‘Does that refresh your recollection?’
The defense cross-examines Hedlund before the state can rest its case
NEVADA — “Good morning, former agent Hedlund,” defense attorney Paul Rounds said to Detective Larry Hedlund, of the Fort Dodge Police Department, beginning his cross-examination of the investigator Tuesday during the trial of Tanner King.
Even in the greeting that started the defense team’s first trial interaction with the most contested witness — and, to date, the one to sit the longest on the stand in the trial — Rounds subtly highlighted Hedlund’s employment history with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
That subject has proven to be a major point of contention between prosecutors and defense attorneys in the trial of King, who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the shooting of Marion and El Dominic Rhodes in an alley behind his former apartment building at Second Avenue North and Ninth Street on Oct. 22, 2018.
The greeting was where the pleasantries ended between Rounds and Hedlund, who only got through a fraction of the defense’s cross-examination by the end of the day. Hedlund is the state’s final witness.
The tense and combative interaction moved at a slower pace than other days of the trial, as Rounds shuffled back and forth between the witness stand and the defense table to play CDs of recorded interviews for Hedlund.
Referencing things said by Hedlund to at least a few interviewees out of more than 100 people talked to during the course of the investigation, Hedlund’s answers resisted immediately agreeing to or acknowledging quotes Rounds asked him to confirm until he listened to the recording of the specific quote being referenced.
“(King) needs to be off the streets,” Hedlund said in one interview cited by Rounds. “I”m going to do whatever I can to build a case to prove he did it.”
“Does that refresh your recollection?” Rounds often said after playing each recorded quote for Hedlund, going through perhaps dozens of CDs by the end of the day.
Beginning questions from Rounds included “You’re not a neutral fact finder anymore, are you?” and “You think this is a game, don’t you?”
Assistant Attorney General Susan Krisco successfully sustained two objections to his lines of questioning as “argumentative.”
With many quotes, Rounds asked questions that made it a point to reinforce the defense’s theory that Hedlund has “ramrodded” King as the suspect in the investigation with strong confirmation bias.
In one interview, Hedlund said he hadn’t organized all of the investigation’s information until 10 days after King’s arrest, a claim Rounds pounced on. King was charged and arrested on Oct. 25, 2018, fewer than four full days after the shooting.
Rounds also made a point of emphasizing tactics Hedlund used in interviews to elicit information, particularly from those who said they had none to offer.
With some interviews, Rounds accused Hedlund of leading witnesses with signals to tell them whether they were getting “warmer” or “colder” to the information the detective was looking for, using a “credibility chart score,” when given an answer by a witness.
“Stop. I appreciate that,” Hedlund interjected in one interview. “That sounds like it rings true. Don’t diverge from the path you’re on.”
For other interviews played, less pleasant words were used.
“I’m telling you right now, you’re on the (expletive) edge of going upstairs to jail as a material witness on a double homicide,” he said to one subject in a recording after the interviewee refused to give Hedlund the passcode to his phone. “You better pull your head out of your (expletive) and tell me what the (expletive) is going on.”
Rounds attempted to characterize that interaction as an attempt to illegally arrest the man. He asked the judge to enter a video recording of the interview as a defense evidence exhibit, not “for the truth of the matter” but its “affect on the listener” to show the jury the “real officer” on the witness stand.
Krisco objected under the “rule of completeness” in rules of evidence, saying that if King’s lawyers want to do that, then the state will be entitled to enter the entire recording of every interview conducted by Hedlund with about 125 people for the jury that would dwarf the last six hours of recordings they had just finished sifting through.
“If that’s what they want, we’re all about it,” Krisco said, saying the defense should not get to cherry pick which recordings to play. “We will go ahead and play every single audio tape this man has done with every single witness in this case.”
District Court Judge Kurt Stoebe adjourned the court early to review an interview in his chambers to determine a ruling on the motion.
Rounds confirmed that in some interviews, tactics of threats and rewards were used — threatening to arrest on certain charges or seize cars as evidence for some interview subjects, and offering rewards to those who could volunteer information about the murder weapon for others.
While questioning Cole Fisher, the man seen in surveillance footage shopping with King at Walmart for ammunition and gloves, Hedlund offered to potentially help Fisher’s girlfriend, who was facing criminal charges, get a more lenient sentence.
Fisher said he wished he could help, but had no information he could offer.
“He wished he knew where the gun was,” Rounds said to Hedlund.
“I don’t know what he wished,” Hedlund replied, asserting that his offer to help was not a quid pro quo reward.
“You don’t think the average man on the street would think his girlfriend getting a slap on the wrist versus going to prison would be a reward?” Rounds asked.
“I think the average man on the street’s girlfriend is not going to prison,” Hedlund replied.
Before the cross-examination, began, the 25-year DCI veteran, who has been with FDPD for several years, established that investigators had to rely on physical evidence that could be corroborated due to difficulty dealing with those interviewed.
That evidence did not include a murder weapon.
Directed to Skelly Mines by King, investigators tested three shell casings in the area he said he fired a gun in — the reason he had ammunition in his apartment. None of them matched the Tulammo .40-caliber bullets at the scene of the crime and in his apartment, Hedlund revealed Tuesday.
Hedlund also said nothing of evidentiary value was discovered at Cletio Clark and Megan White’s house or through interviews with them. He said Clark, the man defense attorneys pose as the real killer, was also considered to be a suspect before King was charged.
Rounds is expected to complete his cross-examination today, which may take a substantial portion of the day.