UPDATE: Defense says co-defendants can't be trusted in murder trial

Closing arguments are underway in the murder trial of Gregory Higgins Jr.

jsowell@idahostatesman.comJuly 17, 2013 

— In his closing argument, defense attorney Chuck Peterson continued to maintain that Gregory Higgins Jr. is innocent in the shooting death of James Groat.

Peterson said that two co-defendants - Christopher "Mikey" Duran and Cruz Flores - concocted stories to shield their involvement and later changed their accounts.

Duran at first told police that Groat took off with a stripper on the evening of Aug. 26, a few hours before the murder.

Peterson also refuted the assertion that Groat was killed because Higgins suspected him of snitching to police about a drug deal Higgins was arrested for earlier in the year. Duran testified last week that Higgins confronted Groat about being an informant shortly before Groat was shot to death.

Peterson said Higgins knew who the informant was in that case and he told detectives investigating Groat's murder who that was.

Peterson also challenged the stories told by Duran and Flores about what happened at the murder scene, near an abandoned house next to Lake Lowell around Nampa. Duran said Groat stumbled a few steps after he was shot in the face and then was shot four more times by Higgins in the torso. Flores testified that Groat fell where he was shot.

If those stories were true, there should have been blood found where Groat was shot, where he had begun digging two holes under orders from the gunman, Peterson said. Instead, the only blood that was found was near where Groat's body was found, 15 feet to 20 feet from the holes.

Deputy Canyon County Prosecutor Monica Morrison said Wednesday morning all the evidence in the shooting death of Groat points to Higgins as the murderer.

She told the jury of 10 women and four men in Canyon County Third District Court that Groat, 27, was lured to the remote location under the guise of serving as a lookout for a drug deal. Instead, Morrison said, he was targeted by Higgins because the defendant suspected him of being a drug informant.

"I doubt that when James volunteered to be a backup for a drug deal that he volunteered for a homicide," Morrison told the jury.

Morrison connected Higgins to a shovel found at the murder scene, which she said Groat was ordered to use to partially dig his own grave. The shovel was found a few feet from Groat's body when it was discovered by a farm worker on Aug. 27, 2012, several hours after Groat was killed.

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