|By Michael Owens, Bristol Herald Courier, Va.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
On Monday, the jury of four men and eight women spent the opening day of Spradlin's trial learning how
"Ron was standing there ... with his hands in his pockets and the defendant, one punch, and Ron fell to the ground," Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney
Today, jurors will have to decide if Roberts, who never regained consciousness, was the victim of a planned killing or a heat-of-passion attack by a jilted boyfriend.
"The difference between second-degree murder and manslaughter is malice," Woolf told jurors. "Malice is the intentional doing of a wrongful act."
A key piece of evidence played Monday was a message Spradlin left on his intermittent girlfriend's phone just moments before the showdown on her front lawn.
"I'm going to beat him when I see him," the recorded message said.
For Spradlin, a second-degree murder conviction would mean at least five years in prison. A manslaughter verdict would mean at least one year to serve.
"This is a case of emotion fueled by jealousy ... and of medical evidence," defense attorney
Phillips spotlighted a neurosurgeon's diagnosis of a possible brain aneurism, Roberts' high blood pressure, a night of drinking and the nasty spill he might have suffered following the single punch.
"What you have to remember when you consider the evidence is there was only one punch," Phillips said. "(Roberts) falls and, well, there's another impact."
Spradlin is a self-employed construction worker best known as the man who escaped the botched police standoff in
At the time, police were trying to arrest him on the second-degree murder charge. He surrendered to a local jail days later.
None of that surfaced Monday as attorneys for both sides focused on the events leading up to Roberts' injuries on
Prosecution witnesses testified that Spradlin pounced soon after an evening of drinking and watching football at the county
On-again, off-again girlfriend
Spradlin caught up with them on the snow-covered front lawn of her
Spradlin argued with Prater in her house, witnesses testified. The altercation came moments later, according to testimony, after Spradlin dumped his packed clothes into the acquaintance's car.
"The evidence is pretty straightforward," Woolf said. "You have four witnesses who saw the exact same thing ... and that's one punch to the head."
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