NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Emotional opening statements kicked off the murder trial of Nashville nurse Caitlyn Kaufman. The 26-year-old St. Thomas ICU nurse was found shot and killed on I-440 in December 2020.

Devaunte Hill, 23, and James Cowan, 30, face first-degree murder charges in Caitlyn’s shooting death.

James Cowan and Devaunte Hill
James Cowan and Devaunte Hill (Courtesy: Metro Nashville Police Department)

You could feel the emotion inside the courtroom before the jury was brought in on Wednesday, Jan. 25, with Judge Dalton warning that this will be an emotionally-driven trial. 

Caitlyn’s mother, Diane, was first to take the stand, bringing not only her family and loved ones to tears but several jurors as well. Some jurors were seen wiping tears from their cheeks as Diane talked about receiving the call from a Metro chaplain asking if she was sitting down.

“I said please do not tell me that my daughter is dead,” she began to cry.

In opening arguments, Assistant District Attorney Jan Norman passionately walked the jury through the night of Dec. 3, 2020, saying, “It took both of them, it took both of them to do this. They did this together and I submit to you that the proof in evidence submitted to you this week will prove that they are both guilty of first-degree premeditated murder.” 

Assistant Deputy Public Defender Georgia Sims took a surprising approach, saying Hill wants jurors to know that he is responsible for Caitlyn’s death. 

“He is the person who pulled the trigger and ended her life,” Sims said while standing next to her client.

However, she explained Hill’s actions weren’t premeditated.

“Did he have the ability to exercise reflection and judgement before he pulled that trigger?” She asked the jury. “Ladies and gentleman he did not.”

Cowan’s representative Ron Munkeboe was more brief in his opening statements.

“You will hear no proof that James Cowan killed anyone,” Munkeboe said. “You will hear no proof that he caused the death of anyone. You will hear no proof that he intended for anybody to get killed. You will hear no proof that he had a weapon, that he fired a weapon or gave a weapon to anyone.”

Wednesday, the murder weapon was revealed for the first time, photos of Caitlyn’s bullet-riddled car were shared, jurors heard the call from Hill in jail and watched the interview between Hill and investigators from the day he was arrested. 

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Court will continue Thursday, Jan. 26 at 8:30 a.m.