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Day 7: Michael Palmer Trial

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The trial of a Marion County man accused of murder continues in Harrison County.

Michael Palmer and his wife Kristyn are accused of shooting and killing her father, Ed Wilson, in 2011.  Testimony began Tuesday morning with four witnesses from the West Virginia State Police Forensics Lab.

Kent Cochran was the first of the four called to the stand by Marion County Prosecutor Pat Wilson.

Cochran told the jury he specializes in the examination of firearms and tool markings. He said he received several pieces on evidence from the Marion County Sheriff's Department on January 5, 2012. The items included an AK-47 pistol, one fired bullet, and two fired cartridges.

Cochran told the jury that on January 20, 2012, he received a second box of evidence. This included another fired bullet, two gun shot residue kits, and a sealed envelope containing fibers.

He told the jury he was asked to compare two fired bullets and two cartridges to the murder weapon, an AK-47. He was also asked to see if the pistol was changed in any way.

He talked to the jury about the process of test fires and comparing the markings to make a determination. Cochran said firearms will create unique defects to a bullet once it is shot. If a pattern is present, they can compare them and make a determination.

Cochran told the jury his findings showed the fired cartridges belonged to the AK-47. Also, the fired bullet from the January 5 evidence box had similar class characteristics and patterns. He said there was additional damage to that bullet.

Pat Wilson presented the damaged countertop from the Palmer household and asked if it could be the cause of the damage. Cochran responded, "Any type of hard material the bullet strikes could cause the damage."

Cochran told the jury he did not examine the gun residue kits or the envelope with the fibers from the January 20 evidence box. He said he did test the second fired bullet. He compared it to the test fires and determined it did not come from the AK-47.

During cross-examination, Defense Attorney Sean Murphy asked Cochran in depth questions about his training in tool markings. He asked about the forensic lab's policy on chain of custody as well if he would be able to investigate the damage to a latch on the door.

Nicole Macewan, West Virginia State Police forensic analyst, was the next expert to be called to the stand. Macewan told the jury she specializes in gunshot residue.

Gunshot residue is the result of a weapon being fired, according to Macewan.

She said her supervisor, Koren Powers, was the one to test the brass knuckles found in Ed Wilson's hand for gunshot residue. Powers was unable to testify for medical reasons.

Macewan told the jury she worked with Powers on the report. She said no gunpowder residue was found on the brass knuckles, but it could be easily removed so it didn't surprise her that it wasn't present.

Powers and Macewan also tested two gunpowder residue kits. Residue was found on the pieces of evidence labeled as Michael Palmer's left and right hand. The one for his face was negative.

Macewan told the jury that lab procedures do not require them to test gunpowder residue on a victim.

During cross-examination, Murphy asked Macewan why she didn't examine Ed Wilson's gunpowder residue kit. She again explained it wasn't necessary and that the gunshot wound on his body proves that it was already there.

Macewan said the gunpowder residue cannot determine if Palmer actually shot the gun.

Tara Hayslip was the next expert to take the stand. She told the jury she specializes in fingerprints at the West Virginia State Police Forensics Lab.

Hayslip said she received the brass knuckles from Ed Wilson's hand to examine on April 24, 2012. This was four months after the shooting. She told the jury she gave them a visual exam, then a chemical process exam to check for latent fingerprints.

She said her results state no latent fingerprints were on the brass knuckles.

During cross-examination, she told the jury its not unusual that latent prints disappear from objects.

Murphy asked her if authorities asked her to get fingerprints off of anything but the brass knuckles. She replied, 'no'.

David Miller was the last expert to take the stand. He told the jury he swabbed the fired bullet for DNA and preserved fibers for future evidence.

He told defense attorney Sean Murphy that he submitted a letter to the Marion County Sheriff's Department asking for DNA samples of all involved parties if they wanted it tested. He doesn't believe he got a response.

Last on the stand Tuesday afternoon was Danielle Saunders. She lives in the yellow house located right next to the Palmer residence in Baxter.

She told the jury she was sleeping when Ed Wilson was shot and was woken up by her fiancé, A.J. Tichenor.

She told the jury her initial thought by all of the police was that Ed Wilson was getting arrested for a DUI.

She said she looked out her window and saw Ed Wilson's truck parked sideways, his door was open, and headlights were on. She said she heard Kristyn Palmer screaming out front for her dog and noticed Palmer by his truck in one instance and the porch in another.

She said she told police that night that she didn't see of hear the gun shot.

During cross examination, Murphy brought up her statement from the night of the shooting. In the statement, Saunders said she heard her dog barking outside but not the gun shot.

Murphy also pointed out that she didn't say anything about both Palmers whereabouts. Saunders said the reasons for that was because the police didn't ask her about it.

When Murphy asked her if she had interaction with the police before, she told him about a previous charge that was dismissed.

Murphy also asked Saunders about a previous incident between A.J. Tichenor and Ed Wilson over a guitar. She told the jury it was taken care of the next day and didn't know anything else about it.

Murphy also brought up a check that was cashed from Ed Wilson's bank account in July 2010 in the amount of $800. Murphy asked Saunders if she filled out the check and Ed Wilson signed it, to which she replied yes.

Testimony will continue on Wednesday morning.

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