Prosecutors had DNA. They had eyewitnesses. But in the end, it was a video that caused jurors to cover their mouths, and experienced lawyers, detectives and judges to flinch.
On Tuesday, after about a week-long trial and two hours of deliberations, a D.C. Superior Court jury found Christian Taylor, 27, of the District guilty of first-degree murder and other charges in the killings of a father and son who owned a popular Northeast market.
Authorities said that on the afternoon of June 23, 2010, Taylor walked into the Lida Wholesale Market in the 1200 block of Fifth Street NE wearing dark glasses and carrying a handgun inside a bag. Prosecutors played the video, which showed views from several angles, with its audio for the jury.
The video showed Taylor milling around the store, at one point asking an employee about shirts. After several customers left the shop, Taylor, standing at the counter, reached into his bag, pulled out the gun and pointed it at Li-Jen Chih.
Taylor then ordered Chih to put money in his bag.
“More, more, more,” he yelled.
Then Chih, 32, lunged at Taylor, jumping over the counter. The men wrestled, and then Taylor jumped up and fired, striking Chih in the chest.
Ming-Kun Chih, 59, began screaming when he saw his son on the floor and rushed to help him. The elder Chih, carrying a large metal rod, tried to knock the gun from Taylor’s hand.
Taylor fired once at Ming-Kun Chih’s chest and fled — without the bag of money.
A witness who testified in the trial wrote down the tag number of the getaway car, a silver Pontiac belonging to Taylor’s mother. The bag left behind had traces of Taylor’s DNA on it, prosecutors said.
During the trial, after the video of the shootings had been played several times, Taylor’s defense attorneys asked that prosecutors stop showing it until closing arguments; Judge Thomas J. Motley agreed. Each time the video was shown, family members of the victims left the courtroom.
Taylor’s attorneys, Craig Moore and Geoffrey Harris, argued that their client was misidentified by the store employees and customers who testified in the trial. Several witnesses gave slightly differing accounts; one said the shooter wore a jacket, which the man in the video did not, and another misidentified the color of the gunman’s shirt.
Taylor, who did not testify, had petitioned before the trial not to be present during the proceedings. The judge rejected the request, and Taylor sat in the courtroom wearing an orange jumpsuit, often with his head bowed and dreadlocks covering his face.
In closing arguments, prosecutor Glenn Kirschner said it was uncommon for video cameras to capture a crime so clearly.
“It was both fortunate and unfortunate that the surveillance cameras caught every crime the defendant committed, in color and sound,” Kirschner said. “That is rare indeed.”
After the trial, jurors said that watching the killings was like “watching television.”
“I have never seen anything like that,” the 61-year-old foreman said outside the courtroom.
Another juror, a 66-year-old woman, covered her mouth with her hand the first time she saw the video.
“It was horrific,” she said. “It still gives me chills.”
Taylor, who is scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 23, could face life in prison.
More from The Washington Post: