Jury rejects video game defense, convicts man in shooting deaths

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

FAYETTE, Ala. -- Jurors found Devin Moore guilty on all counts Tuesday in the 2003 shooting deaths of two Fayette police officers and a dispatcher.

The jury deliberated for just over an hour before convicting Moore, 20. Neither side of the courtroom showed emotion as the verdict was read.

Defense attorneys for Moore claimed the video game "Grand Theft Auto" and childhood abuse caused him to gun down the three members of the small-town police department.

But the prosecution told jurors Tuesday in closing arguments that Moore was really just a cold-blooded killer.

After the verdict, a handful of Moore's family and friends left without comment.

The victims' relatives and friends gathered to hug and thank prosecutors.

The prosecution argued Tuesday that Moore knew exactly what he was doing when he grabbed a patrolman's gun and started shooting inside the Fayette Police Department two years ago, killing the officers and a radio dispatcher.

"And he knew it was wrong," assistant district attorney Lyn Durham said during closing arguments.

A woman sobbed loudly in the courtroom and thunder rumbled outside as District Attorney Chris McCool described how Moore confessed to shooting one of the men in the back of the head while he was on his hands and knees.

"The evidence is clear. This defendant is guilty," McCool said. "He was not crazy. He was mean."

The defense didn't deny that Moore shot the three but blamed his actions on hours he spent playing video games from the "Grand Theft Auto" series -- in which players shoot police officers and steal cars -- and mental problems from years of abuse as a child.

Moore pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental defect.

While the judge barred jurors from hearing defense testimony linking the shootings to the game, defense lawyer Jim Standridge reminded them that Moore, after his arrest, told police "life is a video game, everybody has to die sometime."

Portraying Moore as the victim of an uncaring mother and a father who beat him, Standridge said Moore was mentally ill.

"He never signed up and said, 'I'd like to be abused until I'm crazy,"' Standridge said. "Devin never chose it, but he got it anyway."

"You can believe something's wrong with him, and he still is guilty as sin for what he did out there," McCool told jurors.

Moore sat quietly at the defense table in the dimly lit courtroom, looking down and occasionally resting his head in a hand. He could be sentenced to death for the crime.

The jury of 11 women and one man began deliberating around 5:15 p.m. CDT and returned the guilty verdict at 6:25 p.m. CDT.

Circuit Judge James Moore instructed them to return at 9 a.m. Wednesday to begin the sentencing phase.

Three weeks of testimony showed the killings occurred June 7, 2003, after officers took Moore to police headquarters for booking on a stolen auto charge. The victims included the squad's entire night shift: Officers Arnold Strickland, 55, James Crump, 40, and dispatcher Leslie "Ace" Mealer, 38.

Moore, who was 18 at the time, was accused of grabbing Strickland's gun while being booked on a stolen auto charge, shooting the three in the police station -- all the victims took shots to the head -- and fleeing in a patrol car before he was captured.

While the defense argued in opening statements that the slayings were patterned after violence in a "Grand Theft Auto" game, prosecution witnesses said there were no studies linking video games with real-world violence, and the judge barred testimony about the games.

McCool pointed out the absence of video game evidence during his closing statements.

"Did you hear any expert tell you anything about a video game contributing to these crimes?" McCool said.

The ruling was a win for prosecutors in the criminal case. Separately, the victims' families have filed a civil suit against the video game manufacturer and two stores, claiming Moore killed the three after repeatedly playing "Grand Theft Auto III" and "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City."

Named in the suit are Wal-Mart Stores and Gamestop, where Moore allegedly purchased the games when he was under 17, along with Take-Two Interactive Software, the manufacturer of the games, and Sony Computer Entertainment, the maker of the PlayStation 2.

No trial date is set in the civil lawsuit.

Communications officials with Take-Two Interactive Software did not immediately return a phone message left for comment on the cases.

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