BEND, Ore. - After deliberating for about seven hours over two days, a Bend jury found James Hargrave, 62, guilty of murder in the shooting death of his 29-year-old son, Steven, during a confrontation at their Tumalo home last December.
"Just a very sad, sad set of circumstances," said Terry Rahmsdorff, Hargrave's attorney. "Tragedy from the get-go. I just don't know what else to say."
Rahmsdorff said throughout the trial that this was not a conventional murder trial citing several reasons.
"We had the family's support," said Rahmsdorff, "which normally you would see all the people angry at the accused -- but they weren't."
Deschutes County Circuit Judge Wells Ashby set sentencing for next Friday at 9:30 a.m. Under state law, the mandatory sentence for murder is life in prison with a 25-year mandatory minimum.
"All murder cases involve tragedy, but this case, because of the relationship between the defendant and victim and the number of family members affected by the murder, was extremely heart-rending," District Attorney Patrick Flaherty said in a news release after the verdict came in.
Flaherty echoed the sentiment expressed by Circuit Court Judge Ashby in expressing his deep gratitude for the men and women who served on the jury.
"I appreciate and am grateful for their service to our community and willingness to deal with the emotionally wrenching evidence that they had to consider in this case," Flaherty said. "Our justice system does not function properly without men and women who are willing to sacrifice their time in service to their community."
It took about two hours Thursday morning for the defense and prosecution in the Hargrave trial to deliver closing arguments.
The jury got the case at midday and went home around 5 p.m., then returned to resume deliberations at 9 a.m. Friday.
Flaherty spoke first to the jury of 14 men and women (including two alternates). He painted Hargrave as a man who intentionally killed his son -- something he and his lawyer have steadfastly denied.
Flaherty cited testimony that the day Steven Hargrave was shot and killed at the family's Tumalo home last December, noting he was extremely drunk and that no one called police to report the escalating tensions between the two.
"We don't want to call the police because the landlord was going to kick us out," said Flaherty. "Come on -- I mean that's just, shoot and kill your son and then call the police?"
Flaherty also pointed to the 911 dispatch tapes, where Jim Hargrave could be heard in the background talking. He says Hargrave was not acting like someone who just shot and killed a loved one in self defense.
"It's more likely they wouldn't be able to communicate at all," said Flaherty. "They'd be sobbing, they'd say 'I had no choice, there was nothing else I could do,' not, 'The little bastard is dead."
When it was the defense's turn to address the jury, Rahmsdorff portrayed Jim Hargrave as a frail man, pointing out he had suffered a stroke and was partially paralyzed on his left side.
"He use to be left-handed," said Rahmsdorff. "He had balance issues, and a 6-year old could knock him over."
The defense said Hargrave had no choice but to shoot his son in self-defense. Simply hitting his son would have only angered Steven even more, possibly leading to Jim becoming the victim.
Rahmsdorff also reminded the jury that Steven had threatened his father before, jeopardizing his life.
"There were some threats," said Rahmsdorff. "'I'm going to cut off your head, put 'em on sticks and walk through town.'" (The defendant's wife and victim's mother had mentioned that in testimony to the jury).
All 12 jurors had to agree on a guilty verdict for Hargrave to be convicted of the murder charge. Only 10 would have needed to agree to a not guilty verdict for him to be a free man.