SANTA BARBARA – Santa Barbara’s famed downtown county courthouse was the scene of highly dramatic prosecution and defense counsel opening Monday morning in the trial of Corey Lyons, 51, accused of the shotgun deaths of his brother and girlfriend in the early morning hours of May 4, 2010.
Lyons’ first trial ended without resolution in December when Superior Court Judge Brian Hill declared a mistrial following prejudicial testimony by another sibling, Dr. Tom Lyons. Lyons’ testimony were ruled “out of bounds as prejudicial hearsay,” according to the court transcript.
That first trial came to a close in December 2010 when Dr. Lyons made unsolicited comments to the jury that as soon as they heard about the killings, he and other family members were certain that Corey Lyons was guilty of murder. Upon defense motions for a mistrial, Judge Hill ruled that such an emotional comment could unduly influence a jury charged with determining guilt or innocence, and that such conclusions are beyond the purview of prosecution witnesses, regardless of their relationship with either the defendant or the victims.
In his opening statement Monday, Senior Deputy District Attorney Gordon Auchinloss described to the jury how Corey Lyons was driven by greed and financial gain when he “brutally murdered” his brother Daniel Lyons and Barbara Scharton using multiple firearms, including a 12-gauge shotgun.
The two Lyons brothers had been engaged in a protracted feud and financial dispute over the defendant’s contracting services at the victims’ home, and had a history of threatening each other with lawsuits and acts of revenge. At the time of the murders, Daniel had already filed suit against Corey for breach of contract and failure to properly repair shoddy construction work at Daniel’s home.
While the facts of the shootings remain in dispute, Santa Barbara police records indicate that multiple shots were fired inside the victims’ three-story Mesa neighborhood home at approximately 1:30 a.m., and that Corey Lyons was arrested eight hours later.
According to police spokesman Lt. Paul McCaffrey, the victims’ neighbors reported hearing “a series of gunshots in rapid succession” at the time of the murders.
In his opening statements to the jury, Lyon’s defense attorney, Robert Sanger, posed a list of contradicting arguments involving chain of evidence issues, improper police procedures at the crime scene, and failure to conduct meaningful investigation subsequent to his client’s arrest.
Sanger specifically pointed to the number of gunshots allegedly fired while the victims were killed on the first and third floors of their home, and to the fact that no murder weapons have yet been found.
Among his principle contentions, Sanger argued that police do not know how many weapons were actually used in the killings and failed to properly fingerprint the murder scene.
The trial continued this week in Department 2 of the Santa Barbara Superior Court.