TAMPA — As he began his closing arguments to jurors Wednesday in the murder trial of Richard McTear Jr., a state prosecutor played a recording of the 911 call made by McTear's ex-girlfriend.
Her shrieks and cries of "He took my baby" from five years ago filled the courtroom.
That is not the voice of a woman scheming to falsely accuse McTear, 26, of murdering her infant son, argued prosecutor Ron Gale.
"She had no motive," he said. "He's the one who had a motive to do this."
Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty for McTear, say that on May 5, 2009, he savagely beat his former girlfriend, Jasmine Bedwell, took her child and threw him onto the side of Interstate 275, killing him instantly. They have portrayed him as a young man who was enraged by a 17-year-old girl's rejection and who decided to take "the ultimate act of revenge" on her and her 3-month-old baby, Emanuel Murray.
Skimming from a week's worth of testimony, Gale focused his closing arguments on the physical evidence in the case. He reminded jurors that a bloodstain found on the console of the car McTear is alleged to have driven was a match to the baby's DNA. More of the baby's blood was found on the lap of the jean shorts McTear was wearing when a Tampa police officer discovered him hiding under a car.
Noting defense attorneys' argument that people who live together are likely to have each other's DNA on their clothing, Gale scornfully suggested that "walking around with each other's blood on their clothes" is less common.
He also pointed to the baby's injuries as evidence that he was not accidentally dropped, as the defense has argued, but thrown from a moving car. The baby had "road rash" from the top of his toes to his forehead, Gale said. His skull fractures resembled those found in airplane crash victims. And his blood, found on the highway, was a clue that he was alive before he was allegedly thrown.
"Dead people don't bleed," Gale said.
Drawing jurors' attention to phone records, Gale said that someone, likely McTear, called Bedwell's cellphone nearly 300 times in the hours leading up to her child's death.
"They're not coincidences," Gale said. "Richard McTear cannot possibly be just that unlucky. This evidence is what it is because he's guilty."
McTear's defense attorney Michael Peacock used his last words to the jury to attack Bedwell's credibility as a witness, a strategy he has employed throughout the trial. At different times, he said, both in the past and on the witness stand, Bedwell, 22, has offered markedly different accounts of what happened to her and her child.
After initially claiming that McTear threw her son onto the sidewalk outside her apartment, Bedwell agreed with defense attorneys that he had been dropped accidentally. During the trial, a former Hillsborough foster care employee testified that Bedwell called her on the day her son died and blamed her uncle for his death. Bedwell has also said she doesn't have an uncle.
Without her testimony, Peacock argued, the state does not have a case against McTear, who is charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping, battery, burglary with assault and aggravated child abuse.
In his closing argument, Peacock returned again and again to the legal standard of "reasonable doubt," which says that a jury can find McTear guilty only if it has complete confidence in the evidence against him. He repeated the phrase like a religious incantation, using it more than 50 times in the course of his summation.
"This case may be about an innocent baby who never had a chance," he said, "but that is not a reason to exact misplaced vengeance on an innocent person."
Peacock offered an alternate theory for the baby's death. Before she returned to her apartment with her son, Bedwell spent the evening with a young man named Liderrius Moore, in whom she may have had a romantic interest. Moore was left alone with the baby for at least half an hour, Peacock said, giving him ample opportunity to injure the child. The attorney could find "no clear explanation" for how the baby wound up on the side of I-275, and he offered none of his own.
"There's multiple versions," he told jurors. "You're going to have to pick one."
Contact Anna M. Phillips at email@example.com or (813) 226-3354. Follow @annamphillips.