Shopping center slaying: Testimony begins in murder trial

Prosecutors describe a 'stone cold killer'; defense calls it a case of mistaken identity

Posted: Thursday, May 10, 2007

Following jury selection Wednesday, the murder trial of Jason Coday got off to a quick and descriptive start in Juneau Superior Court.

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"I ask you to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Jason Coday is guilty of murder, and a stone cold killer," District Attorney Doug Gardner told the jury.

Coday, 29, is accused in the August 4, 2006, slaying of Simone Kim behind Fred Meyer department store. Kim was a painting contractor from Anchorage working on a remodeling project.

Gardner told the jury he would show that Coday bought the murder weapon, the ammunition, and a hacksaw used to saw off the rifle barrel before walking up to Kim and fatally shooting him.

With no fingerprints to connect Coday to the murder weapon, Gardner said he would rely on eyewitnesses and a DNA expert to show that Coday was the gunman.

The prosecution continues its case today.

Defense attorney David Seid appeared disheveled as he delivered his opening argument. Dressed in cargo pants and blazer, with bushy hair, he looked much like his client.

Seid said he wanted to appear much like Coday, who was unshaven and dressed in orange prison garb, defying the convention of a well-dressed defendant.

"Coday was in the wrong place at the wrong time," Seid said. He called it a case of "mistaken identity."

He argued that Juneau police arrested the wrong man.

Someone went to a store and bought a gun, the defense attorney said. Someone bought ammunition, and someone bought a hacksaw.

"But that person was not Jason Coday," Seid said. "This is a tragic killing. Someone killed him, but that someone was not Jason Coday."

Seid did not present an alibi, however.

Earlier, Gardner told the jury that DNA evidence would connect Coday to the gun. Three of Gardner's expected 20 witnesses were then called to the stand.

Juneau Police Sgt. Tom Bates explained the crime scene to the jury as Gardner presented aerial photographs of the Fred Meyer store and the area behind it.

One witness, a 16-year-old girl, described how she was talking with Kim and co-worker Ed Buyarski when the shooter walked quickly up to the trio, stopped abruptly, and shot Kim in the face.

"Not a word was said," according to the minor.

She described Kim spinning around and falling to the ground, holding his face. The teenage witness said at first she thought a coworker of Kim's was playing a joke with a paintball gun.

Then she saw holes in Kim's shirt.

Pointing to a large photograph of Coday before the jury, she said: "That is exactly the person who shot him."

On the stand, Buyarski said he had a clear view of the gunman's face as he leveled the sawed-off rifle and shot Kim in the mouth.

Buyarski held the murder weapon in his hands and described wrestling it from the defendant.

"I wanted to make sure that no one else was killed," Buyarski said.

Members of Kim's family began to cry as Buyarski described how Kim rolled over in agony "with blood coming out of his mouth."

Buyarski pointed at Coday and told the jury the gunman was "that fellow there in the orange shirt."

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