Defense rests in Carpenter murder trial
MARQUETTE – Defense attorney Karl Numinen began and ended his defense of Jacques Earl Carpenter for open murder Monday morning.
Carpenter, 53, shot and killed 28-year-old David Scott Meyer Jr. on June 8 of last year at the 409 N. Second St. residence where both men were staying. Carpenter claims he shot Meyer in self-defense after Meyer attacked him with a large hunting knife.
Numinen’s defense largely focused on attempting to establish – using the testimony of Meyer’s ex-girlfriend and mother of his children – that Meyer had a history of erratic and threatening behavior. Numinen also tried to impeach the testimony of Justin Saari – the sole witness to what happened the day Meyer was killed – by calling to the stand a detective trooper from the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team as well as Saari’s own mother and sister.
Michael Rowe, a detective trooper for the Michigan State Police and expert on clandestine methamphetamine laboratories for UPSET, was the first to take the stand Monday. Numinen asked Rowe about the two occasions that he interviewed Saari in January of this year regarding the manufacture of meth. Saari pleaded guilty in federal court earlier this year to conspiracy to manufacture methamphetamine. Numinen established that Rowe was properly qualified to testify as to some of the ingredients that can be used in the cooking of meth, then asked Rowe whether bleach was one such ingredient. Officers on the scene of the shooting previously testified to an “overwhelming” smell of bleach in Carpenter’s home, and the forensic team found a bottle of bleach with blood on it at the scene as well as a flannel shirt with a sleeve soaked in bleach. Rowe said that bleach potentially may be used, but that he personally wasn’t aware of any method that included it.
Numinen additionally focused on whether Rowe considered Saari to be a meth cook – Rowe said that while Saari was “involved” with cooking meth approximately 12 times, he didn’t consider him to be an actual cook – and emphasized that Saari’s cooperation and testimony in Carpenter’s trial would be considered in his federal sentence.
Numinen next called Kristen Leach, Meyer’s ex-girlfriend, with whom Meyer has 3- and 2-year-old children. Numinen asked her about the three personal protection orders she’d filed against Meyer, including the one in effect the day Meyer was killed. He asked Leach whether Meyer was an angry or violent person.
“Every once in a while he could lose his temper,” Leach said. She called him “threatening” but said he was not very physical.
“Yet three times in the three years that you were together, you sought court orders to keep him away from you, correct?” Numinen said.
“Yes,” Leach said.
“Three times that you did this, you told the court you were afraid for your life.”
“Yes,” she said.
Numinen, reading from one of the PPOs, said that one time he was holding a “buck knife” and threatened to “gut” himself and Leach.
On cross-examination, Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Wiese asked Leach about the last time she saw Meyer, the day before he was killed. Leach said she picked up Meyer from the Second Street house and that at some point later in the evening Meyer and Carpenter showed her Carpenter’s gun, which Meyer said Carpenter had “just gotten back” from the police. Leach said Meyer and Carpenter took turns holding the weapon and Meyer asked her if she wanted to hold it. She said no.
Leach’s mother, Glenda, took the stand after her daughter and also testified to Meyer’s “inconsistent, erratic and confrontational behavior.”
“He was a kind and loving father,” she said, “but he could be unpredictable.”
She said that while she never witnessed any violence, Meyer had “a tendency to run his mouth,” and would say things about hurting people “as a child would say it.”
Carol Bunce and Jessica Saari, Justin Saari’s mother and sister, also took the stand to testify about Justin’s credibility as a witness. Bunce and Saari both said that Justin was a drug addict, and as such would do and say whatever he could to get drugs.
However, Bunce defended her son’s statements to police after Meyer was shot. In video from Marquette County Sheriff’s Deputy Betsy Rochon’s vid/mic – a radio which doubles as a video camera – Saari can be heard talking excitedly about a knife. Saari admitted under cross-examination last week that he had lied to almost everyone during the course of the investigation.
“I think he was in shock too,” Bunce said.
Justin’s sister Jessica also testified to Justin’s dishonesty when he was using drugs, tearing up toward the end of Numinen’s questions.
Wiese offered Jessica Saari his sympathy when he cross-examined her, and asked her if most of Justin’s lies had to do with his addiction and drug use. She said yes.
“When Justin was sober, he was fairly truthful,” she said.
“When he’s high, he lies,” Wiese said.
“Yes,” she said.
The closing statements from both the prosecution and defense are scheduled for this morning, as well as the judge’s instructions to the jury. The jury is expected to begin its deliberations this afternoon.
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.