Attorneys for Joseph Elledge, a Columbia man found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his wife Mengqi Ji, have filed a motion for a new trial.

A Boone County jury found Elledge guilty of second-degree murder Nov. 11 after a nine-day trial. The jury recommended a 28-year sentence for Elledge, who had been charged with first-degree murder since February 2020.

Ji was reported missing by Elledge on Oct. 10, 2019. Her remains were found in Rock Bridge Memorial State Park in March 2021.

According to court documents filed last Friday, defense attorney Scott Rosenblum made seven arguments for the new trial.

Rosenblum argued the state failed to prove deliberation and did not provide evidence of Ji’s cause of death.

The defense also argued the state admitted conflicting evidence, referring to the more than 9 hours of audio recordings of Elledge and Ji arguing. During a pre-trial hearing, prosecuting attorney Dan Knight called the audio recordings “key evidence” and said they show Elledge’s motive for murder and consciousness of guilt.

The motion also argued the state submitted “irrelevant character evidence,” referring to photographs and videos of Elledge, Ji and their 1-year-old daughter.

“The evidence was admitted for the sole purpose of prejudicing the jury against the defendant and had absolutely no probative value,” the motion said.

The documents also discuss a three-hour long interview that Elledge did with Columbia Police Department detectives Oct. 15, 2019. The defense argues the statement should not have been admitted as evidence because it was custodial and Elledge was never read his Miranda rights.

Attorneys discussed this interview in a pre-trial hearing, but 13th Circuit Court Judge Brouck Jacobs allowed it to be admitted as evidence and said the interview was voluntary.

The defense also believes evidence presented by the state from four experts, including a soil analysis and plant analysis, should have been excluded.

According to the motion, the defense says the analysis was not reliable because the methodology was subjective, had not been tested, had no known error rate and would only prejudice the jury.

This was also discussed in a pre-trial hearing. Judge Jacobs denied the defense’s motion to exclude the four expert witnesses from testifying.

Elledge’s sentencing hearing will take place Dec. 17 in Boone County.

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at mhart@mail.missouri.edu.

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