DA: SINCLAIR ‘TRYING TO EXIT’ CAR AT TIME OF SHOOTING
Defense attorney doesn’t want jury to see evidence
Katherine Sinclair’s body was turned “as if trying to exit the vehicle” when officers arrived on the scene and found her suffering from a gunshot to the head in the garage of boy- friend Greg Burroughs’ home, a prosecutor said.
“We have (images) of her feet that were taken by the first officers to arrive on the scene,” Assistant District Attorney Dennis Bisnette said during motion hearings Monday in Jones County Circuit Court in Ellisville. “They weren’t any- where near the brake, and she was turned as if trying to exit the vehicle.”
The significance of that for the DA’s office is to refute Burroughs’ “repeated statements” to officers about the events of that night, Bisnette said.
“The defendant (Burroughs) said that he went to the car after (Sinclair) shot herself, reached in and tried to turn the key off, but it was in reverse so he put it in park and took the key out,” Bisnette said.
There are two problems with that statement, Bisnette explained.
“If the vehicle is in reverse and a foot isn’t on the brake, it will go backwards ... and you can’t put it from reverse to park without putting on the brake,” Bisnette said. “The scenario (Burroughs) gives is not possible.”
The DA’s office has a video of an officer attempting to put the car in park from reverse without depressing the brake.
Burroughs’ attorney Tracy Klein objected to the use of the video, so Bisnette upped the ante and asked Judge Dal Williamson to let the state “take the car to the site and do a demonstration in front of the jury.”
Burroughs, 39, is charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of Sinclair, 23, in June 2017. A Franklin County jury will hear the case in Meadville starting Aug. 20 after Klein asked for and received a change of venue for the high-profile case.
Klein argued that the jury should not see the video on a live demonstration in Sinclair’s 2008 Honda Accord because it wouldn’t be in the “same conditions or circumstances.”
The car has been in a secure storage facility for several months, so it won’t be operating the same as it was then, the slope of the pavement at the Meadville courthouse wouldn’t be the same as in Burroughs’ garage of his home and there’s no way of knowing if Sinclair’s foot was on the brake, he said.
“The whole thing revolves around requiring the jury to speculate whether her foot was on the brake,” Klein said.
He also noted that Sinclair was still alive when officers and medics arrived, so that raises more questions.
“What part of the brain was damaged, how does that affect motor skills, how many pounds of pressure have to be on the brake?” Klein asked. “There’s no way to make those determinations.”
Bisnette told the judge it was possible to get expert witnesses to testify on those points.
“Evidence will show that she was not facing forward,”
Bisnette said, noting that the entry wound was in the right side of her head, behind her ear, and the bullet went through her head and out the rear driver’s side window and her body was turned toward the door. “She would have had to contort her- self to put on the brake.”
Klein objected to the use of the video because the “tester wore a hazmat suit” because of the “large quantity of blood on the driver’s seat.” The hazmat suit and the blood would be “more prejudicial than prohibitive” for the jury, he said.
Jurors need to see the video or a demonstration so they can “decide the accuracy of a statement made by the defendant multiple times,” Bisnette argued. “It’s an essential element and it needs to be proven whether it’s actually possible.”
Both Bisnette and Klein told the judge that they have case law to support their positions. Williamson said they had a week to get that to him so he could make his ruling about whether to allow the video or live demonstration with the car.