FORT PIERCE, Fla. -- Jacob Brighton's parents "deserved to be shot," a defense attorney told jurors in an opening statement of a trial for fatal shootings of Richard and Penny Brighton, killed Aug. 2, 2007, at the family home west of this community along Florida's Treasure Coast. Jacob Brighton faces two counts of first-degree murder. Defense attorney Marc Shiner said his client's parents "deserved to be shot; they deserved it, legally."
Shiner said Jacob Brighton, who was 16 at the time of the shootings, had been sexually abused by his father for several years and that his mother knew about the molestation but refused to do anything about it.
The shootings, Shiner said, "were the culmination of constant abuse. This young man finally had enough."
The final straw, Shiner said, came several days before the homicides.
The abuse by his father had stopped for "seven or eight months," the attorney said. Then, three days before the shootings, Richard "jumped on" Jacob, and Jacob fought back "for the first time in his life."
In response, Richard Brighton put a gun to his son's head.
"Jacob stops resisting, and his dad starts to rape him," but the phone rings and Richard Brighton stops, Shiner said.
Shiner said Jacob Brighton "knows the rapes are never going to stop, it will never be over. ... He's in constant fear of being molested or killed. The situation is a volcano about to erupt, a ticking time bomb."
Jacob Brighton killed his parents in self-defense, Shiner said to jurors. "This young man is not guilty. The only thing he's guilty of is protecting himself."
But assistant Florida State Attorney Steve Gosnell told jurors, "This case is not self-defense; this is a case of a planned execution."
Gosnell said friends of Jacob Brighton would testify he told them he planned to kill his parents, but they didn't take the threats seriously enough to warn authorities.
In interviews with detectives, Gosnell said, Jacob Brighton gave a detailed account of how he planned to wait for the right time -- when his parents were close to each other and with their backs to him -- get his father's pistol and shoot them.
"It was a sneak attack," Gosnell said. "They never saw it coming."
Gosnell also noted that Jacob Brighton didn't claim he had been sexually abused by his father until nearly two years after his arrest, on his fourth visit with a defense-hired psychologist.
"The lone source of these allegations is the defendant," Gosnell said. "His father has been murdered, so he can't defend himself."
Jacob Brighton, now 20, faces life in prison if convicted. Although indicted for first-degree premeditated murder and being tried as an adult, he cannot be sentenced to death because he was a juvenile at the time of the homicides.
(Tyler Treadway writes for Scripps Treasure Coast (Fla.) Newspapers, The Stuart News, Fort Pierce Tribune and Vero Beach Press Journal. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)