DA: Murder victim taunted
He taunted, tortured and killed Julie Biswell with premeditation, so Charles “Chuck” James Smith should be convicted of first-degree murder, a Nevada County prosecutor told jurors during closing arguments Tuesday.
“This was no mistake, this was no accident, and this was certainly not self-defense,” Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Kull told the jury of nine women and three men in Nevada County Superior Court.
Smith, 40, is accused of fatally stabbing the 41-year-old Biswell in her Smartville-area home in Big Oak Valley on Feb. 16.
Smith’s lawyer, Monica Lynch, begins her argument today, and Kull will give a rebuttal. Smith is charged with murder, making criminal threats, discharging a firearm, and three counts of assault alleging he assaulted her with a knife, a handgun and a shotgun barrel.
Strong language and graphic photos punctuated Kull’s version of events leading to Biswell’s death. Apparently upset their relationship was ending, Smith issued a series of vulgar threats and insults before and after the stabbing, the prosecutor said.
That night, Kull said, a witness heard Smith tell Biswell: “If I’m going to prison, I might as well kill you.”
At one point, according to Kull, Smith wielded a .44 revolver and recited a line from the movie “Dirty Harry”: “This is a .44 Magnum handgun, the most powerful handgun in the world. It will blow your head clean off.”
He later fired a single shot into the arm of a chair Biswell was sitting in, Kull claimed.
Later, as Biswell gasped for breath with two stab wounds to her chest, Smith allegedly said: “That’s what happens when you piss me off.”
The key witness to the killing was 47-year-old Martin Daugherty, who suffers from congestive heart failure and testified by videotape. Biswell was his live-in caregiver, and Smith resided on Daugherty’s property in a nearby cabin.
Biswell had been in Smith’s cabin before she ran into Daugherty’s trailer, called 911 and claimed Smith put a machete to her throat. Nineteen minutes passed before Daugherty called 911 to report the stabbing.
Lynch, Smith’s lawyer, has said that Smith’s intoxication at the time might have led him to believe he needed to act in self-defense. She also said evidence suggested Biswell had a handgun.
Anticipating Lynch’s closing argument, Kull said Daugherty never saw Biswell armed. Kull also said Smith functioned well while drunk, and his alleged statements support that.
Smith, she noted, also used a self-defense alibi in a Carson City case in 1991, when he was convicted of attempted battery for slicing his roommate’s throat. He was sentenced to a suspended five-year prison term. The sentence was imposed in 1995 because of a later domestic violence conviction and probation violation.
In his current case, a first-degree murder conviction would pose at least a 25-to-life prison sentence, with additional years possible for use of a deadly weapon and having served a prior prison term.
The trial began with jury selection Oct. 29, and testimony ended last Thursday.
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