Odies D. Walker orchestrated the fatal robbery of a Loomis armored-car guard and then spent his cut of the money buying a Wii video gaming system and a big Red Lobster dinner for his family, a deputy prosecutor told a Pierce County jury Wednesday.
“Money is more important to him than human life,” deputy prosecutor Dawn Farina said in her closing argument in Walker’s aggravated first-degree murder trial. “$55,188 – that’s what Kurt Husted’s life was worth to the defendant.”
Defense attorney Philip Thornton countered that the prosecution’s case was based on weak forensic evidence and dubious witnesses, including a co-defendant who traded a favorable plea bargain for testifying against Walker.
Thornton implored jurors not to be swayed by graphic autopsy photographs and other evidence he said prosecutors presented to appeal to their emotions.
“They’re trying to sell you something,” Thornton told jurors. “That’s how you sell somebody something, by getting them emotionally involved.”
The Superior Court jury, which heard more than two weeks of evidence, is to begin deliberations this morning. Walker did not testify.
In addition to murder, Walker, 43, is charged with assault, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and solicitation to commit robbery.
Prosecutors argued he masterminded the June 2, 2009, attack on Husted, 38, at the Lakewood Walmart – planning it for months and recruiting others to help him – and drove the getaway car on the day of the robbery.
He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted as charged.
Farina reminded jurors of what she called the overwhelming evidence implicating Walker.
Walker, she pointed out, worked at the Walmart as a greeter in late 2006 and early 2007. His now-ex-girlfriend, Tonie Williams-Irby, worked at the store at the time of the robbery and fed him inside information about the business’s cash receipts, the deputy prosecutor said.
Calvin Finley, who confessed to shooting Husted, is Walker’s cousin and lived with him and Williams-Irby, Farina told jurors. Walker also knew Marshawn Turpin, who pleaded guilty to grabbing Husted’s money bag after he was shot, she said.
“He controlled the crime,” Farina said of Walker.
The deputy prosecutor reminded the jury that witnesses – including Williams-Irby – testified about hearing Walker talk for months about how easy it would be to rob the armored-car guard who picked up the store’s receipts on a daily basis.
She concluded by showing jurors a photo of a smiling Husted followed by a close-up of his bloody body lying dead on the Walmart floor. The second photo prompted some of Husted’s relatives and friends to break into quiet sobs in the gallery.
“But for the defendant, Kurt Husted would still be alive today,” Farina said.
Thornton spent much of his closing argument trying to poke holes in the prosecution’s case by attacking the credibility of the state’s witnesses.
The defense attorney spent considerable time trying to discredit Williams-Irby, a key witness for the state. She provided much of the testimony about Walker’s planning of the crime, which the prosecution argued showed premeditation.
Prosecutors agreed to reduce the charges against Williams-Irby from aggravated first-degree murder to second-degree murder in exchange for her testimony. They will recommend a sentence of 15 years for her later this spring. She faced life without parole under the original charges.
“That testimony was bought and paid for,” Thornton argued. “Not in money, not in gold, not in riches but in liberty.”
In the state’s rebuttal argument, deputy prosecutor Jerry Costello told jurors not to be fooled by Thornton’s “desperate attempt to cast doubt.” The state’s case wasn’t perfect, but it was enough to bury Walker, Costello said.
“Tonie Williams-Irby said it so well when she was on the stand,” he said. “She said she wants the Hus-ted family to know the truth.”
The truth, Costello concluded, is that Walker is guilty as charged.