Detective, friend, TBI expert testify in Stout murder trial - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Detective, friend, TBI expert testify in Stout murder trial

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Myles Stout, center, sits at the defense table with Mike Little at left. Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press Myles Stout, center, sits at the defense table with Mike Little at left. Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press

CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- The murder trial of 21-year-old Myles Stout entered its fourth day on Friday. Stout is charged in the March 2011 death of 18-year-old Miles Compton.

Eyewitness News reporter Gordon Boyd was in the courtroom, providing live updates via Twitter (follow him at www.twitter.com/gordonboyd3)

The day started late, much to the annoyance of Judge Barry Steeleman, who had to wait for 25 minutes before attorneys were ready for the jury to be called in. Before testimony could begin, there was discussion with a juror, who appeared to be in tears. The conversation was held out of sight of the jury.

After discussion, the juror left the courtroom with a bailiff. Judge Steelman then called for a bench conference with attorneys. Courtroom observers awaited word whether the juror will be excused. As the bench conference continued, the trial stretched 50 minutes past the planned start time.

Just after 11:30 a.m., Judge Steelman summoned back the juror in question for a conference. She then left the courtroom again, with a harried expression on her face. Both legal teams left the bench to confer separately, then returned to the bench. The juror in question returned to the courtroom, awaiting a decision from Judge Steelman.

At 11:45 a.m., the juror left the courtroom in a much lighter frame of mind. Bench conference resumed with Judge Steelman and legal teams as some agreement had apparently been reached. Bailiffs were summoned as Stout's attorney, Hank Hill, explained to his client what had transpired. Judge Steelman delayed calling in jury to "give them some air".

Meantime, the defense sought to include Stout's interrogation room video to rebut testimony of Amanda Freeman, claiming Stout was joking and laughing during the questioning. Judge Steelman wanted clarification that video and Amanda's claim occurred at the same time and how to deal with statements Stout made in the video.

Judge Steelman said that statements could be considered admission. The defense responded that Stout was not communicating with anyone, implying that he was thinking out loud. Stout allegedly referenced the victim, Myles Compton, in the video, saying "l didn't mean to...you know I love you."

The district attorney said the defense was asking for Freeman's testimony to be impeached by action that she has no knowledge of.  Claims there is a "huge distinction" between that and the statement of the defendant. The defense responded that they wished to use video to show Stout's demeanor, not the content of what he said, to impeach Freeman's testimony.

Judge Steelman ruled that the using the video as "vehicle" of detailing Stout's behavior to impeach Freeman's observations, which occurred an hour or more earlier than the video was made, isn't appropriate. Steelman said that Stout was making statements in video by apologizing to God, his mother and calling it an accident. Rules that statements we irrelevant to impeach Freeman's testimony.

His ruling was based on the premise that prejudice outweighs probitive value. Jury would hear Stout statements that can't be cross-examined, so therefore the video was ruled out. Steelman did tell the defense that they may question the detective regarding Stout's demeanor an hour and 40 minutes after Amanda Freeman claimed Stout had been laughing.

Defense asked if they could admit the video without the audio to show Stout's non-verbal expression. Steelman rules that such would simply confuse the jury, and does not allow.

At 12:25 p.m., the defense asked to call witness before the state rests to avoid conflict of availability. Judge Steelman notes that they jury had already been served lunch thanks to delays.

The session resumed after lunch with the troubled juror from the morning still with the jury group. The issue presumably had been resolved, with Judge Steelman apologizing to the jury for the delay.

Once the trial resumed, defense attorney Hank Hill began questioning Detective Whaley, who arrived at the scene after 9:00 p.m. but talked to no witnesses there. Hill pointed out that investigators hadn't looked for bullets until that time, at which point the detective upgraded the initial charge to second degree murder.

Hill pounced on the detective's report claiming witnesses saw Stout load weapon or close the slide. Detective said he heard Freeman say Stout closed the slide in court. After questioning, Whaley conceded to Hill that without information claiming Stout had loaded magazine and closed the slide, the initial charge would have stayed reckless homicide.

Hill then had the lead detective review his findings after disassembling the guns recovered from the scene. 

He moved on from the guns to asking Whaley if he had heard Amanda Freeman's testimony about Stout's demeanor, his alleged  joking and laughing? The detective answered that he had, which set up a question and answer designed to impeach Freeman's testimony.

"Was Stout crying and sobbing uncontrollably in interview room?" Hill asked the detective.

"I can't say that," Whaley replied.

"Was he crying?" asked Hill. 

"He could have been," admitted Whaley. "I'm trying to stay away from an opinion. I couldn't tell what he was doing."

Hill asked again if Stout was crying and sobbing during his questioning. Whaley replied that he couldn't tell if Stout was really sobbing and crying or not.

After a conference at the bench, Hill returned to his line of questioning about Stout's demeanor during his questioning.

"Was Stout crying?" asked Hill. 

"I couldn't say," said Whaley.

"Was he sobbing?" Hill asked again. 

"I couldn't say," replied Whaley. "I saw him blow his nose, cough and spit."

The detective then told Hill he did see Stout make a fist and slide down the wall from standing to a seated position while observing him alone in interview room.

Hill then shifted his questioning to the detective's treatment and analysis of the gun evidence., specifically whether any fingerprints were taken off the clip or the slide. Whaley said they hadn't, as none were needed.

Hill asked, "Wouldn't you want to know who handled the gun?"

"We had three people tell us they did," Whaley replied.

Hill contended that prints should have been taken to see if Stout had loaded the clip. 

With Detective Whaley's testimony concluded, attorney Hill then asked to recall David Finley, the friend with military experience, as a defense witness.  The reasoning why Lt. Finley was being called today, prior to the state resting their case, is due his schedule. Finley's Ft. Benning assignment demands that he get back soon.

Hill began the questioning by asking about home video showing Compton and Stout swimming. The video shows Stout and Compton jumping into the water from a tree rope swing. Hill's point is that the video showed the victim and the accused were on friendly terms.

Lt. Finley recalls at least two or three more swimming and off-roading adventures with Compton and Stout. "It was always fun," he testified. Finley also produced pictures of the group 'mud-bogging.' Hill asked whether these outings were typical or were they isolated incidents.  Finley said that while he wasn't home a lot with school, when he saw Stout and Compton together, "they always got along well."

Under cross-examination from the district attorney, it was pointed out that the video was shot six to seven months before Compton killed. To which Finley testified that he was closer friends with Stout than with Compton. The DA also gets Finley to clarify that what pulled Compton and Stout together was a common friend.

After Lt. Finely was dismissed, the state called TBI Forensic Investigator Kevin Warner, who examined the guns. Warner explained to the jury how semi-automatic pistols work, that by pulling back the slide it will load a round from the clip into the chamber.

Warner further explained that examining also aims to verify the gun works properly. He testified that the gun retrieved from the shooting was a .40 cal Sig Sauer, and that a clip and bullet were recovered that matched the gun.

Warner said he test fired the .40 cal using a bullet recovered from the clip that investigators found at the scene, and said the gun functioned properly. He determined the bullet submitted is similar to the test fires. He also noted that the slide would lock to the rear on an empty magazine.

Warner furthered testified that the bullet that killed Compton was .40 cal hollow point, and that the "class characteristics" of the bullet submitted, we well as four test fires, were all the same.

Under questioning from the defense, Warner admitted that the gun may still have functioned with a shell casing still in chamber. He said that investigators never told them whether or not there was a casing in the chamber, and also admitted that he did not whether or not the gun was ever fingerprinted.

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