Tuesday, September 23, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Mings takes witness stand in assisted-suicide trial

By
From page A1 | May 09, 2013 |

James Elron Mings. Enterprise photo

WOODLAND — Within days of first meeting in the fall of 2011, Kevin Seery and James Elron Mings spent hours in conversation, delving into subjects ranging from science fiction to telepathy to the mysteries of metaphysics.

“We seemed to have more in common than I had experienced with anybody before,” Mings recalled. “I thought I’d found a rare gem of a friend, someone I could truly relate to.”

One night, however, the men’s talks ventured into darker matters, such as Seery’s unbearable pain from diabetes and other ailments, and — after looking through a box of family photos in the bedroom of Seery’s J Street apartment — his doubts that he’d ever have a family of his own.

It was at that point, during the predawn hours of Oct. 1, 2011, that Seery “stood up and asked if I would kill him,” Mings, 38, said on the witness stand this week in Yolo Superior Court. “He said the cleanest way to do it would be to choke him.”

“I put my arm around the front of his neck … and I choked him,” Mings testified, shaking and weeping at the memory. He said he continued squeezing his friend’s neck until both men fell to the bedroom floor, then stuffed several pieces of gauze into his mouth as Seery had instructed.

“At that point did you believe you killed Kevin Seery?” Mings’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Dan Hutchinson asked.

“Yes, I did,” Mings replied.

But Hutchinson has claimed it was a third man who was in Seery’s apartment, Tom McDermott, who fatally gagged an unconscious but alive Seery with a sock piece and antibacterial wipes after Mings had left the room. Hutchinson also contends that McDermott and Seery conspired to “provoke” Mings into what he believed to be an act of compassion, then let him take the fall for it.

Mings took the stand in his own defense over a two-day period, hoping to convince a Yolo County jury that he is guilty only of attempted voluntary manslaughter, not the murder count he’s charged with.

Jurors are slated to receive the case Friday after attorneys conclude their closing arguments.

Although he initially subpoenaed McDermott to testify, Hutchinson later opted not to call him as a witness, saying in court he “cannot fathom a situation” in which McDermott wouldn’t assert his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

So that left Mings to do all the talking.

He began by describing the events that brought him to Yolo County — a failed marriage, followed by a 1,000-mile walk from Albuquerque, N.M., to Woodland in an unsuccessful bid to rekindle a long-lost love.

Homeless and dejected, Mings made his way to Davis, where he worked at the Davis Food Co-op and received transitional housing at Davis Community Meals before quirky behavior cost him both opportunities.

It was his former shelter bunkmate, McDermott, who “offered to take me under his wing,” eventually introducing him to Seery and inviting him to his apartment, Mings testified.

He recalled that McDermott was in the apartment bedroom with the two other men that October morning, but walked out shortly before Seery broached the subject of assisted suicide. Seery told Mings he’d asked others to take his life, but all had turned him down.

“If you’re going to do it, now’s the time, before Tom changes his mind,” Seery said, according to Mings — his first indication that McDermott had any involvement in the plan. When he left the bedroom, McDermott was sitting in the living room, wearing earphones, the television volume turned up high.

“It’s done,” Mings said he told McDermott, who responded with a grin. Moments later, Mings said, McDermott got up and went into Seery’s bedroom, emerging after a couple of minutes.

Although Mings believed McDermott was aware of what had occurred, the man “feigned ignorance” the next morning, attempting to wake Seery and instructing Mings to check for vital signs. McDermott then called Seery’s mother and told Mings to call 911.

After being questioned by Davis police, both men left the scene to report Seery’s death to some acquaintances at Community Park. But Mings said McDermott sent him away, saying he didn’t want him around when he broke the news to Seery’s friends.

Mings said he felt “betrayed” — particularly later that day when he learned that word of Seery’s death had spread like wildfire through Davis’ homeless community, along with Mings’ alleged role.

High on marijuana given to him by a friend, “I decided it would be best if I went to the Davis Police Department and told them what I knew,” Mings said. “I honestly … didn’t think there would be any consequences for what I had done.”

Mings was arrested, jailed and charged with murder. It was during his second or third meeting with his attorney that he realized “something was very not right,” he said.

Hutchinson had asked him about a sock and disposable towelettes pulled from deep within Seery’s throat during his autopsy, both of which “I had no knowledge about,” Mings testified. He said he later learned that McDermott had mentioned the sock to someone before the autopsy had even occurred.

“I believe I was set up,” Mings told the jury.

“Do you still believe that Kevin Seery was a friend of yours?” Hutchinson asked.

“No, I don’t think he was,” Mings replied.

In her cross-examination, Deputy District Attorney Martha Holzapfel noted a comparison Mings once made between himself and Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the controversial physician who performed assisted suicides in the 1990s, and questioned whether Mings’ knowledge of Kevorkian had alerted him to the consequences of such acts.

But Mings said while he knew what Kevorkian had done and that some people disagreed with his actions, he was unaware that he had been tried and convicted of second-degree murder.

Holzapfel also asked why Mings made no mention of McDermott entering Seery’s bedroom during his initial confession or in multiple interviews with lead Detective James MacNiven in the days after his arrest.

“At the time I didn’t think it was relevant,” Mings replied. He said he also felt as though he was “protecting” McDermott, who, unlike Mings, had a criminal past.

“I knew that he’d been in trouble with the law before, and I didn’t realize he’d had as much involvement as he did,” he added. Mings acknowledged, however, that he never saw McDermott put anything into Seery’s mouth.

— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene

Comments

comments

.

News

 
UC joins U.N.-supported Principles for Responsible Investment

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1

Nature’s beauty is in our own back yard

By Charlotte Orr | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Jury finds Dixon man guilty of mortgage fraud

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A1

 
U.S., Arab allies hit Islamists in Syria, Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

Bob Dunning: These are the tanks we get

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Wind threatens firefighting effort

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Harmony Award nominations sought

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Street Food Rodeo rolls into West Davis

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Wolk kicks off ‘Morning with the Mayor’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
So you want to be an entomologist?

By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: A4

Sheriff’s Office honored for safe-driving initiative

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
Baha’is celebrate 50th anniversary in Davis

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Downtown gift cards get a new perk

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Unscheduled landing

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Free community yard sale Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Forum will answer questions about new license law

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Pets of the week

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Applications open for Biberstein grants

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

 
.

Forum

Daughter has her own opinions

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Brother’s drinking out of control

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

Donors support school matinees

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
A big Explorit thanks!

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

Teacher tenure becomes key campaign issue

By Tom Elias | From Page: A6

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

We must not stand for perpetual war

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

 
Don’t cut all the trees

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

A great Day in the Country

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

 
.

Sports

Davis field hockey team rights ship at Lassen

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

 
Devil golfers soar past Sheldon

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

Blue Devils bounce back against Pleasant Grove

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Running game powered Devils in first football win

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

UCD roundup: Aggie women reach finals of East/West golf tourney

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2Comments are off for this post | Gallery

 
U11s get a win in an eventful weekend of youth football

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

Giants beat L.A. in 13 innings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

 
A’s support Samardzija in a win over Angels

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

.

Features

.

Business

.

Obituaries

Carol L. Walsh

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Tuesday, September 23, 2014 (set 1)

By Creator | From Page: B5

 
Comics: Tuesday, September 23, 2014 (set 2)

By Creator | From Page: B7