Both the defense and prosecution have rested in the case of Stephen James Walker and the outcome of his trial on a charge of first-degree felony murder is headed for the jury Thursday afternoon.
Walker is charged with killing his wife, Cassandra Bryan, by shooting her 33 times with a 9-mm gun in their Salt Lake City home on April 1, 2006.
Prosecutors have described Walker, 57, as a pampered and indulged husband who did not work and who expected his wife, Cassandra Bryan, to lavish expensive gifts on him. Bryan, a nurse who put in 12-hour shifts at the Veteran's Administration Hospital, coped with Walker's behavior for a time. But after she had a hysterectomy in 2006, she began to view her life differently and became disenchanted with her husband's conduct and spending, they said.
She decided to leave the marriage after a bitter fight that spilled over into her workplace and that's when and why Walker killed her, prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys concede that Walker shot Bryan, but they say Walker is a Vietnam veteran who was so emotionally injured by combat that he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They contend the marriage was generally a happy one, but there was a "dark side" that showed when Bryan would hit Walker with a "husband stick" when she was angry.
Defense attorneys also say Walker was struggling with depression, had begun to drink again after a period of sobriety, and was suicidally depressed the day he shot his wife.
They would like the jury to either acquit Walker or to find him guilty of the lesser charge of manslaughter for a variety of reasons, including the idea that he was experiencing "extreme emotional disturbance" the day Bryan was shot.
During the trial, several nurses who worked with Bryan took the stand and described her as a compassionate and dedicated nurse, and spoke of the angry argument the pair had the day of the shooting. Walker at one point came to the hospital and the two argued in person. Later, Bryan wept at the nurses' station, yanked off her wedding ring and declared she was going to divorce Walker.
Another witness, Timothy Burke, a close friend of Walker's, testified that Walker had called him April 1 to say he was going to commit suicide. Worried, Burke and another friend went to the home and found Walker slumped on the floor, drunk and unable to stand, and Bryan lying dead in a pool of blood.Burke said he believed the idea of Bryan hitting Walker with a "husband stick" was a simply a joke, but also said he didn't know every detail of the relationship.