Huntinger and Giddings.



Jurors in the murder case of Billy Joe Giddings and Robert Louis Huntzinger were told yesterday that the only reasonable verdict is guilty, and the only reasonable verdict is not guilty.

Deputy District Attorney Roger Rees and defense attorneys Luke Brownfield and Russ Clanton presented their closing arguments to the jury yesterday afternoon. Rees is expected to make his rebuttal argument this morning, and the jury will then begin deliberations on whether Giddings and Huntzinger committed murder when Trevor Mark Harrison was shot dead on May 9, 2015, in the Arcata home of Harrison’s mother.

Rees laid out a scenario in which Giddings and Huntzinger made a plan to steal from Harrison’s mother, Kay Haug, who bought and sold marijuana. Huntzinger had already been to Haug’s house twice that day trying to sell pot, and at one point Haug brought out $1,900 in cash to pay for a pound. That deal fell apart when Haug decided the bag of weed didn’t weigh enough.

Huntzinger was accompanied by marijuana broker Kimberly Steele. When Steele came back a third time that day she brought Giddings. Haug and two other witnesses said Giddings pulled a gun within seconds after he arrived.

In the meantime Huntzinger was trying to get in the front door, and Harrison was trying to keep him out. Giddings shot at Harrison twice, and one of the bullets pierced his heart.

“(Giddings) shoots and kills Trevor to allow Mr. Huntzinger to come in,” Rees told the jury. He said if Huntzinger didn’t know a hold-up was going on, he never would have entered the house after hearing shots fired.

“Who goes into a house after hearing multiple gunshots?” Rees asked. “He knows Mr. Giddings has a gun.”

Kenneth Eskridge, one of the people in Haug’s house that night, said Giddings told Huntzinger “You can come in now.”

Giddings’ contends he shot only because Harrison was pointing a gun at him. But Rees said that according to Giddings’ own testimony, he pulled the gun when he heard the door repeatedly slamming.

“You can’t use a gun to defend yourself against slamming,” Rees told the jury.

Haug, Eskridge and Demian Starlight all testified that after Harrison was shot, Huntzinger came in with a duffel bag and headed straight to the back of the house. They said they heard him rummaging around, and he came out a few minutes later. Then he and Giddings left.

Haug has said the only thing missing from her bedroom was some marijuana “kief” that she was storing for a friend. When Huntzinger was arrested at his home in Blue Lake, there was some kief in his duffel bag.

Jurors have the option of returning verdicts of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and not guilty. Giddings is being prosecuted under two theories of first-degree murder. One, that the killing was willful, deliberate and premeditated and done with malice. Two, that the killing happened when he was in the process of committing a felony. In this case, the felony charged is burglary.

Huntzinger is being prosecuted for murder under the theory that he went to Haug’s home to steal, and in the process someone died.

“He didn’t come to the house for any other reason than to commit burglary,” Rees said.

Attorney Russ Clanton, representing Huntzinger, focused much of his argument on Haug, and the multiple lies he said she has told.

“I’ve never seen attack on the truth as vicious as this one,” Clanton told the jury.

After her son was killed, Haug told Arcata police she didn’t know the people who had committed this “harrowing home invasion,” Clanton said. In fact, she did know Huntzinger and Kimberly Steele, the marijuana broker who was at her house that day with Huntzinger and then Giddings. She was expecting them that night, Clanton said, because she’d told him she was interested in some marijuana “trim.”

“Mr. Giddings is there because he thinks he can make some money,” Clanton said. “He has a pound of “OG” in his backpack.”

Huntzinger was a few steps behind Steele and Giddings, also carrying some marijuana he hoped to sell. Instead the door was slammed in his face. Then he heard shots, came in and said “What the fuck?”

“Mr. Giddings is a felon who just shot a man,” Clanton said. “His first and only thought was to flee. Fleeing is reasonable.”

Clanton contends Huntzinger was never in the back of the house, and Haug and her friends concocted the story. The kief found in Huntzinger’s bag was kief he already had, Clanton said, and in fact had shared with Haug in an earlier visit that day.

In the same room with the kief was more than 20 pounds of fresh marijuana bud and several thousand dollars in cash. All of the marijuana in its various containers is piled in the courtroom as evidence, so jurors can see what Huntzinger would have left behind.

“Somehow, magically, it never leaves,” Clanton said. “That defies logic. That is unreasonable.”

He said Huntzinger played “no role in any plan to rob Ms. Haug, nor did he take a single thing. His motive was simple. Sell some weed.”

Clanton said the prosecution case is based on lies, and “This is one of the most miserable prosecutorial failures I’ve ever seen.”

Brownfield, representing Giddings, reminded the jurors that their decision must be based on “not what you think happened, not what you suspect happened, but it’s whether this case has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

If Giddings and Huntzinger had a plan, Brownfield said, it “sucked.”

“You’re going to go there without a mask, without gloves, and rob these people?” he asked. “… They came there with a plan to rob and steal, and what did they get? Nothing. That is ridiculous.”

Brownfield pointed out that Harrison was high on meth, and “a pretty big guy.” (According to testimony he was 5 feet 11 inches and 230 pounds.)

“The main question is did he have a gun,” Brownfield said. “If he has a gun then it’s two guys pointing a gun at each other. The first one to shoot is in self-defense.”

Haug has admitted there was a gun in her house, and she disposed of it along with a lot of marijuana.

“But did Mr. Harrison have a gun? Why else would you throw the gun out the window if Mr. Harrison didn’t have it?” Brownfield asked.

Haug initially said she had no gun. But during a preliminary hearing in fall 2015 she admitted there was one. During this trial she testified that the gun belonged to her caregiver’s mother and was unregistered, and she was trying to protect the mother. The gun reportedly was stored in a holster in her room.

During the trial jurors were allowed to submit written questions. Brownfield said a juror had asked the most important question in the trial: “If the gun was in a holster, why take it out and throw it out the window?”

Brownfield said the explanation is that Haug took the gun from her son after he was shot and lay dying.

Much has been made of the fact that Haug was more focused on getting rid of her marijuana and the gun than on tending to her dying son.

But Brownfield said he believes Haug was trying to shield her son and conceal his actions.

“I think she’s falling on the sword and trying to get a conviction for Trevor,” he said. “This home-invasion narrative is what they came up with.”