Attorneys made their final pitches to the jury today in the trial of Jamaal Freeman, accused of killing and robbing Kingfield resident and father of four Mark Loesch Sept. 12, 2007 in south Minneapolis.
The jury started deliberating at noon and continued until 8 p.m. without reaching a verdict. They will continue deliberations today.
The case involved no physical clues or forensic evidence. Attorneys relied solely on witness testimony — much of it from incarcerated individuals with substantial criminal histories.
Attorneys on each side made dramatic cases for who was lying and who was telling the real story.
“The state did not pick these witnesses,” said Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Therese Galatowitsch during her closing statement. “The defendant did.”
Freeman and co-defendant Donald Jackson, who pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery a year ago for his role in the crime, were arrested months after the murder when tipsters and a police informant shared information with investigators. Galatowitsch has said the weight of the crime haunted the defendants and led them to start talking about it in the neighborhood.
She told the jury not to let Freeman off the hook because of a lack of physical evidence.
“He shouldn’t be able to get a pass on murder because the only evidence is witness testimony,” she said.
Jackson was a key witness, testifying that he was selling marijuana outside Cup Foods near 38th Street and Chicago Avenue when Loesch, who had a history of substance abuse, approached him on a bike looking for $40 worth of crack. Jackson said he didn’t have the drug and sent Loesch on his way.
Then Freeman, with whom Jackson had made plans to go out with that night, came out to buy a burger at Cup Foods. Jackson said he told him about the cyclist and Freeman hatched a robbery plan.
Jackson, who had been recently released from a robbery-related prison stay, said Freeman asked him several times to help with the crime before he reluctantly agreed.
Jackson said Freeman led the cyclist into the front yard of then 12-year-old “Little” Kevin Dickerson, where he picked up a bat, beat Loesch and took the $40. Jackson contends he watched from behind a bush on the side of the house.
The two met up later and went to a strip club Downtown.
“It’s hard to stomach, ladies and gentleman of the jury. One precious, irreplaceable life for $40,” Galatowitsch said.
She said the truth was in the details of Jackson’s testimony. He didn’t need money because he made more than $100 selling pot that night, she said. He also said Loesch was hit three times in the chest, when he was actually hit four times in the head. His account of the attack would have been more accurate if he was the one wielding the bat, Galatowitsch said.
Former police informant David Tyus, who claimed to be a friend of Freeman’s, corroborated Jackson’s story, including a detail about the murder weapon — a red bat that matched the description of one gone missing from Dickerson’s yard. But Galatowitsch said the bat was made of wood, which didn’t fit with part of Jackson’s testimony.
Defense attorney Emmett Donnelly said in his closing statement that Jackson heard the bat’s ping as Freeman swung it. A wooden bat doesn’t make that sound, he argued. Donnelly said the more probable murder weapon was an aluminum T-ball bat recovered from Jackson’s uncle’s car in the neighborhood.
That bat had Jackson’s DNA on it, but not Loesch’s or Freeman’s.
Donnelly also played up Jackson’s brother-like relationship with Dickerson, who found Loesch’s body, and his close affiliations with the Bloods gang. Police informant David Tyus, who was involved with the gang, testified that Freeman confessed the crime to him.
The defense also called an incarcerated high-ranking Bloods member to testify in closed court May 19. The testimony from that session hasn’t been made public.
Donnelly called out Jackson, Tyus and Dickerson — who Jackson said was an aspiring Blood — as a group of liars using Freeman as a scapegoat for the murder. Tyus, who was paid for his information as an informant, is now in prison for robbery and Dickerson is on probation. The nature of Dickerson’s crime has not been made public because he is a juvenile.
Galatowitsch said the "gang conspiracy theory" made no sense because Tyus also provided information on Jackson’s possible connection to the crime, including the location of the aluminum bat.
"It was his good work that brought two murderers off the street," she said.
The jury will be sequestered until a verdict is reached.