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Defense: Dustin Musso did kill his grandfather

Case of Sexual Circumstances
12-3-2013 Louisiana:

BATON ROUGE - Defense attorneys told a jury of 12 men and women today that Dustin Musso killed his grandfather in May of 2009. Musso beat him and set his house on fire.

However, Lance Unglesby said his grandfather's actions over many years prompted Musso to kill him. He asked jurors to not find his client guilty of first degree murder, but rather manslaughter which carries a lower penalty.

In court a 23-year veteran police officer testified that she doesn't get rattled easily, but Dustin Musso rattled her. She also said that he was the most "evil and malicious" person she has ever encountered.

Unglesby blamed Musso's family and grandfather for his unstable childhood. As he was being raised, he lived in nearly 23 foster homes.

"Pete Musso molested children," Unglesby said. "He molested lots of children, molested Dustin. The sins of his past finally caught up with him."

Prosecutor Prem Burns doesn't buy it.

"The old molestation, that's what the Menendez brothers did in their case," Burns said. "To pull it out of the woodwork, 'Oh we were molested by out father' to try to get off on first degree murder, it's an easy thing to do against a dead person."

"You don't have to go very far to see what happened to Dustin Musso," Unglesby said. "He was molested by his grandfather and that created an angry individual."

Burns believes a life sentence is the only thing that is fitting for the crime Musso allegedly committed.

"This man needs to be put away and the public protected for the rest of their lives," Burns said.

Musso typically wears a mask to prevent him from spitting. Today, he was in plain street clothes.

The death penalty was taken off the table earlier this year. The trial should wrap up by the end of the week. ..Source.. by Chris Nakamoto

Musso testifies he’s not a monster, but doesn’t belong in society


But, I don’t belong in society, he tells jury

An emotional and sometimes combative Dustin Musso insisted Thursday he is no monster but admitted knocking his grandfather unconscious inside the 76-year-old’s Baton Rouge home and using 30 gallons of gasoline to burn the house down with the elder Musso inside.

Over the course of 90 minutes of gripping testimony that will resume Friday, Musso, 33, claimed his grandfather, Peter Musso Jr., molested him as a boy on multiple occasions inside the Glenda Drive “house full of sin” and the ill-tempered elder Musso threw the first punch during an argument on May 5, 2009.

“I snapped,” Musso, who is standing trial on a first-degree murder charge, said while being methodically questioned by his lead court-appointed attorney, Lance Unglesby. “The things he was saying, it broke my heart. I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

Peter Musso Jr. had called 911 on May 4, 2009, the day before he was killed, and reported his grandson had stolen his pickup and money from his wallet, but Musso — who previously served time in prison for stealing his grandmother’s car from the same Glenda Drive home in the Glen Oaks subdivision — testified his grandfather had allowed him to use the truck that day.

Musso said he loved and still loves his grandfather, and wishes he could turn back the clock.

“I can’t never take that back. That’s a burden I’ve got to walk with,” he said.

East Baton Rouge Parish First Assistant District Attorney Prem Burns called nearly three dozen witnesses to the stand over the course of three days before resting the state’s case Thursday afternoon. The case is expected to be given to the jury for deliberations sometime Friday.

Musso, who was called to the stand by Unglesby to testify in his own defense, was generally calm — yet tearful at times — while Unglesby questioned him. Musso said he longed for his day in court.

“I’m not asking for the jury to let me go,” conceded Musso, who said he has lived in a state of “sorrow, pain and rage” after bouncing from one foster home to another in his childhood years. “Do I belong in society? No.”

Musso became much more combative and defiant when Burns questioned him. Even before it was her turn to question him, Musso spoke up at one point and said in Burns’ direction, “Somebody over there trying to make me out to be a monster. I’m not a monster.”

“I don’t care about going to jail for the rest of my life. I wish you hadn’t taken the death penalty off the table,” he again said while looking at Burns.

The District Attorney’s Office dropped its pursuit of the death penalty earlier this year in order to speed up the case and bring Musso to trial this year, meaning a first-degree murder conviction would carry an automatic sentence of life in prison.

Unglesby asked the jury in his opening statement Tuesday to find Musso guilty of manslaughter, which is punishable by up to 40 years in prison.

Musso had recently been released from a Virginia prison and had only been staying at his grandfather’s house for several days when the killing occurred, Baton Rouge police have said.

Musso testified his grandfather was intoxicated when he threatened to have him sent back to prison for stealing his truck. Burns noted that the elder Musso sounded anything but intoxicated in his 911 call.

“He told me I was a worthless piece of (expletive),” Musso said. “I told him he was a pedophile (expletive). He got very, very angry. He swung at me. He hit me upside the head. I hit him. The next thing I remember he was on the ground. He was unconscious.”

Musso said he attempted to perform CPR, then “spooked out” and left, but returned and set the house on fire by pouring gas inside the house and tossing a Molotov cocktail threw the window of the bathroom where his grandfather’s body rested. He admitted throwing piles of clothes on his grandfather “for maximum fire.” “I did something because I was enraged and hurt, because I went there looking for love,” he told Burns.

Musso rambled at times, prompting the prosecutor to say, “You be quiet. You be quiet.”

“How long did you rehearse this?” Burns said a short time later of Musso’s testimony.

“I don’t want to go back into society, woman,” Musso shot back a short time later when Burns pressed him.

Musso’s aunt, Jennifer Musso Vincent, also testified Thursday that her father, Peter Musso Jr., was a violent man who forced his children to fight each other and enjoyed watching.

She said she is not glad her father is dead, but did take satisfaction in knowing the “house of hell” had burned down. ..Source.. by Joe gyan jr

East Baton Rouge jury finds Dustin Musso guilty of first-degree murder


Defendant given life sentence at his request

A daughter of the late Peter Musso Jr. said a jury put an end to her “nightmare” Friday by convicting Musso’s grandson of murdering her 76-year-old father in 2009 and burning down his home in the Belaire subdivision where he raised eight children and two stepchildren.

Minutes after an East Baton Rouge Parish jury found him guilty of first-degree murder, Dustin Musso, 33, was — at his own request — sentenced to life in prison without benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence by state District Judge Mike Erwin.

Dustin Musso’s lead court-appointed attorney, Lance Unglesby, had pleaded with the jury of six women and six men to convict Dustin Musso of manslaughter, which carries a prison term of up to 40 years. He said afterward the burning down of the house with Peter Musso Jr. inside was too large an obstacle to overcome.

The jury deliberated for two hours Friday after hearing three days of testimony that ended Thursday. The panel’s vote was 11-1.

“Y’all don’t know how much it means to have closure to such a nightmare,” Cathy Salvador, one of Peter Musso Jr.’s daughters, said outside the 19th Judicial District Courthouse in downtown Baton Rouge.

Peter Anthony Musso III, who is Dustin Musso’s father and one of Peter Musso Jr.’s sons, said the trial was hard on the family because of the unfounded allegations of sexual abuse made against his father by Dustin Musso and his defense team.

“Our dad was not a child molester. He took care of us well,” Peter Musso III said. “My dad was a good man.”

“My dad was never a child molester,” Salvador said. “I trusted him with every one of my children.”

The East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office previously dropped its pursuit of the death in order to bring the case to trial more quickly.

“I wanted the death penalty off the table because he is my son,” Peter Musso III said. “We’re satisfied.”

Dustin Musso, whose courtroom demeanor throughout the trial ranged from a subdued calm to agitation and even defiance, did not react when the verdict was read.

“This is a defendant who needs to be put away for life,” veteran prosecutor Prem Burns said afterward. “The act against his grandfather was horrific.”

In her closing argument to the jury Friday, Burns called Dustin Musso a “violent, vicious human being.”

“This is viciousness. This is evil,” she said of the crime.

Unglesby countered in his closing argument that Dustin Musso — who testified Thursday his grandfather sexually abused him as a young boy — “snapped because he had had enough.” Dustin Musso admitted to the jury that he knocked his grandfather unconscious during an altercation, then returned later and torched the house by spreading gasoline throughout the home.

“He is a damaged soul,” Unglesby said to the jury of Dustin Musso, who was in and out of foster homes starting at a very young age. “He is a tortured soul.”

Burns characterized Dustin Musso’s molestation allegation as “pure baloney” and only raised the allegation at the trial.

Peter Musso Jr.’s charred body was found May 5, 2009, inside his Glenda Drive home. Authorities said he died of blunt force trauma to the head and smoke inhalation.

Peter Musso III testified at the trial that his son came to live with him and his wife, Cindy Musso, in Virginia after serving prison time for stealing his grandmother’s car from the Glenda Drive home in the late 1990s.

Cindy Musso, who is Dustin Musso’s stepmother, testified her stepson threatened in 2007 to kill her, his father, their dogs and birds, his grandfather and a Virginia law enforcement officer and burn their homes. Cindy Musso said Dustin Musso made those threats the same day Dustin Musso’s father accused him of stealing money from him.

After making the January 2007 threats, Dustin Musso pleaded guilty in January 2008 to assault and battery on a law enforcement officer, three counts of threatening to bomb and burn, domestic assault and battery, and possession of marijuana. He was ordered to serve 14 months in prison.

Dustin Musso had been living with his grandfather for only a few days when Peter Musso Jr. was killed.

Dustin Musso testified he punched his grandfather after Peter Musso Jr. accused him of stealing his pickup. Dustin Musso maintained his grandfather had allowed him to use the truck.

“He doesn’t need provocation. He just goes off,” Burns told the jury Friday in calling much of Dustin Musso’s testimony a fabrication.

Dustin Musso fled Baton Rouge on a Greyhound bus the morning of the murder and was taken into custody later that day at a bus station in Montgomery, Ala.

While awaiting trial on the murder charge, Dustin Musso was accused of cutting another inmate’s throat with a razor in February 2012. He also spit on two detectives when they tried to question him about the cutting, sheriff’s officials have said.

Dustin Musso was forced to wear a mask during an October 2010 court hearing to prevent him from spitting.

Unglesby told jurors that Peter Musso Jr. had a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality, but Burns threw that label right back at Dustin Musso.

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde testified for two hours in this courtroom yesterday,” she said of Dustin Musso. ..Source.. by Joe gyan jr.

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