CALDWELL -- A Canyon County jury has found 33-year-old Gregory Higgins of Nampa guilty of first-degree murder with a weapons enhancement in the shooting death of 27-year-old James Groat of Nampa.
The verdict was announced shortly after 2 p.m. Friday.
Higgins was found guilty of shooting and killing Groat near Lake Lowell on or about August 27, 2012.
Higgins and two accomplices reportedly lured Groat into a remote area, handed him a shovel and told the 27-year-old Groat to dig his own grave. His body was found the next day.
RECAP OF CLOSING ARGUMENTS
On Wednesday, case attorneys delivered closing arguments and jurors deliberated for around four hours before heading home at 5 p.m. Because of some questions in open court, it appeared the jury was re-watching some of the video evidence presented.
Canyon County Deputy Prosecutor Monica Morrison delivered a roughly 20 minute closing, insisting the state had done enough to prove Higgins guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Morrison began by quoting a recovered text message, she says that were sent from Higgins to alleged accomplice Mike Duran about keeping another eyewitness and accomplice Cruz Flores quiet: "Delete all messages on phone. Watch Cruz. I trust you, Mike. Okay?"
Prosecutors say more text messages and other evidence further prove Higgins lured James Groat into the country, under the guise of needing cover for a drug deal and then shot him.
"Even though the murder weapon has never been recovered, you know which gun was used to kill James. You've seen the text messages that were sent from Mike Duran's phone about getting a 9 millimeter," Morrison said.
A big part of the prosecution's case is testimony from Flores and Duran. Morrison pointed out they have nearly identical accounts of the night of the shooting.
"Since Cruz Flores' interview on August 30th of 2012 and his confession, he has had no contact with Mike Duran. These two individuals have been housed in separate jails since their arrest," Morrison said.
But attorneys for Higgins question the two men and their similar stories.
"Here's the thing that's interesting about Duran and Flores. I mean Flores just flat out tells us yesterday that they talked about the story so they'd match. And I said to him, 'You know the value of a matching story?' 'You bet'," Defense Attorney Chuck Peterson said.
Peterson spoke for hours, asking the jury to consider a lack of physical evidence to prove the stories of the two men testifying against Higgins.
"If we go to look for any kind of evidence of those things to corroborate their story, what we get in this case is nothing. There's nothing really towards Greg Higgins at the scene. Period. Except the testimony of these two folks," Peterson said.