EVERETT — Jury deliberations began Friday afternoon in the trial of Richard Rotter, who could spend the rest of his life in prison if convicted of aggravated murder in the shooting death of Everett police officer Dan Rocha.
The jury didn’t come to a verdict after just over three hours of deliberations Friday. Jurors will reconvene Monday morning.
Both sides made their closing arguments to the jury Friday morning in Snohomish County Superior Court.
Deputy prosecutor Craig Matheson argued Rotter acted with premeditation when he shot Rocha five times on the afternoon of March 25 last year in a Starbucks parking lot on Broadway, killing him.
Matheson told jurors Rotter made a “business decision” in killing Rocha to avoid being arrested with guns and drugs.
“It was worth it to him to kill a cop who just wouldn’t let him go, so he wouldn’t be put in jail,” the deputy prosecutor said in his closing argument.
He also said if it wasn’t premeditated on Rotter’s first shot, it was on the next four. Matheson repeatedly urged the jury to use “common sense.”
Rotter’s public defender, Natalie Tarantino, told the jury her client had “no plan.” Instead, a combination of drug use and post-traumatic stress led him to respond the way he did.
“It was reactionary and fast and impulsive, which are just the symptoms of his mental health disorders,” she said.
The jurors, eight women and four men, have a few options.
They could find Rotter guilty of aggravated first-degree murder as charged.
They could find him guilty of the lesser charge of second-degree murder.
Or they could find him not guilty of either.
The defense has conceded Rotter killed Rocha, 41. So the key question the jury will have to decide is if Rotter acted with premeditation in doing so.
Premeditation is defined as “more than a moment in point of time,” but doesn’t require extensive planning, Matheson noted.
The jury must also decide whether Rotter is guilty of unlawful firearm possession, possession of fentanyl, methamphetamine and heroin with the intent to manufacture or deliver and attempting to elude police.
The deliberations come after nearly two weeks of witness testimony.
On Thursday, experts testified for the defense that Rotter, 51, couldn’t have been premeditated in shooting Rocha. Dr. Wendi Wachsmuth told the jury she diagnosed the defendant with a mild brain disorder affecting his planning skills. She believes the Kennewick man had a “reactionary response” when Rocha tried to arrest him, tied to previous interactions with police.
“It is incredibly unlikely he would have the capacity to organize his behavior,” Wachsmuth testified.
And a toxicologist, Granville Storey, testified Rotter’s drug use the day of the of the killing may have affected him. Toxicology results found 0.222 milligrams of meth and 3.0 nanograms of fentanyl per milliliter of Rotter’s blood.
On Friday, Judge Bruce Weiss instructed the jurors that intoxication doesn’t excuse criminal behavior, but it can be considered when deciding on premeditation.
Jurors also watched Rocha’s body camera footage, showing a calm eight-minute discussion with Rotter before the officer tried to arrest him; cell phone video taken by a witness showing the killing; and a call Rotter made from jail in which he called himself a “wild cat.”
“I think for anybody that feels like they’re going to be harmed, goes into survival mode, there’s certain things that are going to take place, you know?” Rotter said in the call the month after the slaying.
“You take a wild cat, try to put a wild cat inside a cage,” he continued. “See what happens.”
The defendant didn’t testify at trial.
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; email@example.com; Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.
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