After deliberating roughly two hours, a Washington County jury found a Cadet man not guilty of charges related to the shooting death of his son-in-law.
Martin Gorse, 49, of Cadet, had been charged with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the April 29, 2012 shooting death of 31-year-old Ronald Coleman Jr.
The jury, which consisted of 12 women, were given five options in their jury instructions. If jurors didn't find the man guilty of first-degree murder, they had to consider second-degree murder and then voluntary manslaughter, followed by first-degree or second-degree involuntary manslaughter. The jury didn't find him guilty of any of those charges.
The trial was actually Gorse's second on these charges. A trial in April of 2013 resulted in a hung jury. After the first trial he hired a new attorney, Scott Rosenblum of St. Louis.
During the two-day trial Tuesday and Wednesday, Rosenblum maintained to jurors that this was not a murder case of any kind.
"It is and always has been a self-defense case," he told the jury.
Prosecuting Attorney Josh Hedgecorth, however, told jurors, that Gorse acted with deliberation when he shot and killed Coleman in an act that was not self defense.
Like the trial in 2013, Gorse and his daughter, Jessica Coleman, provided differing testimony on what led to the shooting.
They both agree that his son-in-law became upset when Gorse started asking him about getting a job. They agree as the argument escalated, Gorse asked Coleman to leave. They also agree that Gorse pulled a Colt 45 and shot Coleman.
Jessica said she was getting her husband to leave when Gorse jumped out of his chair and headed toward the door. She said she tried to stop Gorse from going toward the door but Gorse picked her up by her collar and threw her down. She landed on her butt. She said her husband told Gorse, "Don't touch my wife!"
She said it was then her father pulled a gun. She said she closed her eyes and heard a pop and then saw her husband stumbling.
Jessica said when she asked why Gorse shot her husband, Gorse said it was because Coleman was always hurting her and the boys.
Rosenblum criticized Jessica's inconsistent prior testimonies from past hearings, depositions and the first trial regarding what she witnessed, how soon the gun went off and whether her husband had a bad temper. He argued the testimony has varied from the gun going off after a split second to up to 15 seconds later.
Gorse testified Coleman had a reputation in the community for being violent. He said Coleman had bragged in the past about being a black belt in martial arts. Coleman's mother would later tell jurors that he had only taken a martial arts class when he was 11.
Gorse said Coleman was cussing him and was not leaving even though Gorse told him to leave and Jessica was trying to get him out the door.
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He said he heard the door open and then slam with Coleman coming back inside, cussing and saying he was going to whip Gorse's butt.
Gorse said that was when he got out of his chair and told Coleman again to leave. He said Jessica was moving toward Gorse, wanting him to go the other way.
While he had initially told police he “pushed” Jessica, on the stand this time Gorse said he sidestepped Jessica and she fell after getting her feet tangled. He said he didn't throw her.
He said she was facing the other direction where she couldn't see what happened after that. He said he pulled a gun and told Coleman again to leave. He believed if Coleman saw the gun he would go outside.
Gorse said instead, Coleman had his hands over his head trying to provoke Gorse. He said Coleman took a fighting stance and said, "Come on, I'll **** you up."
He said Coleman came toward him. He indicated Coleman tried to get the gun but couldn't say if he made contact with the gun. He said he saw Coleman's hand go into his right pocket and assumed it was for a weapon. Gorse said he leaned back and the gun "went off." Evidence shows there was about two feet between the barrel of the gun and Coleman when the revolver fired.
A pocket knife was later found in Coleman's possession but it was still clipped to his clothing. He didn't have any other weapons on him.
Gorse said he felt shooting him was the only choice he had. He said he was very scared that Coleman was going to kill him.
On the day of the shooting, Gorse told police that he shot Coleman in self defense, fearing Coleman was going to kill him with his “bare hands.”
Hedgecorth argued that Gorse's story was the one that varied and he had three years to concoct a story with his attorney. He said Gorse was the aggressor and Coleman was the only one who got hurt. He said Coleman didn't touch Gorse.
Hedgecorth argued it is unreasonable to shoot someone because a person is bigger and walking angrily toward you.
Hedgecorth said Gorse had no right to push Jessica and then shoot her husband when he turned around to check on her. “That is murder,” he said.
He stressed that Jessica had no reason to lie because she had nothing to gain. If he had been found guilty of first-degree murder, her father would have been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
More than two dozen friends and family members attended the two-day jury trial for Gorse. Friends of Gorse described him as a man who would do anything for anybody.
Gorse's daughter, Jessica, seated with her husband's family and friends, broke down in tears when the jury verdict was read.