UTICA, N.Y.--Opening arguments began Monday in the murder trial against Robert Coffin.
The Rome man is accused of shooting and killing Thomas Shepherd II outside Sammy G's bar in August of 2017. Coffin was found 13 days later in Las Vegas. He faces a second-degree murder charge, along with criminal possession of a weapon.
During opening arguments, Oneida County Assistant District Attorney Michael Nolan claimed to have surveillance footage from Sammy G's back parking lot, depicting Coffin shooting Shepherd once in the face, exiting the vehicle, shooting him again in the back of the head, and then driving away. The footage will be played for the 12 jurors and one alternate.
The prosecution claims the altercation began when Coffin parked in Sammy G's lot at closing time. Nolan said Coffin confronted his ex-girlfriend, and that Shepherd stepped in to defend her.
"Who was parked in that back parking lot in that red Nissan sedan that these friends used to see Robert Coffin drive," Nolan said. "He leaned into the vehicle and the only thing that is heard next is 'pop pop.'"
Nolan claimed the second bullet fired into Shepherd's head was listed as the cause of death by medical examiners, entering the back of his skull and ending up in an eye socket.
Nolan said three other people, including a Sammy G's waitress and sister of the ex-girlfriend witnessed the alleged murder. He said the two others were on parole at the time of the shooting.
When Coffin was found in Las Vegas, Nolan claimed he did not shy away from admitting he had a weapon.
"The defendant replied 'what you're looking for is in my backpack," Nolan said. "Officer Eggers, looking at Mr. Coffin, responded 'What are we looking for?' And this time, the defendant replied 'my gun.'"
Nolan said law enforcement also found more than $10,000 in cash, two out-of-state IDs for two different individuals, four cell phones and a pair of shorts. Nolan said the shorts and gun were found to have DNA from Shepherd.
"The muzzle is where the bullet comes out, and those swabs contained single-source male DNA that is at least one trillion times more likely to have originated from Thomas Shepherd than if it originated from an unrelated or unknown male," Nolan said.
Defense attorney Kurt Schultz presented a much shorter opening argument. He said Coffin's behavior did not match that of a person who committed a murder.
"He retained this weapon with him, he retained the weapon and the clothing you'll clearly see he was wearing in the video at Sammy G's," Schultz said. "All the places, the bus stops, the restrooms, all the dumpsters, all the garbage cans in the restrooms, nothing was disposed. All of the evidence that would implicate him in what they refer to as a murder, he retained and kept with him."
Schultz also said the surveillance footage lacks an audio component, missing details from the altercation leading up to Shepherd's death.
"You'll see there's a struggle between two individuals of the six that were there that evening behind Sammy G's," Schultz said. "You will clearly see what transpired, you will not hear what transpired."
"There's more to it, what transpired between these individuals before this horrible event happened, and that's what I want you to pay attention to," Schultz said.
Court resumes at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.