Judge: Jurors won't hear 'disturbing' descriptions of Steven Powell's obsession with Susan

Cox family still hasn't had time to mourn grandsons' deaths

Published: Tuesday, May 8 2012 4:17 p.m. MDT

Steven Powell sits in court, Tuesday, May 8, 2012, on the second day of his voyeurism trial in the Pierce County Superior Court in Tacoma, Wash.

Rick Egan,

Live coverage: Steven Powell trial in Tacoma

Related: Sins of the father: Steven Powell's behavior leaves a legacy of harm

TACOMA, Wash. — The jury in the Steven Powell voyeurism trial will not hear about Powell's bizarre obsession with his daughter-in-law in his own words.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper ruled that seven of the eight passages from Powell's diaries that prosecutors had hoped to admit as evidence will not be permitted. In all seven passages, Powell talks about his obsession with Susan Powell, writing passages such as "Susan likes to be admired and I'm a voyeur," and "I'm a voyeur and Susan is an exhibitionist."

Culpepper ruled that although the passages are "strange" and "disturbing," they are not relevant to the charges at hand, and the mention of the missing West Valley City mother could be more prejudicial than having any evidentiary value.

A visibly upset Denise Cox, Susan's sister, left the courtroom in a hurry after the decision was made and she refused to talk to reporters.

Earlier in the day, before Culpepper made his ruling, Cox said she would "not be a happy person at all" if that was the way he ruled.

"He might as well just toss out of the case if he's not going to talk about the journals and talk about the porn. It's supposed to be an actual case and it's not fair if you're not allowing a lot of the evidence in," she said.

The one diary passage that Culpepper will allow was from 2004 when Steven Powell wrote that "likes taking video shots of pretty girls in shorts and skirts, beautiful women of every age."

Culpepper said he would mull over another journal entry that he temporarily denied. In it, Powell wrote, "I've been going nuts and nearly out of control sexually my entire life." That sentence was written between more paragraphs obsessing over his daughter-in-law, the defense noted. It was also written in 2010 after Susan had gone missing.

Powell's defense team had filed a memorandum successfully arguing that the diaries only proved he had an obsession with Susan Powell.

"The entries are too remote in time and are ultimately of little relevance, are more prejudicial than probative, and therefore are inadmissible," the attorneys argued.

Susan Powell, they reminded the judge, is not the alleged victim in the case.

"The fact that a defendant has committed a crime or other bad acts does not mean that his character is so wedded to crime that he is likely to have committed the crime presently charged," defense attorneys wrote. “The fact that these journals refer to Susan Powell make them clearly and overwhelmingly more prejudicial than probative given the extreme amount of publicity that has surrounded her disappearance and the subsequent investigation of Josh Powell, his death and the death of his sons."

On Wednesday, Culpepper is expected to rule on images that the prosecution wants to present as evidence to show the jury that Powell engaged in a pattern of taking voyeuristic photos for his own sexual gratification. After that ruling, opening arguments are expected to get under way with the first witness expected to be the mother of the two young girls Powell is accused of photographing without their knowledge.

Powell is charged with 14 counts of voyeurism for allegedly taking pictures of two former neighbor girls, then ages 8 and 10, a couple of years ago while they were undressed or partially undressed and in their own bathroom.

After a two-day selection process, a 12 member jury — six men and six women — was chosen with two alternates. The majority of jurors appear to be in their 40s or 50s.

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