Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Terminology, questioning help clear trooper of lying

Posted on Wed, Sep 14, 2011 at 2:01 PM

Idaho State Police Master Cpl. Fred Rice was cleared of wrongdoing in a murder case because of issues with terminology and questioning, according to an internal State Police investigation.

The Inlander recently reported on Rice and the troubles surrounding his testimony in the 2006 trial of Jonathan Ellington on charges of second-degree murder and aggravated assault.

In the Ellington case, Rice had stated that it was impossible to judge whether Ellington had had enough time to perceive the presence of the woman he’s alleged to have run over with his car, because there was no such thing as an average perception-reaction time. But in a training materials Rice had authored, he had stated that perception-reaction time was, on average, 1.6 seconds.

The internal review found that the training materials referred to perception-reaction time in "investigations" of accidents, not in accident "reconstruction," which is what he was asked about in the Ellington case, according to a letter to Rice from State Police Col. G. Jerry Russell.

Also, Rice testified in the Ellington case that he could not tell where an impact occurred based on the debris from the collision. The Supreme Court found that, in a previous trial, Rice testified that it was possible to determine where an impact happened based on the debris.

The ISP internal investigation found that the questions posed to Rice in the two cases were different, and therefore there was no contradiction.

“I have the utmost respect for the distinguished justices of the Idaho Supreme Court,” Russell writes to Rice. “Given the record the court had to work with, it should be no surprise that the court’s decision was to remand the Ellington case for retrial based on what appeared to be inconsistencies in your testimony between the two cases and your training slide.”

Deputy State Appellate Public Defender Erik Lehtinen, who argued the case before the state Supreme Court, says he was incredulous of the ISP's findings.

"I haven't heard too many details about how Trooper Rice justified his testimony in the Ellington case,” Lehtinen says. “The details I have heard ... are pretty dubious in my mind."

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