Prosecutors and defense attorneys agree on one thing about Roger Allen Malcolm who is on trial for murder: Malcolm did fire the shots that killed security guard Verne Jenkins at a Salt Lake truck stop.
However, prosecutors on Tuesday told a jury that Malcolm was a disruptive and difficult customer and Jenkins was simply doing his job to get a loud troublemaker off the property and away from the cashiers Malcolm had been yelling at.
But defense attorneys maintain this was a case of self-defense. They say Malcolm was only trying to fend off an aggressive security guard who assaulted him while he was in the process of trying to leave the truck stop.
Malcolm, 51, is charged with first-degree felony murder in connection with the Dec. 26, 2007 death of Verne Jenkins, 31, whose security guard work included shifts at the Sapp Brothers truck stop at 1953 W. California Ave.
Prosecutor Tupakk Renteria in opening arguments told the five-man, four-woman jury that Malcolm was known to be a regular customer at the truck stop and also was know to be belligerent and rude.
On this occasion, Malcolm was trying to buy a package of chewing gum and became agitated and started shouting questions when cashiers did not wait on him promptly. Jenkins intervened, told a cashier not to help Malcolm and said, "I'm going to escort him out."
A fight broke out between the two and Jenkins was shot shortly afterward.
"This is all about a pack of gum," Renteria said. "Verne Jenkins was just doing his job. He (Malcolm) was trespassing."
Renteria also expressed doubts about the idea of self-defense. "At what point does someone have a right to pull out a gun and shoot someone? Has our society dropped so far down that it's all right to pull out a gun in a fist fight and shoot someone?"
Defense attorney Stephen Howard disagreed.
"Self-defense, ladies and gentlemen, is what this case is all about," he told the jury. "Our law says there are times when a person is allowed to use lethal force if necessary in self-defense."
Howard said that jurors in this case have a unique opportunity to see events for themselves because much of what happened was caught by a security video camera and they will see the tape.
He described Malcolm as a working man and father of three who rode a bike for exercise, and brought it into the store because he was nervous about it being stolen. Malcolm also carried a gun because he did not feel safe in the neighborhood.
Howard said Malcolm perhaps was "a little obnoxious" when asking loudly to be waited on, but the defense attorney said that when Malcolm was asked to leave the store, he turned and walked toward his bike.
Howard said the security guard, for unknown reasons, grabbed Malcolm, charged him and pushed him into a corner, then when Malcolm got up, the security guard threw him to the ground so forcefully that Malcolm's hat flew off.
"While they were fighting, the security guard, tragically, is shot and killed," Howard said.
But, he cautioned the jury, "not every death is a murder."
Sapp Brothers cashier Kaylene Allred testified that Malcolm was "bellering" when he was not waited on immediately. She said the store was quite busy and she told him she would be with him in just a minute. When she went to handle his purchase, he asked for some chewing tobacco, but at that point, Jenkins intervened.
"He (Jenkins) wanted him to apologize for being rude," Allred said.
Jenkins' tone of voice was "mellow" but also "stern," and Malcolm began to get angry, at one point saying, "It was just over a pack of gum." Jenkins then told him, "You have to leave," Allred said.She was busy with customers so she saw only part of the physical altercation between the two. After hearing gunshots, Allred said she heard Malcolm say, "He deserved it," and "So what?"