Trial begins for John Spooner, accused of gunning down teen

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The trial began Monday, July 15th for an elderly man accused of shooting his 13-year-old neighbor over a year ago.

76-year-old John Spooner on Monday, July 15th slowly walked into Judge Jeffrey Wagner's courtroom, facing charges of first-degree intentional homicide.

The state alleges Spooner shot and killed Darius Simmons on May 31st, 2012 while his mother watched.

Spooner is accused of confronting Simmons as he was taking out the trash.

Spooner reported his home was burglarized and items were taken -- including some shotguns. Officials say Spooner reportedly believed his next-door neighbor was to blame.

Simmons' mother, Patricia Larry is expected to testify. She was accompanied by her attorney for a civil law suit.

"It's been a tough year for them. They`re certainly interested in the trial going forward and for hopefully John Spooner to be convicted and held accountable for actions causing the death of Darius," Jonathan Safran said.

First, the jury had to be selected to hear the case. The state and prosecution sifted through a pool of 40 potential jurors, and had some interesting questions for them, including whether they've ever been shot, whether they've been burglarized, and even questions relating to the George Zimmerman case.

Prosecutor Mark Williams and Defense Attorney Frank Gimbel wanted to ensure the jury is fair.

Safran says there are some similarities between this case, and the case against George Zimmerman. This weekend, Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

"There is certainly no question in this case that Darius Simmons was not in anyway involved in an altercation with John Spooner, but the similarities are again, it appeared John Spooner was at least profiling Darius Simmons at least to determine in his mind that he was a criminal -- which there was no evidence of," Safran said.

Simmons was 13 years old when he was shot and killed. Spooner has pleaded not guilty to first degree intentional homicide in the case.

This case drew controversy when Simmons’ mother, Patricia Larry claimed she was mistreated by Milwaukee police during the initial investigation. She said she was detained in the back of a squad car for several hours — and said Simmons’ brother was taken into custody by Milwaukee police officers for municipal warrants.

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn has discussed those allegations, saying officers at the scene followed protocol by isolating and interviewing Simmons’ mother because she was a witness to a homicide.

The Simmons family is waiting to see what happens with the criminal case before they proceed with the civil suit.