The second week of the Seth Techel murder trial concluded Friday afternoon with the defense hacking away at evidence presented by the prosecution.
Defense attorney Steven Gardner attempted to discredit the state’s case against Techel Friday at the Henry County Courthouse in Mount Pleasant, picking at possible mistakes made during the investigation and attempting to discredit testimony presented by the prosecution from the stand.
The prosecution rested its case Thursday morning after presenting a lot of evidence that applies to motive but little physical evidence that ties Seth Techel directly to the murder of his wife, Lisa Caldwell Techel. Lisa was shot to death while asleep in her bed in the early morning hours of May 26th, 2012. A Wapello County jury failed to reach a verdict earlier this year.
The most notable witness called to the stand by the defense on Friday was Allison Murtha, a forensic scientist who specializes in trace evidence, especially gunshot residue. No gunshot residue test was ever conducted on Seth Techel, or anyone else, during the investigation into Lisa’s murder. In earlier testimony, Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations agents tried to claim that gunshot residue tests were not reliable, and DCI firearms expert Victor Murillo characterized gunshot residue tests as useless in cases like the Techel case. On Friday, Murtha, whose expert work has been put to use by the DCI several times, disagreed. Any time a gunshot residue test can be done, it should be done, said Murtha, who explained the science behind the test and showed how lacking in knowledge the Iowa DCI appears to be on the subject.
Other witnesses called by Gardner included Jeremy Weller, who at the time of Lisa’s murder was a Wapello County jail administrator and sheriff’s reservist. Weller told the jury how he found the murder weapon – a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun – on the day after Lisa’s murder about 90 feet from the front door of the Techel’s rural Agency home. The gun was just a few steps away from where deputies had been walking the day before, and they had somehow missed it. Weller also testified as to a 911 call recording that was discovered in June of 2012 but not turned over to the state until March of 2013.
The defense will continue to make its case when the trial resumes on Tuesday.