Jury finds Casey Lewis guilty in murder-for-hire trial
COLUMBIA - Jurors reached a verdict in the Casey Lewis murder-for-hire trial Wednesday evening, declaring Lewis guilty of first-degree murder.
Jurors deliberated for more than 4 1/2 hours after closing arguments, coming to a decision just before 9 p.m. Judge Gary Oxenhandler set Lewis' sentencing date for April 7, 2015. The date later got pushed to April 10. Lewis sat quietly and with little expression as Oxenhandler read the verdict.
Jurors started deliberating late Wednesday afternoon during day three of the trial against accused hit man Casey Lewis. Authorities believe Lewis was hired to shoot and kill a Columbia man's lover. Police said James Thompson paid Lewis to kill Brian Daniels in April 2013.
Closing arguments in the case wrapped up around 3:45 Wednesday afternoon. In its closing argument, the state said Lewis is a cold-blooded killer without regard for human life. They said Lewis is a hit man who came from Oklahoma to kill Daniels and left afterward.
In the defense's closing arguments, attorney Justin Carver said James [Thompson] acted alone and not a single piece of physical evidence linked Lewis to Cimarron Drive. The defense said it [the case] boils down to "Glen said, James said" and Glenn said James isn't to be trusted.
Closing arguments began ealier Wednesday afternoon after defense attorneys called thirteen witnesses to the stand after lunch. Among those who testified for the defense were James Thompson's father and uncle. Six police officers who were on patrol on Cimarron Drive after the alleged homicide also took the stand. They testified they saw cars at the house but not specifically Lewis'. Defense attorneys also called a pawn shop owner Thompson sold items to.
Earlier, prosecutors rested their case after a day and a half of calling witnesses.
Glenn Anderson, a friend of Thompson who admitted to providing him a false alibi, took the stand Wednesday for the state. He was a key witness in the case.
Anderson discussed his relationship with Thompson, and went over some details of their friendship leading up to Daniels' death. During today's trial Anderson said Thompson told him directly that Thompson hired "a gangster" to kill Daniels for $10,000. Anderson also testified that Thompson told him that Casey Lewis shot Daniels three times.
When the defense cross-examined Anderson, Thompson's credibility was the focus of the questioning. The defense has reiterated throughout the first three days of trial Thompson acted alone. Anderson testified Thompson often gave his friends gifts, and picked up the bill at different venues. The week before Daniels died, Thompson paid to take several of his friends to go on vacation in Cancun, Mexico. The defense described Thompson as a liar and con-man. Public Defender Justin Carver said, "His [Thompson's] word isn't worth a drop of spit."
After Anderson finished, several other members of the Columbia Police Department testified. A jail call between Thompson and his sister was played in court. Detective Joe Jackson said the call prompted authorities to arrest Lewis.
Prior to the trial, Anderson told police Thompson told him he paid Lewis to kill Daniels. Then he stated Thompson mentioned paying Lewis cash, giving him a .45-caliber handgun and a car for committing the murder. Anderson then went on to say Lewis shot Daniels three times and preformed a ritual over the body. Anderson stated Thompson and Lewis made the scene look as if someone had broken into the residence.
Tuesday, prosecutors called several witnesses, notably law enforcement and the medical examiner. They testified about how Daniels died and the condition of his home. Read more of Tuesday's testimony here.
Monday began with jury selection which lasted through early afternoon. Later Monday, during opening statements prosecutors argued Thompson had an elaborate plan to kill Daniels and he enlisted the help of Lewis to do so. The defense countered, saying Thompson was a "con artist" and acted alone in killing Daniels.
On January 16, 2015, Thompson was found guilty for hiring a hit man to kill Daniels. The Boone County jury convicted Thompson of first-degree murder.
In July 2013, officers arrested Lewis in connection with the murder of Daniels.
[Editor's note: This story has been continually updated with the latest information available. Lewis is pictured above in court with his attorneys Tuesday.]