It's now up to a jury to decide if Robert Luch intended to kill his wife in 2010 or, as Luch testified, a revolver he held "just went off" twice as they struggled.
The nine women and three men who began deliberations Wednesday afternoon will effectively decide whether or not Luch, 64, spends the rest of his life in prison.
Luch says he carried a .38-caliber Ruger revolver to a bathroom in the couple's Turnagain home to confront his wife, Jocelyn, because he believed she was sleeping with another man. Luch testified Monday and Tuesday that the shooting was inadvertent. State prosecutors say Luch bought the gun 11 days earlier with plans to shoot the 40-year-old woman, his wife of more than 21 years, because she wanted a divorce and refused to sign papers to sell their house.
"This was not an accident," assistant district attorney Christina Sherman said during closing arguments Wednesday.
Sherman called Luch "manipulative" and "controlling." She laid out the deliberate steps Luch took toward fatally shooting his wife, which included walking down two flights of stairs, across a living room and through the family's garage to get the revolver from a locked storage area. Luch walked back upstairs, popped open the locked bathroom door with a coat hanger and pulled the gun's trigger twice, shooting Jocelyn in the neck and abdomen, Sherman said.
Sherman played an audio recording a police officer made after finding Jocelyn bleeding on the bathroom floor. Jurors do not often hear from a murder victim about their killer's motive, the prosecutor said.
"Why did he shoot you?" Officer Mark Bakken asks in the recording.
"We're getting a divorce," Jocelyn says, still scared for her life. "He said he's going to kill me."
"You're safe. You're safe," Bakken says. "We're here."
Jocelyn died a short while later at a hospital.
"People tell people all the time that they don't love them any more. That they want a divorce. That they had an affair. They get counseling. They get a divorce. They find a way to move on," Sherman told the jury. "You don't get to kill people when you hear things like that. Nothing Jocelyn Luch did on Sept. 28, 2010, or any day before that, entitled the defendant to kill her, to end her life."
Luch's lawyer, Andrew Lambert, delivered his final remarks to the jury in the first-person, pretending to be Robert Luch for more than 30 minutes of courtroom theater.
"There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about how I shot my wife, twice," Lambert said, as if possessed by his client. "There's not a single day that goes by or a single time that I lay my head on the pillow at night that I don't think about my children and how I took their mother away."
Luch loved his wife, Lambert said. He was "crushed" when he uncovered what he believed to be an affair Jocelyn was having, the lawyer said.
"I was infuriated," Lambert said, still impersonating his client. "Who wouldn't be? That doesn't mean I meant to kill my wife."
Judge Jack Smith asked his clerk to randomly select two jurors to remove before deliberations, and she selected the names of a man and a woman. The 12 remaining jurors left the courtroom and headed for a deliberation room just after 1 p.m.
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.
By CASEY GROVE