Deliberations in Richardson double-murder trial begin

Robert Richardson Jr. admits he pulled the trigger, but claims shooting was self-defense

Robert Richardson Jr. is shown seated in court as attorneys present their closing arguments in his aggravated murder trial on Oct. 18, 2017 (Brent Weisberg/KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – At 4:17 p.m. on Wednesday, the 12 Multnomah County residents who have listened to hours upon hours of testimony in the aggravated murder trial of Robert Richardson Jr. began deliberating.

Among other charges, Richardson is accused of the aggravated murder of Anthony Howard and Eric Takemoto and the attempted aggravated murder of four other people.

Closing arguments in the trial were presented Wednesday morning. They stretched well into the afternoon.

The attorneys, two representing the state and two representing Richardson, have starkly different accounts of what happen at the Hour Glass Pub in Northeast Portland on Oct. 2, 2015.

The state contends the shooting was intentional. The defense argued Richardson was the victim of an attack and that he could have been seriously injured while being surrounded by a group of strangers. Richardson’s defense team also claims that he had no other choice but to pull out his gun and fire 12 times.

Multnomah County senior deputy district attorney Nathan Vasquez presents the state’s closing arguments on Oct. 18, 2017 (Brent Weisberg/KOIN)

The courtroom was filled with family and friends of Howard and Takemoto. Both were shot multiple times and died at the scene. Other witnesses and named victims in the case were also present, including Joshua Wiebe, who was shot in the leg during the incident. In the back of the courtroom were court staff, attorneys, private investigators, a handful of homicide detectives from Portland Police and members of the public.

They all watched as Multnomah County senior deputy district attorney Nathan Vasquez reached over and picked up several small, yellow envelopes and pulled out pieces of evidence from the bullets that Richardson admitted to firing.

“This isn’t about self-defense,” Vasquez stressed repeatedly. “This is about murder.”

The jury has seen hours of video during the course of the trial. The video — coming from the bar’s surveillance system — shows Richardson walking in, playing pool and drinking.

Witnesses have testified that inside the bar, for the most part, Richardson didn’t cause any alarming behavior. He played three games of pool with Wiebe.

On the stand, Richardson described Wiebe being “cool” during their interactions. Wiebe also testified that the games of pool were “cordial.”

Look below for a complete list of charges presented against Richardson.

After about 2.5 hours of being inside the bar, Richardson stepped outside to the bar’s back parking lot that doubles as its smoking area.

While out back, an argument between Richardson and Takemoto developed. The defense claims Takemoto started the fight, the state claims Richardson was the aggressor.

During trial, the state presented evidence to tell the jury that no one outside the bar was armed except for Richardson.

“They didn’t bring a gun to this happy social gathering,” Vasquez said, referring to Takemoto and Howard.

“But that man did,” as the prosecutor pointed to Richardson.

“To celebrate his birthday – by himself – he brought a gun and started drinking…and that man, was the one who started the fight, he escalated it and he ended it,” Vasquez said.

Criminal defense attorney Chrsitopher E. Burris speaks to the jury during closing arguments on Oct. 18, 2017 (Brent Weisberg/KOIN)

The argument between Takemoto and Richardson was recorded on the bar’s surveillance video system. It also captured the shooting.

The state contents that Howard was in the process of breaking up the fight between Takemoto and Richardson.

“Anthony Howard is the peacemaker,” Vasquez said. “No one was threatening or attacking the defendant when [Richardson] pulled out his gun.”

“It’s while his hands are out, trying to calm Mr. Richardson down that [Richardson] guns [Howard] down to the ground,” Vasquez said.

“Make no mistake,” Vasquez told the jury. “This wasn’t: ‘I just kind of wanna shoot you’ — it’s ‘I’m killing you.’”

During their closing arguments, prosecutors reminded the jury that Richardson – under intense cross examination – admitted he stole the gun he used to kill Howard and Takemoto. Prosecutors said the gun belonged to Richardson’s cousin.

“With this amount of evidence, all he has left to do is to come in here and sell you on a ridiculous self-defense claim,” Vasquez told the jury.

The shooting unfolded in a matter of seconds.

“Three more people are nearly killed…trying desperately to get away from this man,” Vasquez said.

After the gunshots ended, Richardson testified that he ran away. He was trying to get home, which was only a short distance away from the Hour Glass Pub.

“He almost escaped this horrible crime,” Vasquez said.

As Vasquez ended his closing arguments, he told the jury: “Self-defense is not killing the peacemaker and shooting a man in the back.”

Defense argues: ‘Absolute case of self-defense’

Richardson is represented by criminal defense attorneys Russell S. Barnett III and Christopher E. Burris.

Burris caution the jury during his closing arguments that the “biggest travesty of justice is when the law is not followed.”

He went over Oregon’s self-defense law.

“Under the law of Oregon, this is an absolute case of self-defense,” Burris told the jury. “Oregon law does not require somebody to retreat. It does not.”

Richardson testified in court this week that he was trying to create space between himself, Howard and Takemoto when he saw a large group of people exiting the bar and approaching him.

“They all make a bee-line towards him,” Barnett said during closing arguments.

Russell S. Barnett III speaks to the jury during closing arguments on Oct. 18, 2017 (Brent Weisberg/KOIN)

“We cannot have a travesty of justice,” Burris told the jury. “Your decision is final and you cannot make a mistake.”

Barnett urged the jury not to rely on any emotions that may have formed during the course of the trial.

“A trial in our legal system is not a system of revenge,” he said. “I wish it wouldn’t have happened,” he said of the entire evening at the bar.

“What matters is that a felony [was] being committed against Mr. Richardson,” Barnett said in regards to the defense’s belief that Richardson was being attacked by Takemoto and others. “There was no reason for him to be assaulted.”

During his testimony in court this week, Richardson said he cannot remember pulling out his gun or even pulling the trigger. He only remembers seeing the group of people moving towards him.

“Mr. Richardson took the stand,” Barnett reminded the jury. “He wasn’t as comfortable as some of the other witnesses, but unlike the other witnesses, they aren’t on trial for their life.”

“This was not an intentional killing,” Barnett said. “The attempted murders were not intentional acts to kill somebody.”

The jury was sent home around 5 p.m. Wednesday. They will resume their deliberations on Thursday morning.

Here are a list of the charges Richardson is facing and that the jury must decide his guilt or innocence on:

  • Count 1 – Aggravated murder with a firearm
  • Count 2 – Aggravated murder with a firearm
  • Count 3 – Attempted aggravated murder with a firearm
  • Count 4 – Attempted aggravated murder with a firearm
  • Count 5 – Attempted aggravated murder with a firearm
  • Count 6 – Attempted aggravated murder with a firearm
  • Count 7 – First-degree assault
  • Count 8 – Second-degree assault
  • Count 9 – Second-degree assault
  • Count 10 – Unlawful use of a weapon