Statements, cell phone evidence allowed at Johnson's murder trial
Dominic Johnson’s statements to Alaska State Troopers and evidence from his cell phone will be used in his trial for the murder of David Grunwald.
Those were several motions at the center of an evidentiary hearing in August.
Judge Gregory Heath denied the defense’s motion to suppress the seizure of the cell phone and statements Johnson, now 18, made to troopers during their investigation into the disappearance and murder of Grunwald in November 2016.
He will also allow troopers to use cell site evidence during the trial like they did in Erick Almandinger’s murder trial earlier this year.
During Almandinger’s trial, Investigator Nathan Bucknall presented evidence that showed Johnson’s cell phone was in the location where Grunwald was killed off Knik River Road and the site where the burned Bronco was found during the same time the crimes happened.
Almandinger was convicted of all nine charges, including first-degree murder; suspects Austin Barrett and Bradley Renfro are currently awaiting trial too.
Johnson’s attorney, Lyle Stohler, filed a motion to suppress the cell site evidence because there needed to be notice of an expert witness.
State prosecutors responded that Investigator Bucknall is not an expert but rather a "hybrid witness" whose testimony is based upon a "combination of facts the witness has observed" and "the witness’s specialized knowledge or training."
Judge Heath ruled there doesn’t have to be notice given for a “hybrid witness” and that “cell site location information is widely accepted and regularly relied upon in Alaska and throughout the United States.”
He also noted Johnson’s defense attorney has access to Bucknall’s prior testimony and the PowerPoint presentation from Almandinger’s case.
Jury selection in Johnson’s trial is expected to begin at the end of October.
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