Fairman's fate in hands of jury
The fate of a northern Indiana County man accused in the shooting death of his father-in-law was placed in the hands of jury late this morning in Indiana County Court.
They’re deliberating homicide and other charges against Shaun Casey Fairman, 33, of Washington Township.
Many of the facts about the killing are uncontested: Fairman was armed with a .30-06 caliber rifle and a .45-caliber revolver at 12:24 a.m. June 3 when he arrived at his former home along Route 210 in North Mahoning Township, where his estranged wife resided with their four children.
In the wake of the couple’s separation and Jessica Fairman’s divorce filing, her parents planned to stay the night, expecting possible trouble from him.
Fairman tried to get in the kitchen door but Richard Shotts confronted him at the window. They argued briefly and traded gunfire, and Shotts suffered a fatal wound of his neck.
The jury has to decide Fairman’s mental state at the moment of the shooting and decide whether to acquit him of charges, or decide which level of guilt in a conviction.
Defense attorney Robert Dougherty told the jury in a closing statement this morning that prosecutors selectively gave the facts about the case.
“They don’t want you to know it was dark in the kitchen and curtains were hanging on the window,” Dougherty said.
Fairman testified that he pointed the .45 into the window and fired a shot in response to Shotts having fired first.
Dougherty said prosecutors made little of the bullet hole in the interior wall next to the window as evidence that Shotts aimed at Fairman.
And he asked the jury to downplay the testimony of Dr. Neil Blumberg, a psychiatrist employed by the district attorney’s office, who said Fairman knew what he was doing and not mentally impaired at the time of the shooting.
“He told you how Shaun identified the gun Dick Shotts had, that it was a semiautomatic pistol,” Dougherty said. “It wasn’t. It was a revolver. That’s how cognizant Shaun was.
“He can’t even get his facts right.”
Fairman’s defense is centered on his bout of depressing and repeated threats to commit suicide in the weeks leading up to the shooting. When he testified Wednesday, Fairman said his intent in going to the house in violation of a protection-from-abuse order was to talk to his wife and to kill himself in her presence.
Assistant District Attorney Pamela Miller told the jury that Fairman had formed another plan after receiving a notice of the divorce suit in the mail June 2.
“You have a picture of a very angry man, and he got angrier as the day went on,” Miller said. “The divorce papers included economics claims. That further ramped him up.
“So he puts this big plan in motion.”
Fairman bought the rifle at Byler’s Harness Shop near Smicksburg and haggled over the price.
“Is that the plan of someone who wants to commit suicide?” Miller said.
Later, Fairman obtained the handgun from a friend, William Troup. He testified Wednesday that he decided suicide with a handgun would be easier than with a rifle.
He carried both loaded guns to his wife’s residence.
“If he just wanted to talk, if he wanted to commit suicide, why not just one gun with one bullet?” said Miller.
The lawyers spent less time on closing arguments than in many other previous murder trials in Indiana County Court: Dougherty summed up his case in 13 minutes; Miller spoke for 19 minutes.
Judge William Martin told the jurors they could find Fairman not guilty, guilty, or guilty but mentally ill in the case. The panel is required to reach a unanimous decision on whether first-degree murder, second-degree murder, third-degree murder or involuntary manslaughter would be the appropriate count if they decide he is guilty.
But they also are being asked to consider whether “diminished capacity” or “voluntary intoxication” prevented Fairman from forming a specific intent to commit murder, an element required for a first-degree murder conviction.
The diminished capacity defense proposes that a mental disorder or abnormality was present; voluntary intoxication suggests that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs to the extent of being incapable of intending to kill someone.
The evidence showed Fairman had been diagnosed with depression, and had a blood alcohol level of 0.248 percent following the shooting.
To eliminate the defenses, the prosecution is required to disprove them beyond a reasonable doubt.
The jury has no time limit for reaching a verdict.