A lawyer for a North Philadelphia man who killed two people at a Bucks County campground in 2019 asked a jury on Friday to acquit Miles Jones of murder, saying Jones shot the men in self-defense because he feared they would kill him.
“In a matter of moments, alone, injured, and outnumbered, Miles Jones had to do something he never wanted to do,” Kenneth Hone said, adding that Jones had no “malice in his heart” and never intended to kill anyone.
But prosecutors, in closing arguments at the end of Jones’ weeklong trial before Bucks County Common Pleas Judge Diane Gibbons, said Jones was the aggressor in the incident, and that his version of the events that led to the fatal shooting was a self-serving lie.
“He wants you to believe that these people who held no tension toward him the whole night turned into an angry mob that refused to let him leave,” Deputy District Attorney Edward Louka said.
After about two hours of deliberation Friday, Gibbons sent the jurors home for the weekend.
Jones, 42, faces two counts of criminal homicide, reckless endangerment, and gun offenses in the shooting of Arthur Hill, 46, and Eric Braxton, 41, in October 2019 at the Homestead Family Campground in West Rockhill Township, about an hour north of Philadelphia.
He had been invited to the campground by his girlfriend, who was attending an annual gathering there with her friends and family. That night, after most of the campers had returned to their tents, Jones and his girlfriend got into a heated argument, prosecutors said, and she ended their relationship. At one point, Jones angrily pushed the tent, partially collapsing it while she was still inside, and she screamed.
Witnesses testified that when Hill went with his sons to investigate, Jones shoved him, and one of Hill’s sons punched Jones in the jaw, knocking him to the ground.
Jones’ lawyer said the men then beat, kicked, and stomped him as he lay prone, breaking his foot in four places.
But Louka said Jones was injured when he tripped over a rock at the cluttered campsite. He reminded jurors that other campers testified that Jones had threatened Hill and his sons, saying he was going “to get” them and that “no one is safe.”
After the fight, prosecutors said, the group told Jones to sit in his girlfriend’s car to calm down. Jones took the stand during the trial on Wednesday and said the group wouldn’t let him leave, forcing him back into the car when he tried to retrieve his cell phone and call for a ride back to the city.
As he sat in the car, Jones grabbed a 9mm Sig Sauer pistol he said he brought as a precautionary measure against bears. He said he tucked the pistol into his pocket, and tried to walk away, but was hobbled by the injury to his foot.
“I was afraid, and I did not want to kill a person,” Jones said. “I didn’t want to be involved with anyone losing their lives.”
He said Braxton approached him and tried to keep him separated from the rest of the group. Jones said he was fearful the group would attack him again and fired once, striking Braxton in the chest, and then fired again at Hill, who he said was running toward him.
“I felt like they were going to attack me to death,” Jones said. “I thought I was going to die in the woods.”
But Hill was shot in the back, the prosecutor said, and his sons testified that their father had been struck as they were fleeing from the sound of the initial gunfire.
“The defendant is trying to blame his actions, his decisions on two good men,” Louka said Friday. “Two men who were only trying to enjoy a camping trip.”
A parade of character witnesses, including Jones’ family members, fraternity brothers, and former coworkers at schools in West Chester and Wallingford, described Jones as peaceful and nonviolent, and said they doubted that the shooting unfolded as prosecutors described.
The jury is expected to resume deliberations Monday.