UPDATE AT 4:15- Jurors asked for a transcript of Avery Berry’s testimony. Judge Cavanagh responded that a full transcript isn’t currently available.
UPDATE AT 1:45- A second question by the jury seeks further clarification on what defines “unreasonable” with respect to the second degree murder instructions.
UPDATE AT 12:55- The jury in the Avery Berry trial sent a message to Judge Peter Cavanagh just a few moments ago asking the following question: If there is a hung jury, will Avery go on trial again? Cavanagh directed a response to be sent back that the jurors have received all the evidence available in this case, and they may continue with their deliberations.
We heard closing statements in Morgan County Court this morning for the trial that began on Wednesday.
Assistant State’s Attorney Chad Turner told jurors Marcus Jackson, the man Berry admitted to shooting during a fight with his brother Shakil in his backyard in 2014, wasn’t a perfect man. He said it was a mistake for Jackson to go to the Berry house after an earlier incident at a birthday party.
Turner said Avery and Shakil Berry didn’t have to leave the house that night when Jackson, his brothers and several others showed up, but said they escalated the situation with the actions they took.
Turner noted Jackson, 24, had a son who will never know his father. And while he said Jackson wasn’t perfect, he had the perfect love of his mother, who has been front and center during this week’s proceedings.
Jurors have the option to convict Berry of second-degree murder instead of the first-degree murder charge he originally faced. For that conviction, Turner explained jurors had to determine that Avery Berry believed he was justified in shooting Jackson. Turner argued Berry was not justified.
Turner argued Berry’s testimony was not credible. He said he could buy the story that he ran from the scene because he was afraid and didn’t know what the Jackson brothers would do in the aftermath, but he argued Berry’s credibility was shot when he laid low in St. Louis for the nearly two months before he was found.
During his closing statement, Berry’s defense attorney Bruce Locher said there were “some real credibility issues” with the “many convicted felons” that testified, including Marcus Jackson’s brother Gerald, who was convicted for possession of a firearm by a felon.
Locher directly blamed Jackson’s actions at the birthday party and subsequently at the Berry house for Avery Berry being on trial.
He said Marcus Jackson provoked a response. He also said Avery Berry didn’t know if any of the Jacksons were armed, and criticized police for not bringing the witnesses back to the scene for a reconstruction.
In the follow-up to that, Morgan County State’s Attorney Gray Noll called Locher’s argument “offensive,” “insulting” and “smoke and mirrors”. He commended the Jacksonville Police Department for doing “a fantastic job” on this case.
Noll asked jurors if they thought Avery Berry looked like he cared at all when he was on the stand yesterday. He said, “innocent people don’t run.”
After jurors began deliberating, Judge Peter Cavanagh warned those in attendance in the courtroom, mostly friends and family of Marcus Jackson, that if there was “any trouble”, he’d “deal with it”.