Charlotte Marlene Longshaw may have done "something colossally stupid" when she brought a gun to a funeral laced with family tension last year.
But that doesn't mean she intended to kill a man at the gathering, according to her defense attorney Jerry Mooney.Mooney told a jury Tuesday that Longshaw was in fact holding the .22-caliber revolver that discharged, killing Terry Dean Stewart on April 10. However the woman was only responding to a threatening environment.
"This case is not a whodunnit. It's a little bit of a howdunnit and a lot of whydunnit," Mooney said in opening arguments.
Longshaw, 23, faces one count of murder, a first-degree felony. An eight-member jury is scheduled to hear six days of testimony in her trial from as many as 45 witnesses.
If convicted, the woman could be sentenced to life in prison.
Prosecutors said Longshaw acted with depraved indifference by bringing the gun to the funeral of her brother, Aaron Lee Greuber, who had died of a drug overdose.
The shooting occurred during a fracas near the open casket of Greuber at Memorial Estates Mortuary. Longshaw and the family of Greuber's widow never got along, Mooney said, and the man's death did nothing to ease tensions.
In fact, friction had escalated in the day after Greuber died when Stewart brought a gun to the evening prayer service and talked loudly about the deceased.
"He walked up to the open casket and said, `He doesn't look so tough now,' " Mooney told the jury.
When Stewart came to the funeral service the next morning, Longshaw's half-brother, Johnny Sloan, confronted him about his statement at the casket. Their words erupted into a fistfight.
At that point, Mooney said, Longshaw left the side of her dead brother, pulled a gun from her waistband and told the two to stop their argument.
"But they don't stop . . . people are grabbing at each other and the gun discharges. One round, one round from a .22-caliber strikes Terry in his side and the bullet crisscrosses through his body, killing him almost instantly," Mooney said.
The jury will have to decide what state of mind Longshaw was acting under at the time of the shooting. If they decide she was under extreme emotional distress, then Longshaw would be guilty only of manslaughter or negligent homicide, Mooney proposed.
Prosecutors responded that Longshaw had other options besides arming herself.