Murder case comes to a close: Jurors to decide fate of Sean Bryant, Michael McCauley
Nevada County jurors will now decide the fate of two men accused of murder in the 2018 death of 70-year-old Stan Norman.
The jury on Tuesday heard closing arguments in the trial against Sean Bryant, 55, and Michael McCauley, 45, which began last month.
Both men have pleaded not guilty.
Deputy District Attorney Cambria Lisonbee and defense attorney Kelly Babineau, who represents McCauley, wielded bagged weapons — a chain, paintball gun modified to shoot glass marbles, a crossbow and a bat — allegedly used to kill Norman as they made their arguments.
Authorities say violence erupted in April 2018 after Norman grabbed the leg of Bryant’s then-girlfriend during a drunken game of wrestling between he and Norman, Lisonbee said. The pair had just returned to her house after a night out to prepare for breakfast at the Moose Lodge.
“He was slaughtered,” Lisonbee said. “It can only be described as one of the most violent and horrific ways one can die.”
Lisonbee said Bryant’s guilt on a count of first-degree murder is apparent in the way the crime progressed.
“He started with punching and kicking,” said Lisonbee, adding that Bryant also spit on Norman, and at some point after the torture began, put a gun in Norman’s mouth and added literal salt to his wounds.
Babineau said when her client, McCauley, was driven to the scene hours after Norman’s body was first mangled, he had no idea what he was about to be involved in.
“They opened the door and there’s a 300-pound shirtless man with his pants pulled down and marble in the face,” Babineau said. “McCauley walks in on that scene.”
Babineau, using a PowerPoint presentation, characterized Bryant as “violent,” “aggressive,” “rude,” a “bully” and a liar.
“He was so busy trying to deflect responsibility for his actions that he blames (the girlfriend),” said Babineau, referring to one of three different statements Bryant made over the course of the investigation.
The girlfriend faces no charges in connection with the death.
Babineau projected photographs authorities took of the girlfriend’s injuries — including a black eye and a burn in her armpit — allegedly dealt by Bryant after the Sheriff’s Office’s investigation was underway.
Babineau said the girlfriend was familiar with Bryant’s violent tendencies before the incident took place.
McCauley’s participation in Norman’s death took place “under duress,” Babineau said. According to Babineau, and the girlfriend’s testimony, Bryant threatened McCauley with his life if he refused to deliver the final blows to Norman’s already slumped body.
Lisonbee maintained that the word “fear” alone does not satisfy what it means to be “under duress.”
“When he was handed the baseball bat, Bryant no longer had a weapon in his hand,” Lisonbee said. “He could have used the bat against Bryant or taken it out the door to the neighbor’s house. If he’s so scared of Bryant, how come he doesn’t go to the police?”
Bryant’s defense attorney, David Brooks, said the same question can be asked of the girlfriend, which is why her actions or inaction leave enough room for reasonable doubt.
Brooks said the incident lasted six hours the day of, and another two, after Norman’s death. His body remained in the doorway of the girlfriend’s home in Cascade Shores.
“Mr. Norman’s in the entryway, she’s got her kids with her, she’s aware she’s got options. There’s a phone available, there are neighbors and a sliding door out the back,” Brooks said.
Brooks said the girlfriend’s apparent inaction “defied explanation” given the presence of her two teenage daughters in the house over the course of the two-day period.
“You could say, ‘Well, she’s that afraid,’” said Brook, addressing the jurors. ”You’re being asked to apply your experience — your experience as a parent, your experience with other people’s kids. Does it make any sense in light of the evidence you see?”
Brooks said it was obvious from the girlfriend and her daughter’s testimony that there were conversations prior to the case that indicate stories were gathered “for a common purpose,” perhaps to avoid the involvement of Child Protective Services.
“There’s a reasonable word,” Brooks said. “She’s an accomplice.”
Norman’s body was burned, Lisonbee said, and all that was found of Norman’s remains was some bone and a prosthetic knee.
“I’m not saying there wasn’t a crime or that there wasn’t a dead body and that my client wasn’t involved,” Brooks said, adding that the jury could be just as dissatisfied with an involuntary manslaughter charge as they could be with first-degree murder. “Where on the spectrum is the behavior?”
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com
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