Delivering a blistering attack on prosecution witnesses, Ricky Kyle's defense attorney asked a Los Angeles Superior Court jury Tuesday to acquit Kyle of his father's murder and "not to follow the rabbit trail put out by the prosecution."
Ending his three-day summation, attorney Michael P. Gibson ridiculed prosecution theories about the July, 1983, shooting death of multimillionaire Henry Harrison Kyle. He repeatedly claimed that prosecutors had failed to prove their charge that the son planned and carried out his father's murder.
Instead, Gibson told the jury that Ricky Kyle shot his father in self-defense after the elder Kyle turned and fired in his son's direction while they were searching for prowlers in Henry Kyle's Bel-Air mansion. Ricky Kyle, his attorney said, interpreted that as a "death attack."
"The only thing this young man could think was, 'My God, my father's trying to kill me!"' Gibson said.
Prosecutors allege that Ricky Kyle awakened his father before dawn July 22, 1983, and told him he heard intruders. After the search proved unsuccessful, Henry Kyle let down his guard and was preparing to return to his bedroom when Ricky Kyle shot him in the heart at point-blank range, prosecutors charge. The prosecution contends that Ricky Kyle killed his father to gain part of his father's vast estate.
Three witnesses, including Ricky Kyle's half-sister and brother-in-law, testified during the five-month trial that Kyle admitted to them that he killed his father.
Gibson admitted that Ricky Kyle had "in frustration" threatened to kill his father, but he said police investigators and prosecutors jumped to the conclusion that he was guilty of murder.
"The prosecution can put out islands of facts and suggest that you fill it in with oceans of speculation," Gibson said.
He repeatedly reminded jurors that the alleged confessions occurred while Ricky Kyle and the three witnesses were smoking free-based cocaine, and he called the prosecution witnesses "liars" and "drug addicts." Gibson also charged that the three key witnesses testified against Ricky Kyle in an effort to gain part of the Kyle estate.
One witness, Kyle's half-sister Jackie Phillips, saw her share of the estate jump from $10,000 to $1 million after Ricky Kyle was charged with murder, Gibson said. Originally, Henry Kyle's will split the estate between Ricky and his brother, Scott Kyle. After the will was challenged, Ricky Kyle's share dropped to 18%, Gibson said.
Phillips "is a millionairess today by her own actions, her own conduct," he said.
Gibson suggested that the circumstances of the killing showed that Ricky Kyle had not, as the prosecution contended, methodically planned and executed his father.
"Why would a young man who's going to execute his father give him the opportunity to get armed with a .357 magnum?" he asked the jury.
Testimony by ballistics experts showed that one shot fired by Henry Kyle's gun hit a door in the mansion at a height of 6 feet, 1 inch. Five other shots fired by Henry Kyle--one of which struck Ricky Kyle in the elbow--struck walls and doors at a height of about 31 inches.
Gibson told the jury that physical evidence suggests that Henry Kyle was standing--and firing in his son's direction--when the first shot went off. Then the elder Kyle was struck by his son's shot and fell, resulting in the lower angle of the final five shots.
Prosecutors, in their final summation that ended Friday, argued that the bullet heights prove only that Henry Kyle remained standing for a time after he was hit--long enough to fire one shot--then fell toward the ground, emptying his pistol.
The jury is expected to begin deliberations today after receiving instructions from Superior Court Judge Robert R. Devich.