Jurors found defendant John “JW” Ferguson guilty of two charges — manslaughter and possession of a weapon — but not guilty of murder in the stabbing death of his brother Daryl.
Deliberations began Tuesday afternoon and, within an hour, the jury asked for evidence connected to the central question of this trial: Did Ferguson intend to viciously stab and kill his older brother, Daryl? Or was he just reacting in self defense to his brother’s aggression, and therefore justified in causing Daryl’s death?
Ferguson, 38, of Yorkville, could have faced up to 25 years to life in prison if the jury had convicted him of murder. He was charged with one count each of second-degree murder and third-degree possession of a weapon. The jury was also allowed to consider a lesser charge of first-degree manslaughter which carries a sentence of from 5 to 25 years in prison.
In their first notes to the judge Tuesday afternoon, the jury asked to replay the 9-1-1 call of the stabbing, the police body camera footage from the first officer on the scene, and they wanted to see photographs of the injuries on both John and Daryl Ferguson.
They jury also asked to have the legal definition of “justification” read back to them. Ferguson is claiming he acted in self defense and was justified in fighting back against his brother. Judge Michael L. Dwyer opened deliberations this morning with the definition.
Both Assistant District Attorney Todd C. Carville, the prosecutor, and First Assistant Public Defender Luke Nebush gave their closing arguments Tuesday morning.
Assistant District Attorney Todd C. Carville argued that the five stab wounds that Daryl Ferguson suffered in the early morning hours of July 17, 2018, were perfectly placed to cause the most damage. Carville told the jury that John Ferguson was growing increasingly annoyed with his brother over weeks of sharing a bedroom, and that annoyance built to anger, rage and an attack that Daryl did not see coming.
“These pictures show a one-sided affair, where Daryl Ferguson was stabbed five times in predominately vital areas of his body, and never had a chance to defend himself,” Carville said of the volume of photographs taken of the crime scene.
“As important as what they show you is what they don’t show you. What they don’t show you is a murder scene with a struggle, with a fight, or with any justification. This was not a brawl that you would expect by one that was fighting for his life. This was one man who was armed, and the other who wasn’t.”
Carville told the jury that John stabbed his brother deliberately all five times.
He said the first blows caused Daryl to fall to his knees, and John Ferguson was able to choose the best spots in the torso to cause the most damage. Carville said John Ferguson suffered the bruise to his arm by lifting Daryl’s dead body up onto a bed after the stabbings.
“These stab wounds are from an individual that has had enough, that is angered, that is enraged, that has the intent to kill,” Carville told the jury.
“Does five stab wounds in those locations sound like somebody who was just trying to hurt? Or just trying to defend themselves? Or does it sound like somebody who was on the offensive and had the intent to end Daryl Ferguson’s life?”
Carville suggested that a lingering divorce, increasing debt, a lack of his own home and the fact that he was rooming with his annoying brother could have driven John Ferguson to the “anger” and “rage” necessary to kill Daryl. He suggested a text message Daryl sent about getting a big payday for a recent job “maybe, just maybe” led to an argument between the brothers over John wanting money.
In his closing argument, First Assistant Public Defender Luke Nebush recounted Ferguson’s own explanation for what happened in those early morning hours.
According to Ferguson, Daryl got suddenly angry while they were sharing a beer in the family’s garage in Yorkville. Ferguson testified that he had to escape from his brother’s anger three times inside the home, including having Daryl choke him and threaten to kill him.
Ferguson told the jury on Monday that he felt scared of his brother, so he grabbed a knife from the kitchen and retreated to the bedroom.
Ferguson testified that Daryl confronted him a fourth time in the bedroom, and the stabbing occurred while the two were struggling over the knife.
“There were multiple physical altercations between the Ferguson boys. Just because nobody ever had to go to the hospital doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have, that they couldn’t have,” Nebush told the jury, referencing the multiple physical fights between the brothers going back several years.
“Just because a weapon was never introduced to defend yourself doesn’t matter, doesn’t matter at all. Because at the moment this incident occurred, he was within his right to defend himself by any means necessary to get out of that bedroom.”
Nebush refuted Carville’s claims that the various stresses in John Ferguson’s life were enough to get him to kill his brother.
“The idea that he just couldn’t handle it, and went after Daryl because of it, is crazy,” Nebush told the jury.
“Saying he killed his brother with intent, or wanted to intentionally cause serious bodily injury, because of these issues is ridiculous. And there is no evidence to support it.”
In regards to the claim of self-defense, Nebush pointed out to the jury that New York State law says there is “absolutely no duty to retreat in your own home” and therefore John Ferguson was not required, under law, to leave the house and drive somewhere else when Daryl got angry with him.
“JW may have been suffering some issues, but it did not translate to wanting to get rid of Daryl,” Nebush told the jury.
“JW was afraid of Daryl.”