Jury Deliberations Begin in Ellsworth Colbert Murder Trial

After six days of testimony, jurors were sent to deliberate Wednesday in the case against Ellsworth Colbert, who is charged with fatally stabbing his neighbor, Robert Leroy Wright, on March 4, 2012.

Colbert’s defense attorney has argued that Colbert acted in self-defense, but prosecutors have argued that Colbert was the aggressor in the attack.

Colbert is charged with first-degree murder, assault with intent to kill and three weapons charges.

In closing arguments Wednesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Feitel asked jurors to find Colbert guilty of those crimes and told jurors that Colbert was “looking for a fight.”

He was gaming for a fight, and he got it. It wasn’t much of a fight, though. He killed Robert Wright,” Feitel said.

But defense attorney James Beane Jr. asked the jury to believe that the witnesses in the case conspired against Colbert and weren’t being truthful with investigators.

“The reason they went to Mr. Colbert’s house is because they wanted to mess with him; they wanted a response from him; they wanted a rise out of him,” Beane told the jury.

According to testimony in trial, the argument between Colbert and Wright started when Wright walked a dog past Colbert’s house in the Penn Branch neighborhood of Southeast D.C.

Colbert, the witness said, emerged from his front door carrying a walking stick. He yelled, “Did your dog s— in my yard?”

Colbert then walked up to the men, pulled a knife from his waistband and said, “Is this your dog? I’m gonna kill this motherf—,” the witness testified.

After Wright told Colbert that the dog, “Macho,” belonged to someone else who lived in the neighborhood, Colbert charged up the street to confront that person, the witness said.

“What the evidence has shown is that this was a gradual escalation of Mr. Colbert’s rage,” Feitel told the jury.

Another witness testified that Colbert approached him at his front door, demanding that Wright not be allowed to walk Macho. But Wright made a comment about Colbert’s family, which prompted Colbert to lunge at Wright and cut him on the neck, the witness said.

Wright then retrieved a shovel from the side of the house and fought Colbert in the street, the witness said.

At some point during the fight, Colbert tackled Wright, and when Colbert arose from the pavement, he said, “I told you not to f— with me,” the witness testified.

Wright, meanwhile, stood up, took a few steps, and fell face-first on the sidewalk.

He later died at the hospital. An autopsy revealed cut wounds on Wright’s neck and left hand, and stab wounds to his back, abdomen and chest, one of which punctured his aorta.

“That was Robert Wright’s mortal sin,” Feitel said during closing statements. “Because Mr. Wright was walking this dog, he got killed for it.”

But Beane argued that Colbert had actually turned to walk home just before Wright grabbed the shovel, but was unable to remove himself from the incident.

“He turned and engaged in a struggle for his life,” Beane told the jury.

Beane argued that the witnesses had plenty of time to stop the incident from escalating, but didn’t because they were egging Colbert and Wright to fight. Both men testified that they initially felt the altercation was “laughable” due to the age disparity between Colbert, 56, and the 38-year-old Wright.

“What you have is three younger men laughing and joking about an older man who is concerned about the neighborhood,” Beane said.

Feitel, though, said Colbert was at fault because he approached Wright.

“You don’t get to insinuate yourself into a situation, cause all the problem, and then claim self-defense,” Feitel said.

Jurors began deliberating at about 2:15 p.m. Wednesday. If a verdict is not reached Wednesday, deliberations will resume Thursday morning.

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