In closing arguments Friday, prosecutors portrayed the murder of Anthony Garland Rice as a calculated and well-planned execution, carried out by his cousin, Claire Rice, in order to cash in on two life insurance policies.
Rice’s defense said she didn’t need the money and argued that Anthony Rice may have simply been killed in a robbery.
“Looks are deceiving, because when you look at Claire Rice for the first time, you might not think about that gun she purchased right before the murder,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff told the jury.
Additionally, there are the two life insurance policies she took out on her cousin, the track phone she bought to call him, and a stun gun police found in her ceiling tiles, Kerkhoff told the jury.
During her argument, AUSA Kerkhoff held a manila envelope in her hands.
“In the early morning hours of December 17, 2012, Anthony Rice took this manila folder into Fort Lincoln Park.”
Kerkhoff showed jurors the contents of the folder, which included his resume, a tradesman certificate, an electrician’s license, his social security card and electrician training certificates stamped with dates spanning 1977 to 1981.
The government argued in trial that Anthony got in Claire’s car in the middle of the night because he thought he was going to complete a handyman job for a friend of Claire’s.
“He was excited about this opportunity. He had hope,” Kerkhoff said. “This manila envelope was dropped feet from his body. Feet from where he was executed.”
Police found Rice dead in Fort Lincoln Park. He was shot once in the heart and twice in the back of the head.
According to lead detective Hosam Nasr’s testimony, visible brain matter in the pool of blood by Anthony’s head proved that the shooter was less than three feet away when he was shot.
“When police arrived, this folder was the first clue, the first piece of evidence you had. Anthony tells you his [murder] was different with the envelope.”
“We don’t have to prove that she pulled the trigger, just that she was involved. She planned it so we wouldn’t know,” said Kerkhoff. “She’s still guilty of what she’s charged with and that is first-degree premeditated murder.”
But Semyonova argued that Claire Rice had plenty of funding and wouldn’t need to kill Anthony to save her mortgage, as the government had implied.
“There’s a salary of $63,000 a year, there’s the eligibility for social security, there’s the $17,000 available in an Ameriprise account,” Semyonova said.
The defense argued that there were alternate, more likely explanations for Anthony’s death.
“We know that Mr. Rice was assaulted in the past. We know that he had drug debts. We know that he’s in a park in the middle of the night,” defense attorney Katerina Semyonova said. “You know his toxicology results. You know there are two different kinds of bullets in Mr. Rice’s body.”
Toxicologist Lucas Zarwell testified in court that Anthony tested positive for two to three times the amount of cocaine in the bloodstream than Zarwell typically sees. According to Zarwell, it was entirely possible that Anthony could reach those levels through binge using between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.
“A job interview isn’t about binge use at 2:30 in the morning in a park,” Semyonova said. “What makes sense is that he wasn’t going for a job and that he didn’t want to tell Natalie Tucker what he was doing — that’s what makes sense.”
“An easy way of making that story more credible is by taking that folder.”