GREELEY, Colo. (AP) -Jurors in the trial of a college football player charged with trying to kill a rival interrupted their deliberations Wednesday to ask the judge a question about ``intent to cause death.''
Mitch Cozad, a former backup punter at Northern Colorado, is charged with attempted first-degree murder and second-degree assault in an attack on the starter, Rafael Mendoza. Prosecutors said it was a bid to get the starting job.
Jurors got the case Wednesday morning. Shortly after 4 p.m. they sent District Judge Marcelo Kopcow a note asking, ``Does intent to cause death need to be present or can it come later?''
After conferring with attorneys for both sides, Kopcow sent the jury a reply that did not directly answer their question: ``The court has supplied the jury with all the applicable law you must apply in reaching your verdict.''
Cozad had been stoic throughout most of the trial but appeared shaken after Kopcow announced his response and left the courtroom. The jury was not present.
Prosecutors portrayed Cozad as an ambitious but frustrated athlete who could not find any way to break out of his backup role other than stabbing Mendoza in his kicking leg.
Defense attorney Joseph Gavaldon argued Cozad was a gentle and laid-back student from Wheatland, Wyo., who wouldn't resort to a knife attack. Gavaldon claimed another student stabbed Mendoza.
Cozad, who did not testify, could face up to 48 years in prison if convicted of both counts.
Mendoza was attacked last Sept. 11 outside his apartment in Evans, a small town adjacent to Greeley. He was left with a deep gash in his kicking leg but later returned to the team.
He testified he could not see who attacked him.
In her closing statement, prosecutor Michele Meyer said Cozad would do anything to play football.
``No matter how hard he tried on the football field he could not compete with Mr. Mendoza at his skill level. And the only option was to take it off the field, and that's what he did,'' Meyer said.
``He tried to kill him. Swiped at him twice, couldn't get him, so he stabbed him in the back of the leg,'' she said.
In his closing statement, Gavaldon said it was Kevin Aussprung who attacked Mendoza.
Aussprung, who testified in the trial, adamantly denied he was the attacker. He said Cozad had offered him money to accompany him and watch over his car outside Mendoza's apartment the night of the attack. Aussprung said Cozad did not tell him what happened, and he did not ask.
``(Aussprung) pulled the wool over the district attorney's eyes, because he's not charged,'' Gavaldon said. ``The issue in this case is if Mr. Cozad stabbed Rafael Mendoza, there is reasonable doubt.''
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