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Photos of Hailey Owens Handled Carefully in Craig Wood Trial

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The third day of testimony in the murder trial for Craig Wood of Springfield began Wednesday with attorneys on both sides arguing over how many autopsy photos should be shown to the jury - and in what manner.

Update at 11:00 a.m.:  There was a weight in the courtroom as Chief Assistant Prosecutor Todd Myers called Tom Van De Berg of the Greene County Medical Examiner's office as his first witness of the day. Blue folders, were handed to jurors containing pictures taken of Hailey Owens' body at the crime scene. 

Many jurors were visibly upset,  wiping away tears as he gave his 15 minute testimony. 

Circuit court judge Tom Mountjoy gave specific instructions to the courtroom audience that any emotional outburst or visible signs of distress that could distract the jury were strictly prohibited. 

It was for that reason that the pictures were handed to the jury in folders, instead of being shown on video screens for public viewing.
 
The prosecution's second witness was Dr. Carl Stacy, a forensic pathologist currently at the University of Missouri.  He was the medical examiner of record in the Hailey Owens case. 

He continued to detail the cause and manner of death for the 10 year old girl.  He concluded the cause of Hailey's death was a close range gunshot wound to the back of the head "in a homicide manner".  He also said there were significant signs of struggle and evidence of rape.

Earlier report:

Greene County Medical Examiner Tom Van De Berg is the state's first witness today.  He will explain the autopsy process and discuss injuries to the body of 10-year old Hailey Owens, who was found dead inside Wood's Springfield home several hours after she was abducted in February, 2014.

This morning, assistant prosecuting attorney Todd Myers said he has prepared individual folders for each juror, with autopsy evidence, which can be viewed in the jury box, as to avoid showing to the rest of the courtroom.  Autopsy photos are included in that evidence.

Lead defense attorney Patrick Berrigan asked the judge to exclude the photos.  He argued Van De Berg's testimony should be detail enough for the jury, and that the photos would infringe on Wood's right to a fair trail, and might result in an outburst from courtroom spectators, which could influence the court.

Myers argued there were hundreds of photos taken, and that he is including only five photos that show Hailey's body, relevant to how she was bound, where she was found and the condition in which she was found.

Circuit judge Tom Mountjoy says he will rule on the photos after Van De Berg's testimony.  "There can not be any emotional outbursts, or crying, that could distract this jury from doing their job," Mountjoy said. 

Tom Vandenberg to be one of the first witnesses of the day, Myers has shared evidence related to the foundation built by Vandenberg with the defense, he has also prepared file folders containing that evidence for each juror as to avoid showing the evidence each folder contains with the rest of the courtroom. 
With regard to a few pieces of evidence, photos, the defense motions to exclude that. 
The phtotos are photos of Owens' corpse. He says the foundation likely built by Vandenberg, a greene county medical examiner, will be enough detail for the jury. They don't need those pictures. 
Myers says there were hundreds of those photos taken, and those have been whittled down to just five photos that show her body, he argues each is relevant to show how she was bound, where she was found, in the condition she was found. 
Judge says he'd have to wait to hear the testimony provided by Vandenberg, before ruling on how necessary the photos would be to help the state build it's case. 
 
Berrigan argues these kind of photos could infringe on Wood's right to a fair trial. If the photos were to cause an outburst from any of the court's spectators, it could influence the court. 

Judge Mouthy advises the courtroom spectators to leave if they can't handle the testimony or possible airing of the photos in question, which he still hasn't eliminated as a possibility. 

He says he will wait until after the testimonies to rule on this motion. He did, however, warn the court about reactions to these photos or the testimonies that precede them. 

"There can not be any emotional outbursts, or crying, that could distract this jury from doing their job," Mountjoy said. 
 

Find complete and ongoing coverage of the trial here
 


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