A Sedgwick County jury deliberated less than 1 1/2 hours Wednesday before convicting a Wichita man of capital murder in the Nov. 30 shooting deaths of two people inside a Dollar General store.
Marquis Marshall, 20, will face a mandatory sentence of life in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 20 by District Judge Warren Wilbert.
None of the witnesses during the three-day trial was able to offer a motive for the shooting.
Marshall was convicted in the deaths of Zachary Hunt and Henry Harvey inside the Dollar General store at 13th and Hillside. Hunt, a 22-year-old employee, and Harvey, a 79-year-old customer, were both shot multiple times with a .22-caliber handgun and died at the scene.
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Prosecutors offered three key pieces of evidence in the trial: A videotape that captured the shooting, fingerprints found on an entrance door that matched Marshall’s and the statement of a reluctant witness who said Marshall admitted to him that he had committed the crime.
In his closing argument, District Attorney Marc Bennett asked the jury to overlook the fact that no one had offered a motive for the shooting. He asked jurors to simply follow their instructions.
"Nowhere in here will you find the word ‘motive’ or find the word ‘why,’ " he said.
Bennett said the evidence showed that the shooting was clearly premeditated.
"Six separate decisions to pull that trigger – does that not speak to premeditation?" he asked.
Defense lawyer Ron Evans offered no evidence at the trial.
In his closing argument, he said the video wasn’t clear enough to determine the race or the gender of the shooter. He described the reluctant witness as a convicted felon whose statement shouldn’t be taken seriously.
As for his client’s prints on the door, he said, "that’s a very scary thing to hang a capital murder case on."
Witnesses said there were nine cameras operating in the store at the time of the shooting, and jurors watched images from all nine. One of the cameras captured images of the shooter approaching the checkout counter with his arms extended and a silver .22-caliber semi-automatic pistol in his hands. The shooter appeared to fire without warning or provocation. The gun was never recovered.
The camera also showed the shooter placing his left hand on a one-way glass entrance door that opens only from the outside. Finger and palm prints taken from the door were later matched to Marshall.
Evans said his client was in the store two or three days before the shooting and suggested that store employees simply didn’t thoroughly clean the door.
The reluctant witness was John Pink, who testified Tuesday that he ran into Marshall shortly after the shooting outside the home of Marshall’s brother. By then, Marshall’s picture was being circulated in the media by police, and Pink said he knew Marshall was a suspect in the Dollar General shooting.
Pink told the jury that he asked Marshall, " ‘Was it a robbery? Were you on something?’ All he kept saying was, ‘I screwed up. I screwed up.’"
Pink admitted under cross-examination by Evans that he had convictions for aggravated battery and aggravated robbery – convictions that Kansas Department of Corrections records show occurred in 1980.
Wichita police officer Brad Crouch told the jury that Pink told him a similar story shortly after Marshall was arrested.
"He told me to, ‘Listen up and listen up good,’ that he was only going to say this one time," Crouch said.
He said Marshall never denied to Pink that he was involved in the shooting.
"He said, quote, ‘I don’t know why I did it, but I wish I hadn’t,’" Crouch said.
Crouch said Pink told him that he was afraid to be seen talking to police, and that if taken to police headquarters for questioning, he would refuse to tell detectives about his conversation with Marshall.
Bennett said in an interview after the verdict that the decision not to seek the death penalty in the case was made after extensive conversations with his staff and the victims’ relatives.
He said a recent decision by Oklahoma courts involving a defendant with a low IQ also played a role in his decision.