YOUNGSTOWN -- Did Eugene McKinney die as a result of an unprovoked shooting, or was it because of his own impulsive action?
That's what jurors must decide in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, where Melvin Hughes is on trial on charges of aggravated murder and aggravated burglary.
No one disputes that Hughes went to McKinney's house on Ferndale Avenue, carrying an AK-47 assault rifle, in the early morning of Sept. 3. Stories differ, though, on what happened after he walked through the door.
Assistant Prosecutor Kelly Johns said Hughes suddenly, and without provocation, shot McKinney in the chest, then robbed the house of money and a video game McKinney had been playing with his girlfriend just before the shooting.
Defense: But in his opening statement to jurors, defense lawyer Douglas B. Taylor said Hughes intended to sell the gun to McKinney. Hughes was startled when McKinney lunged and grabbed at the weapon, trying to snatch it out of his hands, Taylor said.
The two struggled with the weapon, ending up in the home's kitchen. Hughes yanked on the gun, causing its butt to strike a kitchen counter and a bullet to be fired. That's how McKinney got shot, Taylor said.
On a videotaped statement to police three days after the shooting, Hughes said the first shot was fired in an entryway just after he entered the house. Detective Sgt. John Kelty of the Youngstown Police Department said, however, that three spent bullet casings were found in the kitchen, none in the entryway.