When the jury reaches a verdict this week, 51-year-old Wayne Matthew Price will either leave the Montgomery County courthouse a free man or face a sentence for the murder of his son.
Both Price's defense attorneys and the assistant state's attorneys prosecuting the case called the death of 23-year-old Matthew Eugene Price a tragedy, but after four days of testimony ended with closing arguments Monday morning, that is all the two sides agreed upon.
"Wayne Price exhibited a conscious disregard for the consequences of his actions," said Jeffrey Wennar in the prosecution's closing Monday. "This was willful, deliberate, premeditated murder."
Wennar described the elder Price as the aggressor in a confrontation that began in his Gaithersburg apartment the evening of May 5 when Price came home to find his son had made a mess and apparently had friends over in violation of the rules Price had laid down. Price tried to force Matthew out and, when he refused, Price retrieved a handgun from his bedroom and shot him, Wennar said.
"Instead of returning to the bedroom, shutting the door, plugging that phone back into the wall and calling the police, he chose instead to reach up for that bag, remove the gun and return to where his son was and shot him," Wennar said.
Steven Kupferberg, Price's attorney, characterized Matthew as the aggressor in a physical struggle that began when Price asked him to leave. Matthew, who was living with his father after spending two years in jail for a sexual offense, prevented Price from calling the police and physically prevented him from leaving the apartment, even choking him at one point, Kupferberg told the jury.
"Do we leave out what happened in the 15 to 20 minutes, the half an hour leading up to [the shooting]?" Kupferberg said. "Are we supposed to forget that happened?"
Kupferberg also contested the prosecution's claim that Price intended to kill his son, arguing instead that Price had only pointed the gun at Matthew because he feared for his life and wanted to frighten his son into stepping away from the door. According to the defense, Price only fired the gun after his son lunged at him and threatened to kill him.
"Who was the aggressor when he lunged at him? ... Who testified that [Price] casually walked down the hallway and pointed the gun at Matthew?" Kupferberg said.
Price testified in his own defense Friday afternoon, supporting Kupferberg's claim that his son attacked him and the gunshot was an unplanned reaction.
"There was no thought; it was reflexive," Price said. "At this point in time I had already tried to call 911 three times, I had already tried to leave the apartment ... I had just been choked by my own son."
Price was charged with first-degree murder and the use of a handgun in a violent crime. If he is found guilty, Price could face a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole for the murder charge alone. The handgun offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a possible maximum sentence of 20 years, according to state law.