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Kaarma Trial Opening Statements Focus on Stress, Guns and Drugs

Photo courtesy of Peter Christian

The Markus Kaarma trial started in full force today, December 4, with opening statements and new revelations about what happened the day German exchange student Diren Dede was shot.

The prosecution focused on the timeline of events that led to Dede’s death on the night of April 27, asserting that Markus Kaarma’s wife Janelle even said “show time” when motion detectors on their property were activated–at one point even taking the shotgun Kaarma used and demonstrating the time it would take to reload and pump the shotgun before shooting each of the four times the gun was fired.

The prosecution asserts that the gun was fired four times: three times in quick succession and a fourth time after a pause. They claim to have witnesses that will testify to the pause before the fourth shot, which is considered to be the one that killed Dede. The prosecution asserts that in addition to the time required to reload, Kaarma waited at least twenty-three seconds before entering the garage. Prosecutors allege that this indicates calmness and deliberation in Kaarma’s actions as opposed to the rush of adrenaline and fear the defense team will argue for.

While the prosecution focused on the timeline and asserted that Kaarma’s actions indicate premeditation, the defense focused on building a portrait of Kaarma’s life before the shooting, including the stressors that may have influenced his decisions on the night in question.

Defense Attorney Paul Ryan talked about how Kaarma and his wife would smoke marijuana in their garage, to be away from their child. Ryan asserted that the marijuana was a form of self-medication for Markus Kaarma, and that he suffered from social anxiety.  Ryan laid out the events of the night Dede died, saying the Kaarmas attempted to watch the movie “Lincoln” after putting their infant to bed, but found the film to be too slow. The Kaarmas then went to the now notorious garage to smoke, then capped off the night with a soak in the hot tub in their back yard.

The defense attempted to build a case against premeditated murder by showing Kaarma’s erratic behavior on other occasions and noting various stressors in his life leading up to the night of the shooting. Other stressors include the theft of miscellaneous items, including drugs and drug paraphernalia (such as a bong and grinder). Kaarma also reported to police the theft of a cell phone and reported suspicious charges on his wife’s credit card. The defense asserted that after no apparent actions were taken by local police, Janelle purchased motion sensors for the garage. The defense also asserts that Markus hated the sensors and took them down from time to time, only to have Janelle replace them.

Although the Kaarmas did not know about it, the police department did assign an officer to their case; however, the officer was on vacation at the time and would not have started investigating until the 29th, two days after the shooting of Dede.

The defense also talked about events that took place on April 23, on which they claim Kaarma was so stressed he was losing sleep at night. The morning of the 23rd, Kaarma reportedly ran out of the house naked with a shotgun after hearing a sound. The sound turned out to be Kaarma’s wife leaving the house, but the defense used the event to show Kaarma’s state of mind in the days before Dede was shot.

April 23rd is also the day that Kaarma went to Great Clips for a haircut, a story that has been widely reported in media before the trial. The defense agrees that Kaarma made general threats at the hair salon toward whomever was robbing him, but they emphasized Kaarma’s stressed state of mind and commented that Kaarma is further stressed by haircuts and dislikes having his head being touched; a factor in his social anxiety. The Defense also attempted to make a preemptive strike against claims of erratic behavior on that day by admitting that Kaarma watched porn on his phone while waiting for his haircut in the presence of a teenager–alleging that the teen was sitting with his legs spread widely and Kaarma had been trying to get him to sit properly. The Defense says that Kaarma’s social anxiety, combined with stress and lack of sleep, caused him to attempt to resolve the situation in an awkward manner.

As far as “baiting” the garage is concerned, the defense argues that the wife was the one who placed a black purse in the garage–not to lure a robber in to be shot, but as a way for police to track a thief in the event that the purse was taken (by planting items that could be tracked). The defense also says that the wife was one who left the garage door open on the night of the shooting and that Markus was unaware that it was open until he went outside to investigate. The defense further asserts that this is not a case of baiting, but of targeting; that the Kaarma’s garage was targeted by teenaged burglars who had discovered that they could steal drugs from there.

In closing, the defense also alleged that the police investigation pursued the ‘baiting’ narrative, which they asserted was the creation of a neighbor with ties to Detective Guy Baker, rather than allowing a proper investigation to move forward.

The trial continues with witness testimony. Check back here for updates.

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