KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The jury has returned a verdict of guilty on all charges in the trial of Charles Pickett Jr. on Tuesday.
The jury was given the case after defense and prosecutors made their closing arguments on Tuesday morning. The jury deliberated for about four hours before returning a verdict.
Pickett was found guilty of five counts of second-degree murder, five counts of operating while intoxicated visually impaired causing death, and four counts of operating while intoxicated visually impaired causing serious injury.
Crash survivors and the victims' families broke down in tears as Pickett was found guilty of murder Tuesday afternoon.
Pickett's lawyers never fought the nine drugged driving charges he faced, but they cast doubt on whether Pickett's actions the night of the crash fit the criteria for murder.
Twisted metal tangled under the pickup truck that plowed into a group of bicyclists at about 60 mph. A sock stuck to the bumper.
Pickett appeared completely out of it in a video recorded in the ambulance after the crash that killed five people and seriously injured four other cyclists. He was found guilty of all 14 charges against him on Tuesday.
To prove the crash was second-degree murder, and not just driving while intoxicated causing death, Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Kanaby walked jurors through more than a dozen close calls Pickett had with drivers around Kalamazoo County in the hour leading up to the crash.
“Mr. Pickett is not totally oblivious to what's going on around him he had an opportunity right there to stop, pull over.” Kanaby said, “But he didn't do it, he kept going and he smashed into those people, destroying them, their bodies, and their lives.”
The defense argued the state's murder case was built on speculation about what was going through Pickett's mind while driving with a cocktail of drugs in his system.
Defense Attorney Alan Koenig said, “I don't think these bottles have any of those, title circles with the line though it saying ‘don't drive.’”
Kanaby said, “Well, there's 15 warnings along the way that should have gotten his attention.”
Four 911 calls came in in the half hour before the crash to report a pickup seen swerving into oncoming traffic, speeding in and out of bike lanes, jumping curbs, taking down a street sign, and cutting across a yard.
Kanaby said, “That isn't a warning sign that you're physically not capable after taking a bunch of pills that you threw down your throat.”
Knowing driving on pain killers and muscle relaxers would likely end in death or serious injury, it took the jury just three and a half hours to convict Pickett all 14 felony charges, including five counts of murder.
Jury Foreman Nick Meisling said, “He chose to keep going which is obviously resulted in the death of five people.”
A crash that change so many lives forever.
Kanaby said, “I just wanted to bring that home for the families.”
A case that took nearly two years to bring to trial, Kanaby says justice delayed is not justice denied.
Kanaby said, “So, yeah, relief and a lot of tears of joy.”
The judge suspended bond on Pickett until his sentencing, which was set for 8:30 a.m. June 11.