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Opening arguments begin in Washington County driveway shooting trial

Andrew B. Gillis, right, father of slain daughter, Kaylin Gillis, is consoled outside the courtroom after a verdict was reached in the murder trial of Kevin Monahan on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, at Washington County Courthouse in Fort Edward, N.Y. A Washington County jury deliberated for just two hours before finding Kevin Monahan guilty of murder in the second degree in the driveway shooting death of 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis outside his rural Hebron home. The 66-year-old faces 25 years to life in state prison. (Will Waldron/Times Union)
Will Waldron/Times Union
/
Hearst Newspapers
Andrew B. Gillis, right, father of slain daughter, Kaylin Gillis, is consoled outside the courtroom after a verdict was reached in the murder trial of Kevin Monahan on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, at Washington County Courthouse in Fort Edward, N.Y. A Washington County jury deliberated for just two hours before finding Kevin Monahan guilty of murder in the second degree in the driveway shooting death of 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis outside his rural Hebron home. The 66-year-old faces 25 years to life in state prison. (Will Waldron/Times Union)

Opening arguments began at the fourth day of the trial of Kevin Monahan, who is accused of killing Kaylin Gillis by shooting at a car in his driveway last year.

Monahan, 66, is facing second-degree murder charges. Prosecutors allege he shot at several vehicles that entered the driveway of his Hebron home on the night of April 15th. The case made national headlines and dominated local news. Judge Adam Michelini called 500 potential jurors, and after three days, 12 jurors and four alternates were seated Wednesday.

The jurors, nine men and three women, heard opening arguments from the 1st Assistant District Attorney Chris Morris and defense attorney Art Frost.

Morris’ opening statement began with a specific line that Monahan said to police the night of Gillis’ death: “I wish they’d get out of my yard so I can go back to bed.”

Morris described the events of the night, when two cars and a motorcycle entered the half-mile driveway of Monahan’s home. He says Monahan exited the house and shot at the vehicles within minutes, gravely wounding the 20-year-old Gillis, of Schuylerville. 

Monahan was absolutely the one who fired the shot that killed her, Morris argued, but the prosecution’s job will be proving to the jury that Monahan fired with a depraved indifference for human life.

Monahan fired two shots: one, the defense team holds, a warning shot, and one on accident. Prosecutor Morris said his case will prove that together they constitute Monahan’s disregard for human life.

“You’re not considering them separately relative to recklessness. I have to prove that together they form the recklessness. That a man who comes out on a porch – this is what the evidence will show – that a man came out on his porch and fired a gun twice under circumstances that he was aware that somebody could be killed, he disregarded it, and he did it anyway,” explained Morris. 

Morris added much of his case will hinge on the 911 call made by Monahan following the shooting. Police officers pulled into his driveway and asked him to come talk to them. 

Monahan was told they were there for a noise complaint and he told the operator that he had been asleep since 8:30, that the noise could have been some hunters with dogs in the woods behind his home, and that he wanted to go back to sleep.

“To be indifferent is to not care. Under this charge, under this murder charge, it has to be that his indifference was depraved. That it’s wicked, it’s wanton, it’s evil the charge will put in there. So, we’re not talking intentional murder. There’s no intentional murder in this case. This is a case about someone who has recklessly caused the death of another person with a depraved indifference to human life. This is a mindset,” said Morris.

Morris emphasized why Monahan’s call with a 9-1-1 operator is vital to the case.

“When you listen to this phone call, what I want you to listen for, the evidence is going to show there were no signs of nervousness. There’s no shaking voice, there’s no stammering, there’s no stuttering. There’s no searching for words, ‘um, uh, oh,’ there’s none of that. You’re gonna hear on this phone call someone who’s calm, cool, and collected,” said Morris. 

Defense Attorney Frost began with a phrase he repeated throughout his opening argument: “This was a terrible accident, and somebody should have realized that by now.” 

Frost’s defense will hinge on making the case that, according to a firearms expert, the 20-gauge shotgun Monahan killed Gillis with malfunctioned. 

“Now you have heard what Mr. Morris hopes to prove. But there’s something you haven’t heard yet. This gun is defective. It’s broken. It malfunctions. It will shoot when no one pulls the trigger. And they way you will know that is true is because a witness will get on that stand from the New York State Police Laboratory, maybe the best in the country, and she will tell you that at least one time that gun that she tested fired when no one pulled the trigger,” explained Frost. 

Frost said he and Morris agree on many of the facts, but his defense of Monahan is rooted in a disagreement over the conclusions that the jurors should draw.

Frost described Monahan as having shot once after a motorcycle drove up and turned around as a warning shot. According to Frost, the second shot was an accident. 

“Kevin has his gun and he’s walking and he’s looking, and he’s walking and he’s looking, and he’s walking and he’s looking, and he stumbles and he bangs the gun and it goes off. But the SUVs keep going, nobody stops,” said Frost. 

Frost asked the jurors to pay attention to Morris’ case throughout the rest of the trial and interrogate moments where Monahan could have fired out of malice. 

“You will have to decide if he acted with an evilness, a wickedness, a wantonness, a heinous disregard for the value of human life. Or, was he a dumb, scared old man, with a defective gun that will shoot when no one pulls the trigger,” said Frost.

The first witnesses for the prosecution called Thursday were 9-1-1 operators who took calls from Gillis’ friends after she had been shot and neighbors of Monahan who witnessed the shooting and Monahan once police had entered his driveway.

Jinx Monahan, Monahan’s wife, also took the stand and described the events of the night leading to Kevin Monahan’s decisions to take to his porch armed with a shotgun to scare off what they thought were potential intruders.

Her testimony will continue Friday.

The trial is expected to continue through the end of January.