PHOENIX (AP) — Prosecutors urged a jury Thursday to convict NBA players Marcus and Markieff Morris of assault charges for their role in the 2015 beating of a former acquaintance in a case that has delayed the start of their season as they stand trial in a Phoenix courtroom with training camps now underway.
But an attorney defending Marcus Morris against the charges argued multiple witnesses’ testimony showed the twin brothers could not have been involved in the incident.
Jurors will return to the courtroom Monday to hear remaining closing arguments from attorneys representing Markieff Morris and the final defendant, Gerald Bowman.
Prosecutor Daniel Fisher said Marcus Morris kicked the victim in the head and Markieff Morris acted as an accomplice because “they had an axe to grind” with the man who was beaten.
Fisher noted Markieff moved his car between the time of the start of the high school game and the end closer to where the assault later happened. Fisher said he acted as a lookout and fled in what he described as the getaway car.
The victim, Erik Hood, has known the NBA players since their youth basketball days, but they had a falling out in 2011. The brothers are accused of helping three other people beat Hood on Jan. 24, 2015, outside a high school basketball game. At the time, they played for the Phoenix Suns.
“They took it upon themselves to bring their friends with them to the ARCH facility to attend the basketball game … to send Erik a message, a message that ended up putting Erik in the hospital,” Fisher said.
Hood testified last week that his relationship with the brothers became strained because of a misinterpreted text message he sent their mother. He said there was nothing “improper” happening with him and their mother.
Defense attorney Timothy Eckstein said two witnesses, who went to break up the fight, placed the Morris brothers near the site but not as part of the altercation.
Those two witnesses both testified that Hood’s mentor tried to solicit them to implicate the Morris twins in their testimony for a cash payment in return.
Eckstein reminded jurors that Hood told authorities nine times that both twins were involved in the assault before changing his statement to say Markieff did not beat him but had been in the vicinity.
The defense attorney said Hood repeatedly lied during the investigation, and that Hood knew he had to “double down on Marcus” beating him because the case wouldn’t be worth anything without one of the brothers involved.
If they are found guilty, the Morris brothers face the possibility of prison time and discipline from the NBA, including a minimum 10-game suspension.
Marcus was traded to the Boston Celtics in July, and Markieff is now with the Washington Wizards.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said the team and officials have been in contact with Marcus throughout the trial. The team dispatched an assistant general manager to Phoenix to attend the proceedings.
“We’re just waiting like everybody else to see what happens there,” Ainge said. “But we feel good about what will happen. At the same time we understand what possibilities exist.”
Two of the other co-defendants pleaded guilty Sept. 13 to the same charges. The Morris brothers and Bowman have all pleaded not guilty.
Hood, 36, testified last week he wanted justice for the incident that left him with a broken nose and other injuries.