This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
“Here’s how I’d like to proceed. Everyone, if you will, please scour your notes and your memories for any significant evidence testified to by David Epperson. Let’s try not to consider quite yet what it might mean. Let’s simply organize the facts as Epperson claimed them to be. I’ll write on the board what we agree to be the significant facts, right here, just to the right of the elements for murder one. Once we have the summary up, then we’ll discuss what it might mean. “I’ll begin. First off, Epperson testified he was a deputy with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and that he discovered the body in Lincoln Cemetery.” I add those two pieces of evidence to the board. “Now let’s work around the room. We’ll go clockwise. Sondra, just one piece of evidence.” Sondra looks at her notes and adds that Epperson found the body at 3:44 AM on October 23, 1997. Christina adds he was twotenths of a mile from the entrance when he saw her lying there. Tony remembers that no one else was around. Chad says she was lying on her back, and her arms were above her head. Terry notes that her eyes were open. A number of people, including myself, found that creepy. So around and around we go. When the unique evidence starts running low, people take a pass. Then I open it to anyone with anything left. When we’re done, the list looks like this: Deputy for Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Discovered body in Lincoln Cemetery, 0.2 miles from entry; routine patrol October 23, 1997, 3:44 AM; very dark, no lights, leaves on trees, pitch black No traffic, no one else around Lying on her back; arms above head; eyes open Gunshot wound to face, from bottom of nose into mouth Not breathing; no pulse; skin cold to touch; skin bluish gray Puddle of blood behind head Called for assistance; guarded gate after investigators arrived No ID; only item found was a key chain (so he was told) Body was that of Anastasia WitbolsFeugen (so he was told)
“Okay, there’s his testimony, nice and concise. None of us alone could have remembered everything here, and none of us has all this in our notes. Okay, Jade came close. She seems to have a good set of notes. But for most of us, there’s just too much to remember, too many witnesses.” “Okay, this next step is not pleasant. We’re going to look at the picture of Anastasia’s body.” I go to the evidence box which is sitting on the floor behind me. I pull out a manila folder. I open it and look inside. It’s gruesome, but I try to control my reaction. As I study the photo, the room is absolutely silent. I give them my assessment. “This photo is horrible. When you look at it, you feel like you just walked into someone’s most private place at just the wrong time. But this photo is an important piece of evidence, and we’re supposed to review the evidence before we decide our vote. So I’m going to pass it around. No one has to look at it. Anyone who does look, please be respectful.” The image is truly awful. She has that terrible gunshot wound in the middle of her face. I think Epperson is wrong in his description. It looks to me like the wound extends from her upper lip to the bridge of her nose, not the bottom of her nose. She’s lying on her back. Her arms are above her head and her eyes are partially open, just like Epperson said. One eye is more open than the other. One iris appears darker than the other. Her shoulder length hair is fanned out above her head. From the photo, it looks to be light brown in color. Her body is perpendicular to the roadway. Her heels are just touching the road. Her head and most of her body are on the grass. The pool of blood beneath her head is not as large as I thought it might be. There’s some blood running down her face from the wound. Not much though. It looks like most of the blood beneath her came from the back of her head. She’s wearing a tan coat with a beige or gray sweater underneath. The jeans are dark, maybe black. The shoes are black, low-cut, with thick soles. The clothing is intact, not torn. She looks petite, sad, and lonely. I am suddenly jarred by the fact that my own daughter is very close to her in age. After all the testimony, objections, and admonitions, I realize I had become desensitized to the horrific violence suffered by this young woman. At this moment, looking at this photo, she is more
human to me than she was during the trial. She is a beautiful young person, and the tragedy of her death chokes in my throat. I stand up, walk to the window and stare into the distance. Behind me, the photo makes it way around the room. I hear two of the ladies gasp. I hear Vivian decline to look at all. When the photo has made its way around, I leave the comfort of the distant view, retrieve the photo, and return it to the evidence box. There is a duty to complete and an oath to fulfill. “Did anyone see anything that looked strange?” Chad makes a weak attempt at a joke, but it falls flat. Very flat. “What about her hair?” Liza lights up for the first time. She realizes what I’m asking about. “It’s all fanned out.” The guys give her the so-what look. Sondra and Christina nod, and Vivian looks up suddenly to give her a smile. “Epperson didn’t mention that, did he?” He certainly did not. Liza explains what it might mean. When a woman wants her hair to lie nice and smooth and even, she starts by tilting her head forward and brushing her hair over her head, from back to front. Then she throws her head back. That causes her hair to fan out and fall evenly onto her back. Liza isn’t sure Anastasia’s hair would be fanned out like that just because she fell backwards. Jade makes the point I was wondering about. Her hair might have been arranged for her after she was shot, by whoever shot her. Chad chimes in with the thought that she might have been dragged. It would explain why her hair is fanned out like that and why her arms are above her head. He gets up, walks to the evidence box, pulls out the folder and takes another look at the photo. He says he doesn’t see anything that looks like drag marks. He hands the folder to me. I can’t see any drag marks either. I pass the photo around again. This time everyone looks with more skeptical eyes. It’s Sondra’s turn to notice something. “There’s no blood splatter on the ground.” As far as we know, there’s no blood splatter anywhere. She thinks there should be some somewhere, but no one talked about it. We went through an entire murder trial, a gunshot wound straight through the head, and we heard nothing about blood splatter. Not on the ground. Not on Justin’s clothes. Not on
Byron’s clothes. Not on the car. Nothing. She wishes we’d heard from a blood splatter expert. Several others agree. The folder makes its way back to me and I return it to the evidence box. I ask for a five minute break. We won’t have time to leave the jury room, but I need five minutes free from the intensity of the moment. Viewing that photo twice was more stressful than I anticipated. Some of the jurors lean back, sighing or stretching. Vivian beats George to the bathroom. She’s not as quick. Just closer. “Okay, everyone ready to go?” A few grunts. I take that to mean yes. “Because we’ve been disciplined in our deliberation, we have before us, on the board, Epperson’s testimony sitting right beside the elements the State needs to prove murder one. Let’s go through the elements and see which Epperson has helped prove. “First one says that the murder had to take place on October 22, 1997. But as you can see, Epperson discovered the body on October 23, 1997. Since no one established time of death in this trial, not that I recall anyway, I suggest that his testimony does not contribute to proving this element.” Terry points out that Epperson said her skin was cold to the touch, so she had been out there a while, and it was only 3:44 in the morning when he found her. He thinks that means she probably was killed the previous day, else she still could have been a little bit warm. I try to disagree without offending. “Seems to me that’s a bit speculative. If we’d heard those words directly from Dr. Young, or Dr. Blanchard who testified in his place, or even the investigator from the ME’s office who never testified, then I would more readily accept it as true. But none of that happened. Either the State didn’t think they could prove time of death, or they didn’t want to. I’m unwilling to accept the issue never occurred to them. “So while I see your point, I don’t believe Epperson’s testimony comes anywhere close to proving Anastasia was murdered on the 22nd.” Well Terry sure as hell doesn’t think there’s any proof Anastasia was killed on the 23rd, either. I concede the point. “The next element is that Anastasia was killed in Jackson County. What did Epperson contribute towards proving that element?
Terry?” Terry points out that Epperson worked for the Jackson County Sheriff’s office and he was on routine patrol, ergo [he actually used the word “ergo”] that’s where she was killed. Terry recalls, correctly I believe, that Epperson actually said that Lincoln Cemetery was in Jackson County. Liza points out that she might have been killed elsewhere and dropped off at the cemetery. Terry counters with the pool of blood beneath her head. Sondra is still angry about the blood splatter issue and re-ignites. “Where’s the blood? They never talked about the blood splatter.” I try to keep it moving. “I think they probably have this one covered, but I’ve got to say they were pretty lackadaisical here. I think they should have made this point painfully obvious to us. Let’s move on. “The third element was that Byron Case killed Anastasia. I believe the defense asked Epperson only one question on cross, and that was if he knew who killed Anastasia, or something like that.” Jade corrects me. As I said, she seems to have the best notes. Horton Lance asked him if he could tell whether Anastasia was killed by a stranger or an acquaintance. Epperson said “no.” “So that would be no. The fourth element is that --” Chris, the quiet one, is apologetic but feels he simply must interrupt. If we’re not going to take things for granted, then at this point, we’re only assuming that the body was that of Anastasia. Epperson didn’t know her personally. No friends or relatives came by and identified her while he was there. He didn’t compare dental records. He only heard later that the body was that of Anastasia WitbolsFeugen. Wish I had thought of that. “Good thought, Chris. Not only that, he didn’t even say who he heard that from. And now --” Terry want’s to know if we’re kidding him. He thinks we must be, we gotta be. He thinks we’re nit-picking, and he doesn’t care for it. “Fine. We don’t really have to deliberate that since it’s been established by other evidence. Moving on. The fourth element is that Anastasia died as the result of being shot. Epperson said he observed what appeared to be a gunshot wound, but I think that comes up short of proof.” Terry points out with some enthusiasm that the female ME who
testified, Dr. Chase Blanchard, said that the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the head. I concede his point, and express my confidence we’ll see that to be true when we consider Dr. Chase's testimony. “The fifth element is that Byron Case deliberated before he shot Anastasia, even if he did so only for a microsecond. Epperson has nothing to add here. Nor does he have anything to add to the last point, that Byron Case shot Anastasia knowing it would probably kill her. “So that covers Epperson’s testimony. But there’s something missing here that bothers me a lot. Epperson was the only one from the Jackson County Sheriff’s office who testified. What about all the investigators who showed up? Why didn’t any of them testify? What about the oft mentioned Sergeant Kilgore? Wasn’t he the lead investigator? Why didn’t he testify? Where was he? “How about the investigator from the ME’s office? He went to the scene. We don’t even know his name. Why didn’t he testify? Why is Epperson, who is not an investigator, who was asked to secure one of the entrances to the cemetery while others investigated, why was he the only one who provided testimony for the sheriff’s office? “It makes me suspicious, as if something is out there they don’t want us to know about. Now, unless anyone has anything else on Epperson, we’ll move on to the witness after Kelly. Kelly was next but we’re going to hold discussion of her testimony until last. Next after Kelly is her mother, Debra.”
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.