MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - A jury has found Marc Stone guilty on both counts of capital murder in the deaths of his wife and son.
Their verdict came fairly quickly, after less than 2.5 hours of deliberations Tuesday afternoon.
Relatives cried as the jury announced their decision.
“This family has been through an unimaginable event. And it’s been drug out throughout these years. They’re strong. They’re steadfast. It’s worn on us because we felt the responsibility of getting it here. We’re so proud of where we’re at and what’s happened,” said Tim Gann, chief trial attorney for the Madison County District Attorney’s Office.
Stone, 39, didn’t argue that he did the crimes, but his defense was that he was legally insane at the time. His legal team brought in experts who shared their findings that he was unable to understand what he was doing and couldn’t distinguish right from wrong due to schizophrenia.
“At the time of murders, he was unable to appreciate the difference between right and wrong and the criminality of his actions. As a defense attorney and team, that’s all you can do. We put our case and put it in front of the jury. Obviously, we would have liked for it to have gone a different way,” stated Larry Marsili, one of Stone’s attorneys.
The capital murder trial started last week at the Madison County courthouse and after days of testimony, the prosecution and defense gave their closing arguments Tuesday morning. The state countered the defense’s insanity claims.
“Their experts did not do any background investigation at all before they made their findings. I don’t the jury and I know for myself, I gave them zero credibility,” Gann told the media after the verdict.
Throughout the trial, the defense asked the jury to make a decision on Stone’s fate with their head and not with their hearts as they listened to witnesses on the stand and saw different evidence presented in court.
“It’s an emotional case, just the very nature of it so there’s no way to get around that. That’s certainly why we wanted them to focus on the head over heart theme that we utilized,” Marsili said.
Huntsville police found the victims' bodies in the family’s home on Chicamauga Trail in February 2013.
Tim Gann told the jury that the state has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Stone killed his wife, Krista, and their seven-year-old son, Zachary, and that he intended to do so.
Gann stressed that the case is “motive driven.”
“If Marc Stone did any of these killings based on emotion, if he was angry or upset or driven by anger or rage or any emotion then he’s guilty of capital murder and the insanity defense doesn’t stand. If there’s even a tinge of motive, this case is over,” he said to the jury.
He referenced letters submitted into evidence between the couple. In response to a letter from his wife, Stone wrote to her and apologized for “giving the look of hating my life, for not loving you enough in words and actions” and wrote that he was “sorry for my hard heart, sorry for not being content and counting my blessings.”
The state also pointed out that Stone has no mental illness history and that a longtime friend and former pastor spoke to Stone the day before the murders and testified that he didn’t notice anything wrong with him or concerning or alarming about their conversation.
Gann said the three doctors the defense called to the stand who all diagnosed Stone with schizophrenia were biased and didn’t pay attention to his past, to the letters between the couple and to Stone’s recorded confession to Huntsville police.
“They twisted the basic truth and made it something that it’s not,” Gann said about the doctors.
In Stone’s confession, he talks about having confusing thoughts and told investigators that when it came to a motive there was “nothing I can pinpoint, but something just broke inside me.”
“If you look at the background, it makes sense. He’s addicted to pornography, his wife is putting blocks on their computer and treating him like a child,” Gann stated in court. “It appeared that they were a happy family, but he didn’t have it in him to put on that front anymore.”
The defense’s doctors say due to his mental illness, he had a compulsion to kill his family members and hallucinations and that he felt he had to do the murders.
But Gann said it doesn’t match his actions. Stone came home that night and got in bed next to his wife after taking a sudden trip to Florida.
“Krista is upset, gets out of bed. He jetted off and she’s upset enough that she goes to other end of the house to discuss it with him and it’s in the midst of a domestic dispute that he kills her. He lost his cool,” Gann said.
When confessing to police, Gann says Stone minimized things, saying they didn’t have much of a fight, but jurors saw photos of scratches all over his body.
“It’s not a compulsion if it’s brought on by someone else’s behavior. Then it’s motive,” Gann told the jury.
He added that the opinions of the doctors who conducted mental evaluations for the defense are not supported by anything other than what Stone told them as he self-reported to them during evaluations that were conducted years after the event.
While the defense claims insanity, the state’s stance is that Stone knew exactly what he was doing and displayed rational thinking.
After he murders, he locked the door to the bedroom where he left the bodies and waited for his young daughters to wake up. They were in the house the whole time but were left unharmed. He did laundry and cleaned up blood, and got the girls dressed and got them breakfast. He drove them to Leeds, AL and dropped them off at his parents’ house before going to Leeds PD to turn himself in.
“Give me a break. He knew what he was doing. Planned the whole day. It’s as rational as anything I’ve heard,” Gann said. “Compulsion doesn’t stand when you’re in a fight with someone. He didn’t just start attacking people in a rampage. He got home and went to bed. His wife got mad and things went south.”
The biggest part of the case, Gann added, is that Stone turned himself in, showing consciousness of guilt.
Brian Clark, one of Stone’s defense attorneys, then addressed the jury and said the state cannot explain why Stone killed his son.
“He wasn’t mad at Zach. What would possess a father to walk down the hall and kill his own flesh and blood,” Clark asked the jury. “Why? What sane person would do that?”
Clark reminded jurors that three experts testified and said that Stone was psychotic, and suffers from schizophrenic with paranoia, encouraging them to look at the doctors’ credentials.
He said the state’s move to show the jury autopsy and crime scene photos was a “blatant attempt to tap into your emotions.
“Rule with your head and not your heart. No emotions,” Clark stressed. “There’s no motive whatsoever. The state wants you to hate him and avenge this tragedy and ignore the evidence.”
According to Clark, the motive the state laid out is based on speculation.
“No one can tell you what was going on in his mind. What they can tell you is that he has a severe mental disease and because of that, he couldn’t appreciate the nature and quality or harmfulness of his actions,” Clark said to the jury. “Even while he’s taking the life of his wife and son, his thoughts are all over the place.”
Clark said Stone was a broken man and psychotic.
‘Where’s the motive to kill Zachary and where’s the evidence to dispute our case? He should be found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Don’t be inflamed. Head over heart. Do justice here,” Clark stated.
Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard was the last to address the jury.
“Those are two people that were here among us that he snuffed out like they were nothing,” he said.
Broussard explained to the jury that the law is specific and the defense’s case has to be clear and convincing that Stone had a severe mental disease and that he did not understand the nature and quality, or wrongfulness of his actions.
“When you piece things together and look at every facet, it’s not a normal murder case, but it’s not legal insanity,” Broussard stated. “This is business of the most serious nature and we are not going to let it pass. I’m not saying there’s no place for psychology in our society. But when you get it into the legal arena, what we’re concerned with is his ability to understand right from wrong.”
He added that the defense’s experts spent little time evaluating Stone and some didn’t watch his taped confession. He also pointed out that no one suspected Stone suffered from mental illness.
“He wasn’t naked in his front yard howling at the moon,” Broussard said. “Look at how this whole picture developed and how it exploded. It’s not a hard case.”
Not one time did Stone ever have any mental health contact, Broussard also told the jury.
He referenced Stone’s confession and said during the interview, Stone was precise and demonstrated organized thoughts and was functioning perfectly.
“He was nowhere close to a psychotic state,” Broussard stated. “He walked in and said: ‘I want to report a crime. I murdered my wife and son.’ He didn’t know right from wrong? He did and he’s accountable on this."
The district attorney acknowledged the bizarre nature of the case catches, but feels the experts didn’t take the time to thoroughly look at it.
“He didn’t have nerve to kill himself, so he took it out on people who didn’t deserve it. Krista was a good woman. Zachary didn’t get to see his eighth birthday. They didn’t get a say, but here on this cloudy day in 2019, they get their say,” Broussard told the jury.
Stone’s sentencing hearing will be held Wednesday, with the same jury.
The state will be asking for the death penalty. The defense will be asking for life in prison without parole.
The jury will make a recommendation, which Madison County Circuit Judge Donna Pate will take into consideration, but Judge Pate will have the final say when it comes to Stone’s fate.
“You do have two victims in this case and when you’re talking about the killing of women and children, especially a seven-year-old child, it makes it difficult for all parties in the case,” Gann said.