Jurors deliberating Young's role in July 4 fatal shooting

April 24, 2014 

Young Trial Start

April 17, 2014 - John C.I. Young, 19, of Richland, walks into Benton County Superior Court on Wednesday morning for the opening statements in his first-degree murder trial for the July 4 death of Joshua Snapp of Richland.

BOB BRAWDY — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

— John C.I. Young is a sensitive, respectful, good-hearted young man who looks out for people and protects them, his attorney said Thursday.

The night of July 3, he was, like most 18-year-olds, feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders as he thought about his future.

He went out with friends and later dropped in at a house party, but there never was a “grand plan” to kill Joshua Snapp and any talk about it was just “idle conversation,” John Crowley told a jury in Benton County Superior Court.

A decent kid like Young doesn’t “step out of character and then begin to plan a murder and then murder someone. They don’t do that,” Crowley said.

Benton County Deputy Prosecutor Julie Long questioned how Crowley would define a plan.

“When you sit in a vehicle and talk about how many bullets you need, where you’re going to kill him, why you’re going to kill him, if you need a pillow to muffle the sound of gunshots, it sounds like a plan for murder,” she argued. Young admitted to Richland investigators that he fired the last shot at Snapp in the desert the morning of July 4.

Then, Young and Joshua H. Hunt “left Josh (Snapp) like a piece of garbage on that berm,” with Young clearly running things as he told Hunt they needed to get out of there and directing him to drive to Benton City, Long said.

“The defense says (Young) is a protector, but who didn’t he protect that we know? Joshua Snapp. He didn’t protect him,” she said.

The prosecution and defense made impassioned pleas to the jury Thursday as they tried to sum up five days of testimony.

Young, 19, is on trial for first-degree murder with a firearm. The charge alleges premeditated intent.

The case was handed to the panel of four women and eight men just after 1 p.m. Thursday.

Jurors took a lunch break, then met for 21⁄2 hours before calling it a day. Deliberations resume Friday morning.

They were given the option of considering second-degree murder if they believe Young played a role in the actual death, but it wasn’t premeditated.

Hunt, 20, was convicted in February and is serving 23 years in prison for second-degree murder.

The three young men went to the remote spot near Horn Rapids to smoke methamphetamine. But once they got out there, Hunt and Young reportedly announced they didn’t have any, so the trio smoked marijuana.

Hunt believed Snapp was a thief and had told friends the day before that he was going to kill Snapp because he hated him.

Young admitted teaching Hunt how to use the five-shot revolver, but said he was shocked when Hunt shot Snapp.

Young claimed in his videotaped interview with police that he was afraid the gun would be turned on him, so he took it when Hunt handed it to him. There was one bullet left and, because Young couldn’t stand watching the wounded Snapp on the ground, he shot at Snapp’s head. Snapp, 17, died from three gunshot wounds, one to the chest and two in the head.

Crowley, a Seattle lawyer hired by Young’s family, said prosecutors made it sound like the suspects were “marching (Snapp) up to his death,” when they really went to smoke some pot.

He said Young didn’t know that his friend’s emotions would suddenly boil over. He had no control over what Hunt did next and then he just froze, he said.

“Not one piece of evidence shows John Young ever believed it was going to happen until BOOM. BOOM BOOM,” Crowley shouted, referring to what the defense said were quick shots fired by Hunt.

“If this person believed that Josh Snapp was going to be killed, everything that you know about him, everything that police know about him would cause this person to stop what was happening,” the lawyer said, standing behind Young with his hand on the teen’s shoulder. “If he had known that was coming, this fellow’s character would have stopped it.”

The attorney argued that neither Young nor anyone else will ever know if the bullet fired by him “hit the target.”

“He’s no more responsible for shooting Josh than the manufacturer of the gun. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” Crowley said. “The combination of anger and a gun are bad, very bad.”

Miller wondered if Snapp would be alive today had Young never shown the inexperienced Hunt how to shoot.

He reminded jurors that Young had told a fellow party-goer he thought Snapp was a snitch and he was “going to do something about it.”

Even if the jury wants to discount everything leading up to that morning in the desert and give Young the benefit of doubt, Miller said, the second he pointed the revolver, cocked the hammer and squeezed the trigger, it became premeditated.

Young then concocted a scheme to put 100 percent of the blame on Hunt by pretending he was only a witness, and asking a convenience store clerk to call for help because he was too scared of Hunt, prosecutors said.

Long closed by noting how the defense painted Young as a person concerned about other people, but said he could have saved Snapp’s life if he’d immediately called 911 after the first shot to the chest.

“The humane thing would have been not to walk up and shoot Josh in the head while he’s twitching on the ground, and to make sure that he’s not moving before you leave that area,” Long said. “The defendant is not a humanitarian; he is a murderer. He fired the last shot and the most fatal shot, and he did it while looking at Josh.”

-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 582-1531; kkraemer@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer

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