Richland murder suspect's attorney tries to get case dropped

Tri-City HeraldApril 22, 2014 

Young Trial Start

File photo: John C.I. Young, 19, of Richland walks into Benton County Superior Court for the beginning of his first-degree murder trial for the July 4 death of Joshua Snapp of Richland.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

The attorney for a 19-year-old Richland murder suspect tried to get the case dropped Tuesday afternoon, saying prosecutors failed to show his client had a role in the July 4 death of another teen.

John Crowley made the motion after Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller announced he was done calling witnesses in the trial of John C.I. Young.

Crowley argued that despite the efforts of Miller and Deputy Prosecutor Julie Long, the jury doesn't have enough evidence to convict Young of first-degree murder with a firearm or even find that he was an accomplice.

"We just think there's insufficient evidence and we ask the court to dismiss that charge," the Seattle lawyer said when the jury was out of the courtroom.

Miller responded that Young's own statement to Richland police reads like a definition for premeditated intent, as the teen explained a number of times how he had to cock the hammer on the revolver before pulling the trigger.

Young, 19, also admitted teaching co-defendant Joshua H. Hunt to use the gun before the two took Joshua Snapp to a remote location off Beardsley Road and killed him, Miller said.

Judge Bruce Spanner said he's "very much convinced" that sufficient evidence has been presented to the jury to support findings of premeditation and first-degree murder.

"It's undisputed on this record that Mr. Young shot Mr. Snapp," Spanner said. "It's undisputed that (Young) stood over him, that he shot him in the head, that he appreciated that the bullet hit him in the head, and that he did so after a relatively brief period of considering his actions."

Young is expected to take the stand today in his own defense.

Earlier Tuesday, the jury continued watching Young's recorded interview with police and heard Young admit to firing the final shot at Snapp before the 17-year-old died in the desert last summer.

Young initially denied pulling the trigger after the three teens finished smoking marijuana shortly after 6 a.m. July 4. But Detective Athena Clark was persistent in her interview, telling Young she knew he had good in him but that he got into trouble when he hung out with the wrong people.

Clark repeatedly said she didn't believe his story that Hunt shot Snapp three or four times and then handed the gun to Young as the two were walking back to the car.

"You guys got me," Young told Clark and Officer Jeff Bickford about two hours into the interview.

"I shot the last shot," Young added. The shot was to Snapp's head, he said.

Clark questioned if Hunt asked him to shoot.

"I was not going to let someone be alive or not alive," Young responded.

He talked a number of times about Snapp "twitching" on the ground, and said he had to fire the shot because "I couldn't watch him."

"I had to do it for my own sake. He didn't deserve it," Young said.

Family and friends of Snapp and Young were in the courtroom as the videotaped confession played, and several of them cried as they watched.

Spanner advised the jury that he's the one who ordered the five-hour DVD to be played in its entirety. The video included chunks of time when the room was empty or when no one was talking, like when Young slowly ate a fast-food burger.

Young told police that Snapp fell down after Hunt fired the first bullet into the victim's chest, then twice into his head before handing the gun to Young with a single shot left in it.

Young cried when he said, "I do not know if he felt it or he was already dead."

The shooting was not like watching a movie, he said, because shooting victims just drop to the ground in movies.

While jurors watched Young on the video begin to write out a lengthy statement for police, Young turned in his seat in the courtroom and briefly looked at Snapp's loved ones behind him.

Young had talked earlier in the taped interview about how difficult the shooting would be on the Snapp's family.

He explained that he smoked methamphetamine at a party the night before the shooting. He told Clark he felt kind of weird after smoking the meth because he'd done it only twice before, and still felt weird during the police interview.

Young admitted showing Hunt how to use the gun Hunt had gotten weeks before. He also said he knew that Hunt hated Snapp so much that he had talked about shooting him, but he didn't believe Hunt was serious.

"I thought it was just gangster talk," Young said.

Hunt, who turned 20 Monday, was convicted of second-degree murder in February and is serving more than 23 years in prison.

Young told Bickford and Clark that he wanted to join the Army, but knew that would no longer be possible after seeing Snapp die.

Before wrapping up the interview, Bickford asked Young if he realized he would be going to jail.

Young nodded, then said, "It will be nice if you guys can put me to work, make me be useful. I (don't want to) just sit there in jail and think about this s---. I need to do something."

"This is a stumble, man, it definitely is," Bickford told him. "But like I told you, it's not something that has to define you. Don't let it."

Crowley told the court he only has up to four witnesses, and should be done with his case by the end of today. That means the case could go to the jury Thursday after closing arguments.

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