The Ottumwa Courier

November 12, 2013

Defense continues case at Techel trial

Courier staff writer

---- — MT. PLEASANT — Court resumed Tuesday at the Seth Techel murder trial after a day off for Veterans Day on Monday.

The defense council continued their case by calling John C. Cayton from the Access Forensics Laboratory in Cameron, Mo.

Cayton is an expert on forensics with decades of experience examining crime scenes and items of evidence, including firearms. He reviewed evidence from the crime scene, and, according to him, received two CD’s with various reports and photographs from the scene, Lisa Techel’s autopsy and the murder weapon.

Defense attorney Steve Gardner questioned Cayton about the murder weapon and had him describe the shotgun to the jury. Gardner then moved on to gunshot residue testing, which was not performed on Techel or Brian Tate, Techel’s neighbor, who the defense thinks is a better suspect in the case.

Gardner asked Cayton what his opinion was on whether gunshot residue tests should have been performed on Techel, to which Cayton replied, “I believe it should have been done.”

The cross examination from prosecutor Andy Prosser focused around whether or not the evidence Cayton analyzed could have determined where Techel was at the time of his wife’s death. Cayton replied with a simple, “No.”

Prosser also made mention to the fact that examiners who collect gunshot residue tests routinely include in their reports that the tests do not conclude whether the subject is or is not the killer. Cayton agreed that the tests cannot prove a person was the one doing the killing only based on having gunshot residue on their hands or clothes.

After Cayton’s testimony, Prosser and Gardner held a brief meeting at the judge’s bench. Judge Daniel Wilson then sent the jury on recess because the prosecution had problems with the next witness.

Prosser urged that the testimony by the next witness be held in private, with just the councils and Wilson present, due to the fact that medical records of the deceased Brian Tate were going to be used by the defense.

Tate passed away at his home on Sept. 30, 2012. His medical records, according to Prosser, have not been released by his estate, so they are still confidential and should not be allowed to be made public. However, continuing in private would violate Techel’s right to a public trial, Gardner said.

Both councils and Wilson entered the judge’s chambers for more than an hour to discuss Tate’s medical records. After their meeting, the judge brought out the jury, and the defense called their next witness, Dr. James Trahan of the Mary Greeley Medical Center in Ames.

Trahan is a psychiatrist, and he conducted an assessment on Tate when he was admitted to the medical center on Sept. 13 until Sept. 21. Trahan observed at that time that Tate was “a rather disheveled man,” and he would pace back-and-forth and barely talk when he first arrived.

Tate had been admitted to hospitals many times throughout his life, according to Trahan, and had many symptoms of being bipolar and schizophrenic. He was on an anti-depressant medication, which could have affected his manic state because anti-depressants can lead to an activation of mania while not treating his bipolar disorder. When asked whether he found Tate to be mentally ill at the time of his stay, Trahan stated, “Yes.”

Prosser’s cross examination centered around the fact that although Tate was admitted into the medical center in September 2012, that had no inclination that his mental state was poor in May, when Lisa Techel was killed. His mental state was like a rollercoaster and could have varied day-to-day, let alone month-to-month, it was explained.

When Prosser asked if, based on Trahan’s observations in September, what could he say about Tate’s mental state in May, Trahan answered with, “Nothing at all.”

The trial will resume today at 1:15 p.m.

— To see reporter Josh Vardaman's Twitter feed, go to @CourierJosh