An Anchorage jury found James Marquez guilty of first-degree murder Wednesday for fatally shooting his girlfriend, Carla Webb, in the eye in the spring of 2012.
Marquez, 36, claimed during his trial that he was full of rage because Webb, 47, had aborted his child and that the jurors should find him guilty of manslaughter because of the "heat of passion" that caused him to kill. Webb's family said she was not pregnant at the time but had a daughter, who is 28.
In his closing argument Tuesday, prosecutor Clint Campion told the jury of seven women and five men that Marquez intended to kill Webb. Marquez did it calmly, not in a violent fit, Campion said. The prosecutor played a recording of Marquez's 911 call from that day, April 9, 2012.
At first, the dispatcher thought Marquez had said he shot Webb in the hand with his .40-caliber pistol, not the head.
"She was laying on the bed," Marquez said in the recording. "She got shot in the head."
"In the head?!" the woman dispatcher said, suddenly realizing Webb was mortally wounded.
"She's still breathing," Marquez said.
"What happened before you shot her?" the dispatcher asked.
"Domestic violence. It is what it is. Just punish me," Marquez said, adding later, "I'm drunk. Just take me to jail. I don't care."
Webb can be heard groaning in the background. Campion showed a picture of her body. She was wearing a red Betty Boop shirt and pajamas. Webb's left eye had been shot out.
"Probably the last bit of consciousness she had was moaning in pain, blood and brain matter coming out of her eye," Campion told the jurors. "Perhaps in his mind, it alleviated any further arguments with Carla, that it was a fresh start."
The calmness of Marquez's voice in the recording, his accuracy with the single shot and the fact that he downed a handful of pills -- his anxiety medication -- and drank beer all meant the heat of passion defense did not apply, Campion said.
Marquez's lawyer, Dunnington Babb, disagreed.
"What does someone sound like when they come out of the heat of passion? When they've lost the hope of having a child?" Babb said. "There is no way to sanitize this event. It was, it is and it will always be a truly tragic event."
Still, the jurors needed to see through the emotion and decide the case fairly, Babb said. Finding Marquez guilty of only manslaughter did not mean the jury was giving its stamp of approval for murder, Babb said. It meant doing what was right, he said.
"It does not make him a cold-blooded killer. He was a weak man who lost control," Babb said.
The jury began deliberating about 2 p.m. Tuesday and announced Wednesday morning they had reached a verdict. The courtroom was quiet while Marquez, in a black suit, awaited his fate. Babb's assistant applied makeup to cover tattoos on the left side of Marquez's neck.
"It didn't work," said Evelyn Brazell, Webb's sister, of Marquez's makeup job. "He's still a devil."
After Judge Jack Smith read the jury's verdict -- guilty -- he asked each of them if they had decided against the heat-of-passion defense. All of them said yes.
Marquez stood and showed no outward emotion. He pursed his lips and clenched his jaw a couple times as the judge read the verdict.
As the jurors walked out a back door of the courtroom, they passed by Brazell in the hallway with a small group of Webb's friends, who cried and hugged each other in the sunlight streaming in the windows. Brazell thanked them as they walked by.
"Thank you so much. Thanks for your hard work," Brazell said. "Now I can go back to Florida and tell them justice has been served in Alaska."
Marquez's sentencing is set for November. He faces up to 99 years in prison.
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or (907) 257-4589