More than two years and three months after Father Eric Freed was murdered in the rectory of Eureka’s St. Bernard’s Catholic Parish, the murder trial of Gary Lee Bullock is now in the hands of a jury. Prosecutor Andrew Isaac and defense attorney Kaleb Cockrum wrapped up their arguments to the 10 women and two men on the jury this morning, and jurors are now sequestered in chambers considering the seven felony charges against Bullock.
Those charges are as follows: first degree murder, two counts of residential burglary, car theft, carjacking, attempted arson and torture. Bullock has entered dual pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.
Cockrum, who works in the county’s Conflict Counsel Office, resumed his closing statement this morning, arguing that the People had failed to prove the charge of murder in the first degree. Bullock showed a pattern of irrational “white-hot rage” leading up to the murder and was incapable of forming the specific intent that’s necessary for premeditated murder, Cockrum said.
He also suggested that Bullock had broken into the rectory that night merely “to get out of the elements” and had no idea there was someone living inside and a car in the garage. Therefore he shouldn’t be convicted of residential burglary or carjacking, Cockrum argued, adding that jurors should instead find Bullock guilty of the lesser charges of second degree murder and car theft.
In his rebuttal, Isaac said jurors themselves watched Bullock act with deliberate intentions in security camera footage captured outside the church rectory on the night of the murder. And he said it doesn’t matter whether he knew Freed was inside and a car was in the garage because he entered “with an illegal purpose,” which is all the law requires for the residential burglary charge.
As for Bullock’s state of mind, Isaac noted that in all Bullock’s recorded conversations with his wife, mom and stepfather, he never says he was crazy or out of control. Instead, in a clip replayed for jurors today, Bullock told his parents, “They have video of me … going inside of the house. … They’ve got me dead to rights.”
Isaac called the suggestion that Bullock broke in to the rectory merely to get out of the elements “the reddest red herring in the case.”
Recounting all of Freed’s injuries, Isaac noted that the priest was alive until the very end; he must have been to get the defensive wounds found on his hands, forearms and lower legs. Bullock was “clearly proactive,” Isaac said, as shown in his decisions to wipe fingerprints off the doorknob, clean blood off of himself and peek out the window before going to steal Freed’s car, among other actions.
The prosecution showed a security camera clip of the car pulling out of the garage. “You see what just happened?” Isaac asked. “He closed the garage door. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”
Bullock’s DNA was found under Freed’s fingernails. “There is no clearer evidence of a struggle than that,” Isaac said. And Bullock attempted to hide the evidence of his crimes by trying to set the body and rectory on fire, throwing Freed’s belongings off the Miranda Bridge and piling branches on top of the car once he arrived in Southern Humboldt.
Isaac admitted to being reluctant, after more than two years, to hand the case over to the jury. But finally he did so, telling the jury, “Whether or not Father Freed receives justice is now up to you.”
- Jury Selection Begins in Trial of Gary Lee Bullock, Accused of Murdering Catholic Priest
- In Recorded Phone Call, Bullock Pleaded With His Grandma to Put Her House Up for His Bail
- ‘Bullock Intentionally Killed Father Freed,’ Prosecutor Argues in Priest Murder Case
- Jury Watches Chilling Security Camera Footage of Bullock on Night of Father Freed Murder
- Bullock’s DNA Found on Father Freed’s Body; Freed’s DNA Found on Bullock’s Clothes
- Autopsy Photos Show Brutality of Father Freed’s Death; People Rest Their Case Against Bullock
- High on Drugs and Foaming at the Mouth, Bullock was Delusional and Erratic Around Time of Freed Murder, Attorney Argues
- Bullock’s Insanity Defense Undercut as Drug Abuse History Revealed in Court
- Deliberate Crime or Psychotic Breakdown? Attorneys Make Closing Arguments in Bullock Murder Trial