Day 10: Michael Palmer Trial - WBOY - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Day 10: Michael Palmer Trial

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The state wrapped up its case Thursday evening in a Marion County man's murder trial.

Michael Palmer and his wife Kristyn are accused of shooting in killing her father, Ed Wilson, in 2011.

On Friday, Defense Attorney Sean Murphy presented a motion to the court prior to calling his witnesses.

Murphy asked the court grant a motion of Judgment of Acquittal. He said the state had a burden to prove that Palmer didn't act in self defense and failed to do so.

He said the jury heard what Palmer said on two 911 calls. Each one discussing his 'drunken father-in-law' that was threatening to 'blow his head off'.

Murphy said during testimony the court heard officers say the Palmer's back door was open, Ed Wilson's foot was across the threshold, and there was a hole in the door. He added that deputies didn't collect critical evidence.

Murphy also brought up that there is no evidence that proves Palmer planted the brass knuckles in Ed Wilson's hand. He said several people testified that Ed Wilson's truck door was left open as well as running.

Evidence also shows Palmer was on the phone the entire time from the moment he called 911 until the police arrived on scene. Murphy said that means Danielle Saunders testimony is invalid because she said she saw him by Ed Wilson's truck and he was not on the phone.

Many witnesses said "Ed Wilson was sick of them", Murphy told the court.

He added that through testimony from those at the VFW, the evidence is clear that Ed Wilson was angry the night. He left the bar, called the Palmers as he was driving there, and was inviting him to a fight with the message he left on the answering machine, according to Murphy.

He said the state has zero evidence to prove Palmer did not act on self defense.

Marion County Prosecuting Attorney Pat Wilson disagreed.

He told the court there is clear evidence of first degree murder in the case and he believed the jury would see it.

"Anyway you look at it, Mr. Palmer knew Ed Wilson was on the way there."

He said due to testimony, it was evident that the damage to the door was done nearly six months prior to the incident.

Pat Wilson believes the November 19, 2011 phone call was a clear sign of premeditated murder.

After hearing both sides, Judge Michael Aloi denied the motion of Judgment of Acquittal. He then asked Murphy's co-council, Rebecca Tate, to call in her first witness, Stephen Perkins.

Perkins told the jury he is currently incarcerated at the North Central Regional Jail on nighttime burglary and drug charges.

When Tate asked Perkins if he had any relation to Ed Wilson, he said he was his uncle.

She then brought up a former intimate relationship he had with Danielle Saunders, one of the states previous witnesses, a couple of years ago.

Perkins testified an incident that happened one night when he spent the night in her home in the summer of 2010.

He said there was a cookout and bonfire going on at Ed Wilson's residence in the evening. He told the jury Ed Wilson's grandson was shining a laser in the window of Saunders home.

He said he "got fed up with it" and went outside and shot a BB gun into the air. He told the jury it was not loaded. He then went back inside the home and locked the screen door behind him.

He said in minutes, Ed Wilson stormed into Saunders residence claiming that Perkins had shot someone.

Perkins said he pointed the gun straight at Ed Wilson and shot it to prove there was no ammunition inside of it. He said it was then that punches began to be thrown and the room was damaged.

"He was strong for his age," Perkins said.

He told the jury that he always knew Ed Wilson to carry a gun on him and said it did see it on his person during the fight.

He said he hit Ed Wilson first because he wasn't going to "let him anywhere near him with that thing".

He said Michael Palmer, whom he had never met before, came into Saunders house and broke up the fight. He added this was the first altercation he ever had with Ed Wilson.

Perkins told the jury the only person in the house at the time was his cousin. Saunders entered the room 5-10 minutes after the fight has occurred.

He said the next day, Ed Wilson came over to Saunders' residence to apologize about his behavior. He said Ed Wilson gave her a check in the amount of $800 and he signed it. Perkins said she filled it out after she initially denied the money.

Perkins went over to the Palmer residence the next day and apologized about the dispute. He said that was the only interaction they ever had.

Rebecca Tate asked Perkins if Ed Wilson was typically a nice guy.

"He was a nice guy when he wasn't drinking," Perkins answered. He added that he took Ed Wilson's threats serious and was 'always ready' just in case.

Other things brought up in Perkins testimony was the yard sale Dustin Wilson had after the Palmers were arrested, the condition of Ed Wilson's home, and the four-wheeler the Ed Wilson told to Jason Antonk. Perkins said it was in perfect condition when Antonk purchased it but now its beat up.

"You can't trust no one in that town," Perkins said.

Tate asked Perkins what Ed Wilson was like when he was drinking. Perkins said he witnessed him 'have words with people in bars' but it never got out of hand.

Tate also brought up the day Perkins was arrested on drug charges. Perkins told the jury that he was picked up by Deputy Alkire and Detective Chip Phillips of the Marion County Sheriff's Department.

He said on the way to the station, he was questioned about interactions he had with the Palmers and Ed Wilson. He said Detective Phillips took a written statement from him and when he read it back, he saw inaccuracies.

"It's not what I was really worried about at the time," he told Tate. Perkins told the jury he did ask Detective Phillips to make the corrections and he said he would.

Some of the inaccuracies were that Ed Wilson didn't have a temper and that he thought he was set up.

Perkins testified Chip Phillips told him he would have to make the statement but never did.

Cross-examination for Perkins will take place on Monday.

Next on the stand was Judy Broadwater, a neighbor and friend of the Wilson family for 33 years.

Broadwater testified that she had knowledge of Ed Wilson's drinking behavior in the past and the family got along fine when alcohol wasn't involved.

She told the jury Ed Wilson's demeanor would change when he was drinking. He was very loud and agitated. She also mentioned that his wife, Linda, was scared of him when he was drinking and the family was often terrorized.

Broadwater testified that she was outside the night Ed Wilson was shot and killed with Kristyn Palmer. She said the only interaction she had with police that night was when she asked if she could go inside to get Kristyn Palmer clothes. She remembers her shaking in the police car.

She told Tate she never heard gun shots, an altercation, or Ed Wilson coming up the driveway that night. John Brownlee, her neighbor, called her home that night telling her about the shooting.

During cross-examination, Pat Wilson asked when it was that Ed Wilson showed the severe drinking problems. She told him it was until about 15-18 years before his death.

She said he made "significant changes" and became very close with Linda. As far as she knew, he wasn't causing many problems and no one was afraid.

Broadwater agreed the relationship between Ed Wilson and the Palmers wasn't very good the months before he died.

She told the jury that Ed Wilson received treatment at the VA Hospital for his drinking problem and that he was 'very willing' to get help. She doesn't remember seeing him be aggressive in the past 15-18 years before his death.

When Pat Wilson asked her about Ed Wilson's generosity, she told him that "Ed was generous to a fault". He would help anyone that needed anything and never assumed he was strapped for money, according to Broadwater.

Sean Murphy called Brian Dykstra, CEO of Atlantic Data Forensics in Columbia, MD, to the stand.

Dykstra told the jury he specializes in recovering data, computer crimes, and more.

Murphy brought up the Facebook conversation between Michael Palmer and Jason Antonk that the jury read earlier in the week.

The conversation was copy and pasted into an e-mail and printed out for police after Ed Wilson's death.

"With your knowledge, is it possible to edit or manipulate a conversation once its pasted into an e-mail?," Murphy asked.

"Yes," Dykstra responded. "Once it's pasted into an e-mail, you can change whatever you want."

Murphy presented an example that was created by Dykstra himself. He took the same Facebook conversation, copy and pasted it into Microsoft Word, and changed some things around. Murphy said it was to show how easy it is to manipulate.

"You can't tell the jury that's exactly the way it appeared on Facebook or if its been tampered with?," Murphy asked about the original conversation.

"That's correct," Dykstra responded.

Dykstra then explained to the jury that there are many ways to confirm the conversation is legitimate but the best way would be to contact Facebook with a search warrant and obtain the actual conversation in its entirety. He said Facebook would confirm if things were deleted or not.

Murphy also brought up the computer data the state gave to them before the trial. Dykstra said it was 1,355 GB of data or more than 2 million files.

Dykstra told the jury three people were assigned to work on the files. At $275 an hour, the grand total as of Thursday was $89,959.43.

Murphy asked if any of that information has been used in the trial so far. Dykstra said not to his knowledge.

During cross-examination, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Leann Hawkins questioned Dykstra about the variety of software he used while searching through the data.

Hawkins asked him if forensic software would have helped him go through the big chunk of data he was given. He said it would help but it would not do the analysis for them.

Hawkins asked him about his testimony in regards to not knowing if any of the information was used during the trial so far.

Dykstra was presented with a document he identified as a document from the state in 2013 and the list of 25 exhibits it was looking for. The contents varied of graphics, images, text files, and web history.

Dykstra told the jury each of the 25 exhibits contained thousands of files. His team retrieved all involved because he was never made aware of what the state specifically wanted.

Hawkins then brought up the e-mail that Dykstra created of how easy it could be to manipulate an e-mail.

He told the jury he made it similar but not identical to show it could be done. He referred to it as a near duplicate.

Hawkins brought up Jason Antonk's testimony. She asked Dykstra if he believes after hearing it that Antonk would have been able to make changes to the document.

In his testimony on Wednesday, Antonk told the jury he didn't know much about computers and that he had someone print the conversation for him.

Dykstra told the jury that he believes if Antonk could use Facebook, he would be able to edit a document in Microsoft Word.

He also told Hawkins he attempted to compare the conversation he received from the state to Palmers "Facebook dump' and there wasn't a match.

Hawkins told him that was because the conversation wasn't on Palmer's Facebook wall.

Next on the stand was Gary Cooper, the private investigator for the defense.

Cooper told the jury about his previous experience in the business. He said he worked for the West Virginia State Police from 1977 until he retired in 1999. He said he would do anything they needed him to, including undercover work and being a detachment supervisor.

Rebecca Tate asked Cooper if he remembered when he was contacted by the defense for his assistance in Palmer's case. He told her it was in February of 2013.

He told the jury he was briefed by Sean Murphy and Rebecca Tate and went through Palmer's discovery information. A discovery includes everything the state intends to use against a defendant in a trial.

Cooper said when he was reviewing the information, he was expecting to see a diagram of the residence, specific measurements, as well as a photo index chart. All of which was not present in the file.

He told the jury he thought it was necessary that a diagram was made and on March 22, 2013 he went out to the Palmer residence. He stated he was accompanied by Marion County Detective Shawn Mathews, Sean Murphy, and Rebecca Tate. Kristyn Palmer's lawyers Fran Whiteman and Christina Mulligan were also present.

Cooper told the jury on his visit he completed a diagram as well as photographed and video taped the scene. He provided a packet to the defense including a diagram of the residence, doors, and neighborhood. It also included 74 photographs.

Tate asked Cooper if he was informed things were not the same as the night of the shooting. He said all measurements of the home were the same but obviously furniture and belongings was moved.

He told the jury if things were tagged as evidence in the discovery, he would have taken measurements.

Cooper told the jury that he recommended to the state that he work with Marion County Deputies on the measurements so that they would be on the same page. That never happened.

He said no additional measurements were given to him prior to his visit to the house.

Cooper said he is aware Detective Mathews made his own diagram a couple of months ago.

Tate asked him what other steps he took in his investigation. Cooper told her that he attempted to get statements from several people in Baxter. He said it is required to tell them he was working for Palmer's attorney which could make it difficult to get people to talk.

He told the jury he takes no personal interest in any of his cases. "I look at facts, interview people, and tell the attorney's what I know," he said.

When asked if he had any concerns about the case, Cooper told the jury he was concerned with the lack of evidence that was or was not collected.

He said he used Detective Mathews computer to look at pictures of the night of crime as he went through the Palmer residence in March of 2013.

He told the jury one thing that stood out to him was the series of wood chips in the doorway of one of the pictures. He said he had a conversation with Detective Mathews about the wood chips but they were never taken into evidence for him to examine.

Tate asked Cooper if he was an expert in gun shot residue or determining how far apart people can be during a shooting.

Cooper replied that all of that needs to be done by a forensic expert at the West Virginia State Police Forensic Lab. As far as he knows, no tests on proximity of the parties during the shooting were ever done.

During cross-examination, Pat Wilson talked about the diagrams Cooper made in March of 2013. He asked him if he had the opportunity to look over Detective Mathews' diagram, which he replied yes.

He said he found no issue in the diagram except that they had the door to the basement swinging opposite ways. All measurements were fine, according to Cooper.

During redirect, Tate asked Cooper why he had a difficult time placing objects in certain places in his diagram.

Cooper told her the on-scene investigation wasn't a normal one. He said he was never given a point of reference.

"Without having a diagram and complete measurements that night, everything is a guess after that," he said.

The defense will continue to call its witnesses on Monday. At this point, Palmer is expected to testify.

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