Jury Begins Deliberations in Donte Graves Murder Trial

In closing arguments Wednesday, defense attorneys for Donte Graves argued that police ignored the possibility that Tyrone Joyner was shot and killed by another man, his friend. Prosecutors argued that eyewitness testimony and forensic evidence prove Graves was the shooter.

Now jurors will decide which version to believe, and whether Graves is guilty of murder.

On February 24, 2013, Joyner was found near Nationals Park in Southwest D.C. suffering from a gunshot wound to the stomach; he later died at Howard University Hospital. Graves is charged with second-degree murder in connection with his death.

Charging documents in the case say a witness told police that Graves ran out of a building on Canal Street SW carrying a jacket and a handgun. The witness said Joyner chased after Graves and grabbed the coat. The coat fell on the ground, the witness said, and then Graves pushed Joyner away from him.

Marcus McLean, 19, testified that Graves was the shooter that night, though he admitted that he failed to report it to police initially. Prosecutors say that’s because McLean was setting up Joyner to get robbed by Graves earlier that day.

“I don’t want to go to jail,” McLean told the court, “I don’t want to do 100 years.”

But defense attorney Janet Mitchell argued that forensic evidence supports the idea that McLean might have accidentally shot Joyner, based on broken gun pieces recovered from the scene.

“Maybe he drops it,” said Mitchell, “Marcus McLean is playing around with it and he shoots his friend.”

Prosecutors say that that’s simply not true.

During trial, McLean testified to lying in his grand jury testimony and again to police during the initial investigation about his involvement in the case.

“You should cut him a little slack when he is up on the stand recollecting something that happened months ago,” said Assistant United States Attorney Michael Liebman.

Liebman continued by telling jurors that McLean has a learning disability and is scared of speaking to large crowds.

Focus on the evidence,” Liebman told jurors. He argued that minor inconsistencies in witness testimonies do not equal reasonable doubt and asked the jury to ignore the defense’s speculations about who could have been the shooter.

The case is scheduled to continue deliberations tomorrow.

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