Mitrel Anderson’s defense attorneys, jury member talk about trial
Mitrel Anderson acquitted of first-degree intentional homicide
LA CROSSE, Wis. (KWBT) — One day after Mitrel Anderson is acquitted of first degree intentional homicide in the stabbing death of DeMario Lee, his defense attorneys are speaking about the trial.
During the eight-day trial, the defense team, Elizabeth Wright and Christopher Zachar, argued that DeMario Lee’s death last summer at a Kwik Trip in La Crosse was the result of self-defense. The defense credits the jury’s verdict of not-guilty to strong witness testimony and video evidence.
“We the jury find the defendant, Mitrel Anderson, not guilty,” said the jury foreman.
It was an outcome Mitrel Anderson’s defense attorneys said was clear from the beginning.
“It was self-defense, and I would say it was bittersweet because Mitrel never wanted to be in that situation. He had to defend himself, he certainly did not want to hurt Lee but he had no choice,” said Wright.
To prove the defense’s case of self-defense, the attorneys used video evidence and witness testimony.
“The evidence was very clear from the witnesses in the restroom, from the camera angles at the Kwik Trip, from the intent of the parties involved that Mr. Anderson was followed into that bathroom,” said Zachar.
“It easily documented that he went into the bathroom and then boom, the next person went in, and boom, the next person went in,” said Wright.
As in any trial, at times it may not feel like it is going your way.
“You always suffer a series of mini heart attacks every time you are confronted with something unexpected,” said Zachar.
But both defense attorneys agree one of the key points in the trial was when Mitrel Anderson took the stand himself.
“I think the jury almost always likes to hear from the defendant,” said Wright.
“I was on my back and he had pinned my right arm down and he pinned my head down and he was trying to pin my other arm down,” said Anderson.
“The way he acted on the stand you can’t make that up. The jury knew Mitrel was telling the truth and that was the story he has been waiting to tell the last 18 months,” said Zachar.
“I swung the knife at Demario,” said Anderson
“Were you trying to kill Mr. Lee?’ said Wright
“No. I didn’t want to kill him. I just wanted to get out of that bathroom. I didn’t want to die,” said Anderson.
In the end, both attorneys say the jury got it right.
“We believed him from the beginning,” said Wright.
“I think the jury just looked at the evidence,” said Zachar.
Mitrel Anderson believes justice has been served.
“You all did it. I’m home you all,” said Anderson. “The justice system really works.”
News 8 tried to talk to DeMario Lee’s family after the verdict but no one would comment. His family was visibly upset with the outcome.
Prosecuting attorney Michelle Keller released a statement Friday that said, “I haven’t had any feedback from jurors, so I really couldn’t say what went into making the decisions that they made. We respect the process and the jury’s decision.”
We also talked to a jury member who said it was a very emotional deliberation. A lot of tears were shed because they knew no matter what verdict they agreed upon, someone would be hurt, especially because Lee lost his life.
As soon as the judge gave the jury instructions, they went behind closed doors and deliberated. The jury members immediately took a vote to see where everyone stood, and nine said Anderson was not guilty, while three said guilty. Then the jury proceeded to talk through each possible verdict until they unanimously agreed upon not guilty.