LOS ANGELES (AP) — Closing arguments are scheduled on Friday in the murder trial of Michel Jace, who played a police officer on television, with dueling portrayals of the actor presented to a jury.
Is Jace a calculating killer, who shot his wife in the back and then in the legs after taunting her about her love of running? Or was the actor, distraught over the impending end of his marriage of nine years, so distraught that he shot and killed his wife April in the heat of passion?
A jury of six men and six women will have to decide after hearing closing arguments whether to convict “The Shield” actor of first-degree murder, or choose a lesser charge such as voluntary manslaughter.
Jace acknowledges he shot and killed his wife on May 19, 2014, in their Los Angeles home. He waited for police after calling 911 and gave a lengthy interview to detectives in which he told them he wanted to inflict pain on April Jace and planned to shoot her in the leg with her father’s revolver.
Instead, Jace shot her three times and fired two shots into her legs in a hallway within sight of their young sons, who were ages 5 and 8 at the time.
Jace’s now 10-year-old son testified Wednesday that he heard his father tell his mother, “‘If you like running, then run to heaven.'”
Michael Jace, who had small roles in films such as “Boogie Nights,” ”Forrest Gump” and the television show “Southland,” had been out of work for years and financial struggles put a strain on their marriage.
April Jace, who earlier that day had told her husband she wanted a divorce, was killed moments after returning to their home after a youth baseball game. Text messages presented during the trial show Michael Jace had told his wife he had left their home, but instead was waiting with the loaded handgun.
He told detectives he planned to kill himself, but couldn’t follow through. He also said he shot his wife the first time after she lunged at him.
“I was just angry,” Michael Jace told investigators, according to a transcript released Thursday. “All I intended to do was shoot her in the leg. And then I shot her in the leg and that was it.”
In opening statements, Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef portrayed Jace as a calculating killer.
“You will hear that on May 19, 2014, the defendant took a loaded gun, a revolver, and waited for his wife to come home and then shot her in the back and then shot her two more times in front of their kids,” Mokayef told jurors.
Jace’s attorney Jamon Hicks called the case tragic in opening statements Tuesday that case boiled down to the actor’s mindset at the time of the killing, and whether it was premeditated. “This case is not about how it was done. We acknowledge it. We accept responsibility,” Hicks said. “This case is about why it was done.”
If convicted of first-degree murder, Jace faces 50 years to life in prison.