Opening statements in court Monday left a jury with an important decision to consider: should a man’s intoxicated actions that led to a well-known architect's death be considered murderous?
The prosecutor and defense attorney laid out their cases in the murder trial of Higinio Soriano Salgado, 32, accused of killing his boss Graham Downes.
On April 19, 2013, Downes, 56, was found fatally injured outside his Bankers Hill home. He was pronounced dead nearly a week later from blunt force trauma.
Deputy District Attorney Amy Maund began her opening statements by pointing to Salgado and saying, “the defendant – this man seated here in court – beat, tortured and killed a defenseless human being."
In the spring of 2013, Salgado worked as a facilities manager at Downes’ architectural firm.
On April 18, Downes had hosted a happy hour party for his employees that turned into a night of heavy drinking.
Both the prosecutor and defense said the evening started at the office, progressed to a bar and finished at Downes’ home.
Downes – whom defense attorney Jamahl Kersey described as a “work hard, play hard” kind of boss – had invited a few employees, including Salgado, back to his place for a round of drinks.
His coworkers Allison MacDougall and Bailey Bishop came along.
During their conversation, the name Simon Terry-Lloyd came up.
Salgado had worked under Terry-Lloyd at Graham Downes Architecture Inc. and disliked him, even though Terry-Lloyd had since left the firm.
The day before the happy hour party, Downes was seen meeting with Terry-Lloyd in his office, and the prosecutor alleged that Salgado began to fear for his job.
So the night of April 18, the intoxicated Salgado became angry when someone mentioned Terry-Lloyd, saying “F--- him! F--- that guy!” according to both Maund and Kersey.
"He responded that he didn't like that guy and that you better not hire him, 'I hate that guy.' He was kind of getting loud in Graham's face over the bar," said MacDougall as she testified in court Monday.
Other guests said Downes, who was also drunk, told Salgado that Terry-Lloyd was not coming back, and the topic was eventually dropped.
But at this point, the prosecution’s and defense’s stories start to differ.
Maund said Salgado’s anger over the former employee stewed until he and Downes were left alone outside Downes’ home.
“He was angry at the victim because he felt a sense of betrayal by the victim and he wanted the victim to suffer,” Maund told the jury.
She said the two began arguing again, and the fight turned violent. Salgado gained the upper hand and jumped on top of Downes, beating him in the head and neck, according to the prosecution.
Downes suffered 17 to 21 wounds and died from those injuries, the medical examiner’s office found.
Police arrived at the scene and took Salgado into custody while Downes was rushed to the hospital, where he was later pronounced brain dead.
However, Kersey argued that Salgado did not intentionally kill anyone.
“It is a very unfortunate situation that Mr. Downes lost his life, but this was not murder,” Kersey told the jury.
By the time Salgado was booked into jail and submitted to a blood test around 5:20 a.m. on April 19, he had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.15 percent. That means his BAC at the time of the fight was around 0.2 percent.
The defense will have experts take the stand to talk about the effects of alcohol on a person’s actions. Kersey said no witness can say what was said before the fight or even who hit whom first.
“We believe that at the end of this trial, the prosecutor will not meet her burden of proof, proving beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Salgado is guilty of murder,” said Kersey.
The first to take the stand in Salgado’s murder trial was the police officer who initially arrived at the scene of Downes' beating.
In the courtroom Monday, members of Downes’ family were seen crying as graphic pictures of Downes were shown during the opening statements.
The defendant’s family sat across the aisle, staring straight ahead. They declined to comment to NBC 7.
If convicted on the first degree murder charge, Salgado could face 25 years to life in prison.