Feuding attorneys have quickly become the sideshow at the trial of a cabin owner accused of shooting two men last year.
Prosecutors and defense attorney Ed Brass exchanged heated words Tuesday over Brass' aggressive cross-examination of the state's star witness. The jury was excused twice within 10 minutes while 4th District Judge Boyd Park sorted out the disagreements.Brass represents Larry Ross Harmon, who is charged with murder and attempted murder for shooting Douglas Greer and Raymond Thomas on a public road a half-mile from his remote cabin.
The two men knocked on Har-mon's door for help after their truck got stuck in a mudhole, Thomas testified.
Brass asked the judge to dismiss the charges against his client, saying Millard County Deputy Attorney Dexter Anderson had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct "of the highest degree."
The judge denied the motion but warned Anderson to watch his words or the proceeding could end in a mistrial.
Anderson, in front of the jury, had twice accused Brass of misleading the jury and witness with his line of questioning and comments from the lectern. Specifically, he said Brass had inter-pre-ted evidence for the witness, Thomas.
Anderson said Brass had also mistakenly told the jury Thomas was convicted of a drug-related felony, when the conviction was only a misdemeanor. Court records clearly show, however, that Thomas did plead guilty to attempted distribution of methamphetamine, a third-degree felony.
"I've practiced law for 20 years and I value my reputation, it's the one thing I've got left . . . I'm furious," Brass said as he paced the courtroom. "I apologize for my behavior. I don't think I've ever acted like this in court but I can't stand having my character impugned."
The judge agreed Anderson was not acting appropriately and told jurors when they returned that Brass had not done anything wrong.
Anderson admitted he "was out of line" but said he was only trying to ensure proper questioning of the state's witness.
Wednesday, prosecutors' actions again drew fire from Brass.
"This has to stop," Brass complained, referring to remarks Anderson was making before he asked witnesses a question.
The judge agreed and admonished Anderson "to not preface" his questions with editorial comment.
Brass also called for a mistrial later in the day when prosecutor Jim Slavens asked a sheriff's deputy who interviewed Thomas if he thought Thomas "was telling the truth." Such questions about a witness's demeanor are generally not allowed during direct testimony.
The judge denied the mistrial motion but struck the deputy's comments from the record.
In other action, jurors heard a 911 call from Harmon just after the shooting. "I had people who have broken into my place and I shot somebody," Harmon said on the tape.
Kathy Nielson, a Utah Highway Patrol dispatcher in Cedar City who took Harmon's call, testified on Wednesday that Harmon told her two men had broken through a locked gate and knocked on his door. He said one was wearing a black leather jacket and both wore chains.
Nielson said Harmon told her that he did not know if the men had weapons.
"It was two that came in and accosted me," Harmon could be heard saying.
"They attacked you?" Nielsen asked.
Harmon said they did.
The trial is expected to continue into next week. As many as 40 witnesses are expected to testify.