Bombing trial conclusion | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bombing trial conclusion

Posted By on Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 3:37 PM

David Koon is on hand for closing arguments in the trial of Dr. Randeep Mann on charges that he plotted the bombing of state Medical Board chairman Trent Pierce of West Memphis. Mann had had many run-ins with the Medical Board. The closings finally were concluded at 7 p.m. Wednesday and the jury will begin deliberations Thursday.

Jury instructions took longer than anticipated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen Whatley closed for the government. In a two-hour closing that ended shortly after 4 p.m., she called Mann a "gun nut" who had the arsenal and the motive to hurt Pierce. "This is a case about a man who has an obsession with firearms. The defendant is a gun nut. He is a man obsessed with guns."

The prosecutor talked in detail about unregistered machine guns and other weapons found at Mann's house, plus the grenades found wit in 875 feet of his house and a grenade launcher found at the house. She also noted similarities between munition containers found in his house and near his house. The prosecutor took the jury through other circumstantial evidence — the similarity of a tire rigged with a bomb at Pierce's house and a tire owned by a friend of Mann's, for example. The jury heard again about grenades Mann had bought from a weapons dealer and about an e-mail Mann sent to his brother that included a picture of Pierce.

Whatley finished with an extensive timeline and a recap of all the testimony. "Randeep Mann had motive, he singled Trent Pierce out," the prosecutor said. Mann's wife is also on trial for misleading investigators.

More from David Koon:

If Randeep Mann walks on any or all of the federal gun and conspiracy charges levied at him in the West Memphis bombing that almost killed State Medical Board Chairman Trent Pierce, he'll owe a lot to a masterful bit of lawyering by defense attorney Tim Dudley. After a more point-by-point and cerebral closing by Randeep Mann's own attorney Blake Hendrix, Dudley — who represents Mann's wife Sangeeta "Sue" Mann — rose and went the emotional route, his country twang often ringing in the courtroom as he took swings at everything from the buried can full of 40 mm grenades the prosecution has sought to link to Randeep Mann, to the testimony of the prosecution's star witness, gun dealer Lloyd Hahn.

Dudley started by taking the prosecution to task for using testimony of Pierce's housekeeper, who said that the night before the bombing she saw a brown-skinned man with a pony tail jogging near the Pierce home. If the jogger was white, and Mann was white, prosecutors would have never tried to connect the mysterious jogger and Mann in the jury's mind. However, because he was described as having the same skin color as Mann, they did. "That's not fair." Dudley said, in what would become a refrain.

Dudley then took a hammer to the credibility of Lloyd Hahn, reminding them that Hahn told a grand jury under oath that a machine gun in Mann's collection was one he sold to Mann, then later reversing himself to tell the jury in the Mann case that the same gun was not the one he sold to Randeep Mann. Hahn also claimed to have sold Mann both 40 mm rocket-propelled grenades like those found in the ammo can buried near Mann's home, and rare black fiber-cased grenades like the one used in the Pierce bombing.

Dudley asked the jury to imagine that Hahn called them and offered them a flawless two carat diamond ring for $10,000, sight unseen. "If you wouldn't risk $10,000 on his word," Dudley said, "why in the world would you trust it to send a man to prison." Hahn's testimony, Dudley said, is "bought and paid for" with leniency on other federal sentences.

Dudley next brought the buried ammo can full of 40 mm grenades into question, showing pictures of the hole it was reportedly discovered in, and the can itself. The hole, Dudley said, wasn't physically big enough for the box, making him suspect that it was never buried where police claim to have found it.

Eventually, after rehashing the case as a whole, Dudley worked his way around to the charges against Sue Mann, of destroying evidence and lying to a grand jury. He said Sue Mann was charged because she wouldn't give investigators the information they wanted about her husband. "That's why Sue Mann is sitting in this courtroom today. She wouldn't tell a lie." While whoever bombed Pierce's car should be prosecuted, Dudley said, "two wrongs, don't make a right" and he urged them to find Randeep and Sue Mann not guilty.

In his rebuttal, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon encouraged the jury to use their common sense to look at the big picture of the case. He stressed that even though there were other doctors who had reason to be angry at Pierce, Randeep Mann was the only one with an "arsenal" and ready access to the kind of grenades used in the bombing. Prosecutors had no idea what Lloyd Hahn would say on the stand when they offered him immunity, Gordon said. "Without that agreement, you never would have known. Dr. Pierce would still be sitting around thinking, 'Who tried to kill me?'" He went on to paint defense theories about the buried ammo can as conspiracy theories, adding that the place where they were found is on a peninsula in the middle of Lake Dardenelle with a clear sight line to Mann's house.

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