As one defense attorney who was watching the trial of Patrick Gonzalez told me, when you’re dealt a crappy hand it’s best to fold and hope on the mercy of the jury. Randy Etheridge and Jay Gontarek didn’t quite to do that, but they are betting they put a reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors.
Assistant State Attorney John Molchan was methodical in building his case over the past two days. Calling expert witnesses on crime scene forensics, firearms and fingerprints to explain their procedures and then their conclusions as exhibits were introduced into evidence. The star witnesses for the prosecution were Frederick Thornton and Rakeem Florence, who pleaded guilty to second degree murder and home invasion robbery. They named Patrick Gonzalez as the mastermind of the robbery and the killer of Bud and Melanie Billings—although neither one saw him kill the couple in the bedroom.
In closing statement that took a little over an hour in which he walked the jurors through the testimonies and evidence one more time, Molchan said that evidence proves the defendant guilty beyond any reasonable doubt.
Jay Gontarek said that what happened to Mr. & Mrs. Billings was tragic, but to send an innocent man to jail, or his execution, is a worse tragedy. He said that this case is like a puzzle. “You can look at all the blue pieces and say they must be the sky–only to find it’s not the sky, but a lake…a mirror reflection.”
Gontarek said that the Gonzalez’s DNA found on the firearms taken to Mississippi happened while Patrick helped the Wiggins move. No DNA was on the 9MM that killed the Billingses.
He also pointed out the person on the video holding the gun to Bud Billings’ head was right-handed. Patrick is left-handed.
Gontarek said that Hugh Wiggins and Gary Sumner are the masterminds, not Gonzalez. Wiggins and Sumner were at the condo discussing the robbery; Hugh Wiggins took the guns to his friend in Mississippi; Hugh Wiggins threw out the cellphone in Mississippi; the Buick where the murder weapon was hidden was owned by Wiggins. The safe was found in the backyard of Hugh and Pam Wiggins.
“There is a reasonable doubt about Patrick Gonzalez being the mastermind.”
The attorney described his client as “kind of nutty,” “a little goofy, who got into some crazy circumstances.”
He closed with “If you have one reasonable doubt, you have a duty to return a not guilty. Regardless how pleasant or unpleasant your decision maybe, there are too many gaps in the evidence, too many puzzles pieces missing.”
Molchan had the last statement before the jurors. “The defendant is not goofy. He’s a murderer, a plain, cold-blooded murderer.”