CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – The Damien Ditz trial is in the hands of the jury.
Both Ditz’s defense attorney, Adam Bishop, and Clarion County District Attorney, Mark Aaron, gave their closing arguments on Friday morning before Judge James Arner charged the jury and sent them to deliberate.
Bishop, by Commonwealth law, went first and laid out his final case as to why Ditz, who is charged with killing his girlfriend, Katrina Seaburn, of Curwensville in the early evening hours of March 1, 2017, in the parking area of a trailer park near Lake Lucy, Clarion County, Pa., should only be found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Aaron is pursuing a first-degree murder conviction.
“Where is the evidence of premeditation?”
“Where is the evidence of maliciousness?”
“Where is the evidence supporting motive?”
“Where is the evidence of murder?”
Bishop said the shooting – which took place in Seaburn’s car with Ditz in the driver’s seat and Seaburn in the passenger’s seat – is what an “accidental” shooting looks like.
“We have an inexperienced handgun owner acting carelessly with a pistol that unintentionally discharges,” Bishop said.
“There is no motive. There is no history of domestic violence. No one saw them arguing in the days prior to the shooting. There was one shot.
“He (Ditz) called 9-1-1 immediately and attempted to render aid. He then goes into shock and also calls the victim’s mom. That is what an accidental shooting looks like.”
Bishop said the government wants the jury to ignore the total picture.
“Every killing is not murder,” Bishop said. “Every shooting is not murder. There is no proof of maliciousness. There is no proof of murder. He called 9-1-1. He rendered aid. He went into shock. He called her mom. He was in a highly emotional state.”
Bishop reminded the jury that they had heard testimony from the government’s own firearms expert about how easy an unintentional discharge of a gun can happen.
“We heard how unintentional discharges because of carelessness happen all too often,” Bishop said.
Bishop also told the jury that the absence of evidence tells them more than anything the defendant can tell them and that the prosecution wants the jury to only judge Ditz on the “worst moment” of his life.
“It’s important to understand who Damien was before the shooting,” Bishop said. “He was a laid-back kid who liked the outdoors. They want you to believe a person like that turned into a monster in a moment.”
“He was a good kid from a good family. He had a good reputation in the community. He didn’t have the courage to tell the truth (Ditz admitted to lying to police about what happened at first). That doesn’t prove murder. That proves he is a human being.”
Bishop attempted to put doubt in the jury’s mind over Aaron’s claim that the shooting took place over an argument between Ditz and Seaburn over $130 Ditz lent his friend, DaShon Smerker, who he considers a cousin.
“You know what doesn’t make sense?” Bishop asked. “Damien killing over $130 or over the $1,000 (Katrina) lent him and that he returned to her mother.”
Bishop said the entire prosecution case wasn’t about proving Ditz committed murder but instead was about “poking” holes in the defense’s case.
“That isn’t reasonable doubt,” Bishop asserted.
Bishop also pointed out how emotional Ditz was during the trial.
“It was like moving mountains to get Damien though the trial because he remains broken up because of what happened,” Bishop explained.
Bishop went as far as to point out that even if the jury believed the government’s case against Ditz, it wouldn’t be murder but instead would be voluntary manslaughter.
“It (the government’s case) is a heat of passion killing,” Bishop said.
“But, it’s not that. It’s involuntary manslaughter because Damien didn’t intend to kill Katrina Seaburn. All the evidence points to an accidental shooting.”
Bishop concluded with words of condolence.
“Our hearts got out to the Seaburn family,” Bishop said. “It was a terrible accident caused by Damien’s careless, reckless actions with a loaded pistol.”
When Bishop was finished with his closing arguments, it was Aaron’s turn.
“I don’t agree with a lot of what the defense has said,” Aaron started. “But I agree with this: if the defendant had come out and told the truth, he would have been charged with murder and he would have been right because that’s what he did.”
Aaron asked when you shoot someone through both the lungs and the heart, what else is your intent but to kill?
Relying a lot on replaying video and audio from Ditz’s testimony to police and the 9-1-1 call Ditz made, Aaron pushed home the point that Ditz had a ready-made story for why he had shot Seaburn.
“He lied to his cousin (Brandon Strotman; the shooting took place outside of Strotman’s trailer),” Aaron said. “He already had a story. How long had he been thinking of his story? He didn’t want people to know the truth.”
After playing the 9-1-1 call, Aaron pointed out the first thing Ditz told the 9-1-1 dispatcher was that he had a concealed carry permit for the gun.
“He was protecting himself,” Aaron said. “Isn’t the first thing you would do if the shooting was accidental is to tell them your girlfriend was shot? No, he talks about his permit.”
Aaron reminded the jury that Ditz admitted to losing his temper that night and then subsequently lost his temper on other occasions.
“He blew his top with Trooper Mallory,” Aaron said. “He showed a bit of it on the stand yesterday when he was asked about the $800 (he had in his gun safe along with the $1,000 Seaburn had lent him to buy a car) and why he didn’t pay the $130 back from that when he said, ‘It wasn’t her money. It had nothing to do with her ‘He apparently thought shooting her was better.”
Aaron then proceeded to try to paint a picture of a man who was tired of taking it from his girlfriend.
“He was not going to take this woman saying he couldn’t loan $100 to family,” Aaron said. “He was having his manhood insulted, and he wasn’t going to take it anymore.”
Aaron said the jury needed to consider the facts.
“There was a Glock 45 loaded with hollow point,” Aaron said. “He knew the bullet was in the chamber. It was unholstered for quick access. He lost his temper, blew his top, pointed the gun at her, pulled the trigger and shot her through both lungs and the heart.”
Aaron continued that the defense wants to put up a “smokescreen.”
“You need to consider the whole case,” Aaron said. “The whole circumstance. It wasn’t an accident and the accumulated evidence proves that.”
Aaron finished by pointing out the end of the trial was the day Ditz feared the most.
“The day he dreaded from day one is here,” Aaron said. “The day of reckoning, and more importantly, the day of justice for Katrina Seaburn.”
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