Jurors called it a day at 4 p.m. Thursday after deliberating for almost seven hours in the case of DeShawn and Tyler Stafford.
Was it involuntary manslaughter or an act of self-defense? That is the decision before a Summit County jury.
DeShawn Stafford and his brother Tyler are accused of killing Ethan Liming.
Liming died when his head hit the pavement.
DeShawn Stafford admitted during police interrogation that he hit Liming, knocking him out. His attorney argued that doesn’t make him guilty of involuntary manslaughter.
Defense attorney Jon Sinn told the jury, “Under Ohio law, a person is allowed to use force in self-defense or in defense of another. You’re allowed to do that. You don’t have to back up from a fight.”
He went on to say, “The reality is he met a punch with a punch.”
Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Jennie Shuki acknowledged, “Maybe he should have punched him but that is a one-on-one fight. But it does not stay that way. It escalates. Tyler’s got to run over and get in the fight. Donavan’s got to run over and get in the fight. How is that now a fair fight at all? It’s not. It becomes an attack.”
She told the jury, “That is where I submit to you the self-defense argument falls away.”
During closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors acknowledged, that what Ethan and his friends were up to that night was not a bright idea.
They got high and drove to the basketball courts with loaded splat ball guns intending to shoot pellets at random people.
It was a prank with a toy gun that wound up costing a 17-year-old boy his life.
As Shuki held up the grey and orange plastic gun she remarked to the jury,
“This is apparently what this young man lost his life over is a toy gun, because they got mad, they got angry. He took a shot at them. They went to fight him and retaliated, because of a toy, a toy gun.”
DeShawn’s attorney left the jury with this thought: “Even if they prove to you that Shawn threw a punch and the pavement cracked his head … (inaudible) … and we don’t get him back, that’s self-defense because these boys were minding their own business when trouble came to them.”
The trial started last Friday. Deliberations started on Wednesday. The jury will pick up their deliberations Friday morning.