Jury begins deliberations in second-degree murder case of Ronald Harner

06/07/2013 12:52 PM

08/08/2014 10:17 AM

A Sedgwick County jury began deliberations Friday in the trial of a Hutchinson man charged with second-degree murder in the June 2, 2012, shooting death of Jolie Crosby in her east Wichita home.

Prosecutors contend that Ronald Harner, 48, intentionally shot Crosby, 41, in the head. Harner said he was unloading a .38-caliber revolver when it discharged accidentally.

Harner did not testify at the trial, and his lawyer, John O’Connor of Kansas City, Mo., presented no defense evidence.

In his closing argument, prosecutor Justin Edwards said Harner had a concealed-carry permit and knew his way around firearms. At the very least, Edwards said, Harner was reckless in handling a revolver after spending much of the night drinking beer.

“You treat every gun like it’s loaded, because they go off – even when you don’t want them to go off,” he said. “Especially when you’re drinking alcohol.”

The fact that the shot was fired from less than 3 feet from Crosby’s temple, Edwards said, suggests that the shooting was intentional.

O’Connor said in his closing argument that a police lieutenant overseeing the investigation told Harner he wasn’t sure what had happened but that Harner was being booked on suspicion of second-degree murder.

“Isn’t that a scary thought?” O’Connor asked. “We don’t know what happened, but we’re going to charge you with second-degree murder.”

The jury heard Harner’s account of the shooting when it watched two videos that were made as he was being questioned by detectives.

During the first, which was made five hours after the shooting and was played for the jury on Thursday, Harner wore camouflage shorts and a black T-shirt and was often emotional. He was wearing a jail jumpsuit and appeared calmer during the second interview, which was conducted two days later, after he had been booked into jail.

When the video of the second interview was played in court Friday, the jury heard Detective Robert challenge Harner’s claim that the shooting was accidental. Harner said he opened the chamber on the five-shot revolver, pushed a plunger that ejects the bullets, then closed the cylinder just before the gun discharged.

Chisholm said it was impossible for any bullets to remain in the chamber after the ejector is pressed.

“If you did what you said you did, there’s no way in hell a round stays in that gun; it’s not physically possible,” Chisholm told Harner. “The only way for a round to get in that gun is for somebody to put one in. That’s the problem we have.”

“I’m telling you I did not unload those rounds and put one back in,” Harner replied. “I swear to you I thought it was unloaded. I thought the gun was unloaded. … I emptied it out, closed it, and it fired.”

“Ron, that did not happen,” Chisholm said.

Prosecutors said the shooting occurred as Harner and Crosby were sitting on a living room couch in Crosby’s home in the 8400 block of East Greenbriar Court. They said Harner was arrested in Reno County for DUI on the night of the shooting and continued to drink beer at Crosby’s home after he was released from jail.

Jurors are scheduled to resume deliberations on Monday. The trial is being held in the courtroom of District Judge Joseph Bribiesca.

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