As the murder trial of 15-year-old Aaron Schmidt got underway Monday afternoon, prosecutors portrayed him as a cold-blooded killer with an ever-shifting story, while his defense attorney said he should be guilty only of manslaughter in the death of Alana Calahan.
With a jury seated Monday morning, opening statements in Schmidt's trial for the shooting death of his 14-year-old Harlem neighbor gave way to witness testimony that included Calahan's parents.
Calahan, shot inside her Miles Road home on Jan. 31, 2011, was shot in the back of the head with a gun belonging to her father. Schmidt, a family friend, had been ordered to stay away from the home after Calahan had found him inside when she came home from school, according to tearful testimony from her mother, BettyJo Calahan.
Prior to that incident, she said, Schmidt was treated like a member of the family - often having meals and taking trips with them.
In March, a grand jury indicted Schmidt of murder, theft by taking and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
Assistant District Attorney Natalie Paine and Schmidt’s defense attorney Penelope Donkar said they expect testimony and closing arguments to continue into Thursday. Then, the jury of seven women and eight men will begin their deliberations.
Several jurors were excused during questioning, including one who knows the Calahans and two who said they believe the case should be tried in Juvenile Court because of Schmidt’s age.
Authorities allege that Schmidt, 14 at the time, shot the Harlem Middle School eighth-grader as she sat at a computer inside her family dining room. Alana was dragged outside, where Schmidt initially claimed he saw an intruder on the property.
After changing his story several times, Schmidt eventually said he was fumbling with the 9-mm handgun belonging to Alana’s father when it went off, striking Alana as she sat at the computer in the dining room.
Schmidt was arrested later that night.
Authorities found the gun in nearby woods. They also found the gun case and a box of ammunition under a bathroom sink off Schmidt’s bedroom at his home.
The gun’s owner’s manual was found in his dresser drawer, and several items from the Calahan home, including a digital camera and MP3 player, were found in his bedroom.
Schmidt pled not guilty to the charges in May.
The case has attracted national media attention, with CNN’s In Session setting up cameras and recording equipment inside the courtroom for pool coverage of the case.