A question of intent
Bradley Robert Quillen will serve 10 years in prison after a jury found him guilty of manslaughter in the shooting death of 23-year-old Miguel Angel Delfin last spring following a fight outside the 7-Eleven in Phoenix.
Belinda McCurdy, Delfin's mother, read a statement during the sentencing hearing that immediately followed the jury's verdict.
"Mr. Quillen has ruined my life," McCurdy said between sobs. "I am a mess. My heart has been destroyed."
Quillen, 27, didn't testify during the three-day trial, and showed little emotion after the verdict. His lawyer, Christine Herbert, argued throughout the trial that Quillen was trying to defend himself the evening of April 1, 2016, after Delfin refused to back down from a fight involving a third man with him at the convenience store and reportedly menaced them with a rock.
"He tried to defend himself," Herbert said prior to sentencing. "I know he feels badly that Mr. Delfin's deceased."
Circuit Judge Patricia Crain said there wasn't much she could say to comfort the grieving mother.
"It's horrible," Crain said. "These cases happen far too often."
Quillen had faced a murder charge, but only 10 of 12 jurors determined he was guilty, two votes short of the required unanimous vote.
As final arguments drew to a close earlier in the day, both sides agreed that the days of witness testimony boiled down to one word: intent.
Herbert and prosecutors agreed that Quillen fired the fatal shot at Delfin after a fight outside the convenience store, though defense lawyers sought to show signs of self-defense while prosecutors argued that Delfin was retreating at the time Quillen fired the .22-caliber pistol.
Delfin's dominant arm was down before a shot fired through his left biceps then pierced his heart, according to Dr. James Olson, deputy medical examiner. Olson testified that no soot nor gunpowder particles were found on Delfin's body or the clothes he was wearing — a white tank undershirt and pajama pants — indicating Delfin was shot from a distance.
Quillen claimed he killed Delfin in self-defense.
"It had all the features of a distant wound," Olson said.
Deputy District Attorney Virginia Greer said in her closing argument that the large rock with which witness Adrian Rodriguez said Delfin had menaced them was inside Delfin's pocket along with his hand in the moment the shot was fired. She noted that inside Quillen's pocket at the time of the shooting was a folding knife.
"He had options," Greer said. "He didn't have to draw the gun."
McCurdy watched intently as Olson used autopsy photos illustrating that the .22-caliber bullet entered Delfin's arm, piercing only the biceps muscle, before continuing though his rib cage, through his heart and ultimately stopping at his right lung. Quillen, 27, averted his gaze during Olson's testimony.
Three blood and two urine samples from Delfin showed he had used methamphetamine hours before the shooting, in an amount Olson estimated to be a "standard recreational level," along with marijuana. A glass marijuana pipe was found in Delfin's pocket.
During cross-examination, Herbert brought out the rock Delfin had on him and asked whether Olson had seen homicides involving similar weapons. Olson said he'd seen homicides caused from blunt force trauma, but not from a thrown rock; however, Olson said that contusions and skull fractures can occur from a thrown rock.
"The potential for lethal injury, or certainly significant injury, exists," Olson said.
Audio and video forensic analyst Alan Combs provided surveillance footage taken from a nearby Human Bean coffee stand. The clearest image of Delfin's final moments was low resolution, however, taken from the top right-hand corner of a camera focused on the business.
The footage seemed to show Delfin moving closer to Quillen and Rodriguez, who was with Quillen at the time of the altercation. But when Greer asked whether the footage could show whether the suspect was actually moving closer or farther from the camera, as well as side-to-side, Combs said the camera was too far away and the images too pixelated to make such estimates.
"It would just be a guess," Combs said.
After the verdict, Greer's demeanor was somber as she loaded boxes of exhibits into a car outside the courthouse.
"Our job is to give the facts to the jury," Greer said. "They reached the verdict based on the facts."
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.