KINGMAN - A murder case will continue to trial after a judge denied a motion to dismiss the charges.
Mohave County Superior Court Judge Steven Conn denied a motion from Deputy Public Defender David Corbett to dismiss second-degree murder charges against Robert L. Reed, 63, of Kingman.
Reed is accused in the shooting death of Gary Shain on March 17, 2007. Corbett is arguing that the shooting was in self-defense.
Corbett said the County Attorney's Office had failed to secure a chair with bullet holes in it as possible exculpatory evidence in the case. The chair could have been used to show a jury the trajectory of the bullets in the case, and might have shown whether statements made by a witness were incorrect.
Corbett said the officer who took the statements from the witness saw the chair and knew it might possibly prove the witness wrong. Yet the officer did not attempt to preserve the chair as evidence.
The only evidence of the chair are photos taken by detectives at the scene. The defense cannot reconstruct the trajectory of the bullets adequately from photos, Corbett said.
The court had granted a defense motion ordering the CAO to preserve all evidence in the case - including the chair - in May 2007, he said.
Deputy County Attorney Ros Saciuk argued that the request to preserve the chair came three months after the incident. At that time, the CAO attempted to get the chair, but it was no longer available.
The photos of the chair could show where the bullets had struck Shain, and there was a bullet hole in the wall near the floor, which could show trajectory, Saciuk said.
The Mohave County Sheriff's Office also had taken photos of how Shain was found in the chair.
The jury will hear all the facts in the case, Sacuik said.
A similar chair had been offered to the CAO as evidence, but the offer was turned down, Corbett said. The defense and the jury couldn't tell from the pictures whether the chair was a rocking chair or a swivel chair, all of which might have bearing on the trajectory of the bullets.
Nor could defense adequately recreate for the jury what had happened that day without the chair, he said. And defense could not adequately confront the evidence against Reed without it.
At the very least, the court should instruct the jury that there was possible exculpatory evidence that the CAO had failed to preserve, Corbett said.
Conn said he did not know if the MCSO had seized the chair and returned it, or if the office had not collected the chair at all. He also didn't know if the CAO had asked the MCSO to find the chair. And he pointed out that the detective did not testify in court as to what he heard from the witness and saw in the chair.
Conn said that at the time, the detective did not know that Reed would argue the incident was self-defense and that the evidence would need to be preserved.
The chair might have been helpful to the defense, Conn said, but what was going through Reed's mind at the time of the incident would probably prove to be more important to the defense's case.
Conn said there was no evidence that the detective or CAO had failed to protect the evidence, and denied the motion.