Crime

New jury convicts man in Marine’s Lexington slaying, hears from mom during sentencing

Jonathan and Megan Price
Jonathan and Megan Price

A man who was retried this month in the shooting death of a Marine in Lexington was found guilty on six counts Monday night, including charges of murder and robbery.

Dawan Mulazim, 36, was convicted in 2018 on charges related to a robbery at Quality Inn days before the shooting that killed Jonathan Price and injured his wife, Megan Price. The jury in the 2018 trial was unable to reach a verdict in the murder and robbery charges against Mulazim connected to the shooting of the Prices outside Austin City Saloon on June 21, 2014.

After six days of evidence and arguments, a new jury heard closing arguments Monday in the retrial of Mulazim on the charges connected to the robbery of the Prices. They deliberated about four and a half hours before returning multiple guilty verdicts.

Mulazim was found guilty of intentional murder, first-degree robbery and second-degree assault in the Austin City Saloon shooting. However, in each of the counts the jury could not determine if Mulazim was the “principal” offender or complicit. He was also found guilty of complicity to first-degree robbery in connection with the attack on the Prices. Mulazim is eligible for the death penalty on the convictions, his attorney told jurors Tuesday.

In a reported robbery on July 17, 2014 on Second Street, Mulazim was found guilty of two counts of receiving stolen property valued less than $500.

The family of Jonathan Price was visibly relieved when the verdicts were read, including Megan Price, who testified in both the 2018 trial and the retrial.

The Prices were at Austin City Saloon celebrating Megan Price’s birthday on the night of June 20 and into the morning of June 21, 2014. The two were in the parking lot talking at about 1:30 a.m. when they were approached by two men with guns. Jonathan Price was fatally shot in the back, and Megan Price was shot in the leg.

Defense attorneys for Mulazim argued throughout the trial that Mulazim had been accused based on a rumor, faulty memories and mistaken identity. They presented an alibi witness, Joy Birch, who told jurors she’d been with Mulazim at a strip club at the time of the shooting.

After Birch’s testimony, prosecutors played a recent jailhouse call between Mulazim, Birch and another woman. In the call, Mulazim can be heard lining out Birch’s testimony from the 2018 trial and telling her that “nothing’s switched up from the last time.”

Prosecutors argued that the call brings the reliability of Birch’s testimony into question.

During closing arguments, defense attorney Kim Green argued that Mulazim was charged in the robberies after an investigation that was driven by a presumption of guilt. Investigators discounted possible evidence such as DNA under Jonathan Price’s fingernails, fingerprints in the car of the Second Street robbery victims and surveillance videos that could have been obtained, she said.

Assistant commonwealth’s attorney Kimberly Baird countered Green’s closing arguments fiercely during her own, saying that the defense attorney had tried to distract the jurors with irrelevant information like “a magician.” Green disparaged veteran detectives and prosecutors while looking past evidence, Baird said.

Mulazim’s attorney, Andrea Kendall, told jurors Tuesday during the trial’s sentencing phase that they will decide how Mulazim spends his elder years. “Will he be executed, will he die in jail, or will he have a chance to be with his family again, to earn his freedom?”

During the prosecution’s opening statements in sentencing, assistant commonwealth’s attorney Aspen Carlisle told jurors that Mulazim is a violent repeat offender who has been given multiple chances to change. He was on parole when he shot and killed Price, Carlisle said.

Later, Debbie Price, Jonathan’s mother, had multiple jurors and others in the courtroom in tears. She talked about the “Jonathan-sized hole” that was left in her heart after his death. He was her only child. “He will always be my baby who grew into a great man,” she said.

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