OGDEN — An Ogden jury found a North Ogden man guilty of murder in connection with the 2018 death of a 28-year-old man.
An Ogden jury began deliberating just after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and returned with guilty verdicts on two charges: murder, a first-degree felony, and possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony.
The defendant, 28-year-old Dalton James Aiken, was in court Wednesday afternoon alongside his two attorneys when the verdict was read. Aiken is one of two people charged with first-degree murder in connection with the shooting death of Brian Racine, 28, in 2018.
The trial began June 6 with opening statements and testimony that day, and continued into Friday and resuming on Tuesday. On Wednesday, closing statements were delivered by both the prosecution and defense.
Deputy Weber County Attorney Dee Smith started by playing an excerpt from an interview between police and Aiken, where he says that homeless people “are a problem” for “not contributing to society.” Smith said that both Aiken and the other defendant in the case — 35-year-old Cory Fitzwater — went and found a homeless person to kill.
He reminded the jury they had two ways to find Aiken guilty. They could determine that Aiken was the man who shot Racine in his head at point-blank range, or he was a party to the killing, that he “intentionally aided” Fitzwater in the murder. If the jury determined either would be the case, Aiken would be found guilty of first-degree murder.
“Either way, the verdict is the same,” Smith said.
Ryan Bushell, an attorney for Aiken, said there is a third option, which he believed to the right one: acquit Aiken of the murder charge. Bushell said that prosecutors make this case out to be either a murder that Aiken committed himself or helped Fitzwater make it happen. He argued that the state does not know who committed the crime of murder.
“They’ve got the wrong guy charged,” Bushell said.
He rebuffed a point made by the state that argued if Aiken truly believed he was in trouble or danger, he would have told police about the shooting moments after being pulled over by police while driving away from the scene.
“People in that situation don’t think straight,” Bushell said. “Hindsight is 20-20.”
He went on to argue that the state had failed to definitively show how Aiken was a direct party to Fitzwater’s alleged actions. There was no evidence from the state that showed how Aiken solicited Fitzwater to shoot and kill Racine, Bushell said.
At the end of his statement, Bushell played an audio recording of a call Aiken made to his dad while he was in custody at the Weber County Jail. It was the same call played during Aiken and Fitzwater’s preliminary hearing back in December.
“I got in trouble, dad,” Aiken said during the call. “Cory killed someone, and he said it was me ... It’s sickening, dad. I didn’t do it.”
Bushell asked the jury to carefully review all the evidence before them, and implored them to return a not guilty verdict for Aiken.
During their rebuttal, Smith said the state had plenty of direct evidence that linked Aiken to playing a part in the murder. He pointed to the gun found in Aiken’s truck, bullets found in Aiken’s pocket and a ski mask found in the truck as pieces of physical evidence linking him to the thick wooded area where the crime took place.
The jury was excused to begin their deliberations just after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. A total of 10 jurors have been in attendance for the duration of the trial. Just before they were excused, two alternate jurors were dismissed, leaving eight to decide Aiken’s fate.
On Tuesday, Aiken took to the witness stand himself and admitted to being present when the shooting occurred, but denied pulling the trigger or having prior knowledge of Fitzwater’s alleged actions.
At the time of his arrest, Aiken said he had not slept in “well over” 24 hours, he said on the stand Tuesday. He was interviewed by different detectives at the Ogden Police Department off and on for roughly five to six hours.
He denied that he and Fitzwater were at the pond to assault and harass homeless people, as prosecutors said in opening and closing arguments was the reason they were at the pond. Aiken claimed that he said that statement to police after hours of questioning.
“I didn’t think they would stop unless I told them what they wanted me to say,” Aiken said. He said they were not there to kill homeless people, and he had no idea that Fitzwater would shoot anybody.
Ultimately jurors sided with the state, finding Aiken guilty of both charges.
The verdict, read around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, was met with heads shaking and a handful of people audibly reacting to the news.
Aiken’s next court appearance will be for his sentencing hearing, which is scheduled to take place on July 29 at Ogden’s 2nd District Court.
The other man charged in connection with Racine’s death — Fitzwater — is scheduled to appear in court on June 18 for a preliminary hearing regarding additional charges of felony obstruction of justice recently filed against him. Fitzwater’s trial dates are tentatively scheduled to begin in November.