talking nonsense about the September 2017 murder of Alderpoint
resident Robert “Bob” Holtsclaw.
Monday afternoon a jury began discussing whether that person is
suspect Zachary Cordell Harrison, or the close friend who says he
watched Harrison take aim and fire from 40 feet away.
Before heading to the deliberation room, jurors heard closing arguments from Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada, who is confident Harrison will be found guilty of first-degree murder; and Deputy Public Defender Brie Bennett, who is confident the jury will find reasonable doubt.
must have an abiding conviction so you won’t have to worry about
waking up in the middle of the night and wondering ‘Did we convict
an innocent man?’” Bennett told the jury.
the main factor for jurors is whether to believe sole eyewitness Tory
Hennings, who says he was climbing into Holtsclaw’s truck when he
saw Harrison standing across the street with a rifle.
reminded jurors that these events, in Hennings’s recollection,
happened almost simultaneously: “He saw Zach draw down, Robert
Holtsclaw said ‘Zach’s got a gun,’ he ducked behind Bob and Bob
ran to a neighbor’s house and reported “Zach shot Bob. Call
neighbor confirmed that during trial. Another neighbor testified she
saw Harrison’s truck leaving the area immediately after she heard a
don’t think there’s any reason not to believe (Hennings),”
Kamada said. “Why would he make this up?”
suggested Hennings may have wanted Harrison out of the way so he
could have all the money from the marijuana he and Harrison had been
growing. Harrison also claims Hennings had sex with his girlfriend,
and even though the two had never discussed that, Hennings might have
been afraid Harrison would eventually retaliate.
brother, Adam Hennings, is a volunteer firefighter in Alderpoint.
Tory called him saying “Zach shot Bob,” and Adam headed out to
the crime scene on Sixth Street. In his rearview mirror he saw
Harrison’s truck, a black Ford pickup with Oregon license plates,
parked in town.
figured it was safe to drive to the scene, where he and others
performed CPR on Holtsclaw for 45 minutes. That’s when the
ambulance crew arrived and pronounced the 58-year-old Holtsclaw
Harrison was the shooter, it’s unclear who he was firing at. Tory
Hennings says he saw Harrison pointing the rifle at him.
Kaleb Cockrum read jurors an unusual instruction on the law: “If
the defendant intended to kill one person but by mistake or accident
killed someone else instead, the crime, if any, is the same as if the
intended person had been killed.”
this point Harrison yawned widely, which he did a couple of times
when Kamada was presenting his argument.
reminded jurors he doesn’t have to prove motive and said “I can’t
tell you why.”
he said there were two possible motives for Harrison killing
Holtsclaw. First, a couple of months earlier, according to Harrison,
he and Holtsclaw argued and Holtsclaw aimed a gun at him and
threatened him. Second, Harrison told investigators Holtsclaw raped
questioned why Harrison would shoot someone in broad daylight and
leave a witness behind. He could have waited until he found either
man alone. Also, why would a killer hang around town for an hour
after he committed his crime?
basic argument,” Kamada responded in his rebuttal argument, “is
he didn’t do it because he didn’t act like a rational murderer …
so him being bad at murder means he didn’t do it?”
had suggested that Alderpoint, where much marijuana is grown, is a
town unfriendly to the police. She said that’s one reason Harrison
may not have turned himself in for questioning. It’s against the town
“code,” a code that says you avoid law enforcement “at all
evidence is pretty freakin’ clear that the community members there
called law enforcement,” he said.
90 minutes after the shooting, Harrison arrived at the store In
Kettenpom. By then he had switched his front license plate for a
California plate. The store owner said the license plate looked
would be more than eight months before Harrison was finally arrested
in the Walmart parking lot in Eureka. On March 21, 2018, he escaped
from a trailer near the murder scene. According to one officer,
Harrison came out of the trailer and acted as though he was going to
Instead he took off on foot, disappearing into the woods.
The following day, he was spotted again.
“He stripped off his clothes and swam across the cold, swift Eel River in the middle of March,” Kamada said. He contended Harrison’s flight showed consciousness of guilt.
But Bennett said Harrison was frightened.
“He was scared,” Bennett said. “It would be scary to be accused of something he didn’t do. It would also be scary to be convicted of something he didn’t do.”
She said that in the eight to nine months Harrison was on the run, he could have gone to Canada or Mexico. Instead he was either in Oregon or around Alderpoint.
Near the spot where Hennings says Harrison was standing with a rifle, a pure copper 30-30 rifle cartridge was found on the ground. And when officers searched the trailer where Harrison had been hiding, six pure copper 30-30 rifle bullets were discovered under a chair cushion.
The murder weapon was never found.
Jurors were escorted to the deliberation room about 4:15 p.m. Monday. Their first duty was to choose a foreperson.
The jury was given instructions only on first-degree murder and second-degree murder. A manslaughter verdict is not an option. Harrison, 29, also is charged with the special allegation of murder with a personal use of a firearm.
Deliberations were scheduled to resume this morning.
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