The Pierce County judge presiding over the trial of Steven Powell, father-in-law of missing Utah woman Susan Cox Powell, on Monday dismissed one of 15 counts filed by prosecutors.
Powell will not go to trial on one count of possessing an image of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
Defense attorneys had argued the charge required proof that Powell “initiated, contributed to, or in any way influenced the victim’s conduct” – something prosecutors couldn’t prove about images Powell allegedly filmed of two former neighbor girls bathing and using the toilet.
Superior Court Judge Ronald E. Culpepper agreed.
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“It is my understanding that the state does not have any evidence that anyone posed or directed the girls on count,” said Culpepper, who added the depictions related to that count are not those “of minors engaged in explicit conduct.”
Powell, 62, remains charged with 14 counts of voyeurism. Prosecutors have said he took images of girls as young as 8 during a 10-year span.
Attorneys on Monday also argued over just how much of Powell’s sexual obsession with his daughter-in-law jurors might hear about. Defense attorneys Mark Quigley and Travis Currie asked Culpepper to prevent journal entries written by Steve Powell that focus on Susan Powell from being used at trial.
Prosecutors said that in March 2004, Steve Powell wrote he and his daughter-in-law were a perfect match because he was a voyeur and she an exhibitionist.
In December 2003, he wrote he had been stalking her and making secret videos of her. In April 2003, he wrote that Susan Powell liked to be admired and that he was a voyeur. In September 2010, he wrote he was going nuts and had been nearly out of control sexually almost his entire life, prosecutors said.
Those entries, argued prosecutors Grant Blinn and Bryce Nelson, were relevant because they show Powell’s history of voyeurism.
Culpepper is expected to issue his ruling on the journals this morning.
Quigley and Currie also have requested limiting juror access to all of the images on a disc containing the images at issue in the case. Images not at issue on the disc that could prejudice the jury include legal pornography, other images of women Powell filmed without their knowledge and images of him “doing some things sexually,” according to Currie.
Earlier Monday, five potential jurors out of a pool of 70 brought into court said they couldn’t be impartial in the case. Three cited news reports and two personal connections to Susan Powell or her parents, Chuck and Judy Cox of Puyallup.
Culpepper asked the remaining 65 jurors to fill out questionnaires that will be reviewed by attorneys before jury selection resumes today.
LOOKING FOR CLUES
Outside of court, the Coxes said they hope the trial might yet reveal what happened to their daughter. The couple maintain Powell and his son, Josh, were involved in their daughter’s disappearance.
The Coxes said they believe Powell enjoys the attention of the trial and is trying to hurt them by dragging out the case and not cooperating with investigators. Judy Cox said this is Powell’s way to “stick it” to them and the world.
Testimony in the trial is expected to begin Wednesday with Pierce County sheriff’s detective Gary Sanders to be the first called, Blinn said Monday. The mother of Powell’s two alleged victims, the victims and detective Kevin Johnson also will take the witness stand, Blinn said.
Jennifer Graves, Steve Powell’s daughter who lives in West Jordan, Utah, is also expected to testify against her father.
The trial will then break on Thursday and Friday, resuming Monday when prosecutors say they anticipate resting their case.
Then the defense will make its case. Two investigators will testify on Steve Powell’s behalf, court documents show: Glenn Glover of the Pierce County Department of Assigned Counsel in Tacoma and Dave LaTourette with DL Investigations based in North Bend.
The trial is expected to end that Wednesday.
Susan Powell, 28, disappeared from her West Valley City home in December 2009. Police named her 36-year-old husband, who claimed he took the couple’s young sons on a midnight camping trip on the night of her disappearance, as a person of interest in the case.
Josh Powell killed himself and his sons, 7-year-old Charlie and 5-year-old Braden, in February at his Graham-area rental home. Police say he used a hatchet on the boys before lighting the home on fire in a gasoline-fueled blaze.