Defense attorney Bob Sanger continued closing arguments Monday in the Corey Lyons double-homicide case, arguing that the prosecution has not shown evidence to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for a guilty verdict.
Lyons is accused of fatally shooting his brother, Daniel Lyons, and brother’s partner, Barbara Scharton, in their Mesa home on May 4, 2009. A contentious lawsuit between the brothers regarding the home’s construction, done by Corey Lyons, has been argued to be the motive behind the killings.
On Monday, Sanger asked the jury not to suspend its disbelief and accept coincidences as evidence. Based on the system’s presumption of innocence, if there are two reasonable interpretations, the jury has to choose the one that points to innocence, he said.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen argued that Lyons killed the couple on his own in the early morning hours. Since Lyons constructed the home, he has an intimate understanding of the layout, location of motion detectors and points of entry, Zonen said.
Lyons wasn’t home when the Santa Barbara Police Department learned of the lawsuit and drove to question him around 3 a.m., 90 minutes after the shootings, he added. In fact, Lyons made a 3:32 a.m. phone call to his sister from an employer’s office, a short distance from his Goleta home. He walked out of his family motor home at 9 a.m. and was promptly arrested by officers. The defense maintains Lyons was in the motor home from about 1:30 a.m. until the phone call, and then after the phone call until 9 a.m.
Sanger said Lyons made himself a target by expressing his anger over the lawsuit to many people, and often. He argued that the police department ran with the theory of Lyons as its suspect once he was in custody.
“This investigation was just very, very badly, amateurishly handled,” he said.
The use of three guns, trajectories of the bullets, and speed in which the two people were killed suggest at least two shooters, he argued.
Since police stationed themselves on three sides of the house, not the backside where the unlocked sliding door was located, the shooter/s could have left anytime between 1:30 a.m. — when neighbors called police about hearing shots — and 6:30 a.m. when SWAT broke into the Aurora Avenue home, he said.
No surfaces other than the back door, thought to be the point of entry, were tested for fingerprints, he said. No blood, trace or tissue from the crime scene was found on Lyons or any of his belongings, and none of Lyons’ fingerprints, blood or tissue was found at the crime scene, he added.
There was a lot of gunshot residue found on Lyons’ hands, but Sanger attributes it to contamination — perhaps from handcuffs — since Lyons was tested eight hours after the shootings and had showered.
Sanger said gunshot residue can stay on inanimate objects and surfaces for a longer period of time, and the residue on the truck and fanny pack can be attributed to Lyons’ own seven-gun collection.
None of them have been connected to the murder weapons, which were never found, he added.
Zonen will give his last closing arguments Tuesday morning.
Lyons is facing two first-degree murder charges with special allegations of use of a firearm, multiple murders, lying in wait and murder for financial gain. If the jury doesn’t unanimously agree to those charges, it will be asked to consider two second-degree murder charges as well as residential burglary and entering a residence with the intent to commit a felony.
The case has spent ample time in Santa Barbara County Superior Court, with the first attempt ending in a mistrial and the second resulting in a hung jury, with a 7-5 decision. Jurors for the current trial are being bused in each day from Solvang.
On Monday, a juror was removed and replaced by an alternate, the second time that has happened during this trial. Two alternates remain, and the case should go to jury deliberation on Tuesday.