Expert witness OK'd for Smith's third murder trial

KINGMAN - A Golden Valley man will have a new forensic expert for his third murder trial.

Judge Robert Moon granted a request for a new forensic defense expert in the case of Chip M. Smith.

Smith, 37, is charged with the second-degree murder of Chris Payton, 30, of Golden Valley in August 2001.

The new expert is John Nordby of Final Analysis Forensic of Washington state. Nordby's expertise will cost the county about $5,000.

Smith's attorney, Vincent Iannone, said he had several questions about the County Attorney's office theory of how the murder was committed.

Smith is accused of shooting Payton in the head. Investigators originally thought Payton had died in a car accident

after his pickup flipped on Santa Maria Road in 2001.

It was only after medical examiners found a bullet wound in Payton's head during an autopsy that his death was ruled a homicide.

Smith's first trial ended March 21, 2002, after the 10-woman, two-man jury declared itself deadlocked after deliberating for two days. The judge declared a mistrial.

A second jury convicted him of the charges and he was sentenced to 22 years in prison in October 2003. Smith appealed the conviction, stating that Judge Richard Weiss mishandled the dismissal of a juror.

The Arizona Court of Appeals found fault with the handling of the juror and set aside Smith's conviction and sentence. The case was returned to the Mohave County Superior Court for a third trial.

The trial will start at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 3.