Prosecution, defense rest; closing arguments expected Tuesday in Andersen trial
It was a short, but eventful, day of testimony Monday at the murder trial of rural Waubun resident Kenneth Andersen.
It began shortly after 9:30 a.m. with the cross examination of Special Agent Daniel Baumann of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension by defense attorney Rory Durkin -- and it ended by 2:30 p.m., with both the prosecution and defense having rested their cases.
Closing arguments are expected to begin Tuesday morning, and wrap up by noon. District Court Judge Peter Irvine noted at the conclusion of Monday's testimony that the jury would most likely be sequestered to begin deliberations by the following afternoon.
Agent Baumann began his testimony Friday afternoon, by laying out the details of the investigation into the April 13, 2007 shooting death of Chad Swedberg, Andersen's neighbor and longtime friend, for prosecuting attorneys Mike Fritz, Becker County Attorney, and Al Zdrazil, Assistant Minnesota Attorney General.
Andersen is accused of shooting his lifelong friend Swedberg twice -- in the shoulder and hip areas -- with a high-powered rifle fired from a distance.
On Monday, Baumann was recalled to the stand to conclude his testimony. In cross examination, Durkin did his best to create doubt in the minds of the jury regarding the agent's testimony -- which referenced the discovery of one particularly damaging piece of evidence: the Tikka 300 rifle found buried in a layer of insulation in the rafters of Andersen's leeching barn on June 7, 2007.
As others, including Investigator John Sieling, had previously testified, Andersen originally told investigators that the Tikka -- which was purchased for him by Swedberg on Sept. 18, 2006 -- was sold in exchange for two black powder rifles prior to the April 13 shooting, at Reed's Sporting Goods in Walker, Minn.
However, in a stipulation read by prosecuting attorney Al Zdrazil of the Minnesota Attorney General's Office prior to Friday afternoon's testimony, both the defense and prosecution agreed that neither Swedberg nor Andersen had ever purchased a black powder rifle from Reed's nor traded a Tikka rifle for such a purchase.
On Thursday and Friday, forensics experts from the BCA crime scene response team had testified that the Tikka rifle could not be positively identified as the rifle that fired the fatal shots -- just that its characteristics were "consistent with" the 30-caliber bullets recovered from Swedberg's body.
In other words, the Tikka could have been the murder weapon, but the BCA scientists were unable to make a 100 percent positive identification.
On Monday, Durkin drove that point home when he asked Baumann whether any 30-caliber rifles other than the Tikka had been tested.
"Not that I'm aware of," Baumann said.
When Durkin asked whether rifles belonging to other individuals interviewed in the case, including Andersen's older brother Frank, friend Al Baker and nephew Joshua Bogatz, had been tested, Baumann likewise responded "no."
Why not? Durkin asked. Because the information they had provided to investigators regarding their whereabouts on the morning of the shooting checked out, Baumann noted. In addition, Bogatz' 30-caliber rifle (which also happened to be a Tikka 300) was in a pawnshop at the time the shooting took place, the investigator added.
When asked why Ken Swedberg's 30-caliber rifle had not been tested, Baumann responded, "There was no information to lead us to believe anyone from the Ken Swedberg residence was involved in this homicide."
A 30-caliber weapon owned by Chad Swedberg was also not tested, Baumann noted, because of the condition it was in when examined by investigators.
"It was dust covered, and appeared to have an obstructed barrel," said Baumann. In addition, the ammunition in the gun was "not consistent" with the bullets found in Swedberg's body, he added.
Durkin also asked Baumann about his Friday testimony, in which he indicated Andersen had never told investigators that the loan he was seeking in Fargo on the day of the shooting was intended to help Chad Swedberg out of financial difficulties.
Yet the affidavit used to apply for the search warrant indicated just the opposite, Durkin said.
"So did you lie to the judge (in applying for the warrant), or did you lie in your testimony?" he asked.
Zdrazil then raised an objection, to both the question, and the tone in which it was asked. Durkin subsequently tempered his remarks, asking Baumann why the affidavit used to apply for the search warrant did not match his testimony.
"It (the information in the search warrant) was inaccurate," Baumann responded, noting that the information about Andersen intending to use the loan to help out Swedberg had actually come to him secondhand, through a telephone conversation he overheard between Swedberg and another, unidentified person.
On redirect, Zdrazil asked Baumann whether the information would have made a difference in being able to obtain the search warrant issued on June 7, 2007.
"No, it would not," Baumann said.
The special agent was then dismissed from the stand, and the prosecution rested its case.
When testimony resumed that afternoon, it was Durkin's turn to present his case -- though the defense testimony had already begun on Friday. Durkin was allowed to call firearms expert Steven Howard of Lansing, Mich., out of order, due to the fact that Howard had to return to Michigan.
The first person Durkin called to the stand on Monday afternoon was Russell Warren, who lives "about a quarter mile" from the Chad Swedberg-Leslie Fain residence.
Warren testified that on the morning of April 13, 2007, he was at home, "shooting at blackbirds" on his property, around 8 a.m.
"I shot at them three times," he said, noting that he had been using a 22-caliber weapon.
Early in the trial, Leslie Fain had testified that she heard shots coming from the direction of the woods on the morning of April 13.
Upon cross-examination from Fritz, however, Warren admitted that shots fired from a 22-caliber gun would not make the same noise as a high-powered, 30-caliber rifle.
Also, Warren admitted, he "couldn't really remember" what time of day it was when he fired the shots.
Next up on the witness stand was Devon Green, manager of the White Earth Ambulance Service.
Green testified that on the morning of April 13, during the early morning hours, she recalled hearing some information over the scanner about a 911 call to "a domestic" in the same area where the shooting took place.
"They cancelled it shortly after the call came in," she said.
Green then testified that she had awakened her partner at the ambulance service, Ryan Sherbrooke, to tell him about the call.
Later on, the ambulance was dispatched to the same area for what Green called "a 1027" -- which basically meant the subject was already deceased.
They went out to the Swedberg residence, where they found Chad Swedberg's body lying out in the woods.
Green testified that she could tell from Swedberg's appearance that he had already been dead "for some time," because his lips were blue and there was no color in his face.
She then testified that the EMT's "log-rolled" Swedberg's body to check for injuries, and discovered what a hole in his jacket. Upon peeling away the layers of clothing that he was wearing, they discovered it was, in fact a bullet hole.
At that time, Green informed Ken Swedberg -- who had gone out to the site to assist the EMTs with removing the body -- that his brother had been shot.
Later on, she testified, she was questioned by investigators about the incident, and they indicated that there was no evidence of such a call in the 911 dispatcher's log. She said they also told her Sherbrooke had informed them that he couldn't remember the earlier conversation with Green.
Green said she believed at the time that the investigators were attempting to get her to change her story. Why would she think that, Durkin asked.
According to Green, the investigators had asked her, "What would people think if they knew there was a domestic call (at the Swedberg residence) earlier in the day?"
On cross-examination, Fritz gave her a copy of her earlier statement to investigators, and asked her to point out "where they tried to get you to change your story?"
She reiterated that the investigators had asked her "what will people think?" about the domestic call.
"What would you say if we told you Ryan Sherbrooke had told us you talked with him (about the earlier 911 call) only after you received the call to the Swedbergs?" Zdrazil asked.
"That's not what he told me," Green said.
"But that's what he said in court," Zdrazil responded.
"OK," Green responded.
Zdrazil then asked whether she might have heard White Earth Tribal Police Officer Stromme questioning whether the earlier call was a domestic, instead of the dispatcher saying it was a domestic.
"I don't recall that," Green responded.
On redirect, Durkin asked Green some technical questions regarding how White Earth's dispatch center handles 911 calls.
"I don't have anything to do with dispatch," she responded.
Durkin then said the defense would rest its case. At that point, Judge Irvine released the jury early, after informing them to "pack a bag" for the following day's proceedings, because he expected deliberations to start by the end of the day -- and they would be sequestered until a verdict was reached