A verdict is likely less than 24 hours away in the case of David Mota, the man charged with first degree murder, drive by shooting, and aggravated assault after he shot and killed Joshua Switalski in a traffic altercation last February in Oro Valley.
In their closing arguments this afternoon, the prosecution and defense verbally jousted – each attempting to instill a final, impactful message in the minds of the jury before deliberations begin tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m.
Prosecutor Bruce Chalk used video surveillance taken from Mota’s interrogation with detectives to point out, in his words, the “six sentences proving first degree murder.”
Those sentences consist of three questions by Oro Valley detective Mike Cruce and three answers by Mota. When asked if he knew there were people in the car, if he aimed his gun at the car, and if he intentionally discharged it, Mota answers yes each time.
“Knowing people were in the car, and intentionally discharging his weapon at the car, it resulted in the death of Joshua Switalski on Oracle Road that night,” Chalk said to the jury.
Chalk also asked for convictions on drive by shooting and aggravated assault, saying Mota, who shot from his Chevy Silverado, put Switalski’s girlfriend, April Taylor, in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury from gunshots since she was inside Switalski’s car when the shooting occurred.
Mota fired two rounds in the direction of Switalski’s vehicle after the two became engaged in an altercation over a traffic-related issue. Switalski consequently died from one bullet hitting his heart and lung.
“You have the right to bear arms, the right to carry a weapon,” said Chalk. “You have the right to defend yourself. You do not have the right to shoot at somebody who is shouting at you. Words alone are not enough for justification to apply. Panic, as he (Mota) described to Detective Cruce… is not enough to take the life of another individual.”
Mota’s actions during and after the shooting are not indicative of someone who is innocent, Chalk continued.
“Does he call 911?” Chalk said. “Does he call 911 and say ‘I was threatened on the roadway.’ Did he call 911 and say ‘I just discharged my gun because I was afraid and I shot at somebody.’ No.”
In her closing argument, defense attorney Natasha Wrae said even if Mota had shot with the intent to kill, he was justified in doing so because, despite the prosecution’s argument, he is protected under the laws of self-defense.
Wrae said evidence suggests that Switalski was the aggressor, first pulling to the side of Mota’s vehicle, then rolling his window down to verbally engage Mota.
Wrae said her client, who was coming to a stop behind another vehicle, felt like a “caged animal.” He was also under the impression that Switalski was reaching for something.
“He fired warning shots,” said Wrae. “You’re allowed to threaten the use of deadly force in the face of deadly force.”
“You have to feel as though your life is in danger or threatened,” said Wrae. “That’s what (Mota) felt.”
When considering self-defense, the jury will have to decide if Mota reacted in a way that is indicative of the way a “reasonable person” would respond.
In a case of road rage, Wrae said it is difficult to determine how one might classify a reasonable person’s response. Her client, who she referred to as “sweet,” “nice,” and “not savvy to the ways of the world,” was only doing what he thought was best for his safety in that unique situation, she said.
Whether or not Mota’s safety was actually in jeopardy is irrelevant under legislation of self-defense, Wrae added.
Wrae further alleged that there is no proof that Switalski was not reaching for a weapon, or that he did not have a gun in his possession. She said it would have been easy for Taylor, after Switalski was shot, to throw a weapon into the desert, which was never searched during the investigation.
In her final comments, Wrae asked the jury to dismiss all three charges, and to instead consider a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.
Chalk closed out the afternoon – and the trial – with the final say. He said Mota’s standard for feeling threatened is not an objective point of view, nor were his actions those of a reasonable person.
“When Ms. Wrae finished, she did not even argue to you that the defendant’s actions were those of a reasonable person,” said Chalk. “She argued that he felt like that. He was scared. He felt like this. That is not the standard by which you go back in the jury room and decide whether or not somebody has committed murder.
“His honest belief, if it is not reasonable, is not the standard,” Chalk said.
The Explorer will share the verdict once it has been announced. There is no definitive timeframe for a jury decision.
For day-to-day coverage of the trial, visit explorernews.com.