COVINGTON - Jury deliberations in the murder case against Steven Bernard Lackey began Wednesday in Newton County Superior Court following closing arguments by attorneys on both sides.
Lackey, 26, faces charges of murder, aggravated assault, tampering with evidence, obstruction, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony in connection with the slaying of 25-year-old Larry Richardson Jr.
Authorities say Lackey shot Richardson once in the neck with a 9 mm pistol after Richardson and his girlfriend, Christina Parker, arrived at the defendant's residence on Morningside Drive to pick up Parker's 4-year-old son, Amir, in late February. Lackey is the youngster's father.
The drug charges stem from a search warrant executed at Lackey's home subsequent to the shooting.
Prior to closing arguments, the defense presented its side of the case to the court.
Mary Lackey, Amir's grandmother and nanny, testified that Parker told her at one point that Richardson would pick her son up and throw him down on the bed when he got a bad grade. During cross-examination, however, Mary Lackey said Parker had told her that no abuse had occurred.
Stacey Haymore, Amir's day care teacher, testified that the boy became hysterical when he found out he wouldn't be able to leave with his cousin and grandmother on the day in question but would have to wait to be picked up later by Richardson. Assistant District Attorney Melanie McCrorey later characterized the boy's behavior at the time as a 4-year-old who was upset about not getting his way.
Haymore's testimony would also come into question, however, after a witness reported seeing her wink at the defendant as she was exiting the courtroom. Though Judge Samuel Ozburn initially accepted a motion to hear evidence that may have impeached the testimony, it was not ultimately pursued by the prosecution.
During her closing argument, McCrorey called Lackey's defense that the shooting was accidental a "lame excuse" and said the physical evidence presented in court proved her case.
"This is about a senseless, brutal and intentional murder. Nothing more, nothing less," she said. "Guns don't just go off. That's not how it happens ... they don't just kill people on their own. Someone pulled the trigger."
McCrorey also took issue with the defense's allegations that Richardson abused Lackey's son and indicated that they failed to produce any physical evidence that he ever had any violent contact with the child.
"Ladies and gentlemen, look at the evidence," McCrorey told the jury. "Look at the things that cannot be changed. Look at the things that cannot lie and you will find this defendant guilty."
Assistant Public Defender Teri Smith, who is representing Lackey, countered that the most important aspect to look at in the case was not what happened, but why it happened and what was going through her client's mind at the time.
Smith said Lackey was concerned about the allegations of abuse by Richardson against Parker and involving his son and that he wanted to confront him about it. She further indicated that Lackey did not have the intent to kill Richardson and pointed to the fact that he accompanied the victim to the hospital and did everything he could to save him as proof of that.
"The shot itself was a pure and simple accident. (Lackey's) hand contracted (Smith was referring to the muscle reflex of Lackey putting the gun to Richardson's neck), and he fired the shot," she told the jury. "This was about protecting Amir."
Smith argued that Lackey needed the gun to tell Richardson what he needed to say because the victim was almost a foot taller and more than 50 pounds heavier than the defendant.
In her final statement to the jury, McCrorey said that if Lackey was innocent, as he contends, then he would have called authorities about the alleged abuse and that he wouldn't have run when he arrived at the hospital with the victim, nor would he have taken steps to try and dispose of the murder weapon.
"He cannot stop making up lies ... because he's not an innocent man," she said.
McCrorey said the "sickest" lie was the defense's attempt to characterize Richardson as a child abuser without presenting any evidence.
"This is a 25-year-old man who's dead for no reason," she told the jury.
As of press time Wednesday, jury deliberations were still ongoing.
Joel Griffin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.