Khari Sanford trial: Prosecution, defense make closing arguments; case in jury’s hands

MADISON, Wis. — After five days of testimony and closing arguments, a jury is now deliberating the fate of 21-year-old Khari Sanford.

The jury received its instructions from Dane County circuit court judge Ellen Berz late Monday afternoon after a little more than an hours’ worth of closing arguments, in which prosecutors argued that Sanford was the one to kill Dr. Beth Potter and her husband, Robin Carre, while the defense argued the state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Sanford was responsible.

“They were living, as many people were, in fear and trepidation of Covid. They should have been living in fear of Khari Sanford,” prosecutor Timothy Verhoff argued.

“Beth Potter laid in that ditch in her pajamas, bleeding from shortly after 11 until 6 o’clock the next morning, her brain swelling, pressing against her skull, ultimately killing her. And what’s Mr. Sanford doing during that period of time while Mrs. Potter’s laying, gasping her last breaths? He and Larrue, they smoke. Mr. Sanford changes out of his camouflage pants to a pair of shorts. And they think, ‘Now’s a good time to get rid of some evidence,” Verhoff said.

Prosecutors noted that Sanford’s childhood friend and alleged accomplice, Ali’jah Larrue, testified against Sanford, saying he witnessed Sanford shoot the couple in the head at the UW Arboretum. Sanford’s defense team, however, claimed Larrue only came forward and cooperated when it benefited him in the form of a plea deal for his own charges.

“No matter how awful, how tragic, how emotional a crime is–the facts are the facts. The jury applies the facts to the evidence and ultimately renders a conclusion. It’s not simple. We don’t know the full story. But what we do know is that the state has just not met their burden, and you cannot find Mr. Sanford guilty,” attorney Crystal Vera argued.

No testimony from Sanford

Before closing arguments were made, Sanford made the decision not to testify in his own defense.

Sanford told Judge Berz Monday afternoon that he did not wish to testify as his defense team declined to call any additional witnesses. The decision came after the prosecution finished its list of witnesses after about four and a half days of testimony, including Sanford’s alleged accomplice, Ali’jah Larrue.

Before taking an hour-long break to prepare for closing arguments, prosecutors agreed to drop the “use of a deadly weapon” enhancer for Sanford’s first-degree intentional homicide charges.

Sanford allegedly threatens deputies behind closed doors

After returning from Monday’s lunch break, Judge Berz warned that Sanford has been “acting out” with sheriffs deputies behind closed doors.

She also told defense attorneys to move away from Sanford if it happened in court, and that any violent behavior would not be cause for a mistrial. The announcement came over the lunch break, before jurors had been called back into the room.

UW Health’s Dr. Beth Potter and husband Robin Carre were found shot and left for dead in the Arboretum in March 2020; their daughter’s then-boyfriend Khari Sanford is accused in their killing. Sanford has been charged with two counts of first-degree intentional homicide with party-to-a-crime modifiers in the deaths of Dr. Potter and Carre.

The couple had been living in an Airbnb rented by Potter and Carre at the time of the murders after months of rising tensions between the parents and the couple over issues like academics and house rules. The daughter, who testified last week that Sanford never told her where he was going or what he would do the night of the killings, is not implicated in their deaths.

RELATED: ‘Khari told me to drive’: Alleged accomplice testifies

Phone searches: ‘How long it takes to die’

In Monday morning’s testimony, UWPD digital forensics detective Matt Schirmacher said data recovered from Sanford’s phone connected to the victims’ home WiFi network at 9:43pm on the night Dr. Potter and Mr. Carre were killed.

The morning after, his phone also connected to the Carre network again and then an area McDonald’s WiFi, which aligned with what the victim’s daughter testified last week, who said they had visited McDonald’s for breakfast that morning and gone very near the home to play basketball with friends.

RELATED: Daughter: Khari Sanford ‘felt like a slave’ when murdered parents helped couple or set house rules

Search data from Sanford’s phone the next day also recorded clicks on Quora links about “how long it takes to die” and how long it takes for a person to be forgotten after they die. Data also shows searches for news about the double homicide police investigation at the Arboretum.

The day after the murders, phone data also recorded searches on Sanford’s phone for a nearby pawn shop, as well as searches connected to a Glock Generation 4 handgun. Police never recovered the murder weapon in the case.

Prosecutors also showed a map showing GPS data from where Dr. Potter’s phone was the night of the murders. Data showed the phone moved from the area of the victims’ home to the Arboretum and then back to the Airbnb where Sanford and the victims’ daughter were living at the time. Video shown to jurors show Sanford and Larrue smashing cellphones later that night, prosecutors said.

A fraud investigator also testified Monday morning that the victims’ debit cards had seen activity after their deaths at multiple banks around the Madison area.

Video surveillance footage of one ATM appeared to show Sanford in a grey hooded sweatshirt making multiple attempts to use the card. A bank representative for Park Bank said the cards had been used for a total of 7 attempts for that one visit, most of them attempting to withdraw the maximum amount of $300. None of the attempts were successful due to not using the correct personal identification number.

Trial timeline

The trial, which started last Tuesday after jury selection on Monday, was scheduled to run nine days. The judge has banned any audio or visual recordings of the trial, with the exception of still photographs of Sanford, Larrue, and court officials.

Sanford faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted.

This coverage will be updated with additional testimony from Day 5 in the afternoon.