Today, Walker County Circuit Judge Doug Farris is expected to put Smelley’s fate into the hands of the jury.
Attorneys representing the state and the defendant used the facts presented during seven days of testimony to construct contrasting interpretations of Smelley’s role in the homicide, which took place in February 2010.
District Attorney Bill Adair and his assistant Chris Sherer portrayed Smelley as a willing participant in the wrongdoing who has minimized his involvement in the murder and dismemberment of Harris whose remains were strewn throughout Walker county as part of a plot to cover up the crime.
“Brian Smelley helped cut up that body like an animal in a slaughterhouse,” Sherer told jurors.
Smelley’s lawyer Thomas Carmichael described his client as an individual “at the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time,” who acted out of fear for his own life when he agreed to assist David Hollie, the Jasper man who authorities believe fired the bullet that ended Harris’ life.
“All he (Smelley) did was what he had to do to get out of there and get home to his mother,” Carmichael said about the duress his client was under when he agreed to help cover up the crime and accept $120 for his assistance from Hollie, whose murder trial is expected to start in November.
The opposing lawyers both discussed responsibility during their closing arguments.
Sherer talked about the responsibilities of the prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and jurors. He urged the jury to “make Brian Smelley responsible for his actions.”
Carmichael talked about the prosecutors’ duty to prove their case against Smelley, a burden with which he said they had failed because they “didn’t fully investigate this case.”
Carmichael added, “You have to take everything into account, not just those gory pictures.” Adair also asked the jurors to consider “the totality of the case” when determining if Smelley is guilty or innocent of his charges. Along with murder, Smelley is accused of first degree theft and abuse of a corpse.
Officials on both sides of the trial used a recording of Smelley’s interview with district attorney’s office investigators to make their cases.
Carmichael dissected the recording, playing snippets from the confession that he believes offer proof of the duress Smelley was under after the shooting occurred.
In the second pass, in which Adair had the final word in the closing statements, the county’s district attorney relied more on another piece of evidence — records of phone conversations and text messages between Hollie and Smelley on the day the murder was committed and the days that followed — to make his case.
He also talked about the phone conversation Smelley had with Jan Harris, the sister of the murder victim, who began her own investigation of her missing brother.
“He lied to her,” Adair said. “This man under duress lied to this poor lady.”
The trial will reconvene today at 9 a.m. in Farris’ courtroom in the Walker County Courthouse annex.