MARQUETTE - Defense attorney Karl Numinen delivered nearly an hour-long closing argument to the jury Tuesday in the open murder trial of Jacques Earl Carpenter, in which he painted a very different picture of the events of June 8, 2012 than those recounted by the prosecution.
Carpenter, 53, shot and killed David Scott Meyer Jr. on June 8 of last year at the 409 N. Second St. residence where both men were staying. Carpenter has claimed that he shot Meyer in self-defense, after Meyer attacked him with a large hunting knife.
Numinen accompanied his closing argument with a PowerPoint presentation titled "The Defense of Jack Carpenter," in white font on a black background - a title he said was apt because it served two purposes.
Defense attorney Karl Numinen crouches before the jury in the open murder trial of Jacques Earl Carpenter, slashing and stabbing with the 10-inch hunting knife recovered from the scene of the shooting death of David Scott Meyer Jr. Numinen argued that Carpenter shot Meyer in self-defense after Meyer attacked him with the knife, though a knife sheath and not the knife itself was found next to the body, and the knife did not have any fingerprints on it. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
"It's the defense of Jack Carpenter in two ways," Numinen said. "One, it's my defense of Jack Carpenter in the trial, but it's also the defense of Jack Carpenter in the sense of, Jack Carpenter's defense of himself on June 8, 2012."
Numinen went on to describe the setting of the shooting, what he described as a "drug-driven day." He recounts how Meyer and Justin Saari - the sole witness to the shooting - began the day by intravenously using Ritalin, then got a ride from Carpenter to several Ishpeming area stores in order to buy components to manufacture methamphetamine.
Numinen lamented what he said was the prosecution's preoccupation with Carpenter having drank alcohol, when both Meyer and Saari, he said, were "high as kites."
Meyer's autopsy found hydrocodone, sedatives, Ritalin and a small amount of marijuana in his system - what Numinen called a "drug cocktail" that he said made Meyer's behavior that day unpredictable and dangerous.
Numinen also said that Meyer and Saari were not planning to cook meth but were, in fact, in the process of cooking meth in Carpenter's kitchen when the shooting took place - a huge disparity from the version of events put forth by Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Wiese.
"The setting that day was not just some bucolic scene in the city of Ishpeming, with Jack Carpenter sitting in his living room watching TV, getting drunk," Numinen said. "The scene was, you've got two crackheads making up a batch of meth, and they're high as kites."
Numinen said that while he hated to talk about Meyer that way, saying it was "unseemly" to talk that way about someone who had died, it was necessary for the jury to understand what had gone on that day.
Numinen attributed what he said was actually the site of an active meth cook to the "overwhelming" smell of bleach testified to by a number of law enforcement officials who were at the scene. A bottle of bleach was found in the living room with blood on it, and the leader of the forensic team, detective sergeant Jay Peterson of the Michigan State Police, testified last week that the sleeve of a flannel shirt draped over the blood stains on a recliner in the room was soaked in bleach.
A trooper and clandestine meth lab expert from the Michigan State Police working undercover for the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team testified Monday that bleach is not a component used to make meth, but said it could conceivably be used to clean the makeshift lab equipment.
Numinen argued Tuesday that it wasn't Carpenter who tried to cover up the scene, but Saari, who, in the middle of an active meth cook, panicked and tried to cover up evidence of the cook.
At one point during his remarks, Numinen crouched slightly in front of the jury, holding the knife as he described how he said Meyer was threatening and slashing at Carpenter, when Carpenter had no choice but to shoot him.
Numinen also pointed out what he said were serious errors in the law enforcement processes of collecting and testing evidence, saying that the knife sheath - found on the floor next to Meyer's body - wasn't tested for fingerprints, nor was the bleach bottle, and that a contact DNA analysis could have and should have been conducted on the knife, but wasn't. He also said that the 3D diagrams created by MSP Sergeant John Bruno were flawed.
Additionally, he refuted the prosecution's statements that Carpenter had "staged" the scene, emphasized the mixture of drugs found in Meyer's system and Meyer's history of unpredictable, threatening behavior and focused on Carpenter's behavior in the aftermath of the shooting, which Numinen described as being "in an actual stupor."
Because the burden of proof in the case rests on the prosecution, Wiese had an opportunity following Numinen's closing statement to rebut the arguments Numinen made. As Wiese walked back to the podium, he seemed angry.
"Bravo, Mr. Numinen," he said. "Nice story, good theater."
He went on to say that there wasn't "one lick of evidence" supporting Numinen's argument that Meyer and Saari were in the middle of an active meth cook on the day of the shooting or that the knife had any role whatsoever in the fatal shooting of Meyer. He called Numinen's remarks "pure conjection and speculation," with an edge to his voice.
Wiese said he found parts of Numinen's remarks "offensive." He defended the work of police in the investigation and emphasized that the trial was about evidence.
"You look at the scene," Wiese said. "Does it look like David Meyer was 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' with the knife over by Jack Carpenter's chair? It does not! There was nothing disturbed there."
"I find it incredible that the defense attorney can make arguments like he's made in the last hour," Wiese said. "He wants to castigate the police, he wants to denigrate the dead guy, he wants to call Justin Saari whatever he wants to do - a rat, a snitch, a crackhead - and he wants to create a fiction that just did not get proven in this courtroom. And that would be a travesty of justice."
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.