Judge allows controversial evidence

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 19, 2008

WINTON – A controversial piece of evidence was introduced here Monday in day six of the Tyrelle Overton murder trial in which Eric Alan Oakes, 26, stands charged.

After the testimony of two SBI agents involved in the case, former Detective Lieutenant

Scott Outlaw took the stand late Monday morning and all of the afternoon.

Outlaw was the lead Ahoskie Police Department detective in the July 2002 shooting death of Overton.

He testified that after the car allegedly used in the shooting was traced back to Oakes’ co-defendant, Joseph &uot;Joey&uot; Forehand, a search was conducted of that vehicle.

Among the items found in that search was a .380-caliber live round found in Forehand’s car. The initials &uot;T.O.&uot; were engraved in the bullet.

Defense attorney David Sutton objected to the bullet or photos of it being admitted as evidence, or even discussed in court.

&uot;I object to the bullet with the initials T.O. on it that was found in the vehicle upon its search, on the grounds that it is not relevant to this defendant,&uot; Sutton stated in open court.

Judge William C. Griffin overruled the objection, commenting, &uot;Well then he doesn’t have anything to worry about, does he?&uot;

Sutton replied, &uot;It might be viewed as a trophy, like they killed Tyrelle Overton on purpose.&uot;

The bullet in question was again mentioned later in Outlaw’s testimony after the lunch recess.

Outlaw clarified that a &uot;live&uot; round meant that the bullet had not been fired out of a weapon.

He further stated where specifically in Forehand’s car the bullet was located.

&uot;It was found on the console of the vehicle… the initials ‘T.O.’ were engraved in the copper jacket of the bullet,&uot; Outlaw noted.

Sutton then made a motion to have a mistrial declared, but that was denied by Judge Griffin, and a motion to strike that statement from the record, which was also denied.

An hour later, Judge Griffin sent the jury out in response to an objection on another matter and Sutton again brought up his concerns regarding the bullet.

&uot;I object on the grounds that it is unnecessarily damaging and irrelevant and entirely prejudicial against my client,&uot; he stated.

Griffin again denied the motion and called for the jury to return.

The bullet found in Forehand’s vehicle was introduced as evidence along with two bullets of the same caliber that were extracted from Overton’s body during the autopsy.

In testimony heard late last week from two law enforcement officers, .380-caliber shell casings were found at the crime scene.

After the photos were shown, Sutton objected once more and moved for a mistrial, stating that the bullet had nothing to do with his client.

Judge Griffin denied the motion and further instructed Sutton to simply object rather than editorialize.

Sutton then remarked, &uot;In fact it comes close to prosecutorial misconduct.&uot;

Enlarged photographs showed clearly that the .380-caliber live round found in Forehand’s vehicle was clearly displayed and wedged in the center panel of the car in between the air conditioning and heating control knobs.

After the jury was sent out of the courtroom for the afternoon recess, District 6B Attorney Valerie Asbell objected to Sutton’s remark on prosecutorial misconduct.

&uot;I object to what Mr. Sutton said about misconduct in front of the jury,&uot; she stated.

Griffin responded, &uot;I’m not even going to dignify that (Sutton’s remark) by addressing it again.&uot;

On cross-examination, Sutton inquired as to whether Outlaw had evidence that the &uot;T.O.&uot; was carved by Oakes.

&uot;Do you have evidence that the T.O. was carved by my client?

In fact, don’t you have evidence that it was carved by Joey Forehand,&uot; he asked.

Outlaw replied, &uot;Yes, he (Forehand) placed it there.&uot;

Outlaw further testified that nothing belonging to Oakes or that could be directly attributed to Oakes was found in the search of Forehand’s vehicle, including fingerprints, hair, personal items or DNA evidence.

Sutton added, &uot;So, with the exception of his (Oakes) having driven the car back to Fayetteville on July 13, nothing you found in this car has anything to do with Oakes, is that correct?&uot;

Outlaw stated, &uot;That’s right.&uot;

Earlier, Outlaw had also testified to the sworn, handwritten statement given by Oakes after his arrest on April 7, 2003.

In it, Oakes apparently stated that he and Forehand had gone to a bar in Forehand’s hometown and that Forehand wanted to buy Ecstasy.

Oakes stated that Forehand was robbed by someone there of $250 and the next weekend the pair returned to Ahoskie to find that person.

In his statement, Oakes further wrote that on July 13, Forehand said he saw the man at Wal-Mart and that they proceeded to follow him in his vehicle.

Oakes’ statement also said that he got in the vehicle with that person and that he (Overton) tried to grab the gun from him and it went off.

Outlaw was still on the stand when court recessed for the day Monday afternoon.

He is expected to continue testifying this morning (Tuesday).