The Woodward News

Local News

August 21, 2013

Day one of trial offers statements, 2 witnesses

Woodward, Okla. — Two law enforcement officers were the first witnesses called in the 2nd degree murder trial against David Lee Yelloweagle.

Yelloweagle is one of 3 men who was charged with the Sept. 2010 death of 20-year-old Jon Michael Watkins.

His trial began Tuesday morning with the selection of a jury, with 8 men and 4 women impaneled.  Another man and woman were selected to serve as alternates.

The trial resumed Tuesday afternoon with opening statements from the prosecution and defense attorneys.

The prosecution's statement was delivered by Assistant District Attorney Christopher Boring.

After reading the formal charges against Yelloweagle, Boring began his opening statement by showing a smiling portrait of Watkins, who as a 20-year-old "had the whole world before him."

Then he went on to describe how after a night of drinking "with a group of people who were supposed to be his friends," Watkins got into a fight with Dillan Hager, one of the former co-defendants in the case.  (Hager and the other former co-defendant Jeffrey Shawn Spencer have already pled and been sentenced.)

Boring admitted that Watkins asked Hager to punch him, but after being knocked to the ground, Watkins got up and tried to get back at Hager, who then knocked him back down.

"Evidence will show that Jon never got back up again.  The evidence will also show that at that point the defendant David Lee Yelloweagle, Dillan Hager, and Shawn Spencer began their brutal attack on the victim," Boring said, adding "they beat him, they battered him and they broke him."

The ADA then showed another photograph of Watkins, one showing his bruised, bloodied and swollen face after his body was found left in the bed of his pickup in a field south of Woodward on the morning of Sept. 23.

In defense attorney Peter Scimeca's opening statement, he argued that there is some doubt over Yelloweagle's involvement in the attack on Watkins.  He said his client's involvement is "highly contested."

Scimeca told a similar story about the events leading up to the beginning of the fight between Hager and Watkins, including that there had been "drinking to excess."

Like Boring, Scimeca said Watkins initiated the fight with Hager, daring Hager to punch him.

"Hager hits him once and then he hits him twice and that's the shot that takes him out," Scimeca said.  "But at this point in the story you get different views."

The defense attorney says the reason for the different views is "the misty haze of alcohol and drugs on the memory" of those involved.

He claims that the narrative where Spencer and Yelloweagle join in on the attack against Watkins is Spencer's memories of that night.

However, he said Hager has a different memory and "will testify that there never was any subsequent punches and hits to the face."

And instead of being knocked down for good, Watkins got back up and the group of friends "made up and said 'sorry, that was stupid,' and then they sat around for another hour drinking," he said.

During that time, Scimeca said that although Watkins was highly intoxicated, he was still "up, alert, speaking in complete sentences and that he knowingly and voluntarily put himself in the back of the pickup."

He said the defense holds that Watkins didn't die until after he had been riding around in the back of the pickup while "Hager drove like a wild man" around the county roads and through fields in that area.

The defense attorney said a Dr. Edward Friedlander will testify that he believes the blows to Watkins' body are more consistent with "blows delivered as a result of riding in the back of the pickup."

"He will also testify about a subdural hematoma on the back of Watkins' head that he found to be more similar to the result of a car wreck and not from fists and feet hitting the head," Scimeca said.

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