Prosecutors and defense attorneys on Monday began making their cases – for the second time – on whether Christopher Moore committed murder when he fatally shot Chester City Councilman Odell Williams in 2014.
Moore, 19, was tried in April on charges of murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime, but the jury failed to reach a verdict, forcing a mistrial.
Williams, 69, was shot in the head while chasing a pickup truck carrying the five co-defendants the night of Nov. 4, 2014. Prosecutors have said Moore was lying in wait at the entrance to Roundtree Circle in Chester, waiting to ambush the city councilman and retired police officer as he turned onto the road.
Moore’s attorney maintains that Moore shot Williams in self defense after Williams chased the truck through town and fired his revolver at the men first.
Williams followed the truck after his wife, who lives on Featherstone Road, called and told him about a suspicious vehicle parked near his business, according to testimony from the last trial. Some of Moore’s co-defendants testified that they parked on Featherstone to rob a home on Holmes Road, but the robbery attempt fell through because the occupants weren’t home.
“We very happily accept that we have a reasonable-doubt burden,” Deputy Solicitor Julie Hall told the jurors during opening statements. “Malice can develop in an instant of a second.”
Hall explained the charges to the new jury and laid out the events leading up to the fatal shooting, including the chase through the city of Chester.
“At some point, (Moore) decides to leave the safety of that vehicle, roll out of that car and shoot Mr. Williams with this gun,” she said, holding up the rifle Moore used in the killing. “I would submit to you that once you’ve heard all the evidence from the witness stand and the physical things that are put in, you will have no choice but to find him guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, of both murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.”
Moore’s attorney, Deputy 6th Circuit Public Defender William Frick, said Hall didn’t mention that murder is the unlawful killing of someone with malice aforethought, rather than just the killing of someone with malice aforethought.
“What that means is, if somebody’s chasing you, shooting at you, you’re trying to get away from them and they’re still trying to shoot you, you can shoot them,” he said. “And it doesn’t make a bit of difference whether you’ve got a .22 pistol or you’ve got this rifle. ... The state can stand up here and show you this gun all they want to and go, ‘Oh, look at this big ole gun. Doesn’t that scare you?’ That has nothing to do with whether or not Christopher Moore was within his right of defending himself.”
Moore admitted in court two months ago that he shot Williams. Frick said Monday that it’s not a question of who did it, but rather why they did it.
“No one was gonna do anything to Odell Williams,” he said. “It was Odell who decided to follow somebody and chase them.”
The state began calling witnesses Monday afternoon and was expected to continue presenting witnesses Tuesday.
The case is again being tried in Fairfield County because a judge ruled previously that there had been too much media coverage of the killing to give Moore a fair trial in Chester County.