A witness who refused to testify earlier this week in his friend's murder trial returned to the stand Thursday afternoon in his defense. The result, however, was open season for Hamilton County prosecutors.
Christopher Parker has been in custody since February 2014, when authorities say he argued with, shot and killed Robert McClure inside his trailer on Hixson Avenue. After the shooting, Parker threatened to kill Jacob Keel and Andrew Biro, two friends who witnessed the slaying, prosecutors said. Biro later called police after his mother picked him up from a nearby home, leading to Parker's arrest, records show.
For two days, prosecutors have sought to convince jurors with testimony from forensic specialists and investigating officers that Parker is guilty of first-degree murder. But when prosecutors tried to call Biro and Keel to the stand earlier this week, both men refused to testify.
They got another chance Thursday when Parker's defense team called Keel, who is incarcerated on unrelated charges. Standing directly in front of Keel, hands on his hips, prosecutor Lance Pope asked the 25-year-old to recount the events of Feb. 1, 2014.
Keel said he was hanging out in a friend's trailer, a known party house where Parker had left him a week earlier. When Parker returned with a gun, Keel said they started talking about McClure, a mutual friend who allegedly had an argument with both of them.
"Parker told you that Robbie was mad at you," Pope said to Keel.
"And you were aware that Parker was mad at Robbie," Pope said.
"Based on this information, you guys [Parker, Keel and Biro] decided to walk down there to Robbie's trailer, is that right?" Pope asked.
"That was part of it," Keel said.
"And Parker had the gun, the same one at the trailer," Pope said.
Going step-by-step, Pope explained how the men knocked on the door. When McClure, 24, opened the door, though, he wasn't mad at Keel like Keel thought he would be. They went inside the trailer: Biro, Keel, then Parker, who immediately started arguing with McClure.
Keel said he was sure something would come up between McClure and Parker — he didn't think it would be that intense though. After one argument, Parker sat down on a couch, he said.
But when a second argument cropped up, Pope said, Parker brandished a pistol. Still standing directly in front of Keel, Pope asked him to explain what happened next.
"They argued, [Parker] pulled out a gun, he puts it to [McClure's head], they're still arguing. Robbie, not intimidated whatsoever, puts his head up to the muzzle. I don't think he believes it," Keel said.
Then, a single gunshot.
Parker's defense attorneys, Andrew Basler and Sam Lewis, haven't denied the shooting.
Arguing instead that Parker was buzzed on high amounts of methamphetamine and acting irrationally, Basler called John Standridge, an expert witness on addiction, who explained the impact of the synthetic stimulant.
Standridge, who has worked for 16 years at the Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services, said meth is marked by lack of sleep, aggression, a loss of control, impairment and psychosis.
"The most common [side effect] is delusions of persecution, which means they feel like somebody is demeaning them or saying bad things about them," Standridge said. "Delusions of reference makes people think they're talking about them. They take it personally."
Earlier in the day, without the jury present, Basler told Judge Barry Steelman that he wanted a mistrial because of a jailhouse call that prosecutors had emailed him about the previous night.
In the call, Parker, 26, explains to his mother how he told other inmates that Biro was planning to testify for the state. Biro wanted to get into the Aryan Nation. And if he refused to speak on the stand, he could save face with that group, Parker said.
"But these Nation Boys, they're gung-ho," Parker says in the call, which he made Monday afternoon before the trial started. "They want to beat his a—. That's the biggest no-no you can do, is snitch."
Basler objected because Parker claimed that his attorney told him prosecutors would drop the case if Biro didn't testify. The call would imply he was somehow involved in that conversation, casting a negative image to jurors, he said.
Steelman said he would edit the call to eliminate any mention of any attorney. After a lengthy discussion without jurors present, prosecutors ended up playing the call for them.
Once Parker's defense attorneys rested their case, Steelman read jurors the charge instructions and dismissed them for the day. Closing arguments will take place in his Criminal Court today at 8:30 a.m.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow on Twitter @zackpeterson918.