Damian Monroe Williams clearly intended to kill trucker Reginald O. Denny, bashing in his skull with a brick thrown from only three feet away and celebrating with a jubilant little dance afterward, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Henry Keith Watson is just as guilty as Williams because he held Denny down to make him a better target for other attackers, Deputy Dist. Atty. Janet Moore said in her closing arguments.
“We have seen that videotape,” she said. “It is burned in our brains. We all know what happened to Reginald Denny.”
All of the evidence in the case against Williams and Watson has been presented. No more witnesses will testify. The trial is in its final stages and is expected to go to the jury today after Williams’ attorney, Edi M.O. Faal, makes his closing argument and Moore offers her rebuttal.
Denny came within seconds of death after he was beaten in the early hours of last year’s riots, and Williams and Watson are guilty of trying to kill him, Moore said.
The Denny beating--broadcast live on television--is a defining image of the riots. But Moore reminded the jury in her closing arguments that there were other victims at Florence and Normandie avenues, the intersection where Denny was beaten.
Speaking slowly and distinctly as though she were simplifying a complex concept for consumption by high school students, Moore told the panel that the two defendants--especially Williams--moved from victim to battered victim, selecting targets for attack.
There is absolutely no question that Williams and Watson are the men shown on videotape attacking Denny and the other victims, she said, pointing to videotape, clothing, photographs and body movement to argue that neither man’s identity is in doubt.
Faal is challenging the prosecution’s assertions that videotapes show Williams attacking anyone. But attorneys for Watson conceded for the first time Tuesday that videotape shows Watson placing his foot on Denny’s neck and taking part in the beating of another victim.
Making his closing argument to the jury, Watson’s attorney, Earl C. Broady Jr., said Watson was involved in the assault on Larry Tarvin, a trucker who was beaten at the same intersection where Denny was assaulted.
Outside court, Broady said Watson’s crime against Denny, if anything, is simple assault--a misdemeanor carrying a maximum one-year sentence. He said Watson did put his foot on Denny’s neck, but maintained that Watson “didn’t want to kill him. He wanted to save him” from another attacker whom he pushed away.
Watson, 29, and Williams, 20, are charged with trying to murder Denny and with assaulting or robbing seven other people between them at Florence and Normandie, a flash point for last year’s riots.
Williams is also charged with aggravated mayhem--intentionally causing permanent disability or disfigurement--for allegedly hitting Denny in the head with a brick. Attempted murder and aggravated mayhem each carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Their trial is in its final stages, and the jury is expected to begin its deliberations today. Before the jury gets the case, Faal will give his closing argument, and Moore will then offer the prosecution’s rebuttal.
In her summation Tuesday, Moore used accompanying charts as she methodically walked the panel through the details of each charge involving each victim--first defining the crime, then spelling out what prosecutors must prove and finally recounting the evidence against each defendant.
Noting that prosecutors must prove a specific intent to kill to win a conviction on attempted murder, she said: “I can’t cut open Mr. Williams’ head to show you what he thinks.”
Instead, she asked the jury to look at circumstantial evidence, such as what Williams did before and after he hit Denny with a brick, “and you decide if he had intent to kill.” He picked a brick--not a small stone--to attack Denny, she said.
Williams stood only three feet from the helpless Denny, who already had been beaten, kicked and hit with an oxygenator and a hammer, “yet he threw the brick,” she said. He did not toss it, but threw it as hard as he could, Moore said.
“What other inference is there but that defendant Williams wanted to take this man out--to wipe him out?” she asked.
Williams is also guilty of aggravated mayhem, she said, because he intended to permanently disable and disfigure Denny. Williams intended to “mess him up, and mess him up good,” she said, adding that Denny’s injuries prevent him from ever being the same as he was before the beating.
After delivering the brick, she said, Williams celebrated with a little dance. “He was jubilant,” she said.
When all of Williams’ acts are put together, Moore said, there can be no other inference than that Williams intended to kill Denny. And that attempted murder was willful, deliberate and premeditated, she said.
Premeditation is not a function of time, she said. It can occur in as short a time as that split second it takes a motorist to decide whether to go through an intersection on a yellow light, she said.
Williams stood behind a man with the oxygenator and the other who attacked Denny with a hammer--waiting his turn before throwing the brick as hard as he could, she said.
Watson had knowledge of Williams’ unlawful purpose because he had been in the intersection watching and participating in several other assaults, she said. Watson aided and abetted in the attempted murder of Denny by holding the trucker in place to give other assailants a better target, Moore said.
“Did he stop the attack?” she asked. “No. He allowed it to go forward.”
Watson knew that someone could die from the blows Denny received, and because he knew that “natural and probable consequence” of the attack, he is guilty of attempted murder, she said.
Moore told the jury that the images of what happened at Florence and Normandie to all of the victims “should be seared in your memory. If you apply the law in this case fairly and judiciously, you can reach only one conclusion--both defendants Williams and Watson are guilty.”
By conceding in his closing statement that Watson is shown with his foot on Denny’s neck, Broady runs the risk that the jury will find that Watson is guilty of attempted murder because he aided and abetted in the attacks.
Watson is also charged with assault with a deadly weapon and robbery of Tarvin, charges that together carry a maximum nine-year prison sentence. Prosecutors also have filed special allegations of great bodily injury that could, if found to be true, add another three years to the sentence.
Broady said Watson had no idea what Denny’s attackers were planning and could not be guilty of abetting their crimes.
“How does Watson know the thinking process of those people assaulting Denny?” Broady told the jury. “You just can’t transfer that state of mind of the perpetrators to Mr. Watson.”
Broady said Watson was not aiding and abetting the attack on Denny. “He was trying to stop a crime,” Broady said. “He’s not advising. He’s not promoting. He’s not instigating.”
He said Watson was not at the intersection to rob. He was there because he was upset at the injustice of the not guilty verdicts in the Rodney G. King beating case.