Defense Rests in Markus Kaarma Case [YouTube]
The defense rested this morning in the trial of Markus Kaarma with testimony from Dr. Douglas Johnson, a forensic consultant specializing in responses to stress. Defense also showed the jury video of Kaarma in the police station before his formal interview and after he was formally charged with deliberate homicide in the shooting death of German exchange student Diren Dede.
Dr. Johnson is a frequent colleague of Dr. Martinelli, a forensic consultant who testified on Friday. First, Johnson came to the defense of Martinelli's PHD, which was challenged on Friday on the basis that his school had lost its accreditation with the state of California. Johnson verified that both he and Martinelli have been paid by the defense team to appear.
Johnson was admitted as an expert in the field of psychology and testified as to the effects of "high magnitude stress," which he asserts can impair a person's vision, hearing, memory, and ability to judge. Johnson indicates discrepancies in statements from Markus Kaarma, Janelle Pflager, and Robby Pazmino are not necessarily indicators of 'covering up,' but signal to him that memories may have been impaired by stress. Police previously indicated that it was discrepancies between Kaarma's version of events compared to those of Janelle Pflager and Robby Pazmino that led them to suspect Kaarma of deliberate homicide.
Johnson claims that in moments of stress people can "fight, flee, or freeze," and stated that it is impossible to know how a person will react in advance. In moments of high stress when a person feels their life is being threatened, Johnson asserts that there is frequently a response time of .25 seconds to react (roughly a quarter of a second). Defense has been trying to build a case that Kaarma fired four shots across his garage in a moment of fear for his life.
During cross examination, State attorney Andrew Paul asked Johnson to confirm that 27 seconds (the amount of time Kaarma is estimated to have taken to exit his home and wait outside the garage before entering) is quite a bit more than the reaction time of .25 seconds he had described. Johnson agreed, adding that it is larger "by a large magnitude."
Following this, defense showed the jury two clips of Markus Kaarma hours after the shooting: one shortly before he was formally questioned by Detective Guy Baker and one just after he was officially charged with deliberate homicide. Defense collected transcripts from the jury, adding "I'd rather have them watch the video" than read along.
In the first video Kaarma could be seen standing just inside the interview room wearing a tshirt and pajama pants, speaking to a detective off-screen on the other side of the door. Kaarma asked the detective to confirm that the person in his garage had died at the hospital and that they were seventeen years old. The officer confirmed this. Kaarma also asked why Diren Dede and Robby Pazmino had been at his house before being left alone in the room to await questioning. Alone, Kaarma sat at the interview table and fidgeted with his coffee for a moment before sighing audibly, resting his head on the table, and breathing deeply (possibly crying).
The second video took place moments after Kaarma was informed that he was being charged with homicide. He was speaking on the phone with someone (presumably his common-law wife Janelle Pflager) to let them know what had just happened. Kaarma told officers that he would need blood pressure medicine and his glasses. He appeared to begin to cry as he asked officers if there would be bail and was told that bail would be set at an arraignment on Monday (the following morning). Told that the exact charge was deliberate homicide, Kaarma demanded to know "how is that deliberate homicide?"
Kaarma then conferred with the person on the phone and verified that he was with detectives, describing them as "the two big guys." He asked for the name of the prosecutor and gave it to the person on the phone.
Off the phone, Kaarma denied an officer's offer to call his mother, saying she was in Korea at the time. He then repeatedly blew his nose and wiped tears from his eyes while an officer told him they would continue with their investigation to determine what had happened, but explained that they have probable cause to place him under arrest. At that point, Kaarma was handcuffed and escorted from the room.
At the close of that video clip, defense announced to the jury its intention to rest. Trial will resume this afternoon with a rebuttal witness from prosecution, then is expected to head into closing arguments. Judge McLean has advised jurors that he expects the case will be handed to them for deliberation tomorrow morning.
Update: prosecution called Officer Ross Colyer, who responded to the 911 call to the Kaarma residence. The dash cam on Colyer's squad car caught a group of cars in the neighborhood of the Kaarma home. Colyer testified that he was able to identify the vehicles as belonging to a car club, and they were not involved in the shooting of Diren Dede. Defense had alleged that a group of cars driven by a teenaged garage hopping ring may have fled the scene following the shooting.
With that, the state rested and Judge McLean adjourned the court until tomorrow morning, when closing arguments will take place and jurors will be given final instructions before beginning their deliberations.