Johnson jurors dry-fire Grunwald murder weapon
As prosecutors worked to prove intent in Dominic Johnson's murder trial Wednesday, they invited members of the jury to put their hands on the weapon used to kill David Grunwald.
Johnson, 18, is one of four young people accused of murder in the shooting death of 16-year-old Grunwald on Nov. 13, 2016, and the second teen to stand trial in the case. A jury found Erick Almandinger guilty of all counts charged earlier this year.
Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak proposed letting jurors hold the gun Alaska State Troopers believe was used to kill Grunwald and pull its trigger. He said he wanted them to feel the weight of the pistol and understand the amount of pressure necessary to fire the gun.
Defense attorney Lyle Stohler objected to the demonstration, saying he felt it would be inappropriate.
Judge Gregory Heath allowed the DA to proceed with his proposal, but stipulated that any jurors who did not want to participate did not have to.
Jurors also heard, for the first time, an audio recording created when troopers tracked Johnson down at a local Carrs Safeway grocery store. A trooper can be heard confronting Johnson, telling him investigators knew it was his cellphone that had been used to call a cab from the location of Grunwald's torched Ford Bronco, and pleading with him to tell them where Grunwald's body could be found.
During the recording, Johnson, a high-school junior at the time, tells the troopers he hasn't seen Grunwald for as long as two years ago.
"I've literally never spoken one word to him," Johnson can be heard saying.
A trooper is heard telling Johnson, "Dude, you're looking at me straight in my eyes up until you start lying. That's called a tell."
Investigators warned Johnson that they knew more about his involvement than he was aware, and seized his phone as evidence in the murder investigation.
A female juvenile was forced to testify Wednesday. Kalytiak had requested a rare material witness warrant be issued for the teen who did not wish to testify against Johnson.
The same girl testified in Erick Almandinger's trial in May, telling the jury the group of suspects came to her home to party after they allegedly killed Grunwald.
Because she is a juvenile, KTVA cannot disclose her name.
During her testimony Wednesday, prosecutors showed the jury a brief video of the gathering. The video, sent from Johnson to Almandinger, depicts an intoxicated Almandinger who had urinated and vomited on himself.
As he has previously during the trial, Stohler objected to questions about the use of the term "nig" on Wednesday.
The juvenile testified that it was considered a friendly term, and used among all of them to address each other.
Jurors also saw photos of the snow-covered crime scene where Grunwald's body was found.
Kalytiak said if Stohler, who has raised frequent objections throughout the trial, objected to materials depicting the area where the Grunwald was shot, the court could visit the physical location -- judge, jury, Johnson, and all.
Stohler objected to the field-trip idea and Kalytiak decided against it, as the slow-moving trial is expected to enter its fourth week on Monday.
The trial will continue Thursday.
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