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Former Virginia Tech football player Isimemen David Etute's murder trial began on Wednesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Etute is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of 40-year-old Jerry Paul Smith on May 31, 2021. The player, being represented by Radford-based defense attorney Jimmy Turk, filed a not guilty plea at his previous arraignment.

According to Etute's lawyers, he acted in self-defense because he thought Smith was aiming for a weapon during the night of the alleged murder. Turk then described Etute as a then 18-year-old victim who was "lured" into a sexual encounter by a man wanting young Black males for his own sexual gratification. "[Smith] was a sexual predator and Isi was one of his victims," Turk said.

Meanwhile, the Commonwealth insisted Etute should be found guilty of second-degree murder for killing Smith, a Tinder match Etute originally believed was a woman. Prosecutors claimed that Etute had every right to be frustrated at the situation, however, "Jerry didn’t deserve to die."

The former linebacker told the police he visited Smith’s apartment in April 2021 after he was matched with someone named "Angie" on a dating application. Prosecutors said that when Etute came back on May 31, he became angry when he discovered his match was a man.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jason Morgan told the jury that there was "not much to unpack in this case." He said Etute beat Smith when he discovered he was a man. "Every bone in Jerry's face was broken," Morgan said. The jury consisted of nine women and four men, including one alternate. Several potential jurors were reportedly dismissed because of previous knowledge of or biases concerning the case.

Western Virginia assistant chief medical examiner Dr. Amy Tharp explained Smith's injuries, saying he had multiple facial fractures and brain damage. She did not find any defensive wounds on Smith’s arms or hands. Dr. Tharp also said that he was likely still alive but unconscious after Etute left the apartment.

Smith's brother, John Smith, testified saying he was the first to find his brother's body on June 1, 2021. He said that he did not agree with his brother being gay, but he has no knowledge that Smith was presenting as a straight woman.

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