The jury will hear closing statements and begin deliberations Tuesday in a case against a Rochester man accused of killing a 17-year-old.
Alexander Weiss, 26, is on trial for the second time for second-degree murder in the shooting death of Muhammed Rahim January 14 last year. The first trial in May ended in a mistrial.
Weiss says he acted in self defense when he shot Rahim while the two were standing in a street after a car crash involving Weiss and Rahim.
In a final day of testimony Monday, defense attorney James McGeeney recalled police investigators to the stand to talk about their interviews with Weiss and witness Noah Dukart, 19, who was in the car Rahim was driving.
Dukart was one of three passengers in the silver Chevrolet Cavalier Rahim was driving and the first one out of the car after the crashes. Rahim had failed to make a turn at a snowy intersection onto the street Weiss was driving his Subaru. Weiss said he saw the Cavalier slide sideways into the curb. Weiss testified he pulled around the car and parked to get out and see if the people inside the car were alright. Rahim then backed the Cavalier into Weiss’s Subaru.
During an interview with Sgt. Eric Boynton, Dukart said it looked to him like Weiss wanted to fight. Dukart said he told Weiss the fight wouldn’t end well and that it was “two on one,” Boynton recounted from his interview after consulting transcripts. Dukart also told Boynton he perceived Weiss’s stated intention to call police a threat.
Dukart also said he didn’t see Rahim reach for or touch Weiss’s gun nor did he see Rahim spit at Weiss.
During his testimony Friday, Weiss said he fired at Rahim after Rahim spit in his face and twice reached for his pistol.
Weiss told investigators after his initial confrontation with Dukart, he went back to his car to get his phone and his pistol.
“Did Mr. Weiss tell you what his intention was at that time?” McGeeney asked Boynton.
“To de-escalate,” Boynton said.
In cross examination by prosecuting attorney Eric Woodford, chief deputy Olmsted County attorney, Boynton said Dukart said he threatened to kill Weiss and that Weiss said he was fearful for his safety when he went to his car to retrieve his pistol.
Rochester Police officer David Korngable interviewed Riley Bongiorno, 20, another passenger in the car Rahim was driving, after the shooting. Korngable said her statements were inconsistent and that she initially told him it was Weiss who ran a stop sign and collided with them.
Following witness testimony, presiding Judge Joseph Chase, McGeeney and Woodford drew up jury instructions.
Woodford said the instructions included definition of self defense as reasonably believing to be in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death. He said using those words echo Weiss’s claimed intent. Woodford said he can’t think of other instances in which a defendant’s stated intent was echoed directly in the jury instructions.
Chase said the phrase was lifted from 1982 Minnesota Supreme Court case State vs. Housley.
“Maybe it’s a rhetorical question, but I’m not sure how the court could be in error lifting that sentence (from Housley),” Chase said.
McGeeney noted that the court had not allowed defense to question law enforcement officers on their weapon retention training in context with Weiss testifying he fired after Rahim had twice reached for his gun.
Chase ruled that such testimony from trained law enforcement was not relevant in the case’s circumstances.
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday and the jury will go into deliberations after receiving instructions.