Investigator grilled about disparate interviews, statements

Juneau Superior Court 5-30-13

Public defender Eric Hedland (far left) poses a question to JPD Detective Kim Horn on the witness stand (background right) during Thursday’s session of the David J. Paul homicide trial. Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO News

More testimony was provided by investigators on Thursday in the trial of a 24-year old Juneau man accused of physically abusing a four-month old baby.

Juneau Police Detective Kim Horn was on the stand all day, testifying to the accuracy of interviews with the mother of Rian Orr after the infant was taken to the hospital. David Paul is on trial for murder and manslaughter in connection with the baby’s death.

Public defender Eric Hedland tried to impeach or undermine the credibility of Jaki Orr, one of the state’s main witnesses, by highlighting her various conflicting statements about the baby’s injuries or Paul’s behavior. Hedland grilled Horn about discrepancies in Orr’s comments in three different interviews shortly after the baby was taken to the hospital on August 9th, 2010.

Hedland is also trying to show bias on the part of investigators who appeared to have treated Orr and Paul differently, and focused on Paul as a potential suspect very early in the investigation because he was apparently the last person to handle the baby before it suffered from seizures.

As a precursor to some of the questioning and playback of those interviews, Judge Philip Pallenberg issued a limiting instruction to jurors, telling them that some of the information should not considered as a substantive factual representation of events, but as a possible indication of the alleged bias.

Like with retired police Sargent Paul Hatch who was on the stand on Wednesday, Hedland questioned Horn for her statements during the interviews that were not based on fact.

Here’s an example of one exchange:

“Did you assert to Miss Orr on the eighteenth that Mr. Paul – and these are your words – killed her baby?” asked Hedland during one of many exchanges with Horn.

“Yes. That’s half the sentence,” replied Horn.

“‘Even knowing that he killed your baby, you’re still wanting to be with be him?’” said Hedland as he read from a transcript of an interview between Horn and Orr.

“Yes, I did ask her that question. I did,” replied Horn.

“Was there an autopsy report at that point? Was there an autopsy report at that time?,” asked Hedland.

“No,” said Horn.

One of the fourteen jurors remained behind at the end of the day on Thursday to ask Judge Philip Pallenberg about the concept of impeaching a witness or their earlier testimony. Another juror on Wednesday asked for clarification on the rules of hearsay admissibility when evidence presentation shifted from testimony to a playback of police interview.

Friday will be the sixth day of testimony and ninth day of the homicide trial that’s now underway in Juneau Superior Court.

After the jury went home for the day on Thursday, attorneys and the judge briefly discussed a possible Saturday session to catch up on the backlog of scheduled witnesses.

Coming up on Friday, Dr. Naomi Sugar, a child abuse pediatrician at Harborview Medical Center and Seattle Childen’s Hospital, is expected to take the stand about her observations of Rian Orr.