Jury still deliberating in Luyster triple-murder case

Defendant appears with shaved head, Nazi-themed tattoos showing

By Jessica Prokop, Columbian Courts Reporter

Published:

 

Jurors spent all of Thursday deliberating in Brent Luyster’s triple aggravated murder trial and are returning Friday morning to continue.

Luyster, 37, was summoned to court late in the afternoon for a jury question. He appeared with a freshly shaved head — revealing SS bolts, a neo-Nazi symbol — and a short-sleeved shirt that exposed other tattoos, a stark contrast to his appearance during trial.

Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Lewis had previously ruled that the jury wouldn’t see Luyster’s tattoos, because of potential prejudice.

Jurors submitted their question in a note to the judge from the jury room and did not see Luyster in the short-sleeved shirt.

Luyster was summoned back to court at the end of the day, at which time the jury was released. He wore a long-sleeved shirt, similar to the ones he wore during trial.

There was no indication whether jurors saw the tattooed SS bolts on Luyster’s head. The tattoo is on the right side of his head, which was facing away from them when they entered the courtroom and from where they were seated.

Luyster is accused of fatally shooting his best friend Zachary David Thompson, 36; friend, Joseph Mark LaMar, 38; and LaMar’s partner, Janell Renee Knight, 43, on July 15, 2016, at LaMar’s home southeast of Woodland. Thompson’s partner, Breanne Leigh, then 32, was wounded but escaped. She identified Luyster as the shooter.

Luyster denies shooting them.

The case went to the jury shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday. So far, jurors have deliberated for about 11 hours.

Luyster is facing three counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder and one count each of first- and second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm. If the jury does not find premeditation for the slayings of Thompson and LaMar, they can consider second-degree murder, instead.

The jury must also determine if certain aggravating circumstances exist — whether there was more than one victim and the murders were part of a common scheme or plan, and if the person committed the murder to conceal the commission of a crime.

Prosecutors asked the jury to find the aggravating circumstances, which allow for a life sentence if Luyster is convicted of first-degree murder.

Shortly after 3:30 p.m. Thursday, jurors alerted the court to a question they had. They sought clarification on one of the aggravating factors — whether there was more than one victim and the murders were part of a common scheme or plan.

The court could not offer jurors any additional information, other than what is in the jury instructions. The jury continued to deliberate and will resume Friday morning.