The trial of man charged with beating an acquaintance to death with a baseball bat in a remote area in the Lollie Bottoms began Wednesday at the Faulkner County Courthouse.
Justin A. Nicholson, 22, was arrested on Aug. 15 along with alleged accomplice Timothy Gaylon King, 23, both of Conway, and both were charged with first-degree murder in the death of 20-year old Justin "Hopper" McKinney, whose body was found by police on Aug. 14.
King was found guilty of second-degree murder by a Faulkner County jury on April 30 and sentenced to 30 years. 20th Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Marcus Vaden said after opening arguments Wednesday that he foresees Nicholson's trial being similar to Kings, with defense attorneys Erin Cassinelli Couch and Blake Hendrix arguing that a greater measure of responsibility for the murder lies with King while Nicholson intended only to "rough up" McKinney.
King's attorney, Scott Adams, argued in April that it was Nicholson who intended to kill McKinney, while King intended only to beat him.
The jury in King's case found him guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder, indicating, Vaden explained, that the jury believed King acted to create conditions likely to cause death rather than knowing to a certainty that he was killing the man.
In opening arguments, Hendrix told the jury that testimony will show that it was King who, upon arriving at a Conway residence after the beating took place, "goes immediately to the bathroom and takes a shower," while Nicholson did not, thereby revealing a "consciousness of guilt" that evidence doesn't support was present in Nicholson.
The "final piece of this puzzle," Hendrix said, is testimony from King's wife that he said changes over time to shift blame away from her husband and onto Nicholson.
It was King's wife who told family and police that she thought her husband had been involved in a murder, leading to the arrests. If she had not "done the right thing," Vaden told the jury Wednesday, the crime may never have been solved.
The trial continues today. The jury is expected to begin deliberating tonight, Vaden said.
(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by E-mail at email@example.com. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)