LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — After hours of deliberating, the jury returned a verdict on the four men accused of exchanging gunfire the night 15-year-old Trinity Gay was killed.
Chazerae Taylor was found guilty of wanton murder and four counts of wanton endangerment 1st degree. Lamonte Williams was found guilty of five counts of wanton endangerment 1st. D’Markeo Taylor was found guilty of wanton endangerment 1st, and D’Vonta Middlebrooks was found guilty of one count of wanton endangerment 1st and not guilty of five other counts of wanton endangerment first.
The jury deliberated a little more than 5 hours tonight before returning this verdict
— Conor McCue (@Conor_WLEX) October 16, 2018
After defense and prosecutors presented their closing arguments and the jury received instructions, the case was handed to the jury about 4:20 p.m. Monday.
Police say Gay was shot in the neck when two groups of people exchanged gunfire in the parking lot of the Cook Out restaurant in October 2016. Earlier in the trial, Gay’s friends told the jury they tried to keep the teenager awake while driving to the hospital, but she was “foaming at the mouth,” shaking and “she kept passing out and waking back up.”
Earlier in the trial, the defense considered putting at least Chazerae Taylor, the only one of the men charged with murder, on the witness stand.
On Monday, it was announced that none of the defendants would be taking the witness stand.
Prosecutors claim Chazerae Taylor fired shots first. He was charged with murder and wanton endangerment. His son, D’Markeo Taylor, and two others, Lamonte Williams and D’Vonta Middlebrooks, were charged with wanton endangerment.
All four have denied shooting anyone, but prosecutors said one of the bullets hit Gay.
The defense didn’t argue that the defendants didn’t fire shots. They all said that they did, but they claim that they did it to protect themselves after hearing a different shot fired.
On Monday, the judge read more than 50 pages of jury instructions out loud. In those instructions, the jury was told that they can find Chazerae Taylor guilty or not guilty of either murder, 2nd-degree manslaughter, or reckless homicide.
After a lunch break, the defense made their closing arguments.
Christine Madjar, the defense attorney for Chazerae Taylor, said Gay’s death was not Chazerae Taylor’s fault. She said there is no evidence that shows Chazerae Taylor killed Gay. Madjar claimed police did not do their job correctly and said that the question, “Who killed Trinity Gay?” is still unanswered because police got the wrong guy.
Madjar said that detectives were “desperate to charge someone, anyone, and they settled on Chaz.” She said Chazarae Taylor fired a gun into the air that night to clear the crowd. She insisted he did not create a dangerous situation, but tried to diffuse it.
She argued Chazarae Taylor had two choices after he heard the first gunshot — stop something bad from happening or run away. Madjar said that Chazarae Taylor chose to save lives that night by shooting into the air and getting everyone to scatter.
“Chaz did not kill Trinity Gay.” “Trinity deserves one last thing – justice.” “Chaz did not cause someone else to shoot Trinity Gay.” – Madjar
— Karolina Buczek (@Karolina_Buczek) October 15, 2018
The defense for D’Markeo “Keo” Taylor said in their closing argument that, “Keo did not create a dangerous circumstance” the night of Gay’s murder. Attorney Adele Burt Brown said that D’Markeo Taylor shot into the air and not at anyone.
Lamonte Williams’ lawyer, Abe Mashni, repeatedly said the commonwealth has not proven its case. He said that is why Williams did not feel the need to testify. He said that Williams already gave two statements and that Williams only fired a shot after he was shot at. Mashni said four or five shots were fired at Williams. Mashni said it was not fair that Lamonte Williams was charged with five felonies and D’Markeo Taylor was only charged with one. He said that Williams and D’Markeo Taylor did the same thing.
The lawyer for D’Vonta Middlebrooks said that “the guy with the .45” shot Gay, not Middlebrooks. He said that the “guy” remains unknown.
“There’s not any evidence that D’Vonta ever shot towards his friends, the girls,” said Middlebrooks’ lawyer.
In the Commonwealth’s closing argument, the attorney said, “I want you to remember what this case is about and it’s about Trinity Gay.”
The Commonwealth said that if Chazarae Taylor, D’Markeo Taylor, D’Vonta Middlebrooks, and Lamonte Williams didn’t shoot that night “we wouldn’t be here.”
The Commonwealth also said that “reasonable people” don’t fire firearms into the air to clear a parking lot.
The verdicts were returned on all four men just after 9:30 p.m. on Monday.
The sentencing phase will start on Tuesday at 9 a.m.