Defense Attorney Kelly Green shows the jury a crime scene photo Monday morning during cross examination. Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier

By Gregory J. Lamoureux
County Courier

ST. ALBANS: Prosecutor Jim Hughes ended his case against Georgia resident Ethan Gratton with gruesome scene photos, including one that depicted the mangled face of Mark Brito.

That photo, according to former Vermont State Trooper Matthew Johnson, was taken as rescue crews loaded Brito into an ambulance on January 2nd, 2017.

Johnson, who now works for the Federal Bureau of Investigations, testified that he was the first law enforcement officer on the scene of the shooting, and he was the officer who initially took Gratton into custody.

Johnson also told the jury he performed the initial first aid to Brito, who was lying face up on the shoulder of the roadway, breathing, but unresponsive to verbal commands.

“He had a wound on his face, between his eyes, consistent with a gunshot wound,” Johnson recalled. “His facial features were indistinguishable.”

The Trooper was trained in combat first aid by the Army, he said on the stand, using that knowledge to make sure Brito could continue to breathe until an ambulance could get there.

“I kept saying to him, keep breathing,” Johnson recalled.

The testimony came at the end of State’s Attorney Jim Hughes’ case of Second Degree Murder and Attempted Second Degree Murder Monday morning.

Hughes case, at least in the eyes of defense attorney Kelly Green, did not present any additional information than what was shown to Judge Gregory Rainville in April of 2017, when Rainville heard arguments to release Gratton on Bail.

Rainville agreed in that case, releasing Gratton, citing a lack of compelling evidence that Gratton was guilty of the homicidal murder with no right to do so.

Hughes argued that he had presented additional evidence, one piece he pointed to was the testimony of the Medical Examiner, who testified that at least two bullets fired from Gratton’s gun traveled upwards, through David Hill’s body, a trajectory that indicates Hill was shot as he was either on the ground or falling.

Green countered that argument with the idea that those bullets were not the straw that broke the camel’s back, instead they were just bullets that were shot as Hill was falling, and were shot within the same moments that the first few fatal shots were fired.

One major part of the case the defense was successful in blocking from the State’s case was the presentation of an expert’s analysis of the blood spatter at the crime scene.

Because Hughes failed to properly notify the defense before trial that he planned to call a Vermont State Trooper, and also have him give his expert analysis of the blood stains at the scene, Judge Gregory Rainville blocked Hughes from using any expert judgment from that Trooper.

If the case is continued, the defense plans to call their own blood spatter expert- one that Hughes will be able to cross examine, but not lead into his path of questioning.

It may be possible Hughes will be able to call that State Trooper to elicit his expert testimony, but only after the defense calls their own, and only to counter that witness’ statements.

Judge Gregory Rainville queried the attorneys on the attempted murder charge, which relates to the shooting of Brito.

“Where did you prove attempted murder?” Rainville asked Hughes.

Hughes said the shooting of Brito, even if one considers the shooting of Hill as self-defense, “there is a provocation by David Hill, that can’t be transferred to Mark Brito.”

Ethan Gratton, Center, is flanked by victim Mark Brito, left, and State’s Attorney Jim Hughes, right, on Friday. Gregory J. Lamoureux, County Courier

Green said that argument couldn’t be further from the truth, citing Vermont Supreme court rulings where the court has ruled any action that makes the defendant feel unsafe is grounds for self-defense.

“You’re along on the road,” Green purports, “A man punches you, you shoot that man. Another man runs towards you,” she leaves the rest of that thought for the listener to finish.

“This is a very serious case,” said Green as she argued for the dismissal of both charges, each of which could land Gratton in prison for 20 years to life, “His entire future is on the line, without more (evidence) we should not be subject to a Jury’s verdict.”

Rainville announced a recess to deliberate the arguments of the motion, indicating little more than this is not the average case, where every defense attorney makes a similar motion.

“This is going to take some time to decide,” Rainville said as he left the courtroom early Monday morning.

Rainville had yet to make his ruling at the time this article was published. Follow the print edition of the County Courier for complete coverage of the trial.