Gerlach Trial Day 3: Opening Statements - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Gerlach Trial Day 3: Opening Statements

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GERLACH TRIAL: DAY 3:

Wednesday launched the third day of the Gerlach trial. Right before opening statements began, Judge Plese reached a decision on which photos of Brendan Kaluza-Graham could be used and said both his "mugshot" style photo and "portrait" style could be admitted. Opening statements began just after 10am and immediately following the opening statements, the State called Officer Tyler Cordis to the stand as their first witness. Cordis was the first officer to respond to the scene.

In the opening statements the prosecution said "Kaluza-Graham made a reckless decision, one that would cost him his life." They went on to describe the series of events from that day:
  • Gerlach fired a single shot that killed Kaluza-Graham almost instantly as the bullet went into his head and severed his spinal cord.
  • The SUV Kaluza-Graham was driving, crashed into the garage so hard it totaled both vehicles inside.
  • Gerlach immediately called 911 and told them his car was stolen.
  • Gerlach didn't tell the 911 operator his life was in danger, he said, "I took a shot at him."
  • The police arrived very quickly to the two scenes: one where the SUV had crashed and the second at Gerlach's home.
  • Gerlach wasn't able to tell the 911 operator anything about the person inside his SUV.
  • The prosecutor said, "He got a one in a million shot," but before he fired, but before he fired, he had time to run into the driveway, nearly into the street to fire.
  • "The shooting described by Gerlach could not have happened the way he described...You'll conclude Gerlach was at least negligent and more appropriately was criminally reckless when he did that."

The defense then began their opening argument addressing the "sight of fear" that Gerlach experienced and promising the court they would hear from Gerlach himself as to exactly what he did that day.

  • The defense said Gerlach doesn't usually leave his car warming up unattended, but he did on that day.
  • When he saw his car was being stolen, Gerlach didn't have his hands near his pistol, his hands were raised telling the driver to stop and Kaluza-Graham's eyes were tracking him.
  • Gerlach was concerned for his own life and his wife's who was also outside.
  • "This case is not about protecting property, this case is about self defense" and evidence will support this. "His actions were proper that day."
  • "law enforcement did not do a thorough investigation of this case or a reconstruction of the scene."
  • "That Monday morning, Gerlach saw a pair of eyes looking in his car. He doesn't see details of the face, he sees a pair of eyes, time is frozen."
  • Gerlach sees something that scares him. He sees an arm out the window, Gerlach fired once, he didn't care about the SUV, only his life.
  • He had no motivation to use use deadly force to protect his property. He was out to protect his own life and that of his wife.
  • "His actions that morning were reasonable, they were not reckless."
  • "This case will come down to the believability of Gail Gerlach," the bullet discharged at an angle in response to the threat.
  • "The evidence will show Gerlach was not reckless and not criminally negligent, he did not do anything wrong."
  • "The evidence will show Gerlach is the victim in this case, not the criminal."

The opening arguments concluded and the State called Officer Tyler Cordis to the stand as their first witness. Before any questions were asked, the prosecutor introduced the 911 tape of Gerlach on the phone with the 911 operator for all to hear.

Gerlach could be heard talking to his wife, "Honey, will you listen to me for a second? I took a shot at the guy."

The 911 operator replied, "Do you know if the guy was hit?"

Gerlach replied, "I don't know...He scared the s*** out of me."

Once the 911 tape was finished, Officer Tyler Cordis then began to answer questions from the prosecution. As he was the first to arrive on scene he described what he saw that day saying it looked like a car had crashed into a garage and he saw a male standing in the driveway of Gerlach's home.

Officer Cordis said Gerlach was pacing back and forth, visibly upset, making nervous hand gestures. Gerlach told Officer Cordis that his car was warming up and he had gone inside to check on his wife. When he came out, he saw his SUV backing out of the driveway, heading South away from him.

Officer Cordis said Gerlach started chasing after the vehicle, yelling at him to stop. He didn't recall Gerlach saying anything about a pair of eyes tracking him. Gerlach told Officer Cordis he then thought he saw the man raise something up and he was afraid it was a gun so he took out his gun and shot one time.

Officer Cordis said the statements Gerlach made sounded like he didn't know if he had done the right thing and that he hoped the person was okay.

A diagram of the area was shown to describe the scene and how the events occurred. Gerlach's gun holster was also shown as well as one of the rounds from Gerlach's home.

Officer Cordis said one unspent round and one shell casing were found and Gerlach agreed and cooperated with police when asked to go down to the station. 

During the cross examination, the defense asked about Gerlach's behavior and Officer Cordis said he did not seem confused. Officer Cordis also said that his initial cnoversation with Gerlach was about 3-5 minutes long.

Real Time Tweets From KHQ's Kelsey Watts:

@GerlachTrial 12:03pm: Defense rests cross examination. Witnesses excused for now. Court breaking for lunch

@GerlachTrial 11:58am: Officer Cordis showing the diagram of the scene to the jury again, showing where Gerlach was when he fired.

@GerlachTrial 11:55am: Defense asking Cordis about length of initial conversation with Gerlach, describes it as 3-5 minutes.

@GerlachTrial 11:53am: Defense asking about Gerlach's behavior, Cordis said Gerlach did not seem confused, asking about initial statement of what happened

@GerlachTrial 11:51am: Defense now cross-examining Officer Cordis

@GerlachTrial 11:48am: Prosecutor now using photos from the scene showing traffic cones placed over evidence by police #GerlachTrial

@GerlachTrial 11:45am: Officer Cordis: found one unspent round and one shell casing at the scene, Gerlach agreed to come down to the detective station.

@GerlachTrial  11:41am: Officer Cordis showing jury one of the rounds recovered from Gerlach's home (see photos)

@GerlachTrial 11:38am: Officer Cordis showing jury the gun holster recovered from scene (see photos)

@GerlachTrial 11:34am: Officer Cordis on the stand reviewing a package from the police property room during testimony in #GerlachTrial (see photos)

@GerlachTrial 11:31am: Officer Cordis: inside Gerlach's home there were bullet rounds and a holster on the table where he had put the gun down.

@GerlachTrial 11:28am: Officer Cordis: Sharon Gerlach was not there, he didn't see her at the address all morning.

@GerlachTrial 11:26am: Officer Cordis is pointing out a diagram of the area, showing Gerlach's house in relation to where he fired and where the SUV came to rest.

@GerlachTrial 11:17am: Officer Cordis: Gerlach made statements like he didn't know if he did the right thing, hoped the other person was okay.

@GerlachTrial 11:14am: Officer Cordis: Gerlach said there were adults & kids inside his home, was not hesitant in speaking with him, other officers began to arrive

@GerlachTrial 11:13am: Officer Cordis: Gerlach did not say anything abut racking the gun back to prepare to fire.

@GerlachTrial 11:11am: Officer Cordis: "Gerlach said he saw the man raise something up, he thought it was a gun so he took out his gun and shot one time."

@GerlachTrial 11:10am: Officer Cordis: Gerlach said he started chasing after vehicle yelling at him to stop, said nothing about a pair of eyes tracking him.

@GerlachTrial 11:09am: Officer Cordis: Gerlach said his car was warming up, went in to check on wife, came out and saw SUV backing out heading south away from him

@GerlachTrial 11:07am: Prosecutor: did you know there had been a fatality at this point? Cordis: no.

@GerlachTrial 11:06am: Officer Cordis: Gerlach was pacing back and forth, visibly upset, making nervous hand gestures.

@GerlachTrial 11:04am: Officer Cordis: It looked like there was a car crashed into a garage, I saw one male in the driveway of the address (ID'd as Gerlach)

@GerlachTrial 11:03am: Gerlach: "the police are down there by where the car is." 911 operator: "okay I'm going to let you go then okay?"

@GerlachTrial 11:01am: 911 operator: "do you know if the guy was hit?" Gerlach: "I don't know... He scared the s*** out of me."

@GerlachTrial 10:57am: 911 tape: "Honey will you listen to me for a second? I took a shot at the guy."

@GerlachTrial  10:54am: Prosecutor now about to introduce 911 tape with Officer Cordis on the stand.

@GerlachTrial 10:50am: Straight from opening arguments into State calling first witness: Officer Tyler Cordis, the first officer who responded to the scene

@GerlachTrial 10:49am: Defense: "The evidence will show Gerlach is the victim in this case, not the criminal."

@GerlachTrial 10:48am: Defense: "The evidence will show Gerlach was not reckless and not criminally negligent, he did not do anything wrong."

@GerlachTrial 10:46am: Defense: "this case will come down to the believability of Gail Gerlach," the bullet discharged at an angle in response to threat.

@GerlachTrial 10:45am: Defense: "His actions that morning were reasonable, they were not reckless." #GerlachTrial

@GerlachTrial 10:41am: Defense: he had no motivation to use deadly force to protect property, he was out to protect his own life and that of his wife.

@GerlachTrial 10:38am: Defense: Gerlach sees something that scares him, he sees an arm out the window, Gerlach fired once, he didn't care about SUV, only his life

@GerlachTrial 10:35am: Defense: "that Monday morning Gerlach sees a pair of eyes looking in, he doesn't see details of face, he sees a pair of eyes, time is frozen"

@GerlachTrial 10:43am: Defense: "law enforcement did not do a thorough investigation of this case or a reconstruction of the scene."

@GerlachTrial 10:41am: Defense: "this case is about self defense," evidence will support this. "His actions were proper that day."

@GerlachTrial 10:39am: Defense: Gerlach was concerned for his own life and his wife's who was also outside, "case is not about protecting property."

@GerlachTrial 10:36am: Defense: Gerlach doesn't have his hands near his pistol, his hands are raised telling driver to stop, eyes are still tracking him

@GerlachTrial 10:34am: Defense: Gerlach doesn't usually leave car warming up unattended but he did that day.

@GerlachTrial 10:34am: Defense: "you'll hear from Gail Gerlach, he'll describe to you what he was doing that day."

@GerlachTrial 10:33am: Defense starting opening argument now talking about "sight of fear."

@GerlachTrial 10:32am: Prosecutor: "You'll conclude Gerlach was at least negligent and more appropriately was criminally reckless when he did that."

@GerlachTrial 10:29am: Prosecutor: "the shooting described by Gerlach could not have happened the way he described."

@GerlachTrial 10:29am: Prosecutor: "he got a 1 in a million shot," but before he fired he had time to run into driveway, nearly into the street to fire.

@GerlachTrial 10:28am: Prosecutor: Gerlach wasn't able to tell 911 operator anything about person inside his SUV

@GerlachTrial 10:26am: Prosecutor: police arrived very quickly, two scenes: one where SUV crashed second at Gerlach's home.

@GerlachTrial 10:26am: Prosecutor: Gerlach didn't tell 911 operator his life was in danger, he said "I took a shot at him."

@GerlachTrial 10:25am: Prosecutor: SUV crashed into garage so hard it totaled both vehicles inside, Gerlach immediately called 911, told them his car was stolen

@GerlachTrial 10:24am: Prosecutor: Gerlach fired a single shot that killed Kaluza-Graham almost instantly, bullet went into his head, severed his spinal cord.

@GerlachTrial 10:22am: Prosecutor: "Kaluza-Graham made a reckless decision, one that would cost him his life."

@GerlachTrial 10:21am: Opening statements underway.

@GerlachTrial 10:05am: State wants to play 911 tape through Officer Cordes' testimony, plans to provide transcript for jurors.

@GerlachTrial 10:02am: Discussing continues as to which photo of Kaluza-Graham to use. Judge says both "mugshot" style photo and "portrait" style may be admitted

GERLACH TRIAL: DAY 2

Judge Plese announced Tuesday afternoon that a jury has been selected in the Gail Gerlach case. 

Jury selection picked back up where it left off on Monday as roughly 60 potential jurors who made it through day 1 were questioned as a full panel in the courtroom. Judge Plese asked the potential juror pool if any of them knew Gail Gerlach, or had any sort of ties to law enforcement, jail or the court system. The judge also asked if anyone had a problem with the two week time commitment, or would be unable to be fair or impartial. 

After Judge Plese's questions, the prosecution took their turn at the pool of potentials, asking a multitude of questions including if they liked old westerns and if they had any sympathy or empathy.

Prosecutors also asked the candidates about property crime in Spokane, and if they found it frustrating that people can steal "what's yours and not get caught."

One juror told prosecutors, "property crimes trigger strong feelings in me. I've been a victim. I really dislike people who take property."

Another juror when asked about property crimes said, "I don't like thieves. I've been car prowled. My business was burglarized, but anger and vengeance are no basis."

The prosecution then asked about self-defense and if there should be a limit placed on self-defense. One juror replied, "if your life is in danger you should be able to protect yourself."

Another potential juror said, "sometimes when you perceive you're under a threat, who knows what you would do?"

The defense then had their turn at questioning the jurors. Among the topics discussed were whether or not they followed the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman trial and if so, how they felt about it. The defense also asked if any of the jurors thought killing someone was ever justified under any circumstances. 

After a short recess, all potential jurors were brought back into the courtroom as the lawyers made their selections. 

12 jurors and 2 alternates were selected and KHQ's Kelsey Watts says the jury is overwhelmingly women. Only one man is on the panel of 14 jurors. 

The judge thanked the jury for their willingness to serve, and they were then sworn in. 

Following the jurors being sworn in, the Judge heard from both sides on whether or not Brendon Kaluza-Graham's criminal history should be included in the trial. The defense argued that it should be allowed, while the prosecution said it is not relevant. In the end, Judge Plese agreed with the prosecution and said she will not allow Kaluza-Graham's criminal history to be brought up. 

"I don't think it's relevant unless Gerlach knew him. It would be prejudicial," Judge Plese said.

Other motions discussed on Tuesday included autopsy photos and the use of "in-life" photos of Kaluza-Graham. Judge Plese said she would allow autopsy photos to help the medical examiner explain their testimony, and one "in-life" photo of Kaluza-Graham will be allowed, although it has not been determined which one will be used. 

The Defense argued they should be allowed to take the jury to the scene of the crime to help them gain perspective on the case, while the Prosecution said too much has changed and the perspective would be different. No decision was made by Judge Plese on the motion. 

Opening statements will be made Wednesday morning beginning at 9:00am. 
 
KHQ's Kelsey Watts will be following this story from start to finish, and you can follow along with her in real time on Twitter, just search for @GerlachTrial.

We of course will continue to update you on a day-to-day basis right here on khq.com and in our all of our newscasts.  
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