KALISPELL - After a week of poking holes through teen-agers' testimony, the defense in the Christopher Showen murder trial began prodding at the police investigation.
Showen, 19, stands accused of shooting childhood friend Carl John "C.J." Storkson on April 6, the eve of Storkson's 18th birthday. Defense attorney Phyllis Quatman spent last week exposing lies told by prosecution witnesses and building a case against one of those witnesses, teen-ager Mario Daniels.
Wednesday, Flathead County Sheriff's officers took the stand, and Quatman began picking at their investigation.
When collecting evidence, she confirmed, they did not search the homes of all involved. Instead, detectives testified, they asked witnesses for evidence, and once handed that evidence they simply left. They did not keep a photograph log of evidentiary snapshots taken at some scenes, Quatman noted. They were unnecessarily "abrasive" in questioning witnesses, and at one point actually arrested Showen during questioning, only to "unarrest" him minutes later.
Was that, as detectives testified, simply a brief misunderstanding, or was it an attempt to influence Showen's statements? Was the evidence collected in a proper fashion? Who handled the evidence? How long after the crime was it collected? How long after collection was it analyzed?
These questions and the so-called "oversights" Quatman centered upon were attempts to support her claim made during opening statements that police settled on a suspect early in the investigation, and then failed to pursue other possible suspects. Those other suspects, in fact, were labeled witnesses rather than suspects, she has said - which gives them good reason to stick to their story that Showen killed Storkson.
As detectives took the stand, the stack of physical evidence mounted, piled high on the shelf in front of District Court Judge Kitty Curtis' bench. Pants, shoes, guns, maps, bullet fragments and other items - each carefully bagged - were trotted before jurors as evidence against Showen.
But Quatman has argued that none of the evidence ties her client to the crime in any way. In fact, of all the items collected, none show traces of Showen's fingerprints or blood or DNA. None of Showen's clothing revealed blood or DNA of the victim.
Some of the witnesses, however, can be tied to Storkson through physical evidence, including blood, DNA and clothing.
County Attorney Tom Esch and sheriff deputies argued, however, that no bit of physical evidence can stand alone, and must be supported by testimony. And that testimony - however peppered with lies and inconsistencies - is overwhelming in its indictment of Showen.
Any piece of evidence - a bloody sock, for instance - means nothing, deputies testified, until authorities know how, when and under what circumstances the blood stained the sock.
Quatman will continue her cross-examination of deputies Thursday, and should begin calling defense witnesses by week's end.
Thursday - 1/28/99