Defense rests in Curtis Thornton arson trial; closing arguments set for Thursday

Former Birmingham police officer Curtis Thornton during his arson trial Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (

The legal defense team for a former Birmingham police officer on trial for arson rested its case Wednesday afternoon after calling only one witness and just three days after court proceedings began.

The defendant, Curtis Thornton, was the only person called to the witness stand by the defense, and he denied any involvement in fires in Ensley and Warrior during his testimony. He also said the state's witnesses, which included current and former police officers and his ex-fianc, were lying when they testified under oath that he confessed to the fires.Thornton also denied other allegations made against him during testimony given by two of the prosecution's witnesses. Earlier in the day, a former Marathon gas station employee claimed Thornton poured alcohol on the store's counter then lit it on fire. Another witness testified that he set a t-shirt on fire in the presence of another Birmingham police officer at a vacant house.Thornton also tried to explain why his patrol car was parked near a home at 1577 Martin Avenue in Ensley for an extended period of time the night it was destroyed by fire, saying he was following a couple of suspicious black males who had left the nearby Sun Inn.Officer Patrick Bailey testified Thornton would tell him to "be careful" on his shift that night and that a house was "gonna go up" in flames on his beat. He also said Thornton would joke about the houses he had set on fire.

Bailey said he never told his superiors about it because the precinct viewed Thornton as "a little off," and he was afraid what might happen.Closing arguments are expected Thursday morning before the judge hands the case over to the jury for deliberation.