The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

January 23, 2014

Attorneys: Use common sense

OTTUMWA — If the jurors missed something in this trial, the closing arguments could at least fill them in on what each side wants them to believe. They began their deliberations late Thursday afternoon.

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 lead defense attorney.

What he doesn't refute is Assistant Attorney General Denise Timmins' contention that Jones was shot. Nor that she died as a result of being shot, the first two findings necessary to convict Pilcher of murder. He doesn't even argue, he said, against Timmin's closing statement saying the act was murder.

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

None of that has anything to do with his client, he said, because the state has not shown any evidence that Pilcher committed the crime. But why, asked Cook, do a state attorney and witness need to mention Pilcher was found in a men's shelter in 2012? Is it the need to have someone found guilty of this crime and it might be easier to convict a homeless guy no one cares about?

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

The new evidence, the DNA evidence, 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 murder or even that he had 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, a visitor and the defendant — plus an "unknown male contributor," according to a report.

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