Opening arguments begin in Robert Coffin murder trial

UTICA, N.Y.--Opening arguments began Monday in the murder trial against Robert Coffin.

Posted: Mar 19, 2018 7:10 PM

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.

New York Coronavirus Cases

County data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 486480

Reported Deaths: 33366
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Queens753447288
Kings734337373
Bronx545234980
Nassau487312204
Suffolk481212016
Westchester396161460
New York351253192
Rockland17269680
Richmond167821091
Orange13218502
Erie12513708
Monroe6798300
Dutchess5355163
Onondaga5052207
Albany3436136
Broome300383
Oneida2599128
Ulster241995
Niagara1968101
Putnam175263
Sullivan168248
Schenectady151050
Chemung13323
Saratoga121917
Rensselaer104042
Steuben88457
Chautauqua80513
Columbia65738
Ontario59835
Oswego5944
Tompkins5560
Madison53717
Greene47718
Tioga45925
Warren43933
Cortland4360
Cattaraugus4176
Wayne3865
Genesee3715
Herkimer37110
Orleans36854
Otsego3685
St. Lawrence3684
Fulton36024
Chenango3317
Washington32614
Cayuga3022
Montgomery2564
Livingston2508
Allegany2201
Clinton2155
Essex1940
Jefferson1920
Wyoming1675
Delaware1597
Seneca1283
Schoharie1010
Schuyler1000
Yates987
Franklin770
Lewis570
Hamilton160
Unassigned020
Utica
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 61°
Oneonta
Overcast
59° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 51°
Feels Like: 59°
Herkimer
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 61°
Thendara
Overcast
60° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 60°
WKTV Radar
WKTV Temperatures
WKTV Severe Weather
Click here to learn more about A Healthier Mohawk Valley
Submit Costume Contest Pics by October 21st
Saluting Those Who Are Proud 2 Serve
WKTV Golf Card - Under 150 left