POTTSVILLE, Pa. - An accused killer took the stand at his own murder trial in Schuylkill County on Wednesday.
Keith Reber was arrested last May after tying another man to a tree, and leaving him there gagged for 20 hours.
Reber didn't say much as he walked out of a Schuylkill County courtroom. He said everything he wanted on the witness stand minutes earlier.
"Mr. Reber insisted upon testifying, and I encouraged him," explained defense attorney Robert Kirwan. "His insight as to exactly what happened filled a lot of the blanks in for the prosecutors."
Reber was the only witness called by the defense. He testified that 26-year-old Bryan Smith ransacked his girlfriend's house. Under oath, he said Smith chose to get tied to the tree as a compromise between calling the police or getting beat up.
"I don't think anyone thought it through until the very end when things went horribly wrong," said Kirwan. "And unfortunately he died as a result of that."
While the defense admits it was an unusual choice, the prosecution calls it bizarre.
"I don't think his story was very convincing," said Michael O'Pake, Schuylkill County assistant district attorney. "The defendant is trying to indicate that the victim voluntarily went up and wanted to be tied to a tree for ransacking someone's house."
Smith was left tied to the tree for 20 hours. Reber said he went back several times to check on him and give him water, but on the last visit he found Smith dead.
"I really truly believe that Keith Reber is being honest with the jury when he says I didn't intend to hurt that kid," added Kirwan.
Prosecutors said Smith was high on methamphetamine, and that coupled with being tied up killed him.
The defense argued it was the drug, not being bound, that caused his death. They maintain it was negligence, not murder.
"The most important part here is that someone lost their life, and we're trying to do right by the family," described O'Pake.
The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. Thursday. The defense and the prosecution will give closing arguments, then it's up to the jury to decide Reber's fate.
Allentown, PA 18102