WADENA COUNTY COURTHOUSE-Jurors headed for deliberations after hearing closing arguments Friday morning and after the defendant admitted guilt to a portion of the seven charges against him in the trial of the State vs. Antonio E. St. Marie.
Prior to closing arguments, Judge Robert Raupp brought up issues from Thursday including a request to add an option within the charges. The decision was made that evidence provided rationale to include options of lesser charges. The lesser offense option provided to the jury for murder in the first degree was manslaughter and it also allowed the option of false imprisonment as the lesser charge to kidnapping. Both options, as well as all elements of those charges, were outlined to the jury before they moved into deliberations.
St. Marie admitted Friday morning he was guilty of possessing a pistol he was prohibited from having; that he was guilty of manslaughter of Margaret St. Marie and; that he was guilty of false imprisonment of James Flath Jr. Prior to Friday, he pleaded not guilty to all charges.
In closing arguments, prosecution had the first opportunity to speak. Miller brought up numerous pieces of evidence to again try to prove the State's charges against St. Marie. The first image brought forth was that of Margaret St. Marie, deceased on the couch, in her apartment on Nov. 7, 2016.
"It's been proven Antonio St. Marie killed Margaret St. Marie - he admitted to killing her," Miller said.
Miller showed another image of the placement of the bullet casing next to the body, and used supporting evidence to describe where the shooter was when he shot her - standing over her. That argument was counter to the testimony of the defendant, who said that he was seated next to her on the couch when he shot her.
Miller suggested the jury start deliberations by looking at the charge of second degree murder. Miller suggested that the murder of Margaret was intentional, he said the evidence was "overwhelming" in fact.
The jury has to see that Antonio was acting with purpose, that he not only killed her, but that he planned to kill her. While there is no certain time limit to planning in which a murder can be labeled as premeditated, it has to be proven that the action was not a spontaneous action.
"He fired the gun knowing the result," Miller said.
Miller spoke further on the idea that the murder was premeditated, indicating that he not only planned to take his own life, he planned to take the life of a man from Perham who allegedly had an affair with his wife and he planned and followed through with killing his wife.
Miller spoke about the evidence which he believes points to kidnapping. He described the testimony of James Flath Jr., the victim's brother who showed up at the apartment while the couple was arguing. Flath testified that Antonio had a gun, that Antonio took his phone at one point and that he threatened him that if he ran, he would kill his sister and her kids.
"I submit that the atmosphere was more than tense, it was criminal," Miller said.
Miller argued that Flath Jr. was confined and threatened, that Margaret, by all accounts, never moved from her position on the couch while Flath was on scene. Flath indicated that he wanted to get out with Margaret but felt threatened to do so.
Next Miller brought up the evidence of premeditation by showing the image of the mattress, which Antonio shot a bullet through to test out the gun.
"He was making sure he could use it," Miller said.
He reminded jurors about the Facebook post, using 33 angry-faced emojis, indicating he was angry.
"His mindset is violence," Miller said.
Miller then presented the timeline of events showing that while Antonio was talking with his mother about making things right, he was also looking for a gun.
"It's apparent he can indicate one thing to one person but be thinking something else," Miller said.
Miller showed evidence and recalled testimony indicating past domestic abuse not only against Margaret but also others.
Miller again pushed the point that evidence showed Antonio planned to murder his wife.
"His plan always incorporated the murder of Margaret St. Marie," Miller said.
Taking a phrase from the evidence, Miller said, "He wanted someone else to share the pain he had inside."
Defense closing argument
The defense closing argument was done by defense attorney Malcolm Whynott and focused on the points that Antonio was making plans to "make things right", which involved hurting a man his wife had an affair with and plans to kill himself.
"'To Margaret and my kids,' that's how he starts his suicide note he wrote from prison," Whynott said.
Whynott admitted that Antonio pushing his wife on Nov. 2, 2016 was inexcusable. He said that push was his reaction after finding out she had an affair. Whynott said Antonio then left, but returned knowing he was in trouble and knowing there was a police officer there.
Whynott described the thoughts going through Antonio's head. He wanted to make things right. In his note he tells his wife and kids he is sorry.
Whynott reminded jurors that Antonio had a troubled start, moving from placement to placement before being adopted. He often thought about suicide, he's dealt with alcoholism. In the last few years, he lost not only the father that adopted him, but he lost his sister to a murder, two very stable people in his life.
"There was never a plan to harm Margaret," Whynott repeated. "The goal was to find "Zach" (the person he believed Margaret had an affair with) and harm him."
"You don't write a suicide note to the person you're planning on killing," Whynott told the jury.
And why would he tell his mom he planned to divorce his wife the same day that he killed her, Whynott posed.
Whynott took the jurors back to the argument between Margaret and Antonio. He reminded jurors that Antonio was there despite a no contact order, but according to Antonio, she sought to give him a hug. Whynott noted that Margaret wanted to alter the no contact order to allow Antonio to see his kids. Whynott said Antonio was there to take Margaret to go find "Zach." But as Antonio started drinking alcohol, as no babysitter could be found and as James Flath Jr. appeared, the plan was falling apart.
The defendant's testimony was that Margaret did not regret her alleged affair. And in an instant, Antonio killed her and sought multiple ways to then kill himself.
Whynott asked jurors to mark the guilty box on their verdict form next to Count 1 manslaughter, next to Count 8-the false imprisonment of James Flath Jr., and next to Count 9-the charge of possessing a pistol he was prohibited from having. He suggested they check not guilty for counts 5, 6 and 7.
Jurors were to select a fore person to present a unanimous verdict. A verdict could happen today, but jurors would be sequestered for deliberations into Saturday if needed.