The FAQ: The Murder of Anastasia WitbolsFeugen
Was there other evidence for or against Case that the jury did not see?
Because of American jurisprudence's standard practice of "innocent unless proven guilty", there are certain advantages given to defendants in criminal cases, involving technicalities of law and occasionally issues that might cause prejudice against a defendant. When evidence is supressed before a trial, it is usually, though not always, in favor of the defendant. Sometimes things get missed, or things that shouldn't get in do. In the trial State of Missouri v. Byron Case, there were a number of facts of evidence that were not presented to the jury.One piece of evidence and one incident concerning the murder were not even brought up during the trial.
Case spoke with Jackson County Sheriff Deputy Gary Kilgore on July 29, 1999 only after receiving assurances that nothing in the interview could be used against him, and his attorney sought in a pre-trial motion to supress all statements made during that interview.2 This supression definitely favored the defendant.
- Byron Case had two police interviews before his arrest. Only one was allowed to be discussed during the trial.1
One item that was not discussed anywhere except during that 1999 police interview was a letter that Anastasia had written to Justin only days before her death, giving a strong indication of some of the mutual animosity between her and Byron Case,3 and providing additional evidentiary weight to Case's suggested motive. Because it was part of that interview and had been introduced nowhere else, it could not be used by prosecution. This supression also favored the defendant.
While the prosecution did not want to exploit the "Goth" angle of this case (long before Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris made it iconic, Byron Case had adopted the fashion "style" of wearing black trenchcoat, and was dressed that way on the night of the murder), they did seek to enter evidence that Case had kept autopsy photos on his computer's screen saver, 4 just to show that he was not the sensitive guy his defense portrayed him to be. The Court would not allow that particular fact out.
The court also did not allow prosecution to delve into certain other activities that would put aspects of Case's general lifestyle on display: his personalized license tags, and various web diaries were put off limits. One very important web page that the jury was not allowed to see was his own fictionalized story of the murder itself.5 Case's online diary also told a story of how he kept a rotting chicken carcass impaled on a pitchfork (right) he had welded onto his car's hood as an ornament.
Case's emails to Anastasia's family, in which he threatened a lawsuit, belittled their relationship with Anastasia, tried to paint himself as a victim,6 and occasionally told stories inconsistent with his later testimony, were likewise suppressed as hearsay.
Kelly Moffett had taken a Voice Stress Analysis (VSA) test in August 1998, and both sides agreed that it could not be considered admisible in court.7 When Kelly Moffett later inadvertently mentioned having taken a VSA during her testimony, a mistrial was nearly declared.8
Case's attorney sought to have Kelly Moffett's psychiatric records opened for review, as he sought to show evidence that she might have given multiple versions of the murder;9 Judge Atwell examined the records in camera and ruled that there was no such evidence present. He also ruled that any diagnosis or treatment of Moffett before the murder was irrelevant as well, as what she did and said on or after that date was relevant and still revealed no such behavior as Case was seeking to show.
Defense witnesses made two claims in testimony without offering any documentary evidence to back them up; in both cases, that evidence could have been provided.
- Days after the murder, Anastasia's parents found a pair of her blue jeans in the washing machine, matching the jeans described by defense witness Dawn Wright. They were duly turned over to the Sheriff's department's investigation, but nothing else was done. It was only after the trial, when pre-trial documents were released to the family, that the connection was made.10
- No mention was made during the trial of harrassment of two potential witnesses by some of Case's friends.11
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- Evelyn Case referred a few times in her testimony to a journal she kept to provide her with backup for some of her statements. She did not provide the journal (nor a copy thereof) to prove her statements, and her reason given was that she wrote her journals in German (her native language), and "Nobody here could probably read them anyway".12
- Byron Case made reference in his testimony that he had discussed his relationship with Kelly Moffett with a couselor, in an effort to show that he was the victim in that relationship. He never named that counsellor, never called him to the stand, never showed any proof that he had actually had such counseling; he never made any effort to prove his claims.13