The Ottumwa Courier

January 23, 2014

Closing arguments made

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — If the jurors missed something in this trial, the “summations” of the closing arguments could at least fill them in on what each side wants them to believe.

Robert Eugene Pilcher is on trial for the murder of Mary Jayne Jones, 17, in 1974.

For its closing argument in the trial Thursday, the defense offered a rebuttal of the state's closing argument.

"What the state is doing here, they are laying guess upon guess," said Allen Cook, the defense attorney.

But he doesn't refute Assistant Attorney General Denise Timmin's contention that Jones was shot. Nor that she died as a result of being shot, the first two findings necessary to convict this defendant of murder. He doesn't even argue, he said, against Timmin's closing statement saying the act was murder. He told the jury that it's clear there was a murder.

Not only that, he said, but it was certainly a first-degree murder. A brutal murder.

None of that has anything to do with his client, he said. And the prosecution has not shown any evidence that Pilcher committed the crime.

He could get into the farmhouse where the murder was committed? So could lots of people. There was a loaded gun at the farm, so Pilcher would have access to it? So would anyone.

But it was the new evidence, the DNA evidence, which reopened this cold case over the past five years.

DNA that shows what? asked Cook. That Pilcher had been to his cousin's house in the past? They already knew that; that he'd had sex on the bed? They knew that, too. His DNA on the blanket in multiple locations doesn't prove otherwise, but it doesn't prove murder, or even sex with the victim. The prosecutor's own evidence, Cook reminded jurors, shows there was DNA on that blanket from several males, including the homeowner, the defendant — and an unknown male contributor.

"Just so we're clear," said Cook. "An unknown male had sex on that bed."

The state implies, argued Cook, that the DNA was not even the most important part of their case.

"In 1974, they didn't even have enough evidence for probable cause to arrest my client," he said.

Closing arguments continue at 1 p.m. Thursday.

— News reporter Mark Newman is on Twitter @couriermark