A jury of six men and six women have begun deliberations in the Clay County murder trial of Justin Wayne Green, entering the jury room at about 11:45 Wednesday, and will continue Thursday at 9 a.m.
Green, 31, formerly of Petrolia, shot and killed Jose Ramirez, a fellow Iraq war veteran who lived with Green at a residence on FM 2332, south of Petrolia in August 2007. Defense attorneys claim Green killed Ramirez in self-defense.
Ramirez’s remains were discovered on the property five years later when investigators, acting on a tip, executed a search warrant for the house and property Feb. 8 and Feb. 9, 2012.
Attorneys opened the day with closing arguments.
“The evidence has shown you that the defendant’s story does not add up, and that it was not justifiable homicide,” said Paige Williams, 97th District Attorney, addressing the jury.
Prosecutors stated that after Green shot Ramirez, he buried the body in a shallow grave and spent approximately $9,000 from a bank account belonging to Ramirez. Prosecutors also referred to testimony from family friend Stephanie Corral, in which she said Justin Green backed his pickup into the garage before shooting Ramirez to remove his body, and that Green had joked about shooting Ramirez before the incident occurred.
The prosecution contends that Green killed Ramirez and, with the help of his sister Brittany Green, mother Terri Green and family friend Stephanie Corral, covered up the crime for personal gain.
Terri Green stated in testimony that Ramirez pointed a firearm at her and Justin’s 15-month-old son, which led up to the confrontation in which Justin Green shot Ramirez.
“You heard that Jose had threatened the mother of Justin Green, but instead of talking to Ramirez that night, they had a party,” said Williams.
Prosecutors maintain that Justin Green planned to murder Ramirez, partially based on testimony from Corral. In his testimony, Green said he shot Ramirez with a 9 mm military-style rifle, and not a 9 mm pistol as the defense stated in opening arguments. The Prosecution argued that Green dug the grave first, then found the 23-year-old man as he was getting out of bed.
“Justin did what he had to do to stay alive,” said Dustin Nimz, attorney for the defendant.
The defense claims that when Justin Green entered Ramirez’s bedroom on the morning of Aug. 9, 2007, Ramirez, having two pistols and a rifle on the bed within reach, verbally assaulted Green and pointed a firearm at him. Green then grabbed a firearm and shot Ramirez to protect himself and his family.
You saw pictures of a young and happy Mr. Ramirez, and I feel sorry for Mr. Carrillo,” said Nimz, referring to Tuesday’s testimony from Reuben Corrillo, the uncle of Ramirez. “But that’s not the Ramirez here. Something had changed between 2005, when Mr. Carillo last had contact, and 2007.
Nimz said that while Justin Green’s actions after he killed Ramirez were wrong, they do not change what happen in Ramirez’s bedroom.
“This was not a plan, this was someone who was scared, this was someone in shock,” said Nimz of Justin Green’s actions. The investigation doesn’t point to murder, the evidence doesn’t point to murder.”
The defense attorney argued that Justin green is alive because Ramirez grabbed a 44-caliber Desert Eagle, a heavy semiautomatic pistol that Nimz said can be difficult to operate. He stated that Green fired as Ramirez chambered a round.
“He came for him and Justin fired,” said Nimz. “He was still coming and Justin fired again. He was still coming and Justin fired, hitting him in the head.”
Nimz picked apart the evidence as well as investigative practices of the departments involved. Nimz said investigators had a preconception of what happened, and had to make he evidence fit.
Nimz also said the case had been turned into a “spectacle” by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
“This was a gawker case,” said Nimz. “The sheriff brought everybody out to show them, ‘Hey, look what I found.’”
During testimony on Thursday, Aug. 8, Nimz showed photos taken during the exhumation of the remains and asked Ranger Marshall Thomas to name individuals who looked on. Thomas noted the presence of the Wichita County Sheriff and two Wichita County deputies, members of other out-of-county law enforcement and an elected official from Clay County. Two Clay County deputies who Thomas said were to secure the site left their posts to view the remains.
Thomas testified that the men were not involved in the investigation, but invited there by Sheriff Kenny Lemons.
“And none of those men did anything on the scene except stand around?” asked Nimz.
“No sir,” said Thomas, then stating that he would have preferred a more secure crime scene.
Lemons was present in the courtroom before Wednesday’s proceedings began, but left before closing arguments after he was approached by Assistant District Attorney Kevin Henry.