Washington Wizards

Jurors begin deliberations in Morris twins assault trial

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Jurors begin deliberations in Morris twins assault trial

PHOENIX - Defense attorneys told a jury Monday that the aggravated assault case involving NBA players Marcus and Markieff Morris in the 2015 beating of a former acquaintance is inexcusably and unforgivably tainted.

Prosecutor Thomas Bailey argued the Morris brothers had a motive to attack the victim and said the defendants "acted like high school bullies on a playground."

Jurors began deliberating the case after hearing remaining closing arguments from Bailey and attorneys representing Markieff Morris and the final defendant, Gerald Bowman.

The brothers are accused of helping three other people beat Erik Hood on Jan. 24, 2015, outside a high school basketball game in Phoenix.

Defense attorney James Belanger told jurors the case is tainted by Hood's mentor, who tried to solicit two witnesses to implicate the Morris brothers for a cash payment in return.

"That is outrageous," Belanger said. "And you should be outraged by that, and it affects every aspect of this case."

But Bailey stressed that Hood's mentor did not have any effect on witnesses' testimony, including the one made by the victim.

Those two witnesses testified about the mentor's attempt and their refusal to lie. They both went to break up the fight and placed the Morris brothers near the site but not as part of the altercation.

Belanger, who represents Markieff Morris, said the investigation done by police was "mediocre" and argued that the state's theory of Markieff acting as a lookout was "dead on arrival."

Belanger said neither of those two witnesses said they were threatened, or told not to go down to the fight by the Morris brothers.

Hood has known the Morris brothers since they were promising teenage AAU players, but they had a falling out.

Hood, 36, testified his relationship with the brothers became strained because of a misinterpreted text message he sent their mother. He said there was nothing "improper" happening with him and their mother.

Marcus was traded to the Boston Celtics in July and Markieff plays for the Washington Wizards.

The NBA players missed the start of their respective preseasons because of the two-week trial.

If they are found guilty, the Morris brothers face the possibility of probation or prison time and discipline from the NBA, including a minimum 10-game suspension. Markieff Morris will also be sidelined for several weeks after having a sports hernia surgery.

Defense attorneys have repeatedly said Hood lied to police nine times when he said both twins were involved in the assault. Hood later changed his statement to say Markieff did not beat him but had been in the vicinity.

Belanger said Hood needed to keep one of the Morris brothers involved in the case.

Bailey told the jury to consider the "money aspect" but also the fact that Hood was beaten severely by the defendants and that he wants them to pay.

Two of the other co-defendants pleaded guilty Sept. 13 to the same aggravated assault charges. The Morris brothers and Bowman have pleaded not guilty.

NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

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NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

NEW YORK - NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season's playoffs.

Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden's attempts after he swings his arms into contact.

The new rules interpretations are being unofficially called the "Harden Rule" and the "Zaza Rule". The Washington Wizards accused the Celtics' Al Horford of a dangerous closeout on Markieff Morris that injured Morris and knocked him out of Game 1 of their playoff series two weeks before the Pachulia-Leonard play.

Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard's in Game 1 of Golden State's victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at a replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.

"It's 100 percent for the safety of the players," NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said Thursday.

The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries. 

Officials can still rule the play a common foul if they did not see a dangerous or unnatural attempt by the defender upon review. Borgia said Pachulia's foul would have been deemed a flagrant.

With the fouls on the perimeter shots - often coming when the offensive player has come off a screen and quickly attempts to launch a shot as his defender tries to catch up - officials will focus on the sequencing of the play. The player with the ball must already be in his shooting motion when contact is made, rather than gathering the ball to shoot such as on a drive to the basket.

"We saw it as a major trend in the NBA so we had to almost back up and say, `Well, wait a minute, this is going to be a trend, so let's catch up to it,"' NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said.


 

Marcus and Markieff Morris assault trial began on Monday

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Marcus and Markieff Morris assault trial began on Monday

PHOENIX - NBA players Marcus and Markieff Morris go on trial Monday on felony assault charges stemming from a beating outside a Phoenix recreation center more than two years ago.

The twin brothers could face a maximum of nearly four years in prison if they are found guilty. A conviction would also result in discipline from the NBA, including a minimum 10 games of suspension.

Opening arguments begin Monday following the selection of an eight-member jury panel last week in what is expected to be a 10-day trial.

The trial threatens to disrupt the start of their 2017 NBA season with training camp set to begin for both players on Sept. 26. The Boston Celtics acquired Marcus Morris from Detroit in the offseason as part of an overhaul of their roster, while Markieff was a solid contributor for the Washington Wizards last year.

The Morris brothers are accused of helping three other people beat 36-year-old Erik Hood on Jan. 24, 2015. They were indicted by an Arizona grand jury that year on felony aggravated assault charges. Two of the other co-defendants pleaded guilty Wednesday to the same charges.

Police say Hood was leaving a high school basketball game when he was approached by a friend of the Morris brothers. Hood told Phoenix police the man was speaking to him when he was punched in the back of the head.

Hood ran to his car but fell down, before five men, including the Morris twins, punched and kicked him repeatedly, authorities say. All five left in a Rolls Royce Phantom as bystanders began to appear. Police say Hood was assaulted for sending an inappropriate text message to the Morris brothers' mother.

Hood told police he suffered a fractured nose, abrasions and a large bump on his head because of the incident.

Hood is an acquaintance of the Morris brothers and reportedly had a falling out with them in 2010.

At the time of the attack, the 6-foot-9 Morris twins were teammates on the Phoenix Suns. They starred at the University of Kansas.

Marcus Morris averaged 14 points last season in Detroit, where he was a mainstay in the starting lineup. He joins Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward as a group of new acquisitions for Boston this year. Markieff also averaged 14 points per game for the Wizards.

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