The Ottumwa Courier

July 23, 2013

Pollard guilty on murder, robbery charges

CHELSEA DAVIS
Ottumwa Courier

OTTUMWA — Two guilty verdicts were handed down in the state's case against Bruce Pollard.

Pollard, 26, was convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the death of Cinema X manager Kenneth McDaniel on March 11, 2012.

After just an hour deliberating Tuesday afternoon, the jury returned with two guilty verdicts. Pollard did not move a muscle while the verdicts were read.

Pollard's girlfriend, Amanda Collins, broke down in tears, while McDaniel's family and friends cried and hugged each other.

During three hours of the defense's closing arguments, defense attorney Allen Cook said there would be no reason for Pollard to lie after immediately telling police in his second interview, "Take me to prison" and explaining the events that led to McDaniel's death.

Pollard told police that McDaniel had placed a hand on his leg in the theater, which made him panic and try to escape. When he was met with a locked front door, he said he turned around and McDaniel was right there. A struggle ensued and McDaniel died after receiving blows to the head from a pry bar, as well as fractured cartilage in his neck and possible strangulation.

But that's not what happened, said prosecutor Scott Brown.

A hand on Pollard's leg, two zippers down and a white stain on McDaniel's pants and an injury to McDaniel's penis "do not make a sexual assault," Brown said.

"The only evidence we have about what happened in the theater is from Bruce Pollard," he said. "There's nothing physical at the theater or on anything seized that would confirm that."

During the state's closing arguments, Brown brandished a pry bar identical to the one used in the murder. He swung his arms, demonstrating how Pollard beat or strangled McDaniel to death.

At one point during the description of the struggle, Pollard's mother got up, wiping tears from her eyes, and left. She did not return to court the rest of the day.

Whether McDaniel sexually approached Pollard or not, Brown said, the severe and brutal injuries he endured constituted unreasonable force, not self defense.

Brown described Cook's allegations about McDaniel's intentions as "sickening."

Cook described Cinema X as "seedy" and "filthy" and McDaniel as finding a "window of opportunity" for one last "homoerotic encounter" before the theater could possibly be sold or closed.

That's all speculation, Brown said, and detailed the five elements of first-degree murder the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt: that Pollard struck McDaniel; that McDaniel died as a result of being struck; that Pollard acted with malice aforethought; that Pollard acted willfully, deliberatively, premeditatively and with specific intent to kill (or that Pollard participated in a robbery); and that Pollard was not acting with justification.

"We don't have to disprove Bruce Pollard's story," he said. "That's not part of the elements."

All physical evidence pointed to Pollard as McDaniel's killer, he said, as did his confession to police and to his girlfriend's mother, Dixie Day.

Pollard chose to bring the pry bar with him that night, Brown said, which is evidence of malice and specific intent.

"I'm not saying that he went there with the intention of killing [McDaniel], but he certainly had the intention to kill him once he was there and he did it and he stole the items he went there to steal," Brown said.

Pollard wasn't justified in his actions, he said, due to a number of events from that night: he could have unlocked the front door, he could have simply threatened McDaniel or pushed him away and there is "no evidence" of any kind of sexual assault.

"He beat him and strangled him for minutes," he said. "[McDaniel] did not deserve what happened to him. No one deserves that. He did not deserve to have his head beaten with a crowbar, he did not deserve to be strangled, he did not deserve to be attacked by Bruce Pollard in the theater that day."

There was also evidence showing the robbery happened before the assault, Brown said. No blood was found on the cash box, DVDs, inside the counter or on the magazine racks. If Pollard's story that he strangled McDaniel with his hands was true, Brown said, "then there would be blood on [his hands], which would have transferred to at least one of the items."

He also said Pollard could not be both incapable of forming intent and capable of knowing to act reasonably to recognize imminent danger, refuting the defense's claims that Pollard was suffering from "diminished mental capacity" that made him "blackout" during the confrontation.

One thing both sides did agree on was that Pollard suffered from mental disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and either bipolar or a personality disorder as a result of childhood trauma.

Both Pollard and his sister suffered from sexual abuse at the hands of their biological father, though specific instances of one-on-one sexual abuse between Pollard and his father could not be confirmed, said clinical psychologist Dr. Anna Salter.

But any of those diagnoses do not mean Pollard is insane, Salter said, which means he could not have "blacked out" during the confrontation, as clinical and forensic psychologist Dr. Craig Rypma claimed.

Before Pollard became a suspect, police knew about lewd activity inside and outside Cinema X and they knew McDaniel was discovered with the flies on his pants down, Cook said, so an attempted sexual assault should not have seemed improbable.

And because police did not follow through on this claim of sexual assault, Cook said they exhibited "confirmation bias," meaning they heard Pollard say he killed McDaniel and "disregarded all other evidence that could establish the contrary."

The next step is sentencing. First-degree murder, a Class A felony, holds a sentence of life imprisonment. First-degree robbery, a Class B felony, holds a sentence of 25 years imprisonment.