Hollywood murder case in hands of California jury
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — A jury on Thursday was set to consider the case of Jesse James Hollywood, who is accused of kidnapping a 15-year-old boy over a drug debt then ordering his death and going on the run for years, a string of events that inspired the 2007 movie “Alpha Dog.”
Closing arguments concluded Wednesday after jurors heard more than a month of testimony, with prosecutors arguing that Hollywood has escaped conviction for too long, and the defense accusing the prosecution of screening autopsy photos to emotionally influence the jury.
Hollywood could face the death penalty if convicted of kidnapping Nicholas Markowitz because the boy’s half brother owed him money for marijuana. Hollywood has acknowledged taking the boy but denied having any role in the teen’s death.
“Justice has waited nine years,” prosecutor Joshua Lynn told the jurors during his closing argument. “The time has come.
Defense attorney Alex Kessel said Lynn was trying to manipulate the jury.
“You can’t fill the void in the prosecution’s case with pictures of Nick Markowitz in the grave,” Kessel said.
Hollywood, 29, testified last week that he took Markowitz in Los Angeles impulsively because of a dispute with the teen’s half brother, Ben Markowitz. Hollywood testified that he was afraid after Ben Markowitz left threatening messages, poisoned his dog and broke a window at his home hours before the abduction.
Prosecutors contend the kidnapping was aimed at getting Ben Markowitz to pay a drug debt.
The boy was driven to Santa Barbara, where he spent a couple of days drinking, smoking marijuana and playing video games with his abductors.
The prosecution contends that Hollywood then ordered the boy’s death because an attorney had informed him that he could face a life sentence for kidnapping. Hollywood testified that the gunman, Ryan Hoyt, acted on his own.
Hollywood said he thought that Markowitz was being driven home when Hoyt drove him away three days after the abduction.
In his closing arguments, the prosecutor claimed that Hollywood was the mastermind and provided the murder weapon to Hoyt.
“His method was to have other people do his dirty work for him,” Lynn said.
Markowitz’s body was later found in a grave in a hiking area in the Santa Barbara foothills. He had been shot nine times.
Hollywood fled after the killing and was arrested in 2005 in Brazil.
Hoyt was sentenced to death and three other men got lesser sentences.