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Hedlund cross examination continues

Double murder trial’s schedule nearly derailed by another defense request

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Defense attorney Paul Rounds listens to audio recordings of interviews that the witness, Detective Larry Hedlund of the Fort Dodge Police Department, conducted. Assistant Attorney General Susan Krisco follows along. All audio recordings played to refresh the witness’s memory must be done in a way that the jury cannot hear, as many of the recordings are not admittable as evidence.

NEVADA — Prosecutors and defense attorneys spent much of Wednesday arguing about “open doors” in a closed courtroom in between portions of the cross-examination of Fort Dodge Police Department Detective Larry Hedlund during the murder trial of Tanner King.

One of the doors defense attorneys tried to open, argument of which nearly derailed the trial’s schedule to a possible conclusion in December, was the admittance of more statements from Cletio Clark and others to Hedlund that the state called inadmissible hearsay.

“They want to get it out through Hedlund,” Assistant Attorney General Susan Krisco said. ”Put these people on the stand.”

The defense team insists Clark is the killer of Fort Dodge brothers El Dominic and Marion Rhodes, who were shot to death on Oct. 22, 2018, in an alley near Second Avenue North and Ninth Street. King is charged with two counts of first degree murder.

“We have a right to show this jury there were reasonable leads that they ignored,” defense attorney Paul Rounds said, telling the court that the man who would have been Marion Rhodes’ brother-in-law and another friend close to the victim tried to tell Hedlund about other leads.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Assistant Attorney General Susan Krisco places her face in the palm of her hand during a difficult, roundabout argument of a motion with defense counsel, after reiterating her points.

The jury was told that King’s trial would not go past Thanksgiving. At the pace the court has moved – the state’s last witness has been sitting on the stand since Monday – District Court Judge Kurt Stoebe said that jurors have expressed anxiety about the timeline.

Stoebe ruled against the defense’s Tuesday motion to admit a video recording showing Hedlund interrogating a witness and threatening to arrest him to coerce cooperation, an arrest Rounds said would have been illegal.

After reviewing the video, Stoebe said the probative value, the extent to which it could sufficiently prove something, was low and that it would not be admitted for the jury to see.

But that didn’t stop the defense team from attempting to submit statements from Clark, made during interviews with Hedlund, that could bolster their theories. Among them, the defense asserts that Hedlund was discouraged from further considering Clark as a suspect due to racial reasons, that King was charged partially due to information from Clark and that Clark’s honesty was questionable.

The request, which Stoebe said would require a written argument and at least one working day to evaluate for a ruling, was rendered unnecessary after the defense came to an agreement with the state after a break. The defense agreed that it would not proffer any more questions about Clark’s statements to Hedlund.

“If we arrested Cletio, I guarantee you we’d have 50 people come forward saying (the killer) was Tanner King, not Cletio,” Hedlund said to one subject in an interview. “They’d say we arrested Cletio because he’s the black guy.”

Rounds said that the statement from Hedlund, after hearing multiple statements from Clark about racial injustice and racial bias in the legal and criminal justice system, showed that Hedlund at least partly took it into consideration before charging King.

Rounds previously stated his intent to show that Clark “played the race card,” to deflect Hedlund from pursuing him as a suspect, and that Hedlund “fell for it.”

Clark, who was convicted of robbing the Fort Dodge Applebee’s with a handgun in September 2018, previously took the witness stand briefly, where he disclosed to Rounds what topics he would be willing to discuss. He said he would be willing to discuss his views about racial inequality and how he feels he’s treated as a black man.

The agreement reached between the state and defense on how to move forward also stipulates that any “plea the fifth” assertion Clark makes to avoid incriminating himself would be considered a blanket assertion, and that transcripts and recordings of conversations with law enforcement would be used. Clark may testify today.

The rest of Rounds’ cross-examination of Hedlund focused on his style, which has previously been described as “tenacious” by both the attorney and the detective.

Questions highlighted his tendency to make threats with certain interview subjects, including criminal charges, and belittle some with comments less than kind.

Hedlund seemed to acquiesce to more of Rounds’s quoted statements on the second day of cross-examination, as he did not require the defense attorney to “refresh his recollection” nearly as often by playing audio tapes of his quotes.

Rounds also underscored some of Hedlund’s quotes as mean and unnecessary in an attempt to paint him in a different light than the state’s direct examination.

“I talked to Tanner yesterday for six hours and my IQ dropped 50 points,” he said in one interview.

Rounds also unveiled previously-redacted recordings of Hedlund executing a search warrant at Tanner King’s apartment after referring back to one of his first questions to Hedlund on Tuesday: “You think this is a game, don’t you?”

In the recording, after Hedlund finds bullets in King’s garbage can, he is heard giving high fives to the other officers.

Rounds also attempted to sow seeds of doubt through questioning that Hedlund had not completed a “fair and thorough” investigation, ignoring leads from others close to the Rhodes brothers who said that there was “bad blood” between Marion Rhodes and Johnny Young, of Kansas City. Rounds continues to assert that Clark carried out hits on the orders of Young.

Hedlund conceded that although the bullet casings at the crime scene matched the brand and caliber of the ones in King’s apartment, King’s DNA was not on them.

He also noted that he believed that King didn’t know he was going to shoot the victims before he did it.

Barring any other issues, Hedlund may finally be able to step down from the witness stand this morning after attorneys finish re-crossing and re-examining him.