By Alan Sorensen
Prosecutors in the murder trial of an 18-year-old Rocky Boy man expected to wrap up their case this morning with their final two witnesses.
Prosecution witness Joe Uribe of the Montana Department of Justice in Great Falls was scheduled to complete his testimony first thing this morning, Montana Special Attorney General John P. Connor Jr. of Helena said. He added that the state planned on calling just two more witnesses after the defense finished its cross examination of Uribe a pathologist and a firearms expert.
The murder trial of a 17-year-old boy began with jury selection, opening statements and three witnesses Tuesday.
Lionel James Demontiney pleaded innocent in December to deliberate homicide in the shooting death of his cousin Bryan Gopher, 24.
The teen-ager, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, is being tried as an adult.
Demontiney has admitted shooting Gopher in the chest behind the Havre Holiday Village Shopping Center on Nov. 22, 2000. His lawyers, Carl White and Jeremy Yellin, are arguing that Demontiney used justifiable force in his own defense.
Asked this morning about how the defense expected to move forward with its case today, Yellin said, "No comment." Asked how many witnesses the defense team might call, he repeated, "No comment."
Some court watchers said it was unlikely that the defense and prosecution would get around to closing arguments today, but did concede that the case could go to the jury as early as this afternoon.
The shooting occurred late that night at the shopping center on the west end of Havre.
According to court documents, Demontiney and another cousin, Joe Demontiney III, told police that they drove into Havre and were drinking in a couple of different places during the day with Gopher.
They reportedly pulled into the parking lot behind the mall to relieve themselves and an argument between Demontiney and Gopher escalated. Demontiney reportedly had been scolding Gopher for letting his girlfriend boss him around too much.
Gopher allegedly pulled a 9mm handgun from the waistband of his pants and pointed it at Demontiney during the argument.
Investigators said that Demontiney told them he wrestled Gopher for the gun and it went off once into the air. He succeeded in getting the gun from Gopher and put it on the seat of the pickup.
When Gopher struck him in the face, Demontiney reportedly told police, he picked the gun up again. He said he moved another bullet into the chamber and the gun discharged.
The bullet struck Gopher on the side and traveled through his chest.
Joe Demontiney was called as a prosecution witness Wednesday.
If convicted, Lionel Demontiney could be sentenced to either life in prison or between 10 and 100 years in prison.