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Closing Arguments Begin Wednesday In Rayquan Borum Murder Trial

Rayquan Borum
John D. Simmons / Charlotte Observer
Rayquan Borum

Both the state and defense have rested their cases in the trial of Rayquan Borum. Judge Gregory Hayes says closing arguments will begin tomorrow. The state called more than a dozen witnesses, submitted over a hundred pieces of evidence including video footage from the night Justin Carr was shot and audio from jailhouse calls Borum placed. Although the defense cross-examined witnesses called by the state, they decided not to call any of their own to the stand, including Borum.  

Mark Rumsey: WFAE’s Sarah Delia has been covering the trial and joins us now, Sarah thanks for being here.

Sarah Delia: Thanks, Mark.

Rumsey: Well jury deliberations should begin tomorrow after closing arguments are made, what are the charges jurors will be considering?

Delia: Borum has been on trial for first-degree murder, but today Judge Hayes approved a new charge for jurors to also consider second-degree murder. So there are three possible charges: first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and possession of a firearm by a felon. These are all separate charges which means the jury could find him guilty of some but not all or not guilty of any of them. For example, he could be found guilty of possession of a firearm by a felon but found not guilty of either murder charge.

The jury was dismissed early today so the state and defense could go over with Judge Hayes the very specific instructions jurors will have to follow in order to decide if Borum is guilty or not of these charges. It was apparent both the defense and the state were ready to make their last remarks to the jury this morning. There were a couple of heated moments between the state and the defense regarding which charges would be most appropriate for the jury to consider. The defense argued voluntary and involuntary manslaughter charges should be on the table which ultimately were denied. Judge Hayes joked that both sides were clearly ready to make their closing arguments.

Rumsey: Well any insights as to why the defense did not submit any additional evidence?

Delia: The burden of proof is on the state, so the defense doesn’t have to present any additional evidence or call witnesses. The concept of reasonable doubt is something defense attorney Darlene Harris brought up day one of this trial. The defense strategy has been planting these seeds of doubt throughout various testimony heard. For example, the state submitted multiple pieces of video into evidence from the protests the night Carr was shot. If you remember, this was the second night of protests in response to the police shooting death of Keith Scott in September 2016.

Borum is seen in footage before and after Justin Carr is injured. The defense pointed out there isn’t video footage of Borum firing a gun. The state submitted pictures of 9mm bullets found in Borum’s home and a car that had his driver’s license in it. The defense pointed out that a bullet was never retrieved during Carr’s autopsy or from the scene. Although a shell casing was found at the scene. The defense pointed out that the scene outside the Omni wasn’t immediately secured because there was still a lot of protest activity that prohibited police from doing so. They argued that the shell could have been placed there.

Rumsey: What about the jailhouse calls that were played for jurors yesterday?

Delia: In the four calls jurors heard in court yesterday Borum is heard making comments like “It’s over for me” and “they said they got me on camera” and those are calls that were made when Borum was processed and entered into the Mecklenburg County jailhouse. He tells the person on the other end that he confessed to police. Although it’s not known who is on the other end of these phone calls, the sheriff’s office said it without a doubt Rayquan Borum who made the phone calls in the first place.

The other big piece of evidence the state presented was the interview CMPD conducted after Borum’s arrest. In that interview, Borum does confess to firing his gun. Now the defense had big issues with how that interview was conducted. CMPD detectives said they believed Borum intended to shoot at police that night, but they walked into that interview telling Borum they thought the shooting was an accident. They said they did that to get Borum talking.

Rumsey: Well one thing Borum decided was to not talk during this trial, that is, not to testify. What did the defense have to say about that?

Delia: Right, today was probably the most we’ve heard from Borum and it was outside the presence of the jury. Judge Hayes wanted to make sure Borum understood he was choosing not to testify. Judge Hayes described it is as sort of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, people could infer guilt because he’s not getting up on the witness stand. On the other hand, not testifying means he won’t be subjected to cross-examination from the state which could be extremely problematic for Borum. Borum said he understood all of that. Judge Hayes also pointed out that some defendants experience regret over not testifying if they are found guilty. Borum said he understood that as well.

I spoke with one of Borum’s lawyers, Darlene Harris, today. And she said it’s Borum’s constitutional right not to testify and that the burden is on the state to present all the evidence. In her opinion that evidence doesn’t equate to a guilty verdict. We’ll have to wait to hear what the jury says about it.

Rumsey: WFAE’s Sarah Delia will be at closing arguments tomorrow in the trial of Rayquan Borum. Sarah, thanks.

Delia: Thanks, Mark.