The Woodward News

Local News

August 23, 2013

Jury to get murder case Friday

(Continued)

Woodward, Okla. — OTHER DEFENSE WITNESSES

The defense also solicited testimony from Dillan Hager's mother, Robby Hager about what she witnessed on the night of Sept. 22, 2010.

Robby Hager testified to returning home after church and dinner with family friends around 11 p.m. and seeing her son and Spencer pull up to the house in an unknown pickup.

She said she spoke with her son and Spencer for a few moments before then observing Watkins get out of the back of the pickup, stumble, fall and then get back up.

She said she became concerned for Watkins and "asked if he was okay because he was so drunk."  She said she even asked if he needed to go to the hospital, but in response, "he said, 'no, I got this.'"

After that, Robby Hager said she went into her house and didn't witness any of the other events that evening.

Other defense witnesses included a man who rented property near the field where Watkins' body was found in the back of his pickup, as well as an investigator with the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System (OIDS).

Jerry Story was the man who held a farming lease for a wheat filed near the Hager residence in 2010.  Story testified to finding damaged fence posts in Sept. 2010 right around the time when he would've been planting wheat.

He said that he found "half a dozen, maybe 10" T-posts were damaged as "2 fences were torn up by someone driving through them."

He then testified to the terrain in the area, saying it was "extremely rough ground right on the north side of the creek," but that most of the field would have likely been pretty level due to plowing in preparation for wheat planting.

OIDS Investigator Steve Wilson also testified to the terrain around the former Hager residence and neighboring field that Story was leasing in 2010.

Wilson said he took photographs in 2011 and 2012 of the field and a dirt access road along the edge of the field.  He said the photographs showed a ditch measuring around 18-inches across between the road and edge of the field in some places and showed that the field was a couple of feet higher than the road in some places.  Still other photographs showed "a gully" running along the edge of the field just inside the fence line.

 

AN EXPERT WITH A DIFFERENT OPINION

The defense's only other witness was an independent expert pathologist, who testified that he reached a different opinion as to Watkins' cause of death.

Dr. Edward Friedlander is a certified anatomical and clinical pathologist and chairs the Department of Pathology at the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, in Kansas City, Mo.

Friedlander said that he reviewed the autopsy report and autopsy photos from Dr. Marc Harrison, the pathologist with the Oklahoma Chief Medical Examiner's Office who conducted Watkins' autopsy.

He testified that he agreed with most of Harrison's findings in the autopsy report and called it a "good report."

However, where Harrison testified on Wednesday that "it is my opinion that he (Watkins) was beaten and that was the cause of death," Friedlander said he didn't believe that the punches to Watkins' face could have caused his death.

Friedlander said that was based on the assumption that Watkins was up walking and talking more than 15 minutes after he was punched.

"If you're talking after more than 15 minutes (following a blow to the head), then you are not going to die from that blow," he said.

Friedlander said his assumption about Watkins' level of consciousness following the blows to his head came from the defense counsel Peter Scimeca.

"I'm assuming the subject was talking 15 minutes after," he said.

"Where did you get that information?" Assistant District Attorney Susan Meinders asked during cross examination.

"Mr. Scimeca.  He assured me of that," Friedlander said.

When asked if Scimeca provided any evidence that Watkins might not have been up walking around after the attack, the pathologist said no.

Nevertheless, he said, "I trust what Mr. Scimeca told me. If the jury finds different then that's up to them."

In addition to testifying that the blows would not have been fatal if Watkins was still talking more than 15 minutes later, Friedlander testified that he believed a lot of the bruising to Watkins' body was more consistent with bouncing around in the back of the pickup rather than with getting punched or kicked.

He said that the tight grouping of multiple bruises on the side and back of Watkins' head, seen in autopsy photos were the scalp was lifted back to see the skull, were "not from blows moving the head, but from the head bouncing again and again off of some surface."

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