Opening statements are complete in the Lexington, Kentucky murder trial of two men accused of shooting and killing a United States Marine in 2014. Nephew Quincinio Canada, 26, and uncle Dawan Mulazim, 34, face possible death sentences if they are found guilty for shooting and killing Cpl. Jonathan Price, 26. Price and his wife, Megan, were out celebrating Megan’s birthday. As the victims left a bar, the defendants allegedly approached Megan and attempted to rob her by taking her purse. Jonathan stepped in, and fight broke out. Jonathan was shot in the back and died. Megan was shot in the leg
Both defendants now face murder, first-degree robbery, and first-degree assault charges. During Wednesday’s openings, a defense attorney insisted that police got the wrong guys, and that DNA evidence backs him up.
First it was the prosecution’s chance to address the jury. They began by saying Price died not on the battlefield, not peacefully of old age, but rather from the defendants’ attack. They played Megan Price’s frantic 911 call, where she described her attackers while begging her husband to survive. Instead, he bled to death in the parking lot from a painful gunshot wound to the heart, prosecutors later said. The defendants took off with a mere $60 from Megan’s purse, they said.
Prosecutors also connected the two defendants to a hotel robbery six days before the murder occurred. There, prosecutors say the defendants pointed a gun at several other victims, threatened to kill them, ordered the victims into a room at the hotel, told them to lie face down on a bed, and started stealing things. Prosecutors said that among the stolen items was the gun used to shoot the Prices. Prosecutors said that despite one misidentification in a photo lineup, the victims in that case were able to pick out the suspects.
The jury got to see a series of surveillance videos during opening statements which prosecutors believe link the defendants to the crimes. In one of the recordings, Canada is believed to be driving his girlfriend’s car, which he was said to have frequently borrowed.
Prosecutors said Canada at one point admitted to “popping a guy” after the shooting.
Because both defendants are being tried together, each of them has a different attorney. The defense for Quincinio Canada chose to withhold an opening statement until after the state presents their case. The defense for Dawan Mulazim gave an opening statement, saying the case was one of mistaken identity, sloppy police assumptions, and a failure by police to examine other possible suspects.
Defense attorney Kim Green said police found DNA under the victim’s fingernails which was not either of the defendants. Police don’t know whose DNA it is, she said. She also said police ignored a local attorney’s tip that someone else wanted to come forward to talk about the case. Other tips were also ignored, she said. Green said eyewitnesses did not mention, and surveillance videos do not show, gold teeth or facial tattoos, which are distinguishing characteristics of the defendants. She even said the police digitally removed defendant Canada’s facial tattoos in photos. She further said that the photo lineup which resulted in the identification of her client, Mulazim, was based on a “feeling” from one of the victims, not a clear recognition.
There is no actual video of the crimes being committed, she noted. She also said the police did not swab a single door or door knob to attempt to recover DNA evidence from the hotel robbery. Green said the police did not scrutinize the available surveillance footage in the case until after Mulazim had been identified.
Green also noted that police recovered the suspected murder weapon only after another individual, Antonio Frye, tried to sell it to a federal agent. Police failed to consider the seller of the weapon as a suspect in this case, she said, because police already had settled on these two defendants as suspects.
Green further said that cell phone evidence in this case will be inconclusive because AT&T refuses to say how far away from the towers the defendants’ cell phones were located. They could have been ten miles away from the crime scene, she suggested, and still bounced signals off towers which are apparently near the crime scene.
[Image via Law&Crime Network screengrab]