Thurber Trial - Day 7: Jury Sent Home; Deliberations Resume Thursday

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 5:00pm

After two and a half hours of deliberations, jurors are sent home at the end of Wednesday. They were unable to reach a verdict before the end of the day.

Jurors will reconvene Thursday morning at 9:00 to continue their deliberations.

If Justin Thurber is convicted of Capital Murder, his trial moves into what is called the 'Penalty Phase.'

During this phase, prosecutors show jurors reasons why Thurber should be sentenced to death. His defense attorneys will argue for life in prison. Ultimately, the jury must make a recommendation to the judge as to which sentence he should impose. That sentencing is then carried out at a later date.

Every capital murder conviction is subject to an automatic review by the Kansas Supreme Court, regardless of whether a jury votes for life or death.

For a detailed review of today's closing arguments and final evidence, continue reading the blog posts below.


Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 2:20pm

Defense attorneys do not offer any argument. The case goes directly to the jury after the prosecutions closing arguments.


Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 2:15pm

Braden recounts the cell phone records that show Sanderholm and Thurber together near the Kaw Wildlife Area.

He points out the footprints found side-by-side near Sanderholm's body that were traced back to Thurber's shoes and Sanderholm's flip-flops.

And he says there's the DNA found in Sanderholm's car and under her fingernails that trace back to Thurber. Referencing the skin particles found under Sanderholm's fingernails, Braden says, "By Jodi's last actions, she was able to show who her killer was with her right hand."

Braden reminds jurors of the other girls who say Thurber followed and stalked them. He discusses Thurber's ex-girlfriend, who says Thurber told her the Kaw Wildlife Area was a good place to hide a body.

Then there are those who say they saw a man matching Thurber's description driving Sanderholm's car the afternoon of January 5, 2007... a car Thurber told police he had never been in.

Braden shows jurors a photo of Sanderholm's autopsy and asks, "Was this accidental?" He says it was not.

Braden says there is no evidence Thurber was injured, and no evidence Sanderholm provoked him.

Braden says Thurber is a "big man," over six feet tall and more than 240. Sanderholm was a petite 5'4".

Braden says "this young woman was manhandled by the defendant... and when he was done with her, he smacked her so hard it snapped an artery in her neck."

Braden reminds jurors of what was found on Thurber's computer, including a search of the Cowley College Tigerette webpage in the hours before the crime.

Braden says Thurber gave police several alibis the night of Jodi's death, all of which could be proven false. Braden says he lied about who he was with. The friends with whom Thurber claimed to have spent the afternoon during the time Sanderholm died all testified he was not with them.

Included in the list of attempted alibis was a letter sent to friend Chris Davis. In it, Thurber asked for help. At the end of the letter, he promised to take Davis to Hawaii.

Braden later shows another photo from the crime scene, telling jurors "If a picture is worth a thousand words, this tells the whole story."

Braden asks jurors the find Thurber guilty of capital murder, and ends his closing argument.


Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 1:45pm

Assistant Attorney General Vic Braden begins his closing argument, addressing jurors directly.

He points to the clock and says "It's about 1:35... you've been here about four hours."

He says that's about how long Jodi Sanderholm was with Justin Thurber. He says she must have been terrified of the man sitting across from her in her own car, having kidnapped her as she arrived home from dance practice.

At 4:30 in the afternoon, he says they arrived at the Kaw Wildlife Area, and that Thurber walked Sanderholm down a "trail of death."

Braden says as Sanderholm walked, she must have tried to get away or collapsed, at which point he says Thurber must have picked her up and carried her to the spot where he would ultimately beat, rape and kill her.

"She spent four hours in terror," Braden says. "And one hour dying."

He then points to a power-point presentation and begins to lay out all the evidence for jurors one last time...


Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 1:35pm

Court resumes this afternoon in the final stages of trial for Justin Thurber.

Just before lunch, prosecutors rested their case. Defense attorneys called no witnesses or offered any evidence on Thurber's behalf.

Judge Pringle will instruct jurors on how they are to conduct deliberations this afternoon, after which closing arguments will begin.

The judge reminds jurors that Thurber is not required to prove his innocence, and is not required to testify on his own behalf. He tells jurors it is up to prosecutors to prove he is guilty.

Thurber could also be convicted of the lesser crimes of First Degree Murder or Second Degree Murder. The difference is how the crime was committed. For capital murder, jurors must believe Thurber sexually assaulted Sanderholm in the commission of the crime.

First Degree Murder carries a life in prison sentence, but offers the possility of parole after 25 years.

Thurber is also charged with kidnapping, rape and assault.


Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 11:50am

Moments ago, prosecutors rested their case against Justin Thurber. His defense attorneys called no witnesses or offered any evidence on his behalf.

Closing arguments are expected after lunch, when prosecutors will again outline all the evidence they've presented to jurors in the last week and a half.

Defense attorneys will also speak with jurors, though having not presented any evidence or refuted much of the prosecution's case, it's unclear what they'll say in closing arguments.

Both sides will have approximately one hour to address jurors during closing arguments.

During opening statements last week, defense attorneys were brief. They did not outline any evidence on Thurber's behalf, only asking jurors to spare his from the death penalty if they should find him guilty at the conclusion of trial.

Jury deliberations are expected to begin later this afternoon.


Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 11:45am

Lance Antle is back on the stand. He explains how in handling the DNA evidence in his office, it's possible his DNA became mixed in before sending the samples off to Orchid Cellmark. Antle explains a number of samples were handled during examination, and that while gloves wore worn, contamination was still possible.

Barbara Leal takes the stand next. She also works with Orchid Cellmark laboratories.

Leal also tested DNA related to Jodi Sanderholm's case. She performed YSTR testing on the fingernails from Sanderholm's left hand. She says Thurber was excluded as a suspect.

She also performed a test of DNA taken from Sanderholm's right arm bicep. In this case, Thurber was not excluded.

Leal also did testing of DNA taken from around Sanderholm's ribcage. Again, Thurber could not be excluded as the source of DNA.

Under the middle fingernail on Sanderholm's right hand, another test was done on skin samples. Once again, Thurber could not be excluded as a source of the DNA.

In the last test, Leal says there was no record of anybody else in their database matching the DNA profile.

Leal says in the DNA sample from the ribcage and from the bicep, there were other instances of hundreds of people with a similar DNA type.

Pineda is called back to the stand a few moments later. She describes the databases Orchid Cellmark uses when cross-references DNA samples. They use the databases to establish how common or how rare any given DNA profile is. Remember, 99% of all DNA is similar person-to-person. Pineda previously testified it's those similar DNA strands that give everybody two eyes, two ears, a mouth and a nose.

However, the remaining 1% is what makes people different, and that is what is studied by forensic experts.

Pineda says the two databases contain many, many DNA profiles for comparison purposes. She says these databases can be used in YSTR testing.

Prosecutor Chris Smith asks: "So this type of testing is as good as it gets?"

"Yes," Pineda says.

Moments later, prosecutors rest their case. Defense attorneys say they have no witnesses or evidence to present.

Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 10:40am

Pineda says her office received several DNA samples in Jodi Sanderholm's case in the Spring of 2007, just a few months after Sanderholm's death.

The samples came from Sanderholm herself, Justin Thurber, Colby Wilson, and several other men with whom Thurber claims to have been with the day of the crime.

A test of DNA found in Sanderholm's body during autopsy provided a full profile of Colby Wilson. He said previously he and Sanderholm had a sexual relationship, consistent with the DNA recovered.

Testing of oral swabs taken from Sanderholm's mouth showed no match to any of the suspects submitted by authorities. However, Lance Antle's DNA was found, believed to have been a possible contamination during his previous testing of the DNA.

In the swab taken from Sanderholm's chest, all suspect samples submitted for testing were ruled out, with the exception of Justin Thurber.

However, Pineda says this was based on a partial DNA result, and that almost 1 in 4 people could have contributed to the DNA found on Sanderholm's chest. Although the samples submitted for analysis only found Thurber's DNA consistent with that discovered on Sanderholm's chest, Pineda says there are others who could have been responsible but not tested.

Jurors take their morning recess. Court resumes in about 20 minutes.


Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 10:20am

Gina Pineda is called to the stand after Antle. She works with Orchid Cellmark, a DNA analysis laboratory, and is an expert in DNA testing.

Orchid Cellmark was contacted to perform additional DNA testing on the evidence recovered from Jodi Sanderholm's body during her autopsy.

Pineda describes nucleic DNA testing as a way to identify a specific individual. Mitochondrial DNA (as discussed yesterday) is inherited from one's mother and can be found in both women and men. YSTR DNA testing focuses specifically on men.

Pineda says women have XX chromosomes, and men have XY chromosomes. Men can be identified through YSTR testing because of the Y in their genetic makeup.

Pineda says 99% of human DNA is the same. She says it's what gives us all two eyes, two ears, a mouth and nose. However, the remaining 1% is what makes everybody different. That 1% is what scientist study in trying to identify people.

Pineda says the drawbacks to YSTR testing include an inability to distinguish between two men of the same paternal lineage. She also says the statistics for ruling out other possible contributors to the DNA are much lower than in other forms of testing.

Pineda continues explaining the protocols and procedures for DNA testing. Prosecutors have not yet asked her about her involvement in the Sanderholm case, specifically.


Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 9:50am

Antle says one of the first DNA tests he performed was on a swab taken from Sanderholm's chest. Antle says he was unable to get a complete DNA profile, but was able to determine the swab contained DNA from more than one person.

The DNA was analyzed against Jodi Sanderholm's DNA, Justin Thurber's DNA and Colby Wilson's DNA. Wilson was Sanderholm's boyfriend at the time.

Antle says the results showed the DNA did not belong to Wilson (who testified earlier he was in Texas at the time of Sanderholm's disappearance).

Further testing showed Jodi Sanderholm and Justin Thurber could not be excluded from the list of possible donors.

Antle says this evidence was not enough to prove Thurber's involvement in the case. The DNA was sent on for additional analysis.


Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 9:40am

Antle continues telling jurors about DNA, mentioning that no matter how large the population grows, there is only a specific percentage of people with any given DNA profile. He uses the analogy of a deck of cards. Even with 500 decks of cards, you still have the same percentage of 2's in the deck.

Antle says based on back-and-forth analysis and multi-point cross-comparison of both maternal and paternal DNA, a person can be identified with a "one in a quadrillionth" certainty. (As a point of reference, the current world population is approximately only 6.7 billion.)

After a few more minutes of explaining DNA to jurors, prosecutors ask Antle if he worked in the case relating to Justin Thurber and Jodi Sanderholm. Antle says he did.

DNA swabs were taken from Jodi Sanderholm's remains, as well as Justin Thurber. Antle says he also received fingernail clippings taken from Sanderholm's autopsy.


Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 9:20am

Lt. Chris Arnett with the ACPD is the first witness to take the stand this morning. He searched Justin Thurber's home after Jodi Sanderholm disappeared on January 5, 2007. He seized a black leather jacket from Thurber's house. Arnett is on the stand only for a few moments.

KBI Agent David Falletti takes the stand next. He says the jacket recovered from the house was too small to fit Thurber. He says Thurber's mother told him the jacket was hers. In a previous instance, Falletti says Thurber refused to try on the jacket for comparison. Falletti is also dismissed after only a few moments on the stand.

KBI Forensic Biologist Lance Antle is called as the next witness. He describes for jurors how DNA is retrieved and analyzed by his office. This is similar to the science lesson jurors were given during Tuesday's DNA evidence.

Antle says half of a person's DNA comes from his/her mother, the other half comes from his/her father.

Tuesday, jurors were presented with DNA that experts say Thurber inherited from his mother. Today's DNA evidence is expected to discuss DNA potentially inherited from Thurber's father. Prosecutors are using both examples to further narrow down any potential suspects to Thurber alone.

Today's DNA is expected to come from evidence found under Jodi Sanderholm's fingernails.

Antle continues discussing what DNA is, how it's studied, and how it can help identify people...


Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 9:00am

Court resumes in what is expected to be the final day of testimony in the Justin Thurber capital murder trial.

Prosecutors this morning will focus on a second batch of DNA believed to link Thurber to the murder of 19-year-old Cowley College student Jodi Sanderholm. The evidence was collected from under Sanderholm's fingernails after the discovery of her body in the Kaw Wildlife Area.

Tuesday, a single strand of hair found in Sanderholm's submerged car was traced back to Justin Thurber, with what experts said was 99.85% certainty he was the source of the hair.

Defense attorneys countered, saying the remaining .15% could mean that of the hundreds of millions of people living in North America, a significant number would have a similar DNA profile.


Wednesday, Feb. 11 - 8:30am

Today is expected to be the final day of testimony in the Justin Thurber capital murder trial. The case has moved faster than expected, and prosecutors anticipate resting before noon.

Thurber's attorneys have an opportunity to show evidence on his behalf, though it's unclear what - if any - testimony will be heard in his defense.

Sources say any evidence that may be presented by Thurber's defense will be brief. At the start of trial, defense attorney Ron Evans told jurors he would not "belabor" the case.

Defense attorneys are not required to prove Thurber's innocence. The burden of proof lies solely on prosecutors, who must prove their case against Thurber beyond a reasonable doubt.

It's anticipated closing arguments could be heard as early as this afternoon. If that happens, the jury could get the case for verdict before the end of the day.

If Thurber is convicted of capital murder, he also faces the death penalty in the next phase of trial. The 'Penalty Phase' would begin after the jury renders its verdict.

All capital murder convictions, regardless of whether a defendant is sentenced to death or life in prison, are subject to an automatic review by the Kansas Supreme Court.

Stay with KAKE News and for updates throughout the day.

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