Utah homicide trial focuses on alleged emotional distress
Provo • When Tracy A. Scott called 911 on the evening of March 23, 2013, his voice was flat and calm. No emotion was conveyed as he told a dispatcher what had just happened inside his Salem home.
"My wife is shot," Scott told a dispatcher.
"Who shot her?" the dispatcher asked.
"Is she awake?" the dispatcher asked.
"No, she's dead," Scott replied.
The recorded 911 call was the first piece of evidence presented to a jury Tuesday, the first day of trial for Scott who is accused of shooting and killing his wife that March night.
During opening statements in 4th District Court, Deputy Utah County Attorney Lance Bastian asked the jurors to note the "flat emotion" and "tone" in Scott's voice.
"It wasn't until [a police officer] placed the handcuffs on him that there was a flood of emotion from Mr. Scott," Bastian told the jury.
Scott's emotions and state of mind when he allegedly shot and killed Teresa Scott will be a major focus of the trial.
Prosecutors said he showed no emotion after pulling the trigger and shooting his wife three times. But defense attorney Richard Gale told the jury that "extreme emotional distress" is what caused his client to snap and kill the woman.
"[Prosecutors] are going to be able to prove that Tracy killed his wife, Teresa," Gale told the jury. "The real issue is, what crime is it? What should it be?"
Scott, 48, is charged with first-degree felony murder. But Gale said he hopes the jury will convict his client on the lesser crime of second-degree felony manslaughter.
Gale told jurors that Scott and his 45-year-old wife had known each other for 25 years and many of those years were spent fighting with one another.
"Everyone who knew them, knew that's just what they do," he said. "They fight."
Friends and family urged them to get a divorce, Gale said. But things had been getting better until weeks before the shooting when the couple began arguing about finances and other issues.
The day before the shooting, Gale said his client called his mother, afraid.
"He said, 'Mom, I'm afraid. The gun safe is open and a gun is missing, and I think Teresa is going to kill me,' " Gale said.
On the day of the shooting, Teresa Scott called her mother and complained about her husband, according to Bastian. The call lasted an hour. Seventeen minutes after the woman got off the phone with her mother, Tracy Scott called 911, reporting that he had shot his wife.
"Where is the gun right now?" the dispatcher asked Tracy Scott.
"In my hand," he replied.
"Can you put it down?"
"I don't know yet," Tracy Scott said. "I have two children, and I just totally destroyed their life."
Salem police Officer Roger Lowe testified Tuesday that when officers at the couple's home, located near 400 E. 300 South, Tracy Scott yelled from his porch, "I just shot my wife. I have a gun," before going inside his home.
Tracy Scott eventually came outside and was arrested.
"Once [he] was taken into custody, he became very quiet and reserved," responding Officer Austin Cobley testified on Tuesday. "At one point, he became very, very emotional. Very hysterical, body shaking. Very heavy crying, sobbing."
Inside the home, officers found Teresa Scott dead, sitting up on her bed with her legs crossed, her crochet work at her feet.
Police have said the Scotts had a history of domestic violence dating back a number of years, but police hadn't been called there in the last few years.
According to Utah court records, Tracy Scott was charged with simple assault and child abuse/neglect in 2006. Those charges were later dismissed as part of a plea in abeyance.
Tracy Scott is being held at the Utah County jail on $500,000 cash-only bail. The trial is scheduled to last two weeks.