Lawyer attacks credibility of murder case witness
The key witness in Charles “Chuck” James Smith’s murder trial can’t be believed on a wide range of issues, and Smith should be acquitted, his lawyer argued Wednesday in Nevada County Superior Court, where jurors began their deliberations.
Too many things the witness, Martin Daugherty, told investigators and lawyers don’t add up, and he gave different versions of the same events, defense lawyer Monica Lynch told the jury of nine woman and three men.
Daugherty, who has congestive heart failure, testified in front of a video camera last spring because of his health problems, and he swore to tell the truth.
“Yet having taken that oath, he made a conscious decision to commit perjury – the ‘P’ word, the perjury word,” Lynch said.
In her rebuttal, Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Kull countered that although Daugherty made mistakes, his statements corroborated other evidence.
Smith, 40, is accused of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend, 41 year-old Julie Biswell, in her Smartville-area trailer on Feb. 16. Smith is charged with murder, criminal threats, discharging a firearm and three counts of assault involving a handgun, shotgun and knife.
Biswell was Daugherty’s live-in caregiver, and Smith lived in a nearby cabin on Daugherty’s property.
Kull argued Tuesday that Smith, spurned while trying to have sex with Biswell in his cabin, later burst into her locked trailer, and taunted and tortured Biswell before twice stabbing her in the chest.
But, Lynch said, that’s not the way it happened. Biswell was the aggressor, she tried forcing sex on Smith, and in the minutes before she died, she was holding a gun, leading Smith to act in self-defense.
And, Lynch said, forensic evidence supports a scenario that Biswell walked into the knife while backing Smith into a corner in the trailer.
On Daugherty, Lynch noted how he gave four stories about his .44 Magnum revolver, and that he didn’t initially mention the gun was fired in his trailer. He later said the gun was Smith’s, before confessing the gun was his and that it might be stolen.
Daugherty often gave two versions of events that were polar opposites, Lynch said, and if his version of small events can’t be believed, the same should apply to larger issues.
“That testimony is garbage, and it belongs in the trash,” Lynch said after dropping Daugherty’s transcript into a waste bucket.
While Lynch urged jurors to acquit Smith, she suggested they also consider an involuntary manslaughter conviction.
Because Smith was drunk, possibly with a .30 blood-alcohol level at the time of Biswell’s death, he lacked an intent to kill and the premeditation necessary for a first- or second-degree murder conviction.
“What’s important is what was in his mind,” she said, suggesting at the very least he perceived a need to act in self-defense.
Kull, in response, scoffed at the notion Biswell walked into the knife, which pierced her heart.
“I mean, come on!” she said. “No matter what, it took significant force. She didn’t walk into that thing.”
Too much evidence, she said – from a Biswell 911 call to a taped jail phone call by Smith – paints Smith as the aggressor.
“You can’t start this and then claim self-defense,” Kull said. “It doesn’t work that way.”
As he has throughout the trial, which started with jury selection Oct. 29, Smith showed little reaction. Biswell’s parents and other family members have also attended.
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