Murder trial: Eyewitness admits to changing story
By JACKIE STARK
Journal Staff Writer
MARQUETTE – “I just told you what you wanted to hear,” said Justin Saari as he leaned into the microphone on the witness stand, his shoulders slumped, hair hanging around his face.
Saari used that exact phrase on at least three occasions as Karl Numinen – defense attorney for Jacques Earl Carpenter – cross-examined him in Marquette County Circuit Court Thursday afternoon.
Carpenter, 53, is accused of open murder in the June 8, 2012, shooting death of 29-year-old David Scott Meyer Jr. Carpenter has asserted he shot Meyer in self-defense after Meyer attacked him with a large hunting knife.
Saari is the only eyewitness to what occured that deadly day inside the home Carpenter shared with Meyer at 409 N. Second Street in Ishpeming.
Numinen alleged that during a Tuesday interview, Saari told a very different story of events surrounding the fatal shooting than he told the jury Thursday.
Saari testified he lied to Numinen, had been lying to almost everyone during the course of the investigation, but said he was telling the truth in court Thursday.
Called to the stand by Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Wiese, Saari was dressed in an orange and white-striped jail uniform, having been transferred from federal prison to Marquette County Jail to testify.
Saari pleaded guity earlier this year in federal court to one count of conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine.
In what appeared to be a surprise even to Saari, Numinen pointed out to the jury that Saari’s sentencing in federal court was delayed so Saari could testify in Carpenter’s trial.
Reading through a document prepared by federal prosecutors, Numinen showed Saari where it said his testimony would be considered during his federal sentencing.
Saari, looking genuinely surprised, testified he had never seen that document before.
During direct examination, Wiese established that Saari was present when Meyer was shot and that he had been seated in a chair at the time of the shooting.
Saari said the morning began with a “couple Ritalin” he and Meyer took intravenously. Saari said he drove Meyer and Carpenter to a couple of retail stores, where Meyer and Saari bought components to make methamphetamine.
Saari testified Carpenter also bought at least one component for the meth cook – batteries.
According to Saari, Carpenter and Meyer got into a shoving match outside the home and continued arguing inside the house, though he said he couldn’t remember what the argument was about.
“I didn’t think it would go as far as it did,” Saari said.
Saari testified Meyer was seated in a chair opposite Carpenter, still arguing, and had yelled at Carpenter, “Just (expletive) shoot me, shoot me” once Carpenter produced a gun.
Saari said Carpenter then approached Meyer, gun drawn, and shot him through his mouth.
Saari told Wiese he never saw a knife, but did notice a knife sheath on the ground, which he testified had been “placed” there by Carpenter.
Saari testified he checked Meyer for a pulse immediately after the shooting, but found none.
“I felt his pulse,” Saari said. “I knew he was dead.”
Saari also said he took Xanax, which he said belonged to Carpenter, right after the shooting because he was “freaking out.”
Saari said Carpenter asked him for help disposing of Meyer’s body.
Saari said he agreed to help, but asked Carpenter for $20 to pay for gas, adding if he was going to transport Meyer somewhere remote, he would need more fuel.
Saari testified Carpenter gave him the money, at which time Saari left, heading over to his girlfriend’s home.
Saari said upon leaving the house, Meyer’s body was still slumped in the chair he had been sitting in before being shot .
Photographs from the scene entered into evidence show Meyer’s body laying face down on the floor, his arms splayed out to his sides.
From there, Saari said he went directly to the Ishpeming City Police station, where he encountered Marquette County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Betsy Rochon.
Saari also testified he could smell alcohol on Carpenter’s breath that day.
However, under cross-examination, what exactly occurred at the time of the shooting came under question.
Numinen alleged Saari changed the story he offered during his district court testimony – that Carpenter had put the gun in Meyer’s mouth before pulling the trigger – after he was told the medical evidence proved that couldn’t be true.
Saari quietly agreed.
Saari also admitted to Numinen he had lied in virtually every interview about Meyer’s death up until Thursday, including his Tuesday interview with Numinen and during his sworn district court testimony, though he did say he was telling the truth Thursday.
“The fact of the matter is that right now, you would say or do anything that you could to get yourself out of a few more years of prison, correct,?” Numinen asked.
Saari denied the accusation.
“No, because this is going to follow me and I’m gonna get probably killed anyway because of what I’m doing right now, so it doesn’t matter, ’cause I’m gonna die in here,” Saari said. “So, I’m gonna go out dying, knowing I told the truth and God knows the truth.”
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is email@example.com.