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Lawyer: Justice demands not-guilty verdict

Dec. 3, 2009 at 7:32 PM   |   Comments

INDIANAPOLIS, Dec. 3 (UPI) -- The lawyer for a man charged in an Indianapolis mass murder of seven people, including three children, said justice demanded a not-guilty verdict from jurors.

"This is about a man accused of one of the most notorious crimes in the city's history," defense attorney Richard Bucheri said of James Stewart, the second suspected gunman to go on trial in the June 1, 2006, killings of a family, found dead in their house, shot with what police called a military-style weapon.

"Justice demands that you find James not guilty on all counts," Bucheri told the jury of six women and six men in an opening statement.

"Are you going to have the courage to do it?" he asked.

Bucheri promised to challenge the motivations of prosecution witnesses and asked jurors to zero in on what the evidence doesn't show, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Stewart, 33, pleaded innocent in the killings of Emma Valdez, 46, and her partner, Alberto Covarrubias, 56; their two children; Valdez's adult son and daughter; and Valdez's 5-year-old grandson.

If convicted, he faces hundreds of years in prison.

Prosecutors, who have only circumstantial evidence, say Stewart and accomplice Desmond Turner were looking for drugs and money that didn't exist, the Star said.

They portray Turner as the main triggerman, firing 23 shots from an assault rifle while Stewart fired a handgun twice.

Turner, 31, was convicted by Judge Robert Altice at a bench trial in October despite a lack of DNA, fingerprints or weapons. Turner is serving a sentence of life without parole.

The house where the family lived was set on fire two years later in an arson attack.

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