DELHI — The fate of a Delhi man accused of shooting his son to death after an argument is in the hands of a Merced County jury.
Attorneys gave closing arguments Tuesday in the trial of Daniel McDonald, 68, who's facing a first-degree murder charge in the killing of his son, Donald McDonald, 46.
The incident happened April 9, 2011, at the home father and son shared in the 11000 block of Griffith Avenue in Delhi.
The prosecution claims Daniel McDonald is a cold-blooded murderer who killed his son after a heated argument, but the defendant claims the gun went off by accident.
Deputy District Attorney Thomas Min, the prosecutor in the case, said the defendant's own words point to his level of guilt. Min played an audio tape of a 911 call that Curtis Tipton, a friend of the victim, placed to law enforcement immediately after the shooting.
In the background, a voice can be heard saying, "Oh, I killed him, you heard."
Min told jurors the defendant had been trained to fire a gun in the Navy, and had made threats to kill his son just prior to the shooting.
The prosecution also claims Donald McDonald's body was positioned on the floor, next to the front door, with keys near his elbow, as if he'd been trying to leave the residence when he was shot.
The son died from a single back-to-front shot to the head under his left ear, Min said.
Min said he believes the defendant advanced with the gun from the kitchen to the dining room, and shot his son as he was leaving. "It was a single kill shot by an expert marksman to the skull," Min told jurors.
After the fatal shooting, Min said, the defendant offered no aid to his son, and threatened to shoot Tipton and the victim's wife, Sandra McDonald. The prosecutor said the defendant's lack of remorse and failure to help his son in the aftermath of the shooting are further indication it wasn't accidental.
Defense Attorney Frank C. Carson, who spoke to jurors for more than three hours, said the case was built on a "curtain of lies," saying the witnesses in the case have criminal backgrounds and aren't credible.
Carson said Donald McDonald had methamphetamine in his system the day of the shooting and had a history of violence toward his father. Carson said Donald McDonald became enraged after his father said he didn't want Sandra McDonald at the home.
"Donald McDonald was mad. He was more than just mad he was furious," Carson said.
During the trial, Daniel McDonald testified that before the shooting he'd pushed a table toward his son and then picked up a .22-caliber rifle. McDonald testified that his son came around the table and appeared to have "something" in his left hand.
The son made a sweeping motion with his left hand, according to Daniel McDonald, and grabbed the barrel of the gun. The defendant claimed the gun then went off.
Carson said that although his client did raise the gun toward his son in self-defense, with his finger on the trigger, the gun went off after Donald McDonald tugged on the weapon.
"(The defendant) didn't intend to kill him, He didn't even intend to shoot him," Carson said.
However, at the end of Carson's closing argument, Min told jurors the defense failed to explain how Donald McDonald could have been shot in the back of the head if the victim was holding the barrel when the gun went off. Min said there also wasn't any evidence on the body to suggest the gunshot happened at close range.
"I waited for three hours for the defense to explain how (Donald McDonald) got shot in the back of the head. And I didn't hear it," Min said.
He pointed out the defendant also had methamphetamine in his system the day of the shooting.
Daniel McDonald remains at the Merced County Jail. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.