The FAQ: The Murder of Anastasia WitbolsFeugen
What was the primary evidence against Byron Case?
For a long time, many supporters of Anastasia's convicted killer have categorically asserted that his conviction rested solely upon the testimony of "an embittered ex-girlfriend with a history of drug use and mental health issues". The word "solely" has since been changed to "as a direct result" of said testimony, and the ex-girlfriend is now referred to as an "alleged witness", though Inmate 328416's supporters still continue to allege that she was "embittered" and still claim she has a "a history of drug use and mental health issues". They still do not choose to discuss what the additional evidence was in this case, and they still tend to uncritically accept the assertion that the killer's ex-girlfriend was exactly as the killer described her. Let's examine the facts of the matter.As for the killer's supporters' arguments about defense testimony that contradicted the eyewitness' testimony, we note that the jurors were instructed prior to the opening statements of the trial that it was the sole responsibility of the jury to determine a witness' believability,12 and it seems apparent from their verdict that they found her testimony believable, and that they did not find the defendant nor his defense witnesses believable. There are reasons that can be inferred for that verdict.It is difficult to conceive that eyewitness testimony would have anything except a direct influence upon a trial -- while the witness'testimony did have a direct effect on the trial's outcome, it was only partially responsible for that outcome. But we digress.through December 1998,2 who testified in court that she had witnessed him murder Anastasia WitbolsFeugen. According to her mother, her drug use and emotional problems did not surface until January 1998, shortly after Anastasia's murder. They did not become noticeably serious until late 1998.3
During the trial, the state's key eyewitness was Kelly Moffett, who had been the defendant's girlfriend for about 19 months, from May 19971
As for the charge that the ex-girlfriend was "embittered" about her breakup with the killer, that issue is addressed in two other parts of this FAQ, involving both her motives for accusing the killer,4 and claims made by the killer about threats she allegedly made against him,5 though it may be briefly summarized in saying that the killer's ex-girlfriend broke up with him (as opposed to he breaking up with her)6 in December 1998 or January 1999,7 approximately 19 months before she finally came forth to accuse him, both factors working against the image of her being "embittered" against him.
Her eyewitness testimony about the actual killing was confirmed by forensic and crime scene evidence that was unavailable to the public. Anastasia's killer and some of his supporters later charged that all of her descriptions could easily have been culled from news stories about the murder. However, this web site maintains a complete list of news stories about the murder and its subsequent investigation,8 and we have challenged them to demonstrate where those eyewitness descriptions can be found in those stories. To date, after more than a decade, they have still not responded, yet continue to make their unsubstantiated claim.
The witness testified how Anastasia fell,9, the fact that she was surprised by the attack and had no time to turn, run, or cover up,10 and how the weapon used in the murder was a long-barrelled one (as opposed to a handgun).11
The eyewitness' testimony undoubtedly was not by itself enough to convince the jury of the defendant's guilt, but when presented in conjunction with his audiotaped tacit admission,13 it was sufficient to overcome any reasonable doubt. The killer's supporters frequently downplay (and sometimes deny) his tacit confession, but its validity as evidence of was upheld by an appellate court.14There was other evidence that contributed to the jury's decision, but this was the most important evidence presented against the defendant. Top of page
Forensic evidence presented at trial15 rendered the defendant's alibi much less believable,16 requiring too many coincidences (many defying logic) to be believable.17
There was also secondary evidence that helped give the jury reason to accept the defendant's guilt. First, he resisted arrest when officers came for him;18 he did not simply struggle and say, "No, No, No!" while being arrested (as if not believing it was happening), but instead he turned, ran, and tried to lock himself in his bedroom when confronted by officers who had identified themselves to him. While this did not by itself prove his guilt, it certainly placed him in a very suspicious light. Second, testimony from both prosecution and defense witnesses showed that the defendant had felt a great animosity toward Anastasia,19,20 helping establish a motive.