The attorney for the Defendant, Mr. A. Douglas Reece, got my name on a referral from the KY – DPA. He called, we talked a little, and he drove up to my factory in Bedford, KY: to discuss the case in more detail. He brought the autopsy report and a few photographs. This case needed a terminal ballistics expert along with expertise in firearms design, ammunition design and firearms manufacture.
The prosecution claimed that the murder weapon was a .30-06 hunting rifle owned by the defendant. They also had possession of unwanted love and mash notes that the defendant (who was also the County Clerk) had sent to the deceased (a young and attractive female employee of the Clerk’s office). Further, the defendant’s step son claimed to have seen the defendant disposing of rifle parts and a rifle stock. The stock was recovered from a creek.
Mr. Reece’s theory was that the murder weapon was a pistol. In reviewing documents, I showed Mr. Reece where his theory had deficiencies. First, the autopsy report said that two vertebrae had been “liquified”. A pistol does not have the kinetic energy to do this.
Second, the autopsy report said, and photographs clearly showed, that the bullet exit from the body of the deceased was perfectly oblong, even showing the spitzer shape of the bullet nose. This bullet did not come from a pistol, it came from a rifle. Military rifle ammunition in a .30-06 is still of US design and manufacture, and the bullets (as is the norm for Free World countries) are designed for stability in free flight.
As an expert in ammunition design, I theorized that the murder weapon was, indeed, a rifle but that it was Soviet or Russian. The Soviet’s traditionally designed their bullets for their main battle rifle cartridge with a longitudinal imbalance so that they would have a greater percentage chance of “tumbling”, end over end, after entry into a human target. The exit wound meant the bullet tumbled and that the bullet was a non-expanding, spitzer type, military bullet.
Mr. Reece agreed with my analysis and we began to form a great operational team. I went to the State Police evidence room and examined what the prosecution claimed was the death bullet. It was an expanded .30 caliber hunting bullet. But there was zero human tissue trapped under the expansion petals. The only trapping was bits of dry-wall. This clearly was not the death bullet. This conclusion being shown not only from the trapping, but from the fact that the exit wound showed an undeformed bullet.
We prepared for trial. Luckily, I had the photography and machine shop skills to prepare visual aids. I did a number of photographs and drawings, and a 10x size sample bullet. In this way, I could educate the jury so that they could see the exterior ballistics and the terminal ballistics aspects of the case through my eyes.
The case had gained some notoriety and a national court TV film crew was present for the trial. I was separated during the prosecution phase. However, Mr. Reece ensured that I was kept informed of all testimony and exhibits of the prosecution’s case in chief.
As Mr. Reece was conducting his defense, the prosecution so bitterly objected to my appearance that the Judge sent the jury out and did voir dire himself. I presented all of my testimony before the Judge, suffering violent interruption by the prosecution (the DA was very heavily politically invested in the case).
The Judge enumerated what specific parts of my testimony would be admissible before the jury. The Judge then put in the record that of all the experts he had seen, in all disciplines, I was the best expert to ever appear before him.
When the jury came back in, Mr. Reece became a raging tyrannosaur in the defense. He goaded the prosecution so severely (wonderfully ??) that they themselves brought in almost everything in my testimony that the Judge had been willing to exclude. Mr. Reece brought in an exemplar rifle (in .264 Winchester caliber) and a tool kit. As a firearms design expert, I was able to switch out, on the stand, parts between the exemplar rifle and the prosecution’s recovered stock from the alleged death rifle. This demonstration destroyed the step son’s testimony, because the recovered stock could have come from literally millions of other Winchester Model 70 rifles.
Lo and behold, the prosecution, in a foolish attempt to discredit Mr. Reece and myself, belatedly disclosed a photograph of the gun rack of the deceased’s ex-boyfriend. There, sitting in the rack, was a Moisin-Nagant M-1891 Russian rifle, chambered for the 7.62 x 54mm Russian Rimmed cartridge. And the ammunition with it was exactly of the Soviet military type, which was designed for the bullet to tumble upon entry into a mammalian target.
Mr. Reece delivered a masterful closing. In conference before instructions, the defendant, Mr. Dean, took the risk and decided that there would not be any lesser included offenses in the instructions; it would be 2nd degree murder or nothing.
After 54 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a resounding “Not Guilty”.
Mr. Dean walked as a free man for years. In 2013, demonstrating that small towns can breed everlasting feuds for revenge; Mr. Dean was found with a single oxycontin pill in his pocket, but without the prescription container. Parole still hangs over his head.
Less than two years after the trial, the defense attorney, Mr. A. Douglas Reece was called home by the King.