Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Lunch Break

Murray Police Department Detective Kendra Smith was back on the stand to continue cross examination this morning as the third day of the Harrison Yonts wanton murder trial began to another packed house of friends and family.

Defense counsel spent a considerable amount of time during their examination of the witness attempting to establish facts about what Yonts was wearing on the evening of the accident, and what happened to these clothing items during the investigation of the scene. This discussion centers around one of the lesser charges Yonts faces - tampering with evidence. Smith testified that among the variables involved in charging Yonts with this crime was a missing shirt, which had been presumed destroyed or otherwise concealed.

The defense played again for the jury footage taken inside Yonts's apartment the morning he was arrested, showing in Yonts's bathroom what appeared to be an orange and white polo shirt spread out on the toilet seat. Yonts had previously told police he'd tried to clean the shirt after cutting his hand at the party. Smith said she could not be certain whether that was the shirt he'd been wearing.

The defense also questioned Smith about certain aspects of the investigation, suggesting that all avenues were not explored in the hours and days following the accident. Defense counsel Dennis Null pressed Smith about her comments on an accident reconstruction illustration that she had said "appeared to be correct" during Grand Jury testimony, but now questioned. The defense also questioned Smith about some of the contents of Shaheen's bag which may have indicated her whereabouts that night, negative contact made with Yonts's roommates and continued discussion on the vehicle's placement in the driveway, particularly its relationship to the charge of tampering with evidence.

The cross examination and subsequent re-directs and re-cross examinations were frought with objections as the defense continued to push for statements that would indicate failure on the part of the Murray Police Department to fully examine the case and attempt to prove Yonts's innocence.

During re-direct examination, Yonts's original statement to police was dissected, in which Yonts was established as coherent and not confused or visibly intoxicated at the time of the interview.

When examination was finished with Smith, Jennifer Block took the stand. Block observed Yonts at Nick's Family Sports Pub the night of Nov. 10, 2005. She said though she did not know him that night, when she heard about the incident the next day she realized that was who she'd seen the night before. She testified that at Nick's, he was behaving as though he were extremely intoxicated. She testified that he was wearing a plaid shirt, a grey fleece and a gray toboggan.

During cross examination, she testified that she did not see Yonts drive, and that she was not interviewed until Nov. 17. She said during her interview with Kendra there were no follow-up questions regarding Yonts's shirt.

Next on the stand was Mallory Cathey, whose phone call was the lone call on Yonts's phone that night. It was a 30-second call, in which Yonts told Cathey he was home. Cathey testified she'd been giving rides to people, and wanted to know if he needed a ride. She testified that he told her he was already home and did not need a ride.

During cross examination, Cathey said she did not hear anything in the background that led her to believe he was not at home. During her other driving that evening Cathey said she did not drive on Coldwater Road or through Five Points.

During re-direct, she testified that she offered Yonts a ride home because she was unaware of how he got to the party and assumed if he were at the party, he'd been drinking.

Sean Knipp was then called. A Murray State student the night of the incident, he was at the house the night of the party and did see Yonts's vehicle pull out of the driveway to leave the party. He said he only saw the rear quarter passenger panel at 2 a.m.

Garret Wheatley then came to the stand. Wheatley manages computer labs for Murray State, and by request he discovered that Shaheen had log-on privileges at Hart College computer lab, and that night her log-off time was 2:00:02 a.m. In cross examination, Wheatley said he employed student workers to monitor the lab. In re-direct, Wheatley testified about Robert Daniels, a housing employee who is responsible for the security cameras. Wheatley said in the event of a power surge, camera times would reset correctly. The jury then viewed the security footage from the Hart College computer lab.

Check back around 7:30 for all the details from the day.


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