LOS ANGELES -- Attorneys will present dueling portrayals of a TV actor charged with killing his wife, either as a calculating murderer or as a man so distraught over the impending end of his marriage that he opened fire in the heat of passion.
After closing arguments Friday, a jury of six men and six women will decide whether to convict Michael Jace of first-degree murder or of a lesser charge such as voluntary manslaughter.
Jace, who played a police officer on series "The Shield," acknowledges killing his wife on May 19, 2014, in their Los Angeles home. He called 911 and waited for police, giving a lengthy interview to detectives in which he told them he wanted to inflict pain on April Jace and planned to shoot her in the leg with her father's revolver.
Instead, Jace shot her three times - once in the back and twice in the legs - in a hallway within sight of their young sons, who were 5 and 8 at the time. Jace's now-10-year-old son testified Wednesday that he heard his father tell his mother, "'If you like running, then run to heaven.'"
Michael Jace, who also had small roles in films such as "Boogie Nights," ''Forrest Gump" and the TV show "Southland," had been out of work for years, and financial struggles put a strain on their marriage.
April Jace, who had told her husband she wanted a divorce the day she died, was killed moments after returning to their home from a youth baseball game. Text messages presented during trial show Michael Jace had told his wife he had left their home, but instead he was waiting with a loaded handgun.
He told detectives he planned to kill himself but couldn't follow through. He also said he shot his wife the first time after she lunged at him.
"I was just angry," Michael Jace told investigators, according to a transcript released Thursday. "All I intended to do was shoot her in the leg. And then I shot her in the leg, and that was it."
Prosecutors have portrayed Jace as a calculating killer.
"You will hear that on May 19, 2014, the defendant took a loaded gun, a revolver, and waited for his wife to come home and then shot her in the back and then shot her two more times in front of their kids," Deputy District Attorney Tannaz Mokayef told jurors in opening statements.
Jace's attorney, Jamon Hicks, called the case tragic and said it boiled down to the actor's mindset at the time of the killing and whether it was premeditated.
"This case is not about how it was done. We acknowledge it. We accept responsibility," Hicks said in his opening argument. "This case is about why it was done."
If convicted of first-degree murder, Jace faces 50 years to life in prison.
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