Murder Case Parallels Zimmerman, Except in Verdict

The jury in a Wisconsin case that is drawing comparison to the Zimmerman trial announced its verdict Wednesday. After an hour of deliberation, John Henry Spooner, a 76-year-old white male, was found guilty of first-degree intentional homicide for fatally shooting Darius Simmons, his 13-year-old black neighbor.

Surveillance video from Spooner's own security cameras show him confronting Simmons on the sidewalk in May 2012, pointing a gun at him from about six feet away, and shooting him. He suspected the teenager of breaking into his home and stealing guns. When Simmons denied stealing anything, Spooner shot him in the chest as Simmons' mother watched, according to the criminal complaint.

When officers showed up on the scene, they experienced no difficulty arresting Spooner, who was pacing back and forth on the sidewalk. (They also forced Simmons' grieving mother, Patricia Larry, to sit in a squad car for more than an hour, instead of letting her hold her dying son, or join him at the hospital.) They searched her home for the the allegedly stolen weapons — which were not found — and arrested another one of her sons on a year-old truancy violation.

The case is now moving into its second phase. Spooner entered two pleas to the homicide charge, not guilty, and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. The second phase will determine whether he was mentally competent at the time of the murder, and whether Spooner spends the rest of his life in jail — or in a mental institution.

Spooner's legal team is actually using violent episodes from Spooner's past in his defense. Spooner once didn't want a kitten his daughter brought home, so he took it tot he basement and killed it. He also used to choke and beat his late wife.

Dr. Basil Jackson, the psychiatrist hired by the defense, argued that these episodes demonstrate Spooner's mental illness. Jackson said that in the moment of the shooting, Spooner was "not able to make a judgment as to good and bad. It was like he was on autopilot," mentally unaccountable for his actions.

Assistant District Attorney Mark Williams told jurors Spooner considered the shooting carefully, telling medical examiners long after his supposed momentary mental illness would have affected him that it was, "an even trade — killing the boy for the guns."

The guns that, you know, weren't found in Simmons' home.