Members of Khaseen Morris' family sobbed quietly in court Tuesday during the closing arguments of Tyler Flach's murder trial in Mineola. Flach is facing a second-degree murder charge for allegedly stabbing Morris to death in a parking lot fight in Oceanside. NewsdayTV's Shari Einhorn reports. Credit: Newsday/Howard Schnapp; File Footage; Photo Credit: Keyanna Morris, John Roca, Jim Staubitser

Jurors will consider if Tyler Flach meant to kill Khaseen Morris in an after-school brawl when he plunged a knife into the 16-year-old’s heart, or if he unintentionally stabbed the Oceanside High School senior and inflicted a fatal wound after a punch “went awry” as he held the blade.

Attorneys gave closing arguments in Flach’s trial in Nassau County Court on Tuesday before jurors began their deliberations at around 3:20 p.m.  The panel deliberated for about one hour before they went home for the day.  Jury deliberations are set to resume at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Flach, 21, of Lido Beach, previously pleaded not guilty to felony charges of second-degree murder and first-degree gang assault, and misdemeanor assault and weapon charges, following Morris’ death in the encounter at an Oceanside strip mall on Sept. 16, 2019.

Flach’s attorney, Edward Sapone, conceded from the trial’s start that Flach killed Morris in what he called a tragic case of “reckless” behavior during a prearranged fight. He said Flach stabbed Morris a single time — a defense aimed at a verdict of a lesser felony charge of second-degree manslaughter instead of murder.

Sapone said in his closing argument that Flach “threw bunches of punches with the knife in his hand” before “very sadly and very tragically, one went awry and went into the chest of Khaseen Morris” — an action he called reckless but unintentional.

The prosecution alleged Flach committed murder by intentionally killing Morris after Flach and a group of eight friends from Long Beach confronted Morris and his group of friends from Freeport.

Jurors also could find Flach guilty of first-degree manslaughter, meaning he killed Morris while intending to cause serious physical harm.

Testimony showed the fight was sparked by friction with the jealous ex-boyfriend of a girl whom Morris walked home from a party, a teenager who also was among Flach’s friends in the fight that day.

“Khaseen Morris died because this defendant knowingly and deliberately plunged a knife into his chest, into his heart,” prosecutor Ania Pulaski said during her closing argument.

Flach stabbed him “at least two times, killing him in a matter of minutes,” she added.

Actions that showed Flach’s intention to kill included when he “armed himself from the outset” and tried to conceal his identity by folding his shirt like a bandanna and tying it around his face before running into the strip mall parking lot “in full stride,” Pulaski argued.

The prosecutor said Flach also had to get past Morris’ friends, swinging and pushing, to get to his target — a distinct-looking teenager in a blue shirt whose hair was half red and half black.

Pulaski said it took Flach only 15 seconds to stab Morris and that his actions weren’t reckless, but deliberate.

 “The defendant was not trying to punch Khaseen with a knife. He was trying to cut him,” said Pulaski, who replayed a portion of the video of the brawl that authorities compiled from store security cameras and a cellphone recording.

“Whether it’s one stab to the chest, two stabs to the chest or three stabs to the chest, it’s murder and it’s nothing else,” the prosecutor told jurors.

Pulaski argued that besides the fatal stab wound, Flach also caused a superficial wound to Morris’ upper left chest that wasn’t mentioned in hospital records — and that she said the medical examiner “misclassified” the death as caused by lifesaving efforts.

Pulaski also pointed to a sketch that a paramedic made of that wound on the victim’s chest and said “two stab wounds is another piece of evidence” demonstrating Flach’s intent to kill.

The prosecutor dismissed the defense’s suggestion that another superficial wound on Morris’ body also was caused by medical treatment.

Khaseen Morris, 16, was fatally stabbed in the chestin the...

Khaseen Morris, 16, was fatally stabbed in the chestin the parking lot of a strip mall in Oceanside in September, 2019. Credit: Keyanna Morris

Trial testimony showed Morris had five lacerations on his body, including the fatal wound to his heart.

Prosecutor Daryl Levy said in the trial’s opening statements that Flach stabbed Morris three times, a departure from a previous account from authorities that Morris suffered a single stab wound to his chest.

The defense has contended that every laceration except for Morris’ deadly stab wound resulted from lifesaving efforts.

A surgical trauma team brought Morris back to life twice before his life slipped away eight hours after the deadly encounter, testimony showed.

Flach’s attorney told jurors Tuesday, while asking for a verdict of second-degree manslaughter and second-degree gang assault, that Flach threw punches with the knife in his hand during other parts of the fight, but only inflicted the single stab wound to Morris in the 51-second melee.

He said Flach ran into the strip mall parking lot with a knife in his hands “because of the odds,” with up to 50 other teenagers about to confront him in the popular after-school hangout area.

The defense attorney also said Flach folded up the knife, put it away and didn’t immediately flee after stabbing Morris, instead turning his attention to another part of the brawl.

Sapone added that no one even knew Morris had been stabbed until they saw his shirt get bloody, when he said Flach and his friends began to “high-tail it out of there.”

Sapone tried to discredit the testimony of Morris’ friends, while crediting the testimony of now-retired Nassau deputy medical examiner Dorota Latuszynski. She testified that all but one of the victim’s wounds were “more likely than not” caused by efforts to save his life.

“She’s not getting it wrong. She has too much experience for that,” Sapone added.

The defense attorney also pointed out that the 219 pages of Morris’ hospital records only referred to a single stab wound.

With Shari Einhorn and Michael O'Keeffe

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