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Attorneys make last arguments in murder trial

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The prosecutor put up two pictures.

One, a poster-sized photo of Travis Scott with his chin in his hands. The other, a reference photograph from the 18-year-old's autopsy showing his cut hair trimmed away from the 9 mm holes in his head.

"This is the issue," Dawn Belisel-Skinner, the assistant district attorney, said to the jury. "I want you to remain focused on the issue. The issue of whether that defendant killed -- shot and killed -- Travis Scott."

Pointing at the defendant, Jonathan Lavonta Slack, the 21-year-old accused of killing Scott in September "for no reason," Belisel-Skinner said the jury shouldn't be confused by the apparent lack of motive. She said they shouldn't be deceived by the defense attorney's dramatics.

Slack, Scott, and a number of self-described members of the Hit Squad gang, allegedly spent a night in College Park last September, drinking, doing drugs and playing cards. In the morning, Scott was shot in the head with a 9 mm. The witnesses said there was no provocation, no reason, and said Slack, the one man who wasn't a gang member, walked out of the house holding a gun, and looking as if it "didn't even matter."

The prosecutor compared her case against the 21-year-old to "Wheel of Fortune," the television game show, in which the word on the board was obvious, even if some of the letters were still missing.

"All the letters may not be there," she said, "but there comes a point, when you're sitting at home: 'I know what that word is!' ... It's like a picture of the Statue of Liberty, but the torch is missing. Every piece may not be there, but you know, without a doubt, that's what it is."

Steve Frey, the attorney defending Slack, said he's never watched "Wheel of Fortune" or seen Vanna White switch the letters.

"The question is, Madam Prosecutor, what is the word? It's changed three times. Madam Prosecutor, I want to know why, and I want to know which one of your witnesses do I believe?" Frey said.

He critiqued the state's case against his client for collapsing under inconsistencies. He said all of the supposed eye witnesses called each other liars. He said he didn't think Slack should be convicted because of what could have, maybe, happened.

"A desire to seek the truth somehow got lost during a commercial break," Frey said. "Is that what seeking the truth is about? Propping it up with a bunch of 'coulda-woulda'? Don't convict on 'would of,' 'could of.' If you're looking for the truth ... let this man go home. I'm tired of this. At some point, the letters have got to stop spinning. Do the right thing: Seek the truth."

Frey said the inconsistencies included:

· Why a bullet shell casing was around a corner and down a hall from the shooting.

· How Slack got the handgun, a TEC-9, which had previously been in the possession of another man in the apartment, a man who was in the room when the shooting happened and whose testimony was contradicted by the autopsy.

· The witnesses ran from the scene before police arrived, and the original 911 call reported a home invasion.

· There was never any explanation of a motive.

"What's the theory of the crime," Frey asked. "'Coulda been?'"

Belisel-Skinner said that was a distraction. She asked the jury to focus.

"The inconsistencies he's talking about have nothing to do with whether he shot and killed Travis Scott in the kitchen," the prosecutor said. "They want you to think about where this shell casing landed or about where was this ashtray. Who cares?"

The jury went into deliberations after lunch on Thursday. Slack faces a maximum possible sentence of life in prison.