The capital murder trial of 22-year-old Matthew Navarro, for the 2009 shooting death of Ronald Philen, continued for another full day on Thursday.
The morning began with the continuation of testimony by Larry Owings, one of the Brownwood Police Department detectives who was involved in the original investigation and is now retired. Owings had taken the stand on Wednesday and was subjected to cross examination by the defense, redirect examination by the prosecution, and recross by the defense, on Thursday.
The day progressed rather slowly as Navarro’s attorney, Evan Pierce-Jones, extensively questioned Owings about the crime scene investigation.
Jones displayed a video and photographs on the overhead screen, for the court, as he questioned Owings on details depicted in each. A few of Jones’ assertions concerned discrepancies in the positioning of a rock and a rug near Philen’s body, from how they were shown in the video as compared to how they were shown in the still photograph.
Jones also asked Owings if there was blood on the rock, to which Owings replied in the affirmative.
“Was the rock seized as evidence,” Jones asked.
Owings answered that he himself had not collected the rock.
“To my knowledge, it wasn’t,” Owings added.
Through his questioning, Jones suggested the possibility the blood on the rock belonged to someone other than the victim.
Likewise, Jones pointed out stains, believed to be blood, on a bed covering that, according to testimony, was also not collected as evidence.
Jones also thoroughly questioned Owings about a computer generated crime scene diagram he had produced and the fact that no attempt was made to identify fingerprint evidence on Philen’s body.
“If Randy Philen’s (the victim’s brother) prints had been found on his brother’s arm, that would have been significant, wouldn’t it.”
“Yes sir,” Owings replied.
Following Owings’ testimony, the prosecution called Brownwood Police Assistant Chief James Fuller, also a detective at the time and active in the initial investigation.
Assistant District Attorney Sam Moss mostly questioned Fuller about statements by Randall Philen, who had been charged for, convicted, and ultimately exonerated of the murder of his brother, once information came to light about Navarro’s and three other defendants’ alleged involvement.
Among Fuller’s testimony was Randall Philen’s relating the event during police questioning, in which he said he believed there were “at least three and possibly up to five” assailants. According to Fuller, Randall Philen had described the assailants as “Mexican” and had heard the name “Alex” during the disturbance. The information which led to this trial identified four suspects, all of whom are of Mexican descent, and one with the name Alex Gil Jr.
Moss asked Fuller if he recalled for what Randall Philen had said the assailants were searching.
“He said they were looking for 50 pounds of weed and money,” Fuller replied.
Doing Moss’ direct examination of Fuller, Jones made two objections.
The first involved whether or not Fuller, not being qualified as a gunshot expert, could offer testimony on the number of gunshot wounds he had observed on Philen’s body, while at the crime scene. Judge Steve Ellis overruled the objection and allowed Fuller to state he had noticed only one, although Randall Philen had reported hearing five reports.
On further questioning, Fuller stated the autopsy revealed four distinct gunshot wounds, consistent with Randall Philen’s claim.
Jones’ second objection was to the submission of two close-up photographs of Ronald Philen’s face and head. Following a brief sidebar, outside the hearing of the jury, Judge Ellis allowed both photographs.
Moss introduced the photos and displayed them on the overhead screen, questioning Fuller about an open wound under Philen’s right eye, bruising in the right eye socket, a bruise on his forehead, and apparent blood pooling in the left eye. Moss suggested the injuries supported Randall Philen’s original claim of a violent disturbance.
Jones began his cross examination of Fuller at approximately 3:20 p.m. and continued for about 30 minutes.
Moss followed with redirect, until about 4 p.m. when Judge Ellis called a recess.
The prosecution will continue their case today.