COLUMBUS, Ohio – The man who has admitted to a string of highway shootings planned his actions and showed rational thought as fearful drivers changed their routes and law enforcement increased patrols on the city's south side, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday.
"Life is about choices," Assistant Prosecutor Ed Morgan said in his opening statement in Franklin County Common Pleas Court (search).
Charles McCoy Jr. (search), 29, pleaded innocent by reason of insanity to 12 shootings at moving vehicles on Columbus-area highways and nearby houses and a school. One woman riding in a car was killed.
His attorneys must prove his untreated paranoid schizophrenia (search) kept him from knowing right from wrong during the shootings over five months in 2003 and 2004. If the jury agrees, he would be hospitalized until a judge frees him.
He could face the death penalty if convicted of the aggravated murder charge for Gail Knisley's death.
The defense will present its opening statement after the prosecution finishes its case. Testimony was expected to start Thursday afternoon.
Morgan detailed the 12 shootings, trying to show how close the shots came to passengers, pointing out that bullets hit cars' hoods and shattered driver-side windows. He also showed on a map how the first six circled his Columbus house, then moved outward as publicity increased.
"By itself, does that tell you the defendant understood and appreciated the wrongfulness of his actions?" Morgan said. "I would think so."
McCoy also fled when his parents gave his guns to police, Morgan said. One was matched to bullets or casings from the shootings.
The prosecutor quoted an exchange between McCoy and a Franklin County sheriff's detective after McCoy was arrested in Las Vegas.
"Question: Why'd you leave? Answer: Because I guess it looked bad for me," Morgan said.
The jurors and alternates on Wednesday toured the 12 sites where attorneys for McCoy acknowledged he fired a handgun.
The defense for the 29-year-old Columbus man plans to fight the legal question of intent essential to the 24 charges, seeking to get lesser charges and some outright acquittals. Some shootings carry more than one charge, such as felonious assault and attempted murder.
The aggravated murder charge requires proving "prior calculation and design" and that he intended to kill two or more people.
McCoy listened impassively to the prosecution's opening statement. He lowered his head slightly when Morgan described the coroner's report on Knisley's death that said the bullet pierced her lung and heart.
Prosecutor Ron O'Brien revealed Wednesday that investigators believe Knisley, a 62-year-old from Washington Court House being driven to a doctor's appointment, was likely shot from a moving car going the opposite direction.
Investigators used a laser through the bullet hole in the driver's side door and determined the shot came from street level.
Because the attorneys traveled separately and didn't interact with jurors during Wednesday's tour of the shooting sites, the jury has not yet heard that information.
Morgan showed pictures of the rural overpasses where jurors had stood the day before, leaning over railings to watch traffic whiz by below. He told jurors that McCoy deliberately chose overpasses with no entrance and exit ramps, so no one could chase him.
Jurors also saw a field where McCoy fired a shot toward I-270 (search), atop a steep embankment. The shot arced over the highway and landed in the wall of a house not visible from the field. The charge in that shooting requires proving he "knowingly" shot at a house.