Murder Trial, Part 3

[updated 11/25/08 9:20pm]

Day three of the trial began at 8:30am. The district attorney called Corporal Shane Partain to the stand. Corporal Partain received the call to go to the accident scene around 6:40 to 6:50pm on February 25, 2008. He testified that he arrived around 7:05pm. He carried an LED flashlight with a built in video and audio recorder.
This model appears to be similar to the one he had. He recorded the conversations various police had with Gear after the incident. Gear stated that he believed that Bryan had hit the girl’s car. He recalled firing only once. Part of the search for the shell from the gun was also recorded and presented.

Partain is also a motorcycle enthusiast. He testified that the motorcycle, a 2008 Kawasaki Ninja EX250, was in second gear when it crashed.

On March 3, 7 days after the shooting, Partain retraced
the route from the Target to the Gear home. He left the Target at 6:18pm and his in-car recorder showed that it was still light. He arrived at the Gear home at 6:31pm. He stated that it was “relatively light, not dusk, could see without headlights on.” The defense attorney, Mr. Tolley, did not want this video shown. He argued that it was a re-enactment of the timeline of the events of that night and, as such, was not permitted by the Supreme Court. The DA countered that it was not intended as such, but was solely to present lighting conditions. Obviously, the DA wants it lighter; the defense wants it to be darker. The judge ruled that the video could not be placed into evidence, but that still shots of the start and finish of the video could be shown. Defense countered that, at 2 minutes of additional light per day [sic], there would be an extra 15 minutes of daylight in these pictures. For March 3, the Naval Observatory reports sunset at 6:33pm and the end of civil twilight at 6:58pm. As noted in the previous post, on Febuary 25, sunset was at 6:27pm with civil twilight at 6:53pm. Obviously, the defense attorney fudged the numbers a bit.

On cross, Tolley wanted to show a portion of the video that showed cars with headlights on, which Judge Stephens did not permit. Tolley asked the corporal if he recalled streetlights being on during this time. He could not recall.

At 1:24pm, the DA called Deputy David Burchett, who received a call to report at 6:45pm. He arrived on scene about 6:55pm. Other police were already at the scene and the victim had been placed in the ambulance. He did not know that Corporal Partain’s flashlight had A/V capability. He was assigned to watch Mr. Gear and to ensure that there were no incidents. Except for briefly helping to look for the bullet shell, he mostly stayed with Gear. Later, he measured the width of the road, the width of the driveway, and Gear’s location near the mailbox where the shooting allegedly transpired. This document can not be found, not due to the fault of Burchett. On cross, Tolley attemped to show that Gear had fired closer to the street and had subsequently backed up. The deputy could not support or refute that theory.

At 2:10pm, Captain Jimmy Williams took the stand. He is the 911 director for Oconee County. At 2:22, the state entered in evidence the 911 calls for the current incident and one from February 20, 2006 at 10:16pm. At 2:33, the first 911 call was played. A private citizen whose privacy will be respected, called at 18:32:24 and said, “a motorcyclist may have been shot in the middle of Gear Road.” At 2:39 the call from Gear was played. This call was made at 18:32:26. Gear was heard to say, “He hit my daughter’s car then he swerved over at my mailbox and tried to run me over.” The call from 2006 was not played.

Deputy Sheriff Scott Underwood began his testimony at 2:59pm. He secured the scene then spent approximated an hour trying to locate the shell casing. Several deputies assisted for most of that hour in which an area of 1,200 - 1,500 square feet was searched. No casing was found. Asked if a metal detector would find brass, he replied “I assume so.” (Note: they can).

Sergeant Steven Guest was sworn in at 3:19pm. He is trained in accident investigations. He did not claim to be an expert but that he has testified at several trials. He arrived at the scene around 8:30pm whereupon he marked the area with orange paint. The next day he used these marks to create a 1” to 10’ scale drawing of the area.

Using the video recorder in his patrol car, he too made a tape of the lighting conditions around the time of the shooting, but two days afterwards. As before, it wasn’t dark. He participated in the effort to match the motorcycle to the damage to the Sentra.

On cross, at 4:08pm, Tolley noted that the scale drawing showed that Gear’s driveway was 24 feet wide, while the street was only 21 feed wide (inside of fog line to inside of fog line). I suppose this was an attempt to discredit the drawing. However, the Google satellite photograph of the scene shows that the driveway is slightly wider than the street. The scale drawing appears to be correct. It will be interesting to see if this backfires on Mr. Tolley.

Sergeant Guest is also a certified laser operator. Tolley then noted that in second gear, from a “normal” start the motorcycle was able to travel at 27.2 mph. A “revving” start showed speeds of 48.8 mph and 54.7 mph.

I had to leave after this witness.

From the scale drawing made by Sergeant Guest, the motorcycle travelled at least 44.25 feet after it hit the pavement. With the help of my son, who is a first year graduate student in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Illinois, we did a very rough calculation of how fast the bike was going when it fell over. The calculation depends on the coefficient of friction between the bike and the pavement . Obviously, we can’t know this value with much accuracy. We don’t know how much of the bike or the rider was in contact with the pavement. However, the following graph shows the possible speeds for coefficients between 0.1 and 1.8. I must stress that this graph could be wildly inaccurate and was done solely for my amusement.

[update 11/25/08 9:20pm]

As reported by the Athens Herald-Banner, a Georgia State Patrol collision reconstruction expert testified on Monday that the motorcycle was traveling 26 to 28 MPH when it crashed. These baselines have been added to the graph, showing a coefficient of friction between 0.5 and 0.6.


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