After nearly two years of court hearings, delays and a full day of jury selection hearings on Monday, the Owens trial finally began shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday.
About 30 seconds into Assistant District Attorney Juan Valencia’s opening argument, one of the 16 jurors raised his hand.
“Yes sir, you have a question?” asked State District Judge Michael Vigil.
“My pen doesn’t work,” the juror said.
As it turned out, neither did the pens of any of the 16 jurors, prompting a five minute recess while bailiff Manny Anaya tracked down a box of pencils.
Fortunately, it wasn’t a sign of things to come. The day flew by faster than most anticipated, getting through opening arguments, the stipulation of 186 pieces of agreed upon evidence, the playing of an emotional 911 tape (twice) and nine teenage witnesses to the June 28, 2009, crash.
But the day wasn’t without drama.
The first day of testimony, as expected, was very emotional and included nine of the teen witnesses of the crash taking the stand. Considering they witnessed four friends die and are now in a position to testify in the trial (and many feel they are being asked to get another teen friend in trouble as the defense is placing blame on one of them for the crash), their testimony was emotional. But often times, it turned very confrontational.
Ryan Weydeveld, who wore a gray suit, tennis shoes and a backwards tie, often slouched in his chair, leaned his head back and rarely answered attorneys questions on the first time they were asked. At one point, when asked if he told police a fellow teen driver was acting like a “bitch” for the way she was driving the night of the crash, Weydeveld told an attorney he didn’t think the question was relevant to the case. Dan Cron, who handled the hostile teen witnesses throughout the day as well as could be expected, calmly told the teen that wasn’t for him to decide, but for the jury.
Later, Taylor Johnson, who Cron suggests caused the crash by trying to pass her friend’s car on the right shoulder of the road, frequently countered Cron’s cross examination about how many details she seemed to be forgetting on the stand despite giving numerous sworn statements since the crash by interrupting the attorney with emotional outbursts:
“No, but you try watching four people die and remember every single detail.”
“No (I don’t remember), I was watching my friends being put in body bags.”
When Cron asked if Scott Owens driving on the wrong side of the road was a details she thought was important enough to tell police the morning of the crash, which she did not do, the teen said:
“Isn’t four people dying kind of traumatizing?”
Cron paused a moment and asked if that was her answer. She then answered the question.
Deputy District Attorney Doug Couleur and Cron each handled the first day of delicate witness questioning very well and will now move forward with police, first responders and medical witnesses followed by Friday’s anticipated testimony of the crash-scene reconstructionists who could make or break the case if they can convince just one juror that Owens was not in the cause of the crash.
Here is the story published in Wednesday’s newspaper with an in-depth recap of the first emotional day of testimony:
I’ve been offering up Twitter updates on The New Mexican’s Twitter page (CLICK HERE) if you want to check in periodically for updates from the courtroom. You can also do a Twitter search for #ScottOwens where others tweeting trial updates are posting.