Tuesday, the prosecution in the Brian Horn first degree murder trial rested its case without calling a witness. Horn was accused of suffocating 12-year-old Justin Bloxom. The defense was scheduled to begin its case at 9:30 Wednesday morning. But Wednesday morning, attorneys huddled with the judge, and when court finally kicked off at 10:08 a.m., the defense rested without calling a witness.
Desoto Parish District Judge Robert Burgess announced he would meet with attorneys from both sides to discuss the instructions he planned to give the jury before they went into deliberations, and after a brief recess, court reconvened. Burgess then announced that no one would be allowed to enter or exit during closing statements, or when he charged the jury.
At 11:03 a.m., prosecutor Dhu Thompson began his closing argument. He talked about the day Justin Bloxom was murdered, and talked about the four years leading up to this week, “but this week, in this courtroom, justice is coming to light. He then looked at Horn, and told the jury that he had the “same hands and arms” that took Justin’s life.
Gold objected, but quickly was overruled by the judge, and Thompson continued, “those same hands took a grandson, brother, son…” Calling Justin’s murder, “senseless, horrible, tragic,” Thompson said, “Justin is going to make this final walk for justice.” Thompson then outlined the evidence in the case, and said the evidence didn’t prove Horn guilty without a reasonable doubt, but without any doubt at all.
Lead defense attorney Gold began his closing argument with an apology to the jury. The day before Gold lost his temper when Dr. James Traylor testified. Traylor is the forensic pathologist at University Hospital who did the autopsy, and Gold explained he and Traylor “clashed” from the first time they met. Gold took issue with Traylor testifying there is no such thing as an “accidental smothering.” He also said he believes the pathologist doing an autopsy should just point to facts, but said Traylor believes he is the “voice” of the victim. Traylor ruled Justin died by smothering, and his death homicide.
Gold did not dispute Horn’s guilt. He admitted his client murdered Justin. But he said Horn didn’t intend to murder him, and thus should be judged guilty of second degree murder, He said in order to prove first degree murder, intent has to be proven. He also reminded the jury – who were selected in East Baton Rouge Parish due to a change of venue order – that if they convicted Horn of second degree murder, they could go home. Second degree murder carries a mandatory life in prison without possibility of parole sentence.
Prosecutor Ron Stamps did the rebuttal for the prosecution. He began his rebuttal by slowly walking back and forth in front of the jury holding a clock with a second hand. After he had walked back and forth several times, he explained that 90 seconds had transpired, which is the amount of time pathologist Traylor had testified it takes for a person to die from smothering. Stamps reminded the jury Traylor said it takes 30 seconds for the victim to pass out, and 90 seconds for the victim to die.
Stamps told the jury Horn had ample time to let go of Justin, but he didn’t. “Holding a hand over his mouth for 90 seconds – if that’s not intent, I don’t know what is,” he said. Stamps said Horn “knew what he was doing from the beginning.”
He ended his rebuttal by holding a framed photograph of Justin Bloxom, asking the jury for “justice for Justin.”
The judge then charged the jury and they went into deliberations at 2:14 p.m. At 2:58, Desoto Parish District Attorney Richard Johnson said a verdict had been reached, and by 3:12, the guilty of first degree murder had been read in open court.
Horn was handcuffed in the courtroom by Desoto Parish deputies and taken back to the jail
The penalty phase will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday in the Desoto Parish Courthouse.