A jury found Nakotah Javez Smith guilty on all nine counts including malice murder, aggravated assault and cruelty to children charges. Sentencing will be held in 10 days.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday in the murder trial of a Rome man accused of shooting his girlfriend in the head in front of two young children.
Nakotah Javez Smith, 34, is being tried in Floyd County Superior Court on charges including malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, cruelty to children and weapons violations.
He is accused of shooting his girlfriend Crystal Dawn Vega, 30, on June 15, 2018, in their West 13th Street apartment. Vega died three days later at Floyd Medical Center. She had recently given birth to their second child.
Assistant District Attorney Emily Johnson said Smith shot Vega during an argument because she had made up her mind to leave him. Police did not recover the weapon.
Vega’s sisters and a friend testified Tuesday that she had told them of several times when Smith had physically abused her and that she had discovered he was unfaithful. A cab driver the couple often used also testified to seeing a fight.
Her oldest sister, Tiffany Vega, said when Crystal was in the hospital with the newborn — who was in intensive care — she called to say Smith came by and left the other kids, ages 1 and 2, with her. Two days before the shooting, Crystal called again.
“She was crying and crying and crying ... She said ‘I’m just tired; tired of all this with him,’” Tiffany Vega said.
Smith’s attorney, Public Defender Sean Lowe, raised a continuing objection to what he called hearsay evidence by the sisters and the friend, but Senior Judge Walter Matthews allowed the testimony. On cross examination, Lowe underscored that they had not seen Crystal Vega on June 15.
“So none of your testimony relates to what happened on that day, in that apartment,” he said in ending his questioning of the friend.
Lowe said in his opening statement that the shooting was accidental and self-defense. A likely scenario, he said, is that Vega got the gun during a fight, they struggled and the weapon went off.
However, Matthews said no such evidence was presented during the two days of testimony. Neighbors on the stand Monday said Smith came to them for help saying Vega shot herself.
“I haven’t heard of a struggle from any source ... He said she pulled the trigger and killed herself,” Matthews said as he and the two attorneys flipped through law books after the jury was excused.
At issue is the question of how Matthews will instruct the jury at the end of the trial. Before they go to deliberate, the judge spends time defining the legal justification required for each finding they must make.