The trial for a man accused of shooting his roommate with a 12-gauge shotgun will hinge on the credibility not only of the accused, but of the victim, as well.
With evidence and witnesses wrapped up late last week, Crown counsel John Swanson and defence lawyer Don Skogstad presented their closing arguments on Tuesday, each, in turn, poking holes in the stories of shooter Matthew Cameron and victim Kyle Miller.
While both admit that Cameron shot Miller, it’s a question of intent, which mostly hinges on the moments leading up to the shooting — particularly, who introduced the shotgun into the argument.
“This case, when you first came in here, when you heard about the shooting, you thought, ‘Well, gee, that’s pretty simple. Nobody can get away with that,’” Skogstad said. “Well, now you know there’s two sides.”
Ultimately, it’s up to whom the jury believes, with both the Crown and the defence outright calling the other’s key witnesses — Cameron and Miller — liars in their closing remarks.
As they each took issue with the other’s case, they focused on different issues. Skogstad, speaking to the jury first, focused on the angle of the shot, with Miller contending that Cameron was standing up and shot downwards, while Cameron argued that he took the shot from the ground, shooting up or level.
“That blood is six feet high on the wall. How does it get there, to be six feet high?” Skogstad asked. “Because it’s shot from horizontal or below. Not downward. Look at the streaks … They’re going upwards, not downwards.”
Contending that Cameron acted out of rage, rather than from fear, Swanson said he didn’t dispute that Miller had done things that angered Cameron.
“He had insulted him, he had belittled him, and yes he had slapped him a few times when Matthew Cameron was honking the horn while they were trying to purchase the cocaine,” Swanson said. “Fair enough. Matthew Cameron was angry at Kyle Miller. When Matthew Cameron came into possession of the 12-gauge shotgun, that gave Matthew Cameron an opportunity to act on his anger.”
Swanson also took aim at Cameron’s claim that Miller was the one who produced the shotgun. While Miller told the court that Cameron brought the firearm from his room, Swanson contended that there was no time, according to Cameron’s testimony, for Miller to retrieve the shotgun.
“Everybody, Kathy Cameron, Matthew Cameron, Oliver Bell, all recognized that Kyle Miller did not have a weapon in his hand as he started to walk down that short hallway,” Swanson said. “For Matthew Cameron’s evidence to be reasonably reliable, that gun had to have appeared out of nowhere.”
But on the other end, Skogstad argued that Cameron had no reason to hide the gun, which was never found, having acknowledged that he shot the gun from the beginning.
“Remember, as well, that the Camerons readily consented to a search of their home,” Skogstad said.
“It’s pretty easy, when you’ve done something and you’re truthful about it, and you just sort of say, ‘Well that’s what happened,’” he said. “Ten days from now, you’re asked about it, that’s what happened. It’s going to be the same thing. Well, when you’re making it up, you’re not remembering that’s what happened, you’re remember, well, what did I say last time?”
Where Skogstad appeared to really dig into Miller’s testimony was the question of his intoxication. In particular, Skogstad repeatedly returned to Miller’s statement that he was not drunk.
“Why does Matthew Cameron drive them to the liquor store? Because they’re too drunk already,” Skogstad said. “They’re drunk. He should have admitted that. But of course, he seems to think that admitting that would reflect badly on him.”
One aspect that both spent some time focusing on was the degree of force used by Cameron, with Skogstad making note of the size of the two men.
“Kyle Miller was proud to tell you that he weighed 100 pounds more,” Skogstad said. “So, he’s a big guy. He gets on top of you, you don’t have a lot of options.”
Meanwhile, Swanson broke down the few moments prior to the shooting, presuming Cameron’s testimony were true that Cameron wrestled the gun from Miller, holding the barrel like a club. That, he said, meant Cameron had used an unreasonable degree of force in shooting Miller.
“You’ve got a weapon, you’ve got a club, you can use the club. The fact that the two men are 100 pounds difference in weight really doesn’t make that much difference when Matthew Cameron has armed himself with a club,” Swanson said.
“In my submission, that’s simply not possible. It’s not physically possible. It’s not reasonably possible. Because it’s not physically possible, because it’s not reasonably possible, it’s not true. Matthew Cameron was lying.”
Skogstad told the jury he didn’t believe it made sense that Cameron would bring out a gun and shoot Miller when his mother was around.
“Unbelievable,” Skogstad repeated a few times, also pointing out that it would be difficult to fire a 12-gauge shotgun with one hand, as Miller testified. “Not very many weapons with a kick like a 12-gauge shotgun.”
In pointing out that Miller must have known that the truck the men took back to their house that evening was stolen, despite his testimony that he was unaware, Skogstad claimed Miller had violated several laws without facing any charges.
That included owning a sawn-off, 20-gauge shotgun, which is prohibited, and alleged improper storage of a rifle.
“He’s not charged with any of these things,” he said. “He’s going to go free for all these things.”
The jury will be deciding Cameron’s fate in the coming days. Aggravated assault comes with a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.