- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—After a weeklong trial, a jury found an Illinois man guilty of first-degree intentional homicide Monday night for the shooting death of an Oregon marijuana dealer last year at a hotel on Madison’s Far East Side.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated about five hours before also finding Marcius A. Lee, 43, guilty of armed robbery and possession of a firearm as a felon.

Lee shot Robert D. France, 46, three times, including once in the head, as France loaded luggage into his car outside the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel, 3841 E. Washington Ave., on July 19, 2014. France was preparing to head home to Portland, Oregon, after driving to Madison, where he had once lived, to sell marijuana. He was thought to be carrying between $30,000 and $40,000 cash in one of his bags when he was killed.

Lee showed little emotion as the verdict was read.

Dane County Circuit Judge John Markson immediately sentenced Lee to a mandatory life prison sentence but will sentence him on the other convictions at a later date and decide whether Lee should ever be eligible for release from prison on extended supervision.

Under state law, someone convicted of first-degree intentional homicide must spend at least 20 years in prison before being eligible for release.

The verdict was reached after an afternoon of closing arguments in which prosecutors said both eyewitness and circumstantial evidence identified Lee as the man who killed and robbed France.

Lee’s lawyer, Terry Frederick, said the case rested on shaky evidence, from the state’s assertions about the bags found in Lee’s possession as having belonged to France to a witness he described as a “gang lord” having more motivation to kill France than Lee did.

“It’s not your fault that this case is junk,” Frederick told jurors, “that there are so many conflicting lines of evidence that don’t make sense.”

But prosecutors said it did make sense.

Assistant District Attorney Mary Ellen Karst, taking the second of the prosecution’s two closing arguments, said that not only did eyewitnesses have strong reactions to seeing Lee’s photo in lineups, but Lee’s activities before and after the shooting, tracked by cellphone records and video surveillance at another motel where he went right after, “dovetailed” to show someone trying to avoid arrest.

When Lee was arrested in the Chicago area four days after the shooting, he had about $38,000 in cash with him. Frederick suggested that as a heroin dealer, Lee was just as likely to have large amounts of cash as France, a marijuana dealer, was likely to have.

Two days after the shooting, Lee spent thousands on jewelry at a shopping mall in North Riverside, Illinois, including a $1,000 watch. Karst told jurors that if Lee was the same kind of person who could flirt with women after just having shot a man, then he certainly could wear “the jewelry he bought with the victim’s blood.”

Frederick said that Curtis Bell, who testified that he once led a well-known gang in Madison and owed $200,000 in child support, was more likely involved in the shooting.

Bell told police that he had planned to burglarize France’s motel room and take his money.

But Bell also testified that he had shared the plan with Lee, his heroin dealer, to whom he also owed money. And when France was killed, Bell said in a jail conversation with his mother, he felt bad for telling Lee about France’s money.

“That’s my big mouth talking too much,” he told his mother, Karst reminded jurors, saying that Bell was “struggling with the responsibility he bears for it.”

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(c)2015 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

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