Skip to comments.Legal wrangling opens Carr trial [Wichita Murders]
Posted on 10/08/2002 5:00:32 AM PDT by KS Flyover
Legal wrangling opens Carr trial
A lawyer for Reginald Carr suggests that Jonathan Carr and an unknown man committed the crimes.
Jonathan Carr's lawyer requests a mistrial and is denied.
BY RON SYLVESTER - The Wichita Eagle - Tue, Oct. 08, 2002
A call for a mistrial Monday highlighted the first day of testimony in the murder trial of Jonathan and Reginald Carr.
Val Wachtel, lawyer for Reginald Carr, drew objections from prosecutors and from Jonathan Carr's lawyer when he suggested in his opening statement that Jonathan Carr and another man were responsible for four of the murders the brothers are charged with.
Jonathan Carr's lawyer asked for a mistrial after Wachtel's statement, but Judge Paul Clark denied the motion.
Wachtel based his statement on a single hair -- a strand of hair from a black male that turned up during the investigation. The hair contained DNA belonging to neither Reginald nor Jonathan Carr.
"Jonathan Carr," Wachtel said, "committed nearly all of the crimes alleged with a third black male who still walks the streets."
District Attorney Nola Foulston quickly and loudly objected. Clark quietly sustained the objection as Wachtel calmly walked away from the lectern without comment.
Prosecutors contend that the Carr brothers are the only ones who participated in a weeklong crime spree that ended with five deaths, including four at a snowy soccer complex near 29th Street North and Greenwich Road.
"This is a case about nine days in December 2000; it's about seven victims, five murders, two survivors and two brothers," Foulston told the jury.
Foulston and her chief deputy, Kim Parker, asked Clark to cite Wachtel for deliberate misconduct.
Jonathan Carr's lawyer, Mark Manna, who asked for a mistrial, said, "This is the reason we felt these defendants needed to be severed and given separate trials."
Clark said that he wanted to see if evidence supported Wachtel's remarks before ruling on the misconduct.
Parker told the judge that she had seen this sort of behavior before. Parker said Wachtel and co-counsel Jay Greeno pointed to a mystery man during the November 1999 capital murder trial of Stanley Elms. The jury convicted Elms and sentenced him to death.
This time, Wachtel says he has DNA evidence supporting his theory. He also said he thinks there is a lack of conclusive eyewitness identification of Reginald Carr throughout the case. Reginald Carr, he contends, was selling drugs at the time the quadruple homicides were committed.
Manna, meanwhile, focused on two of the crimes -- a carjacking and robbery of a former Wichita State University baseball player and the shooting death of a Wichita Symphony cellist.
"There's not one piece of evidence or information to show Jonathan Carr had anything to do with these things, other than he's Reginald Carr's brother," Manna said in his opening remarks. "It's only guilt by association."
About the only people who didn't show strong emotions during the first day of testimony were the 12 jurors and four alternates.
They sat expressionless while hearing audiotape of the sobbing cries for help to 911 from the woman who lived through a night of being raped, robbed and then shot in the back of the head. She's expected to testify this afternoon.
Not one juror showed a visible reaction when Foulston passed them a photograph of the bodies of the survivor's four friends, all shot in the head.
But that image still chokes up Deputy Sheriff Matt Lynch.
Following the frantic 911 call, Lynch was the first to arrive at the soccer complex at 29th and Greenwich.
He choked back tears as he talked about walking toward a silver Honda Civic sitting in the dark of an empty field, illuminated only by the headlights of his patrol car.
As Lynch walked closer, he saw a woman with shoulder-length hair lying in the snow. At the time, he didn't know her name was Heather Muller. Then he saw all four bodies.
"Step it up," he called on his radio, for anyone else heading toward the soccer field. Lynch said he had four code reds, meaning critical injuries -- the same way other officers had classified the survivor.
"There was a large amount of blood in the snow from everyone involved," Lynch said.
Lynch said he tried to check for a pulse. That's when he swallowed hard on the witness stand.
"And what did you find?" Foulston asked.
"No pulse," Lynch said, fighting back tears.
Then Lynch took a deep breath and said, "Sorry."
Lynch carried on: He said he looked closer at the bodies and radioed dispatch again to change his code call.
They were code blue, Lynch said, "in cardiac arrest."
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Judge refuses to declare mistrial over defense opening statement
The Associated Press
WICHITA - A defense attorney told jurors in opening statements that a third man was involved in the crimes, but a judge refused to declare a mistrial Monday in the case of two brothers charged with five killings.
Prosecutors requested sanctions against John Val Wachtel, attorney for defendant Reginald Carr. District Judge Paul Clark put off a decision on the sanctions until he had seen the defense's case.
"As I understand evidence, lawyers don't get up and make declarations concerning evidence in opening statement that they don't have. ...The inference of intentional misconduct is well-supported," Clark told attorneys after the jury had left.
Val Wachtel made the statement while outlining his defense case. He told jurors Reginald Carr was not with his brother Jonathan Carr the night four of the five persons were killed but instead was out selling drugs on the street. He contends that a hair from an unidentified black person that was found at a crime scene indicates that someone else might have been involved.
"Ultimately the DNA evidence will show that Jonathan Carr, not Reginald Carr, committed most if not all of the crimes alleged in the complaint -- and he did it with a third black male which still walks the street," Val Wachtel told jurors.
Mark Manna, the attorney for Jonathan Carr, said the incident showed why he initially wanted the trials of the two brothers separated. He said that if a mistrial was not declared, the brothers should be tried separately.
In his opening statement, Manna argued that no evidence connected his client to earlier robberies. He also discounted some of the ballistics evidence the prosecution planned to introduce.
"Because some counts may be proven against one defendant does not mean all counts will be proven by both. ... My role in these brief opening remarks is to let you, the jury, know Jonathan Carr is innocent," Manna said.
District Attorney Nola Foulston told jurors that the state had DNA, ballistics and other evidence tying both brothers to the crimes.
Between them, the brothers are charged with 113 criminal acts, including capital murder. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
In the most notorious of the crimes, the brothers are charged with abducting five persons from a Wichita home Dec. 14, 2000, and shooting them in a soccer field the next morning. One woman survived, but Aaron Sander, 29; Heather Muller, 25; Brad Heyka, 27; and Jason Befort, 26, died. The Carrs also are accused in the shooting earlier that month of Ann Walenta, 55, who later died.
Foulston told jurors that Reginald Carr was arrested in an apartment filled with television and computer equipment from the victims and that Muller's blood was found on his clothing. In his pocket was a credit card that belonged to Befort, she said.
When Jonathan Carr was arrested later that day, police found in his pocket the diamond engagement ring that Befort had planned to give to his girlfriend -- the woman who survived the ordeal.
Testimony presented Monday showed the woman ran nude nearly a mile over snow-covered fields and fences to the nearest house, suffering frost-bite on her feet and hands along the way.
Foulston said the woman urged the police to collect evidence from her body if she died before she finished giving them details of the crimes.
"This was a woman who was desperate to let someone know what happened to her," Foulston said, "because she believed she was going to die and if she did the story of the execution of her friends would be left untold."
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