The data cards from both cameras are missing, police witness told a court in Lee County, and video downloaded from one of the cards contained no useful information.
Those revelations came on the fourth day of testimony in the capital murder trial of Joshua Eugene Russell. Prosecutors say Russell, 26, shot Sollohub in the head with a .22 caliber pistol while the officer pursued him on Aug. 24, 2011 near 19th Street and Moore Avenue. Russell was apprehended after an hours-long manhunt in the neighborhood where 27-year-old Sollohub was found shot.
The trial was moved to Lee County so it could be presented to a jury with no prior knowledge of the case.
Anniston police Sgt. Scott Grissom told jurors about the cameras worn by police officers and mounted in their cars. Grissom testified that Sollohub’s car camera and body camera, known as a “scorpion,” were not turned on during the shooting. Grissom also said that video from Sollohub’s scorpion camera contained a corrupt file and could not be viewed.
John Robbins, Russell’s court-appointed attorney, questioned Grissom on where those videos were now. Grissom told Robbins he did not know where the cards used in the video cameras were today and that he had no paper trail for the evidence.
Investigators were able early in the investigation to download a short video clip from the scorpion camera and prosecutors played it for the jurors. The clip contained images of an unidentified man talking incoherently and slurring his words. Grissom testified that Anniston police did not activate the date and time stamps on their cameras so there was no way of knowing when the video was taken.
Robbins also questioned Anniston police Sgt. Tim Suits, the lead investigator in the case, about the missing video cards. Suits said he attempted to find the missing cards at the Anniston Crime Lab, their last known location, but the search came up empty. Suits testified he was “not happy” about the missing evidence, but didn’t find it suspicious.
Earlier in the day and out of the presence of the jury, Robbins moved for a mistrial on the grounds of withholding evidence. Calhoun County Circuit Judge Brian Howell denied the motion and told Robbins his client has never alleged that he acted in self-defense, so video from the initial encounter would not come into play.
Jurors also listened to testimony today from Derek Headley, a firearms examiner with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. Headley testified that the pistol used in the shooting had a nine pound trigger pull. He described trigger pull to jurors as force equivalent to the weight required to move the trigger.
“A gallon of water weighs approximately eight pounds, so it would take a bit more force to pull that trigger than to pick up that gallon of water with one finger,” he said.
Headley said tests on the .22 caliber semi-automatic Taurus-made pistol revealed a shell casing and cartridge collected as evidence were used with that gun. The firearms expert said he could not determine with enough certainty that the bullet collected from Sollohub’s autopsy was fired from that gun. Though the bullet did contain many similarities to a test bullet fired from the pistol when viewed under a microscope, Headley said.
Brendan Morgan, a forensic examiner, testified that he collected data from Russell’s cell phone. A photo of a small caliber pistol with a wooden grip and black barrel was shown to jurors. Morgan testified that this photo was taken by Russell’s cell phone on Aug. 9, 2011.
Previous testimony stated that the gun was stolen out of a man’s truck sometime between the night of Aug. 8, 2011 and afternoon of Aug. 9, 2011.
Robbins will have the opportunity to present witnesses when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. Monday in Lee County.
Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RBrown_Star.