Evidence dispute delays case

Andrew Tellijohn

Prosecutors wanted to rest their case Wednesday against Louis Cardona “Butch” Buggs, the man accused of killing University student Kami Talley. But an objection by the defense stretched their case out for at least one more day.
Judith Hawley and Mary Hannon thought they had called their last witness when Minneapolis Police Sgt. Richard Edinger from the homicide division took the stand.
But when defense attorney John Lucas argued that a piece of evidence had an incomplete record of custody, he changed the prosecution’s plans.
Edinger and his partner Sgt. Steve Berg were the main investigators in the case, arriving at Talley’s Northeast Minneapolis workplace at 10 a.m. the day of the shooting. The officers followed leads in Texas and finally Alexandria, Va., where Buggs was eventually arrested outside his sister’s house.
Buggs faces first-degree murder charges in connection with killing his ex-girlfriend Talley at her workplace last Valentine’s Day. Buggs then allegedly fled Minneapolis, stopping in Texas and Mexico before being arrested in April.
While investigating Buggs’ sister’s house, detectives found a loaded 9 mm bullet chamber and a handgun carrying case that were in the master bedroom.
Lucas said he wants to see all the links of the chain which brought the evidence from Virginia to Minnesota.
Edinger said he knew where the evidence was at all times and handled it properly. However, he did hand the evidence to Det. Tom Durkin from the Alexandria, Va. police department so it could be inventoried overnight.
In the morning, Durkin gave Edinger the evidence back. However, since Edinger didn’t have possession of it the entire time, defense attorneys and Judge Albrecht want Durkin to testify to complete the chain.
Durkin was contacted Wednesday afternoon and is expected today in Minneapolis to testify, Hawley said.
Hawley also said she expects to rest her case today, but “I’ve been wrong every day.”
Though other questionable evidence, such as a letter Buggs wrote to his sister thanking her for letting him stay at her house, was admitted later in the day, Albrecht said the objection over the ammunition was valid because the other evidence could be positively identified.
Albrecht said the authenticity of the letter was obvious, but because bullets have no particular characteristic to distinguish one from another, they are harder to verify.
The controversy surrounding the evidence didn’t end there. Lucas said he also felt it was tainted because it wasn’t fingerprinted until a week or two before the trial. Buggs claims to have no knowledge of the ammunition. Since it was found in his sister’s bedroom, Lucas said it might have no tie to Buggs at all.
Because there was such a time lag between gathering the evidence and fingerprinting it, Lucas said he can’t conclusively prove Buggs had no connection.
“The reality is (Buggs) can’t claim that it’s not his with any force, as he would have if it were fingerprinted (right away),” Lucas said.
With regards to this piece of evidence and the entire trial, Albrecht allowed Buggs to address him, away from the jury, before the afternoon break.
“Where’s the lab report?” Buggs said. “We have lab reports on everything else in this case.”
Buggs also said Albrecht wasn’t allowing evidence that could prove his innocence.
In an interview later, Albrecht said even though it is unusual for a defendant to make such a statement, he allowed it anyway.
“Maybe I’m just more informal than most,” he said. “I just don’t have any problem with that.”
He didn’t make any response to Buggs’ comments at the time, however; he said that he didn’t want to start an argument.
After the jury was sent home for the day, counsel from both sides discussed potential witnesses for the defense. Hawley specifically wanted to know the reason defense attorneys wanted to call Talley’s father and sister.
Lucas said without argument that Talley’s sister probably wouldn’t have to be called but argued that a history of allegations against her father was reason for him to be called. Lucas suggested that Talley’s father might have had a motive for killing Talley himself.
“There is the possibility of suggesting he (Talley’s father) had something to do with it,” Lucas said. He said Talley was possibly going to accuse her father of sexually abusing her as a child.
Albrecht denied the request saying that Lucas was reaching with his theory that he might have been involved in setting up the murder.
“If they had more evidence that would’ve suggested (he was involved), I would’ve allowed it.”
If Buggs is convicted of murdering Talley, he would face life in prison without the option of parole.