2.19.2009

TS - Witness testimony concludes in 1998 murder trial

☛ TS Witness testimony concludes in 1998 murder trial 2/19/09

Gunshot residue was found on the hand of the victim in a decade-old murder case, according to the sole witness for the defense who testified Wednesday.

Criminologist Steven Dowell of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office testified about four samples taken from the hands of murder victim Ryan Matthew Dunn, an 18-year-old Eureka man killed on Jan. 4, 1998. Dowell said the samples do not necessarily show that Dunn had fired a gun.

Defendant Yohan Lopez is charged with first-degree murder for his alleged role in Dunn's death. The samples were sent to Los Angeles for testing in December 2007, a month after Yohan Lopez was returned to Humboldt County after being picked up on DUI charges in Stanislaus County.

Yohan Lopez' brother, Santiago Lopez, was caught within weeks of the shooting and sentenced to two years in prison for being an accessory to murder.

Their cousin and the third suspect in the murder, Efren Delgadillo, is believed to have died in a car fire in Mexico several years ago. Defense attorney Jonathan McCrone maintains that Delgadillo was the shooter and leader of the group.

Dowell testified that he found six particles consistent with gunshot residue, or GSR, on Dunn's left hand. No residue was found on Dunn's dominant right hand, which was in a cast at the time of his death.

Dowell laid out three scenarios that may have caused the residue to be disseminated on Dunn's hand. Dowell said residue can be transferred by discharging a firearm, being present in an environment that contained GSR, or having a hobby or occupation working with the particles consistent with GSR. He said all three are equal possibilities, and there is no way of knowing whether the residue was burnt.

The particles, according to Dowell, are antimony, lead and barium. Dowell testified that only lead was found on Dunn's hand.
Dowell told the jury that he has tested for GSR in more than 7,000 cases and in some, the particle count is in excess of 2,000.

He also said firearm discharge varies and particle count is not a reliable source to determine the residues' origin.
Prosecutor Arnold Klein asked Dowell whether he would consider six particles a small number.

”It's small, but not an uncommon or unreasonable number to find,” Dowell replied.

Upon further questioning from Klein, Dowell testified that based on his studies GSR can be transferred from person to person, and the residue can last up to a year on clothing but only hours on skin.

”Generally most surfaces have been refreshed within five hours,” Dowell said of GSR on the skin.

Closing arguments begin today, after which, the jury will begin deliberation.

Erin Tracy/The Times-Standard
Posted: 02/19/2009 01:15:19 AM PST

Related:
☛ TS Witness testimony concludes in 1998 murder trial 2/19/09
☛ TS Witness testimony begins today for defense of murder suspect 2/18/09
☛ TS Testimony continues in Day 4 of Lopez 2/12/09
☛ TS Suspect's ex-girlfriend testifies in day three of murder trial 2/12//09
☛ TS Victim's girlfriend testifies in second day of 1998 murder trial 2/11/09
☛ TS Trial begins in decade-old murder case 2/10/09
☛ TS Homicide suspect facing trial for killing teen 12/21/07
☛ TS Suspect in 1998 shooting returned to Humboldt County
☛ TS Second of three suspects in 1998 homicide arrested 11/07/07
☛ TS 2007: The year in review