Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tuesday, January 30: Trial day 2, afternoon

Following the lunch recess, the prosecution called a series of witnesses to testify about their work with the case in relation to their employment with the Kentucky State Police forensic lab in Frankfort. Through these three witnesses, testimony was given indicating DNA matches on blood found on the inside and outside of the window groove of Yonts's Lincoln – the blood on the inside was Yonts's, the blood on the outside was Shaheen's.

Additionally, test results that indicated a match between glass shards found on Yonts's jeans and toboggan and the glass from the vehicle's shattered window were reported. A positive match was also made with residue and fibers on the front of Yonts's car and fibers from the pants Shaheen was wearing at the time of the accident.

After the final KSP lab witness, Kayla Denzik took the stand to testify about her work as a server at Nick's Family Sports Pub on the night of Nov. 10, 2005. Denzik told the court that she served Yonts that night between 9 and 11 p.m., and testified that he had been drinking Long Island Iced Teas. She also testified that she had seen him purchase a drink for someone else, and in cross examination it was clarified that Denzik did not, herself, mix the drink that was served to Yonts and thus could not be certain how much liquor it contained.

Next, Scott Ellison, graduate student from St. Charles, Mo., and Student Government Association president took the stand. The night of the accident Ellison was a senior and active member in Lambda Chi who attended the party for a brief period of time. He was living in the fraternity house then. He identified Yonts as having worn a gray toboggan and blue jeans that night, and said, in his opinion, Yonts appeared to have been drinking - though he said he never witnessed Yonts taking a drink of alcohol. The designated driver policy of the fraternity was further discussed during Ellison's testimony, and he said the night of Nov. 11, 2005, there were five pledge brothers who were designated drivers. Ellison said he had consumed just one drink that night.

In cross examination Ellison testified that he'd been to Yonts's apartment about a dozen times, and that he'd never seen Yonts back his vehicle in to his driveway. He said he did not see Yonts break a beer bottle at the party, but that he did see him go back to his car at one point in the evening, to the passenger side, though he didn't know what he was after. This statement became a point of contention in the court on both sides of the room, as Ellison's description of what he saw did not match up with what he said during his initial interview with Detective Kendra Smith. He told the attorneys that he believed he'd told her that Yonts specifically had gone to the passenger side, but no such statement was in the transcript. Still, Ellison maintained that Yonts had gone to the passenger side of his vehicle.

Next, Bradley Rideout came to the stand. Rideout is a junior brother of Lambda Chi who was present on Nov. 10, 2005, and who saw Yonts leaving in his vehicle around 2 a.m. Rideout said he called out to Yonts to see if he needed a ride, telling him that they would find him one. He said Yonts's window was cracked, and that he replied he was fine, and left the premises.

Jeremy Collins, who testified next, was also present that night and observed Rideout speaking with Yonts before Yonts drove away. Collins said Yonts got into the driver's side of the vehicle alone, backed out of his spot, stopped for a moment to talk to Rideout and then pulled forward to the open gates.

There was no cross examination of Rideout.

The state then called Cami Knapp, junior from Xenia, Ill., who testified that she left the Citgo two doors down from the Lambda Chi house moments before Yonts pulled out of the house's driveway. She was behind his vehicle as they both stopped at the light at 16th and Main streets and turned right. She said she knew it was Yonts's vehicle because she had seen him in it previously. Knapp said she couldn't say if he was alone or not at that time. As they traveled down 16th Street, Knapp said Yonts's driving was unremarkable and did not seem out of the ordinary. When the two vehicles pulled up to the Five Points intersection, Knapp, who was turning right, looked and saw Yonts, who was going left or straight, in the next car. Knapp said this was between 2 and 2:15 a.m.

During cross examination, the defense questioned Knapp about her refusal to answer phone calls from defense counselors or speak with a private investigator hired by the defense. Knapp answered that her attorney had advised her it was within her rights not to speak to anyone if she so desired. Knapp went on to testify that no other vehicles were around at the intersection at the moment she and Yonts were side by side. The defense began to propose that perhaps Yonts's window had been rolled down, making it easier for Knapp to positively identify him in such a short period of time. Knapp agreed that this was possible.

Scot Ellison then returned to the stand, after having looked over the transcript from his statement to Detective Kendra Smith. He said that though he did not say in the statement Yonts was headed for his passenger side, that he had been headed in that direction to Ellison's recollection. The prosecution suggested that defense counsel had pushed Ellison to include this detail in his testimony, but Ellison denied this, saying that, though the line of questioning made him unsure, he was 80 percent firm that he'd seen Yonts heading to the passenger side of his Lincoln.

The final witness of the day was the aforementioned detective, Kendra Smith, who served as lead detective on the case. During Smith's testimony, the jury viewed two videos. One was a video of evidence from around the scene on Coldwater Road, including footage of the body of Nadia Shaheen. The second video was Yonts's interview with Smith the morning of Nov. 11, 2005. During this time, jurors also had the opportunity to view the contents of Shaheen's backpack, which attorney Jim Harris called "student-related items."

Smith testified that surveillance tapes from the Speedway gas station at Five Points had been obtained and that she had viewed them, at full speed and slowed down for clarity, and that nothing of issue to the case was present on the tapes.

During cross examination, several questions were brought forth about the contents of the backpack. Defense counsel Dennis Null pointed out that two $100 bills were in Shaheen's wallet at the time of her death. He also questioned Smith about Shaheen's activities between 2 and 6:45 a.m., saying that no effort had been made to determine whether she did, in fact, go straight to her apartment from the Hart College computer lab. Defense also questioned that no one had come forward and testified to seeing Shaheen walking on Coldwater or in that direction at the time in question that evening. The defense questioned Smith about the possibility of Shaheen taking a route that would not place her on the road as she traveled home from the computer lab.

"I don't see any way she could've gone from Hart Hall to her apartment wihtout going further up Coldwater Road and cutting through," Smith said.

Smith also testified that the lack of skid marks on the scene indicate that the person did not slow down at all at any time during the accident.

As the day wound down, Smith also testified on the lighting of Coldwater Road, Yonts's agreement to take a polygraph test and failed attempts to log on to Shaheen's computer in the Hart College lab to obtain any helpful information about her possible path or whereabouts. She said that no prints were taken in the vehicle because of the possibility of contaminating other important evidence.

Defense will resume its questioning of Smith tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. Check for a lunch break update around 12:30.


No comments: