Sunday, April 06, 2008

How an Innocent Person is Convicted, Part 12: Detective Jeff Nohr "clarifies"

The lead investigator was El Paso County Sheriff's Detective Jeff Nohr. He sat with the prosecutors and if a prosecution witness said something inconvenient for the prosecutions, Nohr would take the stand and "clarify." Here we document but one of his "clarifications."

Detective David Yarbrough searched the crime scene with his K-9, Ivor. Of course, one of the main things he was searching for would have been any kind of weapon, especially a knife. When asked to define the area of his search, he said that it was between the crime scene tapes that had been set up. Police photos show that these tapes were set up across Conrad Road. Here's a police photo showing the northern boundary of the crime scene (click on the photo to see hi-res original):

And here's a photo of the southern boundary (You have to look closely to see the yellow tape tied to the stop sign):

It's important to note that the tape only defines the northern and southern boundaries of the scene. No tape was set up alongside the road.

Det Yarbrough, when asked how far off the pavement he searched, replied "Would have been about 15 feet on either side of the pavement 'cause I had him on a 15-foot lead."

The answer seems to be honest and based upon fact, especially because he tells us how he recalls the distance.Of course, 15 feet is far short of the distance most could throw a weapon such as a knife.

On redirect, Yarbrough maintained his description of the search area:

Prosecutor Stephanie Rikeman Q. You did search off either side of the curb on Conrad Street?
A. Yes, I did.
Q. About how far?
A. Within the banner tape.

Clearly, Yarbrough was quite sure of the area he searched, but the implication that the search had not been as thorough as it should have been brought Jeff Nohr to the stand later that afternoon. You be the judge if his testimony is "clarification" or damage control.

Nohr testified, "So I asked Deputy Yarbrough to utilize his dog all through this area as well and then on the west side of the road through these larger trees, again, with all the mulch. And then Deputy Yarbrough went down to the east of the intersection with his dog to the Appaloosa Gentlemen's Club searching both sides of the road in that area. And it was described Deputy Yarbrough basically was to search within a certain area, within arm's throw of how far somebody could throw something."

Notice how carefully Nohr words his testimony. I'm sure he'd maintain that he was just "clearing up" any questions about the area Yarbrough was told to search. Though, Nohr does seem to slip in his second sentence, when he maintains that Yarbrough actually searched all the way "to the Appaloosa Gentlemen's Club," which is about a quarter mile beyond the confines of the police tape. How confusing might this testimony be to jurors? Does it seem like a trick to get the jury to think that the search for another weapon was more thorough than it actually was?

So it seems.

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