An Orleans Parish jury Monday convicted artist and building contractor Peter Richard Rubens of second-degree murder for shooting dead a colleague last summer at the Broadmoor home both were repairing.
Rubens, 59, will receive the state's mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole for firing four times into the chest of Robert Irwin, 47, the evening of June 29, 2008.
Rubens always admitted shooting Irwin but claimed that it was self-defense, since Irwin walked into the S. Prieur Street home without having called or knocked first.
The jury spent about one hour deliberating before calling it murder.
Irwin arrived uninvited that evening, barefoot and having taken painkillers and marijuana, the jury heard. He was unarmed and didn't survive the impromptu meeting with Rubens, who had employed him on several building projects.
Rubens didn't testify at trial, but his attorney Eric Hessler argued that Irwin entered his home without knocking and proceeded to attack Rubens with a pencil.
What prosecutors mocked as "the pencil theory," Hessler said was a completely reasonable story.
"You want to take this back and stab each other with it to see if you can cause great bodily harm?" Hessler said, holding a contractor's pencil. "You don't have to let him stab you. You don't have to wait and you don't have to."
Irwin, who lost his Gentilly home to the floodwaters that followed Hurricane Katrina, had been living in a trailer parked in the Broadmoor neighborhood as he worked as a foreman on several of Rubens' building projects.
Irwin had also taken up with Rubens' girlfriend of seven years and, against the advice of friends, decided to go to Rubens' house that evening to confront him over a debt, the jury heard.
"He killed my only witness," said Assistant District Attorney Matthew Bourque. "That's why the law doesn't require me to prove motive. There is no evidence whatsoever that Robert Irwin tried to hurt Mr. Rubens or attack him in any way."
Rubens, who wore large framed glasses and shoulder-length gray hair, is known for painting original works and reproductions of classical paintings. His Web site describes years of training in Europe before moving to New Orleans.
Days before the shooting, Rubens had told friends, including the owner of the Broadmoor house, Ray Manning, that he was planning to leave for Iowa to win a debris-removal contract in the flooded areas of that state.
Rubens had been living on the second-floor of Manning's home for several months, having been hired to help repair the flood damage.
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In: News, Other
Tags: NOLA, artist, murder, pencil, pot, painkillers
Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States (load item map)
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