Closing arguments ended Tuesday afternoon in the case of a disabled Lompoc veteran accused of fatally shooting Rebecca Yap in 2014.
The prosecution reminded jurors that the defendant, Clay Murray, intended to rob and kidnap Yap before killing her, while the defense maintained there was no intent to commit such crimes and that he acted in self-defense.
Murray has been on trial for three weeks in Judge Gustavo Lavayen's courtroom for the special circumstances murder of Yap, 34, on Oct. 13, 2014, following an incident which was caught on tape by his home surveillance camera. Murray is represented by Adrian Galvan and Michael Carty, with Supervising Deputy District Attorney Stephen Foley prosecuting the case.
When Yap tried to defend herself after Murray took away her phone and hit her repeatedly with a pool stick, "she chose to fight for her life, and he chose to end it," Foley told jurors in his closing arguments.
"Rebecca's last moments of life were traumatic, frightening and violent," said Foley. However, she fought for her life in that moment of crisis when she knew there was risk of getting shot, and "behaved pretty reasonably, resourcefully and was quite brave."
The defendant on the other hand, " ... was mean, calculating, unforgiving and relentless," Foley continued. "He had plenty of chances to let her live. But he chose her death, and that wasn't his choice to make."
Jurors were again shown brief video clips from the home surveillance camera footage of Oct. 13, in which Murray is seen hitting Yap, chasing her around the room with Yap begging him to stop, then yelling "I'll stab you," before two gunshots are heard.
Murray waited for the perfect opportunity to carry out his surprise attack, Foley said.
A video clip from Oct. 12 and another from Oct. 13 were played back-to-back for jurors. In the first clip Murray is seen placing the pool stick on the ground in the living room. The second clip, during the attack, shows Murray grabbing the cue stick from that same spot before hitting Yap.
Another video clip shows Murray, alone in his house, holding a gun with one hand then swiftly grabbing handcuffs with another hand, days before the murder. In another clip, Murray is seen forcing Yap on the bed, holding a gun in one hand and throwing the cuffs at Yap with another.
"Think of his mindset -- there's a rehearsal the day before; he practices with handcuffs, places the pool cue, moves the gun from one safe to another," Foley said. "He knew there's a chance he may murder her, and he's prepared for it. That's frightening -- putting this much thought for revenge."
"Only one person had the fight to self defense in this case, and it wasn't Mr. Murray," Foley concluded.
In his closing statements, Galvan maintained that Murray had no intent to rob, kidnap or murder Yap and that he only wanted to confront Yap after she stole drugs and a Target credit card from him.
"He had a plan to confront -- and however stupid, unreasonable of a plan it was, Clay Murray didn't want to kill Rebecca Yap," Galvan began.
"The video is agonizing to watch, it's terrible," he conceded. "The video is what the video is." However, feelings, prejudice, sympathy and empathy must be set aside when deliberating, he told the jury.
Galvan said Murray lacked all the mental state requirements to meet the robbery, kidnapping and murder charges, and noted that after the fight, 9-1-1 was called prior to the shooting. Murray didn't try to shush Yap, and he didn't intend to commit additional crimes when he told her to cuff herself in his room, Galvan said.
"You've also heard in testimony that the defendant had some mental problems," he added. "Dr. Bearman testified that Murray suffered from PTSD, which isn't an excuse for killing but a factor to see if he had the mental required status to carry out those crimes.
"Dr. Bearman said PTSD doesn't wipe out one's ability to make decisions but it does affect logical thinking, anger management skills and impulse control," Galvan added.
During the Oct. 13 fight, Murray "tried faithfully and in good faith to stop, and indicated he wanted to stop," Galvan told the jury. "You hear him tell Rebecca to 'drop the weapon,' nine times, tell her to 'freeze' three times. He tried to get a better handle [on the situation.]"
Murray suffered multiple injuries on his face and head as Yap hit him with a cue stick when he tried to open the door to let her out, Galvan added. "He's entitled to stand ground and defend himself. He reasonably believed he was in imminent danger."
Galvan added that off-camera, Yap charged at Murray with a pair of scissors, and lunged at him when he fell onto the ground, cutting his shin. "He felt he'd be stabbed to death; he then fired one shot, but didn't fire off more rounds and finish her off," Galvan said.
The defense attorney noted that Murray had plenty of chances to kill Yap in the days leading up to Oct. 13 if he really intended to. He met her alone multiple times. "Why wait until Oct. 13? It's because he didn't want to kill or rob her," Galvan said.
"It was a stupid plan to confront, and caused Rebecca's death," Galvan acknowledged, but there is reasonable doubt Murray had the specific intent to commit the alleged crimes.