Is it possible men from Mars came down and took these pictures? Yeah. But that's not reasonable —Grant Blinn, prosecutor
TACOMA, Wash. — After deliberating for 4½ hours Tuesday, the 12-member jury in the Steven Powell case went home for the evening without reaching a verdict.
The jurors will return to the Pierce County courtroom on Wednesday to continue deliberations.
Many courtroom observers, including veteran attorney Anne Bremner, who represents the two young girls Powell is accused of taking pictures of, were surprised that a verdict wasn't reached.
"I think they should have been back by now, but that's just me in terms of my trial experience. I think it was a simple case and one that was well-presented," she said.
But Bremner said she still believes Powell will be convicted.
"I think conventional wisdom is a shorter deliberation favors the prosecution, longer is the defense, and then longer than that it ends up being a lot of times back to the prosecution, so it's not as if you can say anything from today," she said.
Jurors submitted two questions to the court during their deliberations. One was to ask whether the boxes found in Powell's bedroom when police served a search warrant on his house — including the box that contained the disk with the digital images that are the basis of the charges — belonged to Powell.
Pierce County Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper wrote back to jurors that because the question was about facts of the case and not a legal issue, he could not answer it and asked the jury to continue deliberating.
Bremner admitted, however, it was troubling that the jury would be asking such a question. "I think the evidence clearly shows the things in his room were his," she said.
Near the end of the day, the jury asked to review the disk. A laptop was taken back to the jury room for the jurors to view the images again.
For the majority of the day, however, jurors were out of sight of the public as they discussed the case in a back room while friends and family members of both Steven Powell and Susan Cox Powell waited in or nearby the courthouse for a decision.
Attorneys on both sides asked jurors to "use your head" and "don't leave your common sense at the door" before the judge turned the case over to them.
For the prosecution, that means finding Powell guilty of 14 counts of voyeurism. For the defense, it means acquitting Powell because the state failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
During closing arguments, prosecutor Grant Blinn delivered a PowerPoint presentation listing the many reasons why Powell should be found guilty. Using the theme he presented at opening arguments of Powell having a secret, Blinn closed by saying, "It is a secret no longer because now the entire world knows Mr. Powell's secret."
Two sisters, then ages 8 and 10, who had just moved into a home next to the Powells in 2006, had no idea that Steven Powell was "lurking in the shadows of his own bedroom" and taking pictures of the girls in their most private moments in their own bathroom, he said.
"Nothing is more disturbing for a teen girl than knowing a middle-aged man next door is taking naked pictures of them," Blinn said.
He then detailed the evidence and noted there was only one place from which the pictures of the girls could have been taken.
"It's not reasonable to think somebody else would have this collection of images" and store them in someone else's bedroom, Blinn said.
But defense attorney Travis Currie tried to get jurors to question the evidence and convince them that the state did not prove its case "beyond a reasonable doubt."
"A criminal case is not about what seems to be reasonable," Currie argued. "A criminal case is about what has been proved. It's not about what you feel, but what you know."
Currie raised a "nosy neighbor" defense, saying that even if his client took the pictures there was no proof that he used them for sexual gratification, which is one of the key elements that has to be met in a voyeurism charge.
"There are people who are nosy. They like to spy on their neighbors," Currie said.
He said no fingerprints were ever lifted from the disk that contained the photos and the state did not prove Powell locked his bedroom door, meaning anyone in the house would have had access to it. He also tried to raise doubts that the images were taken from Powell's bedroom window and noted that no other pictures of naked pre-pubescent girls were found the disk that contained all of the images in question.
"There's an alternative explanation to what happened here. … You have to acquit. That's the law. That's the oath you took," he said.
Blinn countered, however, by telling the jury the state only has to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt," not "beyond a shadow of a doubt."
"Is it possible men from Mars came down and took these pictures? Yeah," Blinn sarcastically conceded. "But that's not reasonable."
Better than fingerprints, he said Powell left his "digital identity" all over the disk that contained the alleged images. Self-taken images of Powell urinating, exposing himself and gratifying himself were also found on the disk.
He added that the images of other girls found on the disk, apparently taken without the subjects' knowledge, "speaks volumes" about what Powell was doing.
"I think the prosecutors did a really good job on their closing arguments. The defense, I believe, he was just rambling on and desperately trying to convince the jury otherwise. But the rebuttal was even better," said Denise Cox, the sister of missing Utah mother Susan Powell.
Even though her sister is not part of the trial, Cox said she was hopeful that at least justice would be served for the two young girls whose pictures were taken.11 comments on this story
"They're going to be traumatized the rest of his life and he needs to pay for that. I feel really bad for them," she said.
Cox said she also took satisfaction in seeing embarrassment on Powell's part.
"I did see him at one time he did have a red face, he was embarrassed that his secret was told," she said.
The jury could be seen taking many notes as closing arguments were delivered, particularly while Currie was talking.
"Does it mean something? Does it not? You had some folks taking some pretty intense notes during the defense closing, does that mean something? I don't know," Bremner said.