FRESNO, California (KSEE) – Closing arguments played out in court Thursday in the capital murder trial of Kori Muhammad.
Muhammad is accused of killing four Fresno men in April 2017.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the judge gave an anonymous survey to the jury to ask them whether or not they wanted to continue with the trial or delay until April 1. The jury voted unanimously to push forward with the trial.
The closing arguments for both the prosecution and the defense took all day. There were about 45 minutes left until the end of the afternoon session and that’s when it was turned over to the jurors.
They made the decision to go home for the day and start fresh on Friday morning for deliberations.
Muhammad was in court for the morning but then asked to the judge to go back to his cell before the closing arguments started. Muhammad told the judge he was worried he would have an outburst like he’s had in the past.
Fresno County District Attorney Prosecutor Kelly Smith outlined his case to the jury during closing arguments.
“This is where the defendant is stopping, reloading, shoots six times multiple shots at all three people that are there,” Smith said.
Muhammad is facing four counts of murder and four counts of attempted murder.
The first count is for murdering Motel 6 security guard Carl Williams. The count also includes special circumstances for multiple murders and the use of a firearm.
Counts 2, 3, 4 are for the murders of Zackary Randalls, Mark Gassett, and David Jackson. The count also includes a hate crime.
Smith asked the jury to consider First-Degree Murder and First-Degree Attempted Murder charges.
“How do we elevate this to First-Degree Attempted Murder, again it’s the same exact same words we’ve been discussing the magic words being willfully, deliberately and premeditation the same definitions apply willfully,” Smith said.
The defense admitting to the jury that their client, Muhammad, killed these men but argue it’s because Muhammad has mental health issues.
“He did kill these four men and you heard it from his own mouth at every chance he got, you heard it on the tapes you heard it on the stand. But what is also been proven is that Mr. Muhammad is a severely ill man he’s been mentally ill since as far back as 1992,” said Richard Beshwate, Muhammad’s attorney.
The defense is asking for the jury to consider Second-Degree Murder charges.
“We have a confused mentally ill man not deliberating, not considering, acting impulsively and unable to pre-meditate,” said Beshwate.
The eventual verdict would only be for the murder charges; the sanity phase begins after that to determine if Muhammad goes to a psychiatric hospital – or jail.