For the second time in two years, prosecutors tried to convince a Muscogee County Superior Court jury that Kareem Lane fatally stabbed Jim Burns to death in the then-school superintendent's Historic District home.
Lane's fate now rests with a jury of seven blacks and five whites that deliberated for less 10 minutes late Thursday afternoon before going home. Deliberations will resume at 9 a.m. today. They are considering two murder charges against Lane that could put him in prison for the remainder of his life.
The stage was set with four hours of arguments that were at times heated, emotional and passionate.
Slater told the jury that there was no doubt Lane -- a 17-year-old Shaw High junior at the time of the October 19, 1992 slaying -- was the intruder who killed Burns. Defense attorney Stacey Jackson argued that the state, which carries the burden of proof, had failed to prove it.
"How do we know we got the right guy?" Slater asked the court.
She then outlined evidence that she claims puts Lane in the home the night Burns was killed. It included Lane's truck one street over at the time of the slaying, a shoe print left inside the Burns home, a wall smudge from Lane's gloves, and the knife that was found at the scene. A sheath the knife fit into was found in Lane's truck when he was stopped by police on Macon Road minutes after a 911 call reported Burns' stabbing.
"This is a perfect fit," Slater said as she slid the knife into the sheath. "The taper is exactly the same on the knife and the sheath."
Defense attorney Stacey Jackson was adamant the state had failed to prove its case against Lane for the second time. The first trial two years ago ended in a deadlocked jury with 10 of the 12 jurors favoring Lane's acquittal.
"There is no proof Kareem Lane ever entered the house of Mr. and Mrs. Burns," Jackson said. "There is no difference in the evidence in 1992 and 2014. The DNA was inconclusive. No charges were filed in 1992."
Lane was not arrested until May 2010, almost 18 years after the slaying.
Assistant District Attorney George Lipscomb tried early in the closing arguments to counter the fact that the state's case was built solely on circumstantial evidence.
"Don't be confused by the sideshow," Lipscomb said before Jackson ever got up to argue. "We know he is guilty. ... The defense will lead you to believe that direct evidence is more important that circumstantial evidence. It is not."
Jackson, moving rapidly in and out of his points during his two hours of arguments, pounded away on several points:
Lane was detained by police for nearly 12 hours the day the slaying, but was never arrested.
"They allowed him to drive home," Jackson yelled in a high-pitched voice.
Lane gave the clothes he was wearing that night to police during a search three days later. The prosecution, during the trial, pointed out the clothes had been folded and cleaned.
"If he was a cold-blooded killer, do you think he would be dumb enough to give them the clothes back?" Jackson asked the jury.
A key, found in the Burns' front door and left under the door mat, was not tested for DNA evidence. Jackson took an envelope containing the key and held it up high for the jury to see.
"Why did they not send the key to be tested?" Jackson asked. "All these brilliant minds and nobody thought about sending the key up to be tested?"
Those questions alone, he told the jury, constituted reasonable doubt, the standard by which the jury can acquit his client.
Slater later contended that the defense's lone witness, DNA expert Thomas Fedor, a forensic DNA expert formerly with the Serological Research Institute in Richmond, Calif., was the counter to Jackson's argument about the key. Fedor said during testimony earlier this week about the knife that a person's DNA would not be found on an object if he were wearing gloves.
"The defense's own expert is their undoing in their favorite argument," Slater said.
Jackson and Lipscomb clashed near the end of Jackson's argument.
Jackson began telling a story about someone who was wrongly accused of a crime. Lipscomb objected, asking if it was a true story. Jackson said it was and continued.
Less than a minute later, Jackson revealed to the jury that it was a personal story. Lipscomb appeared to pound the prosecution table and screamed, "This is outrageous!" as he objected again.
Jackson continued, but the judge urged him to move along, and the attorney didn't appear to finish his story.
Near the end of his closing, Jackson gave Slater fodder for her emotional final argument.
"When you take someone away from their family, it is your burden of truth," Jackson said, as Lane's wife sat on the second row not far behind her husband.
When it was her turn, Slater set the scene in Burns' upstairs bedroom at 620 Broadway before he was stabbed. He and his wife had just returned home from a weekend in the mountains.
"One of the last things Stella Burns does with her husband is show him an outfit she bought in the mountains," Slater told the jury.
She then described the stabbing and Burns' chase of the assailant down the stairs and to the door frame of the historic home.
On cue, Slater played the 911 call from a frantic Stella Burns that night.
Stella Burns Butler sat on the front row crying as her words from 22 years ago filled the ninth-floor Government Center courtroom.
One of Burns' grown daughters sobbed as LaRae Moore, former assistant district attorney and the lead prosecutor in the 2012 murder trial, rubbed her back in an attempt to console her.
"We have heard a lot about Kareem Lane's rights," Slater said as she pointed toward Stella Burns. "What about the rights of that family -- the Burns family?"
Shortly after the 911 tape finished, Slater appeared to finish her argument. As she returned to the prosecution table, she turned and asked Peters for a few more minutes.
She brought out a life-sized dummy that was dressed in the jogging suit Lane was wearing the night of the murder. Slater then took a gray T-shirt that was recovered from Lane and tied it on the dummy's head as if it were a mask.
"That is exactly what Kareem Lane looked like on that night," Slater told the jury.
Peters gave the jury a break, then brought them back into the courtroom where his final instructions to them were played on a 28-minute video he had recorded during the lunch break.