Jury mulls boyfriend's fate in '04 shooting

LAWRENCEVILLE - A jury is tasked with deciding whether Larry Bowling killed his girlfriend in cold blood or if the one fatal round was accidentally fired, as he contends.

Deliberations began Tuesday afternoon in Bowling's murder trial following a holiday break. He's accused of shooting his girlfriend, Melody Harrell, 20, in the face following a tiff at a Buford bar five years ago.

The shooting happened as the couple were driving Bowling's brother's van down Bona Road in the wee hours of April 24, 2004, after he'd been tossed from a Buford karaoke joint for acting belligerent. Once shot, Harrell, who was driving, lost control of the van, and it slammed into a house.

Bowling, 35, and his defense attorney, Lyle Porter, don't deny the gun fired in his hand, only that it accidentally discharged after he tussled with an unidentified black man who fled from the back seat after the crash.

Doctors pulled Harrell off life support the following day. Bowling was initially charged with aggravated battery, but those charges were upgraded to murder about two weeks after her death.

In his closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Keith Miles told jurors the supposed third person in the van was a "mystery man" whose presence was concocted by Bowling.

An expert had testified the gun would require five to 10 pounds of pressure before it would discharge, lending evidence that the shooting was intentional, Miles said.

A doctor testified last week that Bowling tested positive for cocaine, marijuana, opiates and other drugs the night of the shooting. His blood alcohol content by the time he reached the hospital was nearly twice the driving limit, after he'd been shooting tequila at the bar.

Harrell "tried to drive (Bowling) away from trouble ... and she put herself right in the middle of trouble," Miles said. "The anger that resided in him, the alcohol he put there and probably other things ... these resulted in the split-second decision" to shoot Harrell, he said.

Bowling, bulky in a black suit and sky-blue dress shirt, appeared to hang on the prosecutor's every word, often chatting with his attorney in between Miles' statements.

Deliberations are expected to resume this morning.