Prosecuting attorney presents evidence in Peterson murder trial

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 | 10:03 p.m. CST; updated 3:40 p.m. CST, Friday, March 9, 2012
Zachariah Peterson, left, watches as the jury enters the courtroom Tuesday at the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia. Peterson is on trial for the January 2011 shooting death of James Porter and faces charges of second-degree murder and armed criminal action.

COLUMBIA — Boone County prosecuting attorneys presented evidence in court Wednesday that identified James Porter's blood in Zachariah Peterson's Chevy Tahoe.

Peterson had been with Porter on Jan. 18, 2011 — the day Porter was found fatally shot at Sunset Mobile Home Park. Peterson, in the second day of testimony in an expected three-day trial, was charged with second-degree murder and armed criminal action in January 2011. 

When he was arrested, Peterson said he didn't know where the Tahoe was at the time Porter was shot.

Evidence from the first day of testimony said Peterson and Porter were friends involved in a drug transaction. Witnesses said they saw Porter and Peterson leave Porter's home in a blue 1998 Chevy Tahoe on the day Porter died, according to a previous Missourian article. Later, witnesses at the mobile home park heard gunshots and saw Porter fall out of the passenger side of the Tahoe, which sped away.

Evidence from the prosecution

Boone County prosecuting attorneys Stephanie Morrell and Brent Nelson said the Tahoe belonged to Peterson. They presented evidence that suggested Porter's blood and three bullets were found in the Tahoe. 

Columbia Police Department Detective Corey Bowden, involved in the investigation of the Porter's death, was called by the prosecution to testify.

Bowden photographed and documented the exterior and interior of the Tahoe in January 2011. He mentioned finding red, dried liquid on the Tahoe's center console and front of the seat. Based on a DNA analysis, the substance matched the DNA of Porter's blood, according Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab criminalist Shawn Bailes, who testified for the prosecution as well.

Investigators also found three bullets inside the Tahoe, which had a broken front passenger-side window and flat rear driver's side tire. One bullet was found on the passenger-side floor, one on the driver's side and the third was found inside the front passenger's seat, said Alan Mitchell, with the Columbia Police Department's Forensic Evidence Team.

Jason Crafton, a criminalist in the firearms section of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, examined the bullets and said in his testimony that it was possible the bullets could have been fired from the same gun.

Peterson's defense attorney, David Wallis, said Crafton's testimony could not prove who shot James Porter, whether Porter was shot during a drug deal or an attempted drug deal, or if Peterson was present when the bullets were fired.

Maintaining innocence

Columbia Police Department Detective Joe Jackson said he interviewed Peterson on Jan. 19, 2011, the day after Porter was shot. A video of the interview was presented as evidence during testimony.

Initially, Peterson did not mention Porter's name when he gave Jackson an outline of his day, which included going to the library, his sister's house, a friend's house and eventually to a motel.

Peterson's testimony in the interview went back and forth between saying he drove that day and didn't drive that day. Jackson told him witnesses saw the Tahoe at the scene on the day of Porter's death. When Jackson questioned him further, Peterson eventually mentioned that he had been with Porter on Jan. 18, 2011, but still said he was innocent and didn't know where his Tahoe had been when Porter was shot.

In his cross-examination, Wallis said Jackson treated Peterson as a suspect during the interview before he had been named one by the police. Jackson said he was frustrated with Peterson throughout the interview. 

When questioned by Wallis, Jackson said no witnesses have said they saw Peterson shoot Porter.

The trial will continue beginning at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

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