Two brothers on trial for shooting a man outside the Capital Grille, Downtown, testified Thursday that they never intended to fire a weapon.
Instead, Hassan Howze, 23, and his brother, Antonio Peterson, 25, said what started the afternoon of April 5 was meant to be simply a fight.
Both men, of Overbrook, are charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, conspiracy and recklessly endangering.
Surveillance video of shooting outside Capital Grille
This surveillance video shows a scuffle that led to a shooting last April outside the Capital Grille, Downtown. Two men were arrested and charged with attempted homicide, among other charges. (12/6/2013)
A jury began deliberating the case Thursday afternoon before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Joseph K. Williams III.
Mr. Peterson took the stand on his own behalf and told the jury that he charged at Jamel Terry as he and his brother were walking along Fifth Avenue because he was mad at Mr. Terry for what he said was an assault weeks earlier in which his jaw was broken.
"Just seeing Mr. Terry, rage took over me," Mr. Peterson testified. "I intended it to be a fistfight by two young men."
The prosecution charges that Mr. Howze pulled out a .40-caliber handgun when he saw Mr. Peterson was losing the fight. As the three men wrestled for the gun, three shots were fired.
Mr. Terry suffered a grazing wound across his back, and Mr. Howze was shot in the groin.
The defense argues that Mr. Terry actually shot himself after he gained control of the gun and fired shots behind his back. The prosecution discounts that claim.
During his testimony, Mr. Howze said he attempted to defuse the situation with his brother and break up the fight and he dropped his gun in the scuffle.
But Assistant District Attorney Matt Wholey said that, based on surveillance video that captured most of the incident, it appeared Mr. Howze at first pulled his gun out to pistol whip Mr. Terry when he saw his brother was losing the fight. Later, he said, Mr. Howze extended his arm to shoot the victim.
Mr. Peterson disagreed.
"It would never have been a fight if I intended to shoot him," Mr. Peterson said. "Honestly, I was taught to fight -- win, lose or draw. You win some, you lose some."
Matthew Ness, who is representing Mr. Howze, said his client lawfully possessed the two guns that were on him that day and said it was clear in the video that Mr. Terry was preparing himself for a fight as his client and Mr. Peterson approached.
He said Mr. Terry was not telling the truth.
"He has every reason in the world to blame those two fellows," Mr. Ness said of Mr. Terry. "Why? Because he shot somebody.
"If you want to convict someone of a serious crime, especially attempted murder, you need more."
Anne Marie Mancuso, who is representing Mr. Peterson, said Mr. Terry admitted during the preliminary hearing that he shot himself.
"He said, 'I shot myself in the shoulder,' " she told the jury. He also testified that he never saw Mr. Peterson with a firearm.
"I can tell you one thing for certain. He did not go there with the intent to commit criminal homicide," Ms. Mancuso said.
But Mr. Wholey told the jury in his closing argument that intent can form in an instant.
"When Mr. Terry is getting the better part of his brother, it's time to escalate the fight," the prosecutor said.
Paula Reed Ward: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2620 or on Twitter @PaulaReedWard.