A DeKalb County jury adjourned for the evening Thursday before reaching a verdict in the murder trial of a 47-year-old Dunwoody housewife who said she killed her wealthy husband in self-defense.
During closing arguments Thursday, Assistant District Attorney John Melvin asked jurors to see through Lona Scott's "lies" and convict her of murdering her husband to gain control of his estate.
"She has five million reasons to lie," Melvin said, referring to the value of Ralph C. "Cliff" Scott's holdings. "It has always been about the money."
But defense attorney Brian Steel asked jurors to acquit his client because she was acting in self-defense.
"Her motive was survival," Steel said. "He's not a victim. He's a monster."
Lona Scott called police to the couple's three-story Dunwoody home in the pre-dawn hours of March 4, 2008. She said that after her husband had put her in a chokehold and released her, she'd grabbed her .22-caliber handgun out of a drawer and rushed across the master bedroom to get her purse and car keys so she could leave with their 5-year-old daughter, who was asleep down the hall.
Scott, who testified in her defense Wednesday, said Cliff Scott, a muscular, 42-year-old workaholic who ran a successful trucking company, followed her, cornered her and then threatened to kill her. When he charged, she testified, she fired a shot that likely hit him in the upper left chest.
Scott then followed her across the bedroom and charged again, so she fired seven more shots, striking him five more times, she testified. One shot, almost instantly fatal, struck him just above the forehead.
Melvin showed jurors pictures of the blood spatter on the bedroom's hardwood floor and said they show Cliff Scott could not have been charging at his wife. "You do not have to leave your common sense at the door when you go to the jury room," he said. "He wasn't going to kill her."
The defendant was furious her husband had not fulfilled his obligations -- which included giving her their $900,000 home and $1 million in cash -- under a reconciliation agreement reached in their divorce case, the prosecutor said. He had told her he was taking the money and moving it to an offshore account in the Bahamas where he would live, leaving her penniless, Melvin said. That, he said, was Lona Scott's motive for murder.
But Steel told jurors that his client's account of what happened when she killed Cliff Scott has not wavered from the time she talked to police shortly after they arrived to her testimony on the witness stand. Her story also has not been refuted by the scientific evidence, he said.
Lona Scott did not want to kill her husband, he said. "But you have every right to defend your life. You don't have to die if someone wants to kill you."
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