According to court documents, Kyle Bolaski shot Vinnie Tamburello in broad daylight on a ballfield in Chester and then immediately started shouting that the shooting was in self-defense, a position he maintains almost three years later.
The trial, which is now halfway into its second week, is highlighting the legal definition of self-defense.
"Self-defense requires that the defendant had a reasonable belief that his life was in danger or that he was about to be seriously injured," said Michele Martinez Campbell, a professor at the Vermont Law School.
According to court documents, Tamburello showed up at the field with an ax, continuing an altercation from a day earlier. Tamburello rushed the group with the ax and began striking Bolaski's truck repeatedly. Police say Bolaski then pulled a gun from the truck and shot Tamburello in the leg.
"If the facts clearly show that the victim was disabled, there is no more imminent threat and then self-defense doesn't apply," Martinez Campbell said.
But what happened after that first shooting is not clear. In fact, a witness called Wednesday seemed to contradict his own testimony as to who was pursuing after the first shot to the leg, first saying it was Tamburello.
"I saw the man with the ax still coming forward, coming still in a forward direction to the man with the gun," witness Keith Destromp said.
Then during cross examination Destromp said it was Bolaski following Tamburello.
"(The defendant) was going in a forward motion, yes sir," Destromp said.
It was then that police say Bolaski fired the fatal blow, hitting the victim in the back.
"There is nothing in the law that says just because the victim was shot in the back that means that it can't be self-defense," Martinez Campbell said. "But you know you would have to have some facts that really establish why that victim was shot in the back and yet the defendant still believed that his own life was in danger."
Martinez Campbell says ultimately it will be up to a jury to decide. But she says there could be a third option which is a lesser charge of manslaughter.
"And that would occur if the jury found that the self-defense claim was not established but the defendant was provoked by the victim attacking him in such a way that an ordinary person would have lost their self control," she explained.
A manslaughter charge was already filed in the past after a grand jury found that there was not enough evidence for murder. However, the second-degree murder charge was pursued by a different prosecutor at the urging of the Tamburello family.
Defense lawyer Kevin Griffin would not comment Wednesday on whether Bolaski will take the stand. However, Martinez Campbell says that Bolaski's side of the story would be the most powerful evidence the jury could hear. Of course, he is not in any way required to take the stand. The burden of proof falls solely on the prosecution.
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