The jury in the Victor Gantt death penalty trial has begun deliberating whether
he deserves the death penalty or life in prison, for murdering 75-year-old
Leroy Jones in his Middletown home last May.
The prosecutors and defense delivered closing statements Thursday morning on
the 7th day of the Butler County trial. Brandishing the rusty-looking hand ax
Gantt used to kill Jones, Assistant Prosecutor Brad Burress told the jury they
have a “grand” responsibility.
“When you go back in that jury room no one else is going to be with you to tell
you about things like compassion, sympathy, tears, emotion,” he said. “Jurors
it’s very easy to be swayed by concepts like that. And if you let those
emotions grab hold of you justice will not be served in this case.”
The jury of 6 men and 6 women found Gantt guilty of aggravated murder,
aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and tampering with evidence last week
in Butler County and are now charged with recommending a sentence. The death
penalty is one of their choices.
The jurors began deliberating at 11:55 a.m. and will be sequestered tonight if
they don’t reach a verdict. ?Burress went on to carefully lay out how Gantt,
26, smashed through a French door with an ax at the Jones home last May, struck
Jones six times in the head and then trashed the house. Gantt tried to burn the
house down to cover his crime by piling items on the kitchen stove and turning
on all four burners. All Gantt took from the house was $150 in pocket
change.?Defense attorney Melinda Cook reminded the jurors it only takes one of
them to preclude the death penalty. The jurors can recommend a sentence of life
in prison with parole eligibility after 25 or 30 years or life without
parole.?She discussed, as his family members have testified all week what a
miserable life Gantt was dealt, with a mother who abandoned him at birth and a
tyrannical and abusive father. She also talked at length about medical records
from various hospitals Gantt was taken to through the years for drug induced
The defense team didn’t call any witnesses in the first phase of the trial so
the jury hadn’t heard this information before. But the records were put into
evidence on Wednesday.
She reminded the jury that Gantt’s family members all said he was acting
“crazy” in the days leading up to May 2, which they say is his particular
reaction to marijuana.?“Do we have any evidence he was on marijuana, do we have
any direct evidence he was not on marijuana,” she said. “His whole family is
telling you what was going on with him in the days before. He’s up, he’s down,
he’s being saved (by God). The next day he’s back to the same thing. Tracing
his finger on a window, growling at family members.”?Prosecutor Mike Gmoser had
the last word during closing arguments, he told the jury he’d give them “a
little scientific CSI” stuff and proceeded to pull the aluminum bat Gantt said
Jones struck him with out of its evidence bag. Photos showed a dribble of blood
trailing down the bat. He said that blood couldn’t stream that way if it was in
Jones’ hand.?Gantt’s brother testified Wednesday that his baby brother didn’t
mean to kill Jones. Gmoser said the defendant’s own words belie that assertion.
Gantt in his confession said he hit Jones with the ax twice in the head, Jones
hit a brick wall and slid down. There were six ax wounds in Jones’ head.?
(source: Dayton Daily News)