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October 11, 2013

Jury deliberates in Beverly slaying

(Continued)

Buso suggested that it was the burly Vernazzaro who ignored warnings from friends not to get into a fight.

“Every one of them tried to dissuade him, and he would not be dissuaded,” Buso argued.

His client didn’t want to fight Vernazzaro, Buso said.

Buxton, meanwhile, pointed to testimony of witness Ray L’Italien, who, when he saw the baseball bat in Martin’s hand, warned the teens “If you hit someone in the head with that you could kill him.”

“That’s the idea,” Christensen allegedly told L’Italien, the prosecutor reminded jurors.

“That night, Sage Christensen didn’t care about the consequences of his actions,” said Buxton.

“They had a plan,” Buxton said, describing how both teens went back to the Blaine House group home where they lived to get the weapons.

The jury deliberated for about 31/2 hours yesterday afternoon before being sent home for the day.

The jury is being asked to consider first- and second-degree murder as well as manslaughter. Prosecutors lost one avenue for a first-degree conviction, however, through an oversight by Judge Howard Whitehead, who had missed the prosecutor’s request for an instruction on the theory of “extreme atrocity or cruelty.”

That is one of the available theories under which a jury can find someone guilty of first-degree murder. Premeditation is another. (The third is when a murder occurs during the commission of a felony, which did not apply to this case).

The omission by the judge was not discovered until nearly the conclusion of the jury instructions, and after both sides had made their closing arguments. Buso had not addressed the issue of extreme cruelty or atrocity in his closing, leading Whitehead to suggest that the remedy for the error was to let Buso re-open his closing argument for a few minutes.

But Buxton then decided to waive the issue, allowing the jury to consider only the theory of deliberate premeditation on the first-degree charge.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.

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