The fate of murder suspect Jeremiah Barrett was handed to the jury Wednesday afternoon in Calaveras County Superior Court as deliberations got underwary.
Barrett is charged with three counts of murder in the second degree and a number of additional charges in the killing three men at a marijuana farm near Mountain Ranch in the early morning hours of Oct. 20, 2015.
The jury was dismissed to discuss the case about 2 p.m. They did not emerge with a verdict before the close of day Wednesday. Judge Tim Healy instructed jurors to return every day at 9 a.m. until a decision is been made.
Barrett pleaded not guilty to all charges in February and has maintained steadfastly that his actions were made in self defense.
The incident left three men dead: Daniel Haney, Terry Glen Looney Jr. and Wesley David Smith. The three were killed with four bullets — three were from a shotgun, and the fourth from a Derringer pistol.
Before jurors were dismissed, both parties presented their closing arguments.
Deputy District Attorney Brad Jones called Barrett a cold-blooded killer. He said the defendant placed more value in marijuana at the garden owned by his brother, Leon Grammer, than he did on the lives of the three men.
Jones said the site was ultimately designed to combat conflict. He said the boundaries around the grow site had been blockaded, and a trailer was placed in line with multiple viewpoints. He said the residents were prepared to use deadly force to defend the site.
After a confrontation at the top of a hill, Jones said the victims ran downhill to an entrance where Barrett had entered and locked the gate behind him. Jones said Barrett then advanced to a “choke point” for a few seconds before he saw the three men running toward him.
Jones said the first man down the hill, Haney, was shot with a shotgun. Barrett didn’t say anything to the victim. The second, Looney, was commanded to stop before he was shot in the head. The third man, Smith, was also commanded to stop before he was shot in the upper body. Smith didn’t die until a second bullet was fired from the Derringer into his brain.
Jones acknowledged Barrett’s testimony yesterday changed the order in which Smith was shot. He said the change didn’t reflect well on the defendant. If Smith was shot first, he would have been alive seconds longer before the fatal Derringer bullet to the head.
Jones said the men’s plans to steal marijuana from the site was “sad and unsophisticated.” One man embarked on his own early on. The three others decided to find him a half-hour later but began in the wrong direction. They were unprepared for the size of the marijuana plants they intended to seize.
The prosecution stated that Barrett may have known he was guilty at the time of the act. He said Barrett moved the bodies a number of times, actively hid brain matter and lied to deputies on more than one occasion. Jones called it “consciousness of guilt.”
The defense, led by Ken Foley, rhetorically asked jurors what Barrett was supposed to do in the situation he was in.
“Instead of providing alternatives for what Barrett should have done, the prosecution just wants to criticize him for what he did do,” Foley said.
He said Barrett saw three men running at him, while high on meth and on a crime spree, shortly after he arrived to the property about 7 a.m. and immediately heard a number of shots fired overhead. The barrage of shots confirmed by neighboring witnesses were reaffirmed Wednesday by Foley.
No firearms were found on the bodies after the incident. Foley implied it may not have mattered.
“Who would think three adult males wouldn’t cause great bodily injury if they got there (to Barrett)?” Foley said.
Foley said the individuals running at him were bold enough to return after being chased off the property once before Barrett arrived. Sean Davis, the only known survivor that day, said he was afraid he’d be killed by the people he was with if he spoke to police after his arrest less than 24 hours later.
Foley said Barrett was called by his brother and told there were possibly up to six intruders on the property.
Ultimately, the defense said the three men were intruders on a property they were not supposed to be on and were stealing property that did not belong to them. He said Barrett would not have been in the situation if it weren’t for the intruders.
“The defendant is not required to retreat. He could stand his ground and defend himself,” Foley said. “He could do whatever he has to to protect himself from a robbery, great bodily injury or death.”
Foley also downplayed an implied cover up by the prosecution. He said Barrett wasn’t covering up the shooting. He was in shock, and his answers to questions may have been impacted. He also said the parties involved waited just an hour to call the police.
“He didn’t know what to do,” Foley said.
Foley also condemned law enforcement for the limited investigation they did. They did not evaluate gunshot residue, do analysis on blood spatter or initiate ballistics testing on the site.
An independent investigator hired by the defense found three shell casings that apparently didn’t belong to the defendant or his brother. The brand did not match that of a box of ammunition taken into evidence by authorities.
Foley said his client put his good character into trial. Throughout the proceeding, a number of character witnesses testified on Barrett's behalf to his work ethic, his drive and his kind nature
During rebuttal, Jones said the victims were wrong in their actions but did not deserve to die. He said they were thieves, not robbers. Robbery involves taking another’s property using force or fear.
“He has the right to self defense,” Jones said. “But he doesn’t have the right to kill a thief. He doesn’t have the right to kill people.”
He said the bullets found by the defense weeks later were irrelevant. They were found after law enforcement searched the site twice, seized evidence and opened it up to the public after Oct. 22, 2015.
To cap off his rebuttal Wednesday, Jones offered a final answer to the defense regarding what Barrett should have done in his situation.
“He should have called an ambulance for Smith,” Jones said, “Instead, he walked up to him and put a bullet in the back of his head.”
Contact Calaveras County reporter Jason Cowan at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 588-4531. Follow him on Twitter at @jcowan1031.