He's had a pornography problem for as long as I can remember. —Jennifer Graves
TACOMA, Wash. — She wasn't on the witness stand for a long time. And she didn't add much to what the jury had already heard.
But all eyes were on Steven Powell's oldest daughter, Jennifer Graves, Monday as she testified against her father in his voyeurism trial.
"It was short and sweet and to the point, and I didn't really have much to contribute but I think it obviously was important, so I did what I had to do," she said after.
The voyeurism trial of Steven Powell moved very quickly Monday. The jury was excused for the day after three prosecution witnesses took the stand in just 90 minutes and the defense rested without calling anyone to the stand.
When they return Tuesday morning, jurors will hear closing arguments from both the prosecution and defense, and then decide whether Powell is guilty of 14 counts of voyeurism. He is accused of taking photographs of two young sisters from his bedroom looking into the bathroom window of the girls' home next door. The photographs were taken in 2006 when the girls were 8 and 10 years old.
Prosecutors called their final three witnesses to the stand Monday, including Graves and two West Valley City police officers who assisted in the search of Steven Powell's home in August of 2011.
Graves' and her father's eyes met only momentarily. She said she really couldn't see her father from where she was sitting, but noted it was "probably better just not to look at him," and described being called to the witness stand as "slightly tense."
She did, however, see her sister Alina sitting in the back of the courtroom. The two have not been on speaking terms since her father was arrested.
"No, I don't really talk to Alina. There's not really much point. We're on two sides of the coin here," she said.
Graves was asked to identify her father's house and talked about its layout. She also was asked to identify a passage from Powell's diary shown to the jury.
"Yeah, this looks like my dad's handwriting," she testified.
The defense has tried to raise doubts in the minds of jurors that Steven Powell actually took the photos of the young girls, noting there were other people living in the house at the time.
Graves, however, testified that her brother John Powell, who is bipolar, was kicked out of the house by her father in June of 2006 because of "violent tendencies." He was hospitalized for a little while, then lived at another home, she said. By 2010, John was back in the Powell house, but Graves wasn't sure exactly when he returned. She also noted that her brother Michael was serving in the Army at the time.
Although prosecutors couldn't ask her directly if she believed her father took the pictures of the young girls, Graves said outside the courtroom that she had no doubt.
"Oh, I know he took those pictures," she said. "He's had a pornography problem for as long as I can remember. And with pornography, you don't sit on the fence. You either get worse or you get better. You take steps to improve and get that out of your life or you go down the other path and you end up doing worse and worse things. So it's not a surprise at all to me he's ended up where he's at now."
Chuck Cox, the father of missing West Valley mother Susan Cox Powell — Steven Powell's daughter-in-law — said he was surprised that prosecutors didn't question Graves more extensively about her father.
"She didn't testify to anything that I saw," he said. "It is very courageous of her to come and be willing to go to court, because there's a potential she could have been asked a whole lot more questions. … The attorneys are asking the questions they feel they need to prove the case they brought."
Cox, as he has at past appearances, again stated that he believes charges should be filed against Steven Powell for the voyeuristic pictures he allegedly took of Susan Powell. Judge Ronald E. Culpepper has all but removed Susan Powell from the trial, fearing her high-profile disappearance and the murder of her two sons by her husband, Josh Powell, who committed suicide, would prejudice the jury.
"We believe that she's a big part of this and she was certainly a victim," Cox said. "I think they're being way too cautious about not having her mentioned because they don't want to prejudice the jury in any way. I understand not prejudicing the jury, but without the investigation into my daughter's disappearance they wouldn't have had any evidence. They wouldn't have gone into the house."
The defense rested without calling a single witness. Powell has been taking notes while sitting next to his attorneys, but has otherwise remained silent.
Cox admitted the trial has been frustrating because he had hoped it would shed some light on what happened to his daughter, something he believes Steven Powell knows about.
"It feels like colossal waste of my time, the whole thing here," he said. "But Steve and Josh have over the last two years done nothing but avoid answering for the things they've done. And they won't give anyone a straight answer on anything, so it's not surprising."
But Cox also said, "You go with the case you think you can win, so they went with that."
And he believes when the jury reconvenes on Tuesday to consider the case, they will find Powell guilty.
"I think there were so many facts in this case. There's absolutely no doubt that there were pictures taken, that they could only have been taken from Steve's bedroom window. The members of the family would be the only other people who could have taken those pictures," Cox said. "So I think they've proved their case. And it's very clear that those two little girls didn't give anyone permission to videotape them and they had an expectation of privacy."
Also called to the witness stand Monday were West Valley Police Sgt. Todd Gray and detective Ellis Maxwell. Both assisted in the search of Steven Powell's home in August of 2011.
Maxwell testified that a Sony digital camera was found in Powell's master bedroom, where he spent the majority of his time searching. The "significance" of the camera was that photographs of the two young girls who had their pictures taken in 2006 matched the model number of the camera.
Defense attorney Travis Currie tried to poke holes in the state's case, however, by noting to the jury that even though the camera model number matched, the pictures could have been taken with a different camera.
Maxwell acknowledged that other than the alleged victims, there were no other photos of nude prepubescent girls on the disc, which has been dubbed "Disc 12" in the courtroom, even though it had been noted that thousands of pictures were found on the disc.
Gray testified about the journal entry found in Powell's home. In his journal, Powell allegedly wrote the he "likes taking video shots of pretty girls in shorts and skirts, beautiful women of every age" and "I sometimes use these images for self stimulation."
The defense countered by pointing out that journal entry was written in 2004.
The defense strategy has been to raise doubts in the minds of jurors about who actually took the pictures of the young girls. The defense does not have to prove that someone else took the pictures or offer an alternative explanation, they only have to make the jury question whether the state proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Powell was responsible for taking the voyeuristic pictures.4 comments on this story
Monday afternoon, the defense made a motion to have two of the voyeurism charges dismissed, claiming they were repetitive of two of the other counts he is already charged with because they were taken on the same day. The state replied by arguing each of the counts were based on different episodes, and they were not simply 14 photographs taken from one two-minute video.
Culpepper denied the motion, and the jury will consider all 14 counts against Powell.