Powell’s voyeurism case could go to jury Tuesday

Staff writerMay 14, 2012 

A Pierce County jury might get the voyeurism case against Steven Craig Powell by noon today.

Attorneys in the case are set to present their closing arguments beginning about 9 a.m. Their final remarks will culminate a trial that lasted portions of only two days and was relatively devoid of drama, given Powell’s connections to missing Utah resident Susan Cox Powell.

People hoping explosive developments in the woman’s disappearance and presumed murder might emerge during her father-in-law’s trial on two Class C felonies in Pierce County were disappointed.

After Monday’s testimony, Chuck Cox, the missing woman’s father, told KING 5 the trial was “a colossal waste of my time.” Cox attended both days, hoping to learn something about his missing daughter.

Susan Powell’s name was uttered only once or twice during testimony, then only to explain why detectives searched Steven Powell’s Puyallup-area home in August.

They were there to look for clues in her disappearance. His son and Susan’s husband, Josh, was living with his father at the time. Josh Powell was being investigated in his wife’s disappearance until he killed their two sons and himself in Pierce County earlier this year.

What authorities found during their search of Steven Powell’s home was a compact disc with a lot of photos of naked or seminude women and girls. The disc was in a cardboard box in Powell’s bedroom.

Deputy prosecutors Grant Blinn and Bryce Nelson contend some of those photos depict sisters, then ages 10 and 8, who lived in a house adjacent to Powell in the summer of 2006.

Some of those photos show the girls bathing or using the toilet.

Steven Powell is charged with 14 counts of voyeurism for allegedly taking those photos for the purpose of sexual gratification.

West Valley City, Utah, police detective Ellis Maxwell testified Monday about helping to discover the disc and viewing its contents. He took part in the raid of Steven Powell’s home because his department is the lead agency investigating Susan Powell’s disappearance.

He also testified about finding a Sony Handycam video camera in Steven Powell’s bedroom. Under questioning from Nelson, Maxwell explained that he examined the computer files on the compact disc and found the photos of the sisters were captured with a Sony Handycam.

Nelson asked him what that information told him.

“That would tell me that (Powell’s) camera was used to take those photographs,” the detective testified.

Defense attorney Travis Currie, who is representing Powell along with colleague Mark Quigley, did not let that statement go unchallenged. During cross-examination, Currie asked Maxwell if he could say for certain Steven Powell’s camera was used to take those photos.

Maxwell clarified that he could say only that a Sony Handycam was used, not Powell’s specific Handycam.

Currie also asked Maxwell if he’d found any other photos of “nude, prepubescent girls” on the disc. The detective said he did not.

Next up was Sgt. Todd Gray, also of West Valley City police.

Gray testified about reading a journal allegedly authored by Steven Powell that was seized during the August raid. Nelson had him read a damning excerpt, where Powell allegedly wrote he enjoyed taking photos of girls and women in shorts and skirts and using them later for sexual gratification.

Currie, during cross-examination, asked Gray when that journal entry was made. The sergeant said 2004, which is two years before the photos of the neighbor girls were taken.

The state then called Jennifer Graves to the stand. Graves is Steven Powell’s adult daughter. She testified about who was living at her father’s house that summer. The defense had asked other witnesses if anyone else was living in the house that summer. Several said yes.

Graves testified that two of her brothers, John and Michael, had been living in the house but had reasons to be elsewhere during all or part of the summer of 2006.

The state then rested, and the defense quickly followed suit, electing to call no witnesses.

Currie made a play, once the jury was sent home for the day, to get the case against his client drastically reduced.

He argued to Superior Court Judge Ronald Culpepper that the prosecution had not introduced enough evidence to prove there were multiple acts of voyeurism. All the photos conceivably could have been taken during one session, he said.

Currie said all but two of the counts – one for each alleged victim – should be dismissed.

Deputy prosecutor Blinn agreed that two of the counts amounted to “same criminal conduct” but argued neither they nor any of the others should be dismissed now. Any merging of counts should take place at sentencing, Blinn said.

Culpepper sided with Blinn.

Jurors will get to consider all 14 counts once Culpepper delivers jury instructions and the lawyers finish their arguments this morning.


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