Deliberations begin in Florida school shooting trial
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) – Jurors began deliberations Monday in the first-degree murder trial of a 14-year-old boy accused of gunning down his English teacher in a fit of rage last year.
Nathaniel Brazill was charged as an adult and could be sentenced to life in prison without parole if convicted. The jury may also consider lesser charges, including second-degree murder and manslaughter.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Marc Shiner said Brazill intentionally killed Barry Grunow, 35, after the teacher rejected the boy’s request to speak with two girls in his class.
Shiner said Brazill admitted he got a gun from home, returned to school with the weapon in his pocket, took it out and pulled the slide to put a bullet in the gun’s chamber.
The teen-ager even admitted he pulled the trigger, Shiner said.
”He told you he did every single thing intentionally in this case up until the moment of truth when he pulled the trigger,” said Shiner, who clutched the silver handgun as he sat in the witness box to imitate some of the boy’s testimony last week.
The defense has argued that the shooting on the last day of school was an accident.
”He didn’t intend to harm Mr. Grunow – that’s ludicrous. And he certainly didn’t intend to kill him,” said defense attorney Robert Udell, calling it an act of manslaughter.
Brazill was 13 when he shot Grunow in the doorway of the teacher’s Lake Worth Middle School classroom. The boy had earlier been sent home by a school counselor for throwing a water balloon but returned in hopes of speaking to the girls in Grunow’s class.
Shiner said the teen-ager was enamored with one of the girls and became enraged when Grunow ruined his last chance to speak to her before the summer break.
He said Brazill felt in control with the gun, which the teen had stolen from his grandfather’s house a week earlier.
”I’m going to show those girls that I’m a big man and maybe they should go out with me,” Shiner said, depicting what he said was the boy’s attitude. ”I’m Nate Brazill. I have a gun.”
He added: ”When Mr. Grunow said ‘no,’ everything came to a tumultuous end for this defendant.”
During the trial, the jury watched a surveillance-camera video of the shooting and Brazill’s police statement in which he cried when he learned his favorite teacher was dead.
Brazill testified that the gun went off unintentionally. He conceded that he got mad when Grunow didn’t take him seriously, but he said he pulled the hammer back on the .25-caliber pistol only to scare the teacher. He also said he thought the gun’s safety was on.
To return a first-degree murder verdict, the jury must find that the killing was premeditated or, if not intentional, was a ”felony murder” committed during a burglary. Prosecutors said Brazill was on campus illegally because of the suspension.
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