Bakdash case is now in jury’s hands

Bakdash is charged with one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder for an April hit-and-run in Dinkytown.

Timothy Bakdash

Timothy Bakdash

Branden Largent

The jury in Timothy Bakdash’s  murder trial began deliberating Monday afternoon after closing statements from both attorneys.

A verdict is expected within 48 hours of deliberation starting, according to the judge’s clerk, Bradley Idelkope.

The prosecution argues that physical evidence proves Bakdash intended to kill. Planning, preparation and determination are the factors of premeditation in a crime — a process that can happen in a short period of time, Hennepin County attorney William Richardson said.

Bakdash drove the wrong way down one-way Fifth Street Southeast on April 15, 2011 after a night at the bars, hitting four pedestrians. University of Minnesota student Ben Van Handel, 23, died about a week after the incident.

Bakdash faces one count of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder for what the prosecution argues was an intentional and premeditated act. If convicted of first-degree murder, he could face life in prison without parole.

“There was no indication of an attempt to stop,” Richardson said, pointing to testimony that Bakdash continued down the sidewalk after clipping Aron James Epperson’s ankle and driving through a group of students.

Richardson said Bakdash hit the pedestrians but avoided trees, an embankment and a utility pole, driving straight down the sidewalk. He then made it home without further incident.

Defense attorney Joe Tamburino said Bakdash didn’t intend to kill because he was drunk at the time of the incident and only intended to scare a man he believed he had fought with earlier that night.

Tamburino argued that Bakdash committed criminal vehicular homicide and operation –– the lowest possible crime Bakdash could be charged with — because he was driving his car in a “neglectful manner.”

He also said based on Bakdash’s purported alcohol consumption — 15 mixed drinks and three shots, according to Bakdash’s testimony — his blood-alcohol content would have been between 0.29 and 0.37, which is more than three times the legal limit to drive.

Tamburino accused authorities of conducting a poor investigation by not calling witnesses or reconstructing the scene until long after the incident.

“It’s trying to fit the facts into a theory,” Tamburino said. “They were biased in the theory that he intended to do it from the get-go.”

The jury will be sequestered until it reaches a verdict. In order to convict Bakdash of the charges posed by the prosecution, the 12 jurors must unanimously find that he’s guilty of intent and premeditation to kill beyond a reasonable doubt.

Judge Daniel Mabley reminded jurors the underpinnings of the reasonable doubt standard, calling upon them to apply common sense — not speculation — as they would in the case of their own important life decisions.