Defense attorney Butch Pope argued Wednesday that the state of North Carolina really doesn't know what happened in the Shaniya Davis murder case, and that the evidence is inconclusive.
Pope is defending Mario McNeill and finished his closing argument Wednesday morning.
McNeill, 33, is accused of raping and killing Shaniya Davis in November of 2009. The girl was five years old.
The state, Pope told the jury, "doesn't know really what happened."
Pope continued his argument by saying the state's evidence does not directly link McNeill to the crimes. He asked the jury to disregard soil sample evidence that prosecutors claimed linked McNeill to the area where Shaniya's body was found. Pope also told the jury it is unclear exactly when Shaniya was killed. He said it may have been more likely that she was killed after McNeill last saw the girl alive.
McNeill's defense has previously claimed that McNeill dropped off Shaniya with friends of her family.
The jury began its deliberations before noon. The jury asked for a clarification of the kidnapping law and a definition of parental consent.
The prosecution has claimed that McNeill took Shaniya from her home in Fayetteville and sexually assaulted her at a hotel in Sanford. They presented cell phone data and soil samples that they believe puts McNeill in the area where Shaniya's body was found. They also told the jury that McNeill's first defense attorney told police where to find the girl's body.
McNeill could face the death penalty if convicted.
On Tuesday, Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West took nearly three hours Tuesday morning to summarize his case against Mario McNeill. McNeill is on trial on charges of raping and killing 5-year-old Shaniya of Fayetteville in November 2009.
West reviewed all the evidence presented against McNeill during testimony. He also once again went over the timeline of the crime. He told jurors that McNeill took the girl from her home to a hotel in Sanford where he raped her. He said McNeill then drove the girl 20 minutes down the road, suffocated her and dumped her body under a log and kudzu vines.
"The defendant doesn't want to face the music now," West told the jury. West also said to the jury that McNeill thought he was smarter than the jury and that he expected the jurors to let him walk out of the courtroom.
Assistant D.A. Robby Hicks reviewed each charge against McNeill and why the prosecutors believe McNeill is guilty.
"Tell the defendant that you know he did it," Hicks said to the jury. "Tell him with a verdict that says 'we're bringing you justice Shaniya. You deserve it.'"
McNeill's defense argued that he dropped of Shaniya with unidentified friends of her family and never saw her again. Defense attorney Terry Alford said there is too much circumstantial evidence, and not enough direct evidence, to convict McNeill.
"Have they connected all the dots or is the diagram a little confused?" Alford asked the jury, referring to a diagram of soil samples used as evidence.