By CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The man accused of bludgeoning and choking to death the Cinema X manager is headed to trial.
Bruce Darnell Pollard, 26, was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the death of Cinema X manager Kenneth McDaniel, 70, last year. McDaniel's body was discovered inside the front door of the adult theater the morning of March 13, 2012.
Jury selection will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Pollard's attorneys, Allen Cook and Natasha O'Hollearn, have filed an "affirmative defense." They will plead Pollard was temporarily insane at the time of the murder. An affirmative defense means the circumstances surrounding the murder are not disputed — Pollard confessed to killing McDaniel — but his state of mind is up for debate.
Former Ottumwa Police Chief Jim Clark previously told the Courier that Pollard confessed to entering the theater with a pry bar, striking McDaniel in the head and then choking him. He then allegedly stole cash and pornographic material.
In the most recent hearing on July 10, the court ruled on pending motions filed by the defense and by the state, represented by Assistant Attorney General Scott Brown and Wapello County Attorney Lisa Holl.
Judge Lucy Gamon ruled that character evidence and evidence of "prior bad acts" will be excluded from the trial, with some exceptions.
"The State may introduce evidence concerning an investigation into an incident at a local business which led police to serve a warrant at Amanda Collins' residence," Gamon wrote. "This evidence shall be admitted for the sole purpose of clarifying the starting point of the homicide investigation."
During the execution of that search warrant, police spoke with Collins, Pollard's girlfriend. She said Pollard had come home on March 11, 2012 injured and in different clothes than when he had left the house earlier. Through the ensuing investigation, police found a bloody pry bar and pornographic DVD cases at the Promise Center, 230 E. Main St., one block from the Cinema X Theater. Bloody clothes belonging to Pollard were also discovered at the center.
Clark previously said autopsy results show McDaniel was killed by "blunt force injuries to the head and neck [combined with possible] strangulation."
Law enforcement also reviewed footage from the downtown video cameras of East Main Street outside the theater. The defense stated that a person, later identified as Pollard, entered and exited the theater during the time when the murder was said to have occurred.
While Pollard was also charged in the Sonic restaurant armed robbery on March 12, 2012, Gamon ruled that the exact nature of that investigation won't be specified during the murder trial, nor will his related criminal charges (going armed with intent and first-degree robbery).
Defense attorneys cited a previous court case, State v. Sullivan, to support their argument: "...a defendant must be tried for what he did, not for who he is."
"The fear that the jury will merely think [Pollard] was on some big crime spree at the time of the alleged murder in this case is all too real if the jury hears about [Pollard's] alleged involvement in the Sonic robbery," defense attorneys wrote.
Prosecutors emphasized that evidence from the Sonic robbery will only be used "to show how police developed Pollard as a suspect in the McDaniel homicide. Without this evidence, the jury will be left to wonder why the police began investigating him and may assume something even more prejudicial than the robbery charge.
"...excluding this evidence will increase the likelihood of jury confusion and speculation."
Pollard has also been charged with going armed with intent and two counts of first-degree robbery in the armed robbery of the Jefferson Street BP convenience store two days after McDaniel's murder.
He has remained in Wapello County Jail since his arrest and was on suicide watch following an incident where he jumped from the second-tier catwalk in front of his jail cell.