Richard Merritt trial: Opening statements in trial of disbarred attorney accused of killing mother

Attorneys in the murder trial of disbarred attorney Richard Merritt painted dramatically different pictures of the man accused of brutally murdering his mother.

The murder took place on the day Merritt was to turn himself in to prison for stealing money from clients.

"You’re going to hear some heartbreaking things and see some ugly brutal photographs," prosecutor Helen Pott told the jury.

Pott, during a 27-minute dramatic presentation to the jury, told the story of Merritt’s fall from grace and how the Cobb County lawyer plead guilty to stealing from his clients.

"He violated the trust of his client’s trust, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars, many clients, mostly elderly," Pott said during her opening statement.

Pott detailed for the jury how the events of the day Merritt was set to turn himself in to serve a 15-year prison sentence. The prosecutor declared his mother, who helped support him his whole life, was cooking his last meal before going to prison. At some point, he brutally stabbed her with a kitchen knife.

"The force was so strong, the knife lodged in her skull, the handle broke off," the prosecutor described.

Striding back and forth in front of the jury, Pott then explained how Merritt next struck his mother with a 35-pound dumbbell.

"[The] right side of her was bashed in," Pott said.

Pott ended with a made-for-movies tale of Merritt, then cutting off his ankle bracelet, and escaping to Nashville in his mother’s car, where he took a new name, met a new woman, and lived for 8 months before US Marshall’s found him.

"It will be very clear to you, Richard Merritt is guilty of all these crimes," said Pott.

"The death was a tragedy, everyone wishes she was here," defense attorney Heidi Wolfgruber explained.

Not so fast, said Wolfgruber. During a short, crisp presentation, she said Merritt had no history of violence. The prosecution’s case, she argued, was a mish-mash of times, and texts, and coordinates meant to distract the jury from one key point: Richard Merritt’s DNA and fingerprints could not be found at the crime scene.

"Distract you from science they don’t have," said Wolfgruber.

The trial continues Friday.