Medical mistakes, not murder, killed his 41-year-old girlfriend, a North Little Rock man accused of beating the woman to death told a Pulaski County jury on Wednesday.
Parnell May, 46, is charged with capital murder, and prosecutors are seeking a life sentence in the trial before Pulaski County Circuit Judge Leon Johnson. The proceedings, scheduled to run until Friday, resume at 9:30 a.m. today at the county courthouse, the first murder trial since the pandemic began last year.
Ann Marie Mireles' "death was not a homicide," May told jurors in his opening statement. "[Mireles] did not die by any injuries. [Her] death was the sole province of Mother Nature."
Deputy prosecutor Melissa Brown said in her opening that May had subjected the woman to a "severe and prolonged beating" that left Mireles with more injuries than doctors could count. Brown said he used a metal pipe and a wooden stick found in the couple's home that were marked with Mireles' blood.
"Ann Mireles' injuries tell the story of what the defendant did to her," Brown said.
Arrested the day after Mireles' December 2016 death, May had the woman's blood on his clothes and boots when sheriff's deputies arrested him, Brown said. Her blood was even found on the money May had in his pocket, the prosecutor said.
May also had Mireles' phone with him, and investigators found pictures of the woman lying on the floor of the home that were taken around the last time authorities know for sure Mireles was alive, Brown said.
A neighbor found Mireles unconscious, heavily bruised and not breathing on the steps of the Vaughn Road home she shared with May. Paramedics rushed her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.
May said the rescuers' efforts to resuscitate Mireles, including chest compressions, caused her death, inflicting tremendous liver damage among other injuries.
"This is the absolute truth," May said. "There is exculpatory evidence that proves Parnell May is innocent."
May told jurors he and Mireles had been in a fight the night before while both were drinking heavily but denied playing any role in her death.
May, a fifth-grade drop-out, was addressing the jurors himself because he has insisted on acting as his own lawyer for most of the proceedings. He's occasionally accepted offers of legal representation and advice, only to later reject them. He's being allowed to represent himself on the condition that he accepts having a stand-by attorney, Lee Short, who will take over his defense if May becomes disruptive.
This is May's second trial. His first, in January 2018, was marked by May's continuous angry outbursts, rambling diatribes and repeated arguments with witnesses, which resulted in the judge prematurely ending that trial. Bailiffs had to pull the shouting defendant from the courtroom then as shocked jurors, some in tears, were escorted out of the courtroom.
A five-time felon with a history of violence, May was convicted of manslaughter in Louisiana for fatally stabbing his older sister's boyfriend in April 1991 in Opelousas when May was 15. He was sentenced to six years in prison in February 1992. His sister, 29, who gave May the knife he used, was also convicted of manslaughter and received a one-year sentence.