By Crystal Thompson
Three days after jury selection took place in the murder trial of 17-year-old Lionel Demontiney of Rocky Boy, jurors came back with a verdict.
A jury found Demontiney guilty of mitigated deliberate homicide Friday, less than two hours after closing arguments.
Mitigated deliberate homicide is a lesser charge than that of deliberate homicide, which was the state's original charge against Demontiney following the shooting death of his cousin, Bryan Gopher. The shooting took place Nov. 22 behind the Holiday Village Shopping Center in Havre. Demontiney pleaded not guilty to the deliberate homicide charge in December.
Hill County Attorney David Rice, in his closing argument, asked the jury to consider the situation as a three-round fight.
"Lionel won the first round," Rice told the jury Friday morning, saying that Round One ended when Demontiney took the gun away from Gopher and placed it back in the vehicle early on in the scuffle.
Rice said Round Two took place when Demontiney shot and killed Gopher.
He asked that the jury give Round Three to justice, by finding Demontiney guilty of deliberate homicide. "(Demontiney's) pride and his own ornery nature caused this to happen," Rice told jury members.
Defense Attorney Carl White painted a very different picture for the jury during his closing argument on Friday. White asked the jury to consider the shooting as the action of a terrified young boy defending his own life. Members of Demontiney's family broke down in tears when White played a recording of Demontiney being questioned by Hill County sheriff's deputies after the shooting. In it Demontiney was heard crying and saying that he didn't mean to kill his "bro."
"How anyone can think this is deliberate is beyond me," White told the jury.
After hearing final arguments from Montana Special Attorney General John Connor of Helena, a member of the prosecution team, the jury deliberated to consider the facts.
When the not guilty verdict on the deliberate homicide charge was announced, members of the Demontiney family screamed and cried in relief. Gopher's mother ran up to Demontiney and embraced him, crying, "Thank you Jesus." After the outburst, she and another of Demontiney's aunts were escorted from the courtroom before the guilty verdict was read.
The mitigated deliberate homicide verdict says that Demontiney purposely caused Gopher's death under extreme mental or emotional stress.
Hill County Attorney Rice said today he is satisfied with the verdict, and feels that the "third round of the fight" was indeed given to justice. The defense was not available for comment.
Sentencing is set for July 24.