Scott Atwell is a detective in the Johnson County (KS) Sheriff's Department who was called to the scene of Justin Bruton's death on October 25, 1997(1). He testified that Justin's death was ruled a suicide,(2) that the same shotgun identified as sold to him on October 23 (by Jim Dodd of the Bullet Hole(3)) was the one found next to his body. He testified that the receipt from the Bullet Hole for the weapon was found inside Justin's car.(4)
He also gave details of the circumstances under which Justin's body was found,(5) its position and condition, etc.(6) The prosecutor introduced as evidence photographs of Justin's car's interior, with emphasis on the trunk (where Case retrieved the murder weapon) and the trunk latch (which Case pulled to open the trunk).(7)
There was no cross-examination. After a number of exhibits were published(8) for the jury to examine and a defense motion to dismiss was overruled,(9) the prosecution rested.
MR. FRY:Page 796       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)May we approach, Your Honor.THE COURT:Sure.THE COURT:
(Counsel approached the bench and the following proceedings were had:)Are you missing an officer?MR. FRY:We are. He was on route, but say about the time that I left, I don't know if you noticed when this witness started, about 2 o'clock, he was probably an hour away then, so he may be about 15 minutes away.THE COURT:Okay.MR. FRY:Maybe a little longer.THE COURT:Okay. Not that it's a big deal, it's just him not following the directives that were given to him.MR. FRY:Well, we asked him to be here at 1:15.
MS. CRAYON:Page 797       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)Did he just forget?MR. FRY:I have no idea. He said, "Partner, I'm on my way. I'm in the car."MR. LANCE:Judge, I think it's a good time for a break, because I have some witnesses outside they haven't had a chance to interview.THE COURT:We'll take a break. You talk to the witnesses that he's got that you want to talk with, and let's make any record we want on these witnesses so we can then go -- we can then go straight from -- this is your last witness, right?MR. FRY:Right.THE COURT:We'll take a break and put this guy on and do your motion and go right into their evidence. Does that work?MS. CRAYON:Fine.THE COURT:All right.THE COURT:
(The proceedings returned to open court.)Ladies and gentlemen, it's about time for a recess, plus we're waiting on one witness to get here; and there are -- some productive things to do.
Page 798       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)So I think it's a good time for us to take a 20 minute recess. There is one witness that's en route. It may well be the last witness the State calls, so we want to make sure that witness gets here. If it's a little more than 20 n3inutes, be patient with us, but we're making good headway.THE CLERK:
So with that being said, let me again remind you of what you were told at the first recess of the Court. Until you retire to consider your verdict, you must not discuss this case amongyourselves or with others or permit anyone to discuss it in your hearing. You should not form or express any opinion about the case until it is finally given to you to decide. Do not read, view, or listen to any newspaper, radio, or television report of the trial.
Is there pop up there and stuff, Debra?Yes.THE COURT:If you need ice or anything, let us know. We'll take about a 20 minute recess. All rise, please. Jury is free to go to the jury room.
(A recess was taken.)
THE COURT:Page 799       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)Everybody, please be seated.SCOTT ATWELL, having been duly sworn by the Court, testified:
DIRECT EXAMINATION BY MS. CRAYON:
Q.Would you please tell the jury who you are.A.My name is Scott Atwell. I'm a detective with the sheriff's office out of Johnson County, Kansas.Q.And how long have you worked at the sheriff's office?A.24 years.Q.And what's your current position here?A.Detective.Q.And in October of 1997, you were working there as a detective as well; is that correct?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.Do you recall being involved in the investigation of a case involving a Justin Bruton?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.In what capacity were you involved in that investigation?A.Basically investigating the unattended death of Mr. Bruton.
Q.Page 800       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)And would you agree with me that that investigation commenced on October 25th 1997, which would have been a Saturday?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.And were you called out to the scene?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.Do you recall you were called out after he was discovered; is that correct?A.Correct.Q.Do you know when his body was discovered?A.By our road patrol, at about quarter after one in the afternoon.Q.And tell us about that, what information you have about who he was discovered by and where?A.A two-man unit was patrolling the rural part of our county, and they saw an unoccupied car parked on the north side of an abandoned warehouse type building. The two deputies went out to investigate the car. Had Missouri license plates on it. And they noticed the car has been there for awhile, because it had been raining outside for a considerable amount of time and the gravel underneath the car was still dry. Deputies had walked around the west end of the building and found the victim laying there.
Q.Page 801       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)And when the victim was found, did he eventually -- after you looked at the victim and his body, was there any identifying identification on him?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.Where was that found and --A.He had a wallet in his right rear pocket. In his wallet was his Missouri's driver license.Q.What about the vehicle? Was there anything connecting him to the vehicle?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.What was that?A.The registration came back to Mr. Bruton.Q.Do you recall where the keys were to the vehicle? Were they on him or in the car, do you recall?A.They were in his right front pocket.Q.With the victim, give us an idea of where he is behind this building. How is he sitting or standing or laying down?A.He was laying on his back in a east-west position. The building itself length runs north and south. In the report, I reflected that he looked like he was in a relaxed position. He had one ankle crossed over the other one and, basically, the upper part of his body was up against the building.
Q.Page 802       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)And was there a weapon at the scene?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.What was it? Do you recall?A.Yes, ma'am. It was a 18-inch barrel Remington model H70 shotgun.Q.When you observed him, did you observe severe trauma to the head area of the victim?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.Now, when you went back to take a look at the car -- you went back and took a look at the car that was there that you already talked about. Did you look in the interior of the car?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.Did you find anything there?A.Not in the cockpit area, no, sir -- ma'am.Q.So what about the trunk?A.In the trunk I found an empty box that was marked Remington, and on the end label of the box was the make, model and serial number, which was the same as the shotgun found at the scene, and a box of 12-gauge slugs, three of which remained in the trunk. . The other two was at the victim.Q.So the other two slugs were at the scene of whereA.Yes ma'am.
Q.Page 803       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)Let me just do this right now. I'm going to show you what's already been entered into evidence as State's Exhibit Number 8. Does that look familiar to you?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.How does it look familiar?A.That's the vehicle and that's the license plate that was Mr. Bruton's.Q.I'm going to show you what's been marked as State's Exhibit Number 12 and State's Exhibit Number 9. Now, Number 9 has been entered into evidence already. Does that look like what the car would look like if the car trunk was popped?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.And this is the same car, Mr. Bruton's car?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.This one hasn't been entered into evidence yet. Since you had a chance to look at the interior of the car, I want to see if you are able to recognize it. In State's Exhibit Number 12, can you recognize what that's a photograph of?A.Well, I would have to say that it looks like the interior of it. I can't say it's the same one, but from my recollection from five years ago.
Q.Page 804       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)Would you agree with me on the bottom of State's Exhibit Number 12, the color of the body of the car is showing?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.And would you say that it matched the same color of the body of the car in State's Exhibit Number 9 and 8?A.Yes, ma'am.MS. CRAYON:Move to admit State's Exhibit Number 12.MR. LANCE:No objection.THE COURT:State's 12 will be admitted.BY MS. CRAYON:
(State's Exhibit Number 12 was received into evidence.)
Q.More specifically, Officer, this one hasn't been shown to the jury. What is this depicting here?A.Floorboard of the vehicle. Looks like the driver's side.Q.Okay. And what's down here on the bottom?A.It looks like a trunk latch if that's what you're pointing at.Q.There is a trunk latch as well as a gasoline latch; is that right?A.Yes, ma'am.
Q.Page 805       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)I also want to show you State's Exhibit Number 17. This is in evidence as well. Do you recognize this as something that you found in the trunk of the car?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.What is that?A.Tbat's the receipt from where that shotgun was purchased from.Q.And those things were collected and turned over to the Jackson County Sheriff's Department in an effort to assist them in the investigation of this case; is that correct?A.Correct.Q.When you find a car in that kind of situation, is it typical for you to run the license plate in the computer?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.Was that done in this case?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.And what, if anything, was found from running it in the computer?A.The sergeant at the scene on patrol had ran the license plate, and in so doing in the computer came back that the person associated with that car was to be held for questioning in a homicide in Jackson County, Missouri.
Q.Page 806       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)And as a result of finding that out, was there any contact by the Johnson County Sheriff's Department -- with anybody at the Jackson County Sheriff's Department?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.And would that have been Sergeant Kilgore?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.And isn't it true that Sergeant Kilgore had volunteered to notify the family of Mr. Bruton's death?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.Now, I want to just briefly ask you, as part of your investigation, did you receive information from your medical examiner -- you don't call them medical examiners over there. What do you call them?A.Pathologists.Q.Okay. The pathologist over there in Johnson County examined Justin Bruton; is that correct?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.And you were apprised of that as part of your investigation in this case?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.And what were the findings that you were apprised of?
A.Page 807       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)Due to the evidence at the scene and the lack of any other physical trauma to Mr. Bruton, his assessment was that it was a self-inflicted shotgun wound.Q.And were you informed of any results of the toxicology report?A.Yes, ma'am.Q.And what were those results?A.Negative.Q.So there were no drugs or alcohol found in Justin Bruton's system as far as you were told in the toxicology report?A.Correct.Q.How was this case then ruled as far as your investigation?A.A suicide.Q.Now, you've already mentioned -- I wanted to make sure that we have covered the time frame. He was found, as you said, at approximately one o'clock on Saturday. How long had it been drizzling or raining over there in that area?A.Approximately 12 hours.Q.So you mentioned under the car it was dry. What about under Justin Bruton's body?
A.Page 808       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)When I had rolled him over, I noticed and I also felt that the grass underneath him was also dry.Q.Specifically regarding what you found when you were there, what was the position of the shotgun?A.The shotgun was lying parallel to Mr. Bruton's level side with the barrel, the muzzle of it, basically up against his left armpit with the -- what we call the port side, the ejection side, where the shells eject from, that portion of the shotgun was facing up.Q.And can you tell the jury whether that's consistent with the finding that it was a self-inflicted gunshot wound up into this part of the face?A.The close proximity of the shotgun, yes, ma'am.MS. CRAYON:I don't have anything further.THE COURT:Mr. Lance.MR. LANCE:I don't believe I have any questions.THE COURT:All right. Thank you, Officer. Appreciate your testimony.THE WITNESS:Thank you, sir.MR. FRY:
(The witness was excused.)Your Honor, may we approach.THE COURT:Sure.
Page 809       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)(Counsel approached the bench and the following proceedings were had:)MS. CRAYON:Your Honor, at this time we're going to be asking to -- prior to resting -- to publish the photographs and some of the exhibits to the jury. Specifically, we'll be asking to publish Exhibit Numbers One through Nine, Numbers 12 through 14, and I think at this time we'll forgo trying to publish the autopsies. We'll make them available if they want to see them. Also State's Exhibit Numbers 17, 18 and 19. That's all.THE COURT:Any objection to the publishing of those exhibits?MR. LANCE:No objection.THE COURT:All right.MR. FRY:while we're doing that we will be up here taking care of things at the bench and use the time both ways.THE COURT:Do you want to publish the exhibits and maybe deal with the motion while we're doing that?
Mr. Lance, there is no dispute all these exhibits are in evidence, is there?
MR. LANCE:Page 810       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)No dispute.THE COURT:All right.MS. CRAYON:
(The proceedings returned to open court.)Your Honor, at this time the State is requesting to publish State's Exhibits One through Nine, State's Exhibits 12, 13 and 14. All of those are the photographs included in this case, except the autopsy photographs that we won't ask to publish at this time, and 17, 18 and 19.THE COURT:All right. That request is granted, and you may publish them to the jury. Why don't you maybe start the photos in one place and the documents in another place so that we can --MS. CRAYON:All right.THE COURT:When everybody has seen them all, let us know, and you can lay the exhibits there on the jury rail.THE COURT:
(Counsel approached the bench and the following proceedings were had:)Mr. Lance, while the jury is viewing the photos, do you want me to take up your motion?
MR. LANCE:Page 811       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)Yes, sir.THE COURT:Do you desire to make any oral statement regarding your motion?MR. LANCE:No, Your Honor. Defense will stand on the written motion.THE COURT:All right. Do you desire any statement from the State?MS. CRAYON:No, Your Honor. I believe we have made a submissible case to the jury. I ask you to overrule it.THE COURT:The Court finds that, under the standard of Jackson vs. Virginia, that giving all favorable inferences to the State as is required by law, that a reasonable juror could, in fact, make a finding beyond a reasonable doubt the matters contained in the indictment.MS. CRAYON:
So for that reason, submissibility standard, I believe the State has met that burden of proof at that standard and hereby overrule the motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of State's evidence.Thank you.MR. LANCE:Judge, do you think it's appropriate if I bring my first witness into the courtroom and have her in the front row?
THE COURT:Page 812       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)It doesn't bother me.MS. CRAYON:That's fine.THE COURT:If it's cool with you, it's good with me.THE COURT:
(The proceedings returned to open court.)Can I see the lawyers quickly.THE COURT:
(Counsel approached the bench and the following proceedings were had:)Obviously, the State has not officially rested in front of the jury. So when you do that, I will assume that the record regarding the motion will be deemed reasserted at that time. Do you follow my drift?MR. LANCE:That would be our request.THE COURT:-- We'll do that. In other words, the record we just made is in anticipation of the State resting as soon as the jury is finished looking at the exhibits. At the point in time of you resting, we'll show your motion filed and the record we made will be deemed asserted at that time.
MR. LANCE:Page 813       (Detective Scott Atwell testimony)Thank you.THE COURT:
(The proceedings returned to open court.)Can I see you one more time? I hate to do this to you, but as long as we have some dead time here.THE COURT:
(Counsel approached the bench and the following proceedings were had:)Seems to me what we'll do, I told the jury we might go as late as 5:30, so we'll make every attempt to finish getting your evidence on.MS. CRAYON:
Then what I think I'm going to do, unless anybody has an objection to it, is tell the jury that there appears to be a strong likelihood that we'll conclude the evidence tomorrow. Does that sound reasonable?Yes.THE COURT:And the only decision is whether we submit tomorrow or Thursday morning and let them know that. And then they might learn, if we submit that, I might go ahead and just tell them, if we submit tomorrow, we could be here --
how long we stay is kind of up to them at that point in time, just so that they know for planning.MR. FRY:
I could explain to them -- I don't see any reason to tell them straight up, once they get the case, how long they deliberate, whether to take a recess and come back is all up to them. But I just want to give them the forewarning of that.
I'm not saying we will close tomorrow, but there is some possibility we would, and it would be based upon, you know, what we get done and when and with input from them. So just to give them some warning what the situation is. Is there any objection to me doing that?No. I recommend it.MR. LANCE:Defense has no objection.THE COURT:All right.THE COURT:
(The proceedings returned to open court.)Has everyone had a chance to review all the exhibits?MS. CRAYON:
(The jury nods.)Your Honor, at this time the State rests its case.