mistrial.
Tuesday, prosecutor and Chief Deputy Olmsted County Attorney Eric Woodford started closing arguments first, with intent to convince the jury that Weiss is guilty of second-degree murder and was not acting by means of self-defense.
“The defendant committed murder in the second degree, that much is obvious,” Woodford said.
Woodford continued on to say it’s not a case about “who done it” but it’s a case questioning the action by Weiss leading up to Rahim’s death were justified.
In closing, Woodford told the jury that Weiss did not exercise all of his alternatives before using deadly force, using examples such as staying in the car, driving away from the scene completely and calling the police immediately.
Woodford said Weiss instead repositioned himself and escalated the situation by showing Rahim, and Rahim’s car passenger Noah Dukart his gun.
“Make no mistake, the defendant turned up the volume in this incident,” Woodford said.
He also brought up evidence used in testimony, such as a bumper sticker on Weiss’ car that reads “gun control means hitting your target.”
Woodford also made a point to say that Weiss’ own testimony seemed rehearsed and embellished during the trial.
Woodford brought up the notion that the belief that Weiss felt threatened by the two teenage girls inside Rahim’s car was unbelievable.
Woodford said Rahim and Dukart could have behaved better that day, but it’s not about “who is the better person” and that Rahim never got a chance to apologize for his actions.
“He was a living, breathing human that day,” Woodford said. “And Muhammed Rahim’s life matters just as much.”
Prosecutors closing arguments lasted about an hour. After a short break, Defense Attorney James McGeeney confronted the jury. McGeeney started by thanking the jury.
“I’m going to ask you to determine a man who’s killed another man, not guilty,” McGeeney said.
McGeeney said that Weiss wasn’t the one who acted “unreasonable” and “unnecessary” that cold Sunday morning, but rather Rahim and Dukart.
He says it started with the way Rahim was driving, getting into a crash. Weiss pulled over to see if help was needed, that’s when Dukart getting out of the car, and Rahim backing in and crashing into Weiss’ car.
McGeeney said it was Dukart who came out with a black eye, asking Weiss if he wanted to fight and that it would be “two on one.” McGeeney also brought up DNA evidence of Rahim’s saliva on Weiss’ jacket – which he said proves that Rahim spit on Weiss. He added that Rahim attempting to grab Weiss’ gun is what made him act out in self-defense.
McGeeney then walked through the witnesses called through the trial – calling out a few witnesses that had contradicting testimonies from initial or previous statements – such as the woman who saw it happen from her own car, Balchaynsh Balcha, and female car passenger Riley Bongiorno.
“Weiss’ statement is the only one consistent throughout the case,” McGeeney said.
McGeeney said when Weiss saw Dukart come out of the car on drugs, which was consistent through testimony in all car passengers, and agitated Weiss didn’t know who else was inside the vehicle. He says Weiss was responding with his gun in an attempt to deescalate the situation, he was not the aggressor. He shot Rahim is self-defense.
“This case is tragic, but not unavoidable,” McGeeney said. “But unavoidable by Dukart and Rahim.”
The jury started deliberating around noon.
At 3:30 p.m. court reconvened for about an hour, requesting another chance to look at bodycam footage from one of the first officers on scene that day, as well surveillance video from the Rochester Square Apartments.
With the apartment video – jurors requested four specific Replays: what passenger got out of Rahim’s car first, when passenger Noah Dukart followed Weiss to his car, and when the first-hand witness, who was on her way to church arrived and what vantage point she had of the scene.
Something to note – the surveillance video is difficult to make out, as there was a lot of fog coverage. Additionally, jurors wanted a definition for “duty to retreat.” In court, Judge Joseph chase says there is no “special legal” definition for the term – and told jurors to refer to common word definitions.