Deliberations in Holmes trial to wait a day
Both the prosecution and defense rested Wednesday in the attempted murder trial against Rico Carty Holmes II, but the defendant will have to wait at least one more day to learn his fate.
The jury will report back to the judicial center Thursday morning to decide whether Holmes will spent the next 20 years in prison for the 2013 attempted murder of Kevin Gachelin.
York County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner said he did not want to spend the last hour of the workday Wednesday instructing the jury on the law before possibly sending them back to deliberate a verdict only to have to send them home for the night.
Holmes, 26, is charged with attempted homicide, robbery inflicting serious bodily injury, burglary, aggravated assault, criminal trespass, simple assault and endangering the welfare of another person. Police say on the night of Dec. 7 into the morning of Dec. 8, 2013, Holmes and three other men broke into two residences in northern York County.
At the first residence, the defendants duct-taped and assaulted one teen, Trent Stevens, and his girlfriend, Megan Montrose, before taking several assault weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition from his father's gun collection, police said.
The group allegedly then drove to Gachelin's home, broke in while he slept and beat him with baseball bats until he woke up and tried to escape. That is when senior deputy prosecutor Jonathan Blake said Holmes' thirst for revenge elevated the crime from a home invasion and assault to attempted homicide.
It had been a fight lost to Gachelin, spurred on by an earlier incident with Stevens, that set Holmes' whole plan in motion, Blake said.
"It only takes a second to develop intent," Blake told jurors during his closing arguments.
That intent, the defense argued, is crucial to determining the difference between whether Holmes "did something" or committed attempted murder.
Defense attorney Jonathan Crisp said each witness the state called told a different story, some of them admitted to having lied in the past, and none of them should be considered reliable.
But Blake countered by saying the most important parts of each witness's testimony did match.
"They all put the revolver in Rico's hand," he said.
The final witness for the state, Andre Highsmith, 21, of Alexandria, Virginia, was the second co-defendant to testify against Holmes and the sole witness called Wednesday.
Highsmith, as fellow co-defendant Leonard Hayes did the day before, admitted to his own role in two home invasions and assaults, but he laid the bulk of the blame at the feet of the defendant.
Highsmith testified that in December 2013, Holmes recruited Hayes, who in turn recruited Highsmith and another teenager, Joseph "Jo Jo" Henderson, to rob Stevens' house for the guns inside and to go to Gachelin's house to rob him for whatever drugs he might have.
"We were going to sell them for money," Highsmith testified.
The revenge factor didn't come up during their planning session with Holmes or with Brendan Seamans, a Dillsburg resident who befriended Holmes while at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where Holmes, a soldier in the U.S. Army, was stationed. Highsmith said Seamans, who testified earlier in the trial that he only went along because he had been threatened, was in on the plan the whole time.
Highsmith conceded Seamans was scared, however. The night of the attacks was the first time he'd met Seamans, Highsmith said. Asked to describe Seamans' connection to Holmes, Highsmith did not hesitate.
"He was Rico's b —," he said.
Seamans never went inside the residences, and he eventually cooperated with the prosecution, as did Hayes and Highsmith. Seamans was therefore never charged in the incident, and both Hayes and Highsmith worked deals with the state to receive lesser sentences. Highsmith was 18 at the time, and in exchange for his cooperation he will attend a six-month "motivational boot camp" rather than go to prison.
The defense suggested the only reason Highsmith testified against Holmes was for the sentence reduction, but Highsmith denied it. When Blake gave him the chance to say why in fact he was testifying, he said it was because of his mom.
After his testimony, Highsmith elaborated.
"At the time (of the crime), I didn't care a whole lot about me," he said. "If it wasn't for her, I would have taken the plea deal, which was three to five years (in prison)."
Holmes declined to take the stand in his own defense, and his attorneys put forth no evidence.
Bortner instructed the jury to return to the courthouse at 8:45 a.m. Thursday. That is when the members will receive their instructions and begin deliberations.