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Colorado legal observers analyze Mark Redwine trial

What impact did sordid photos, wildlife evidence play in jurors’ decision?
Mark Redwine listens to testimony during his trial at the La Plata County Courthouse. Redwine was found guilty Friday of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in the death of his son, Dylan Redwine. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

After years of delays and two mistrials, Mark Redwine’s murder trial captured the attention of both defense and prosecuting attorneys all over the country as they awaited the verdict.

The Durango Herald talked with a former Colorado prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney for their take on the five-week trial and the jury’s swift decision to find 59-year-old Redwine guilty of second-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death.

Bob Grant is the former district attorney for the 17th Judicial District, which includes Adams and Broomfield counties. He had the last successful death penalty prosecution in the state, the murder conviction of Gary Davis, who was put to death by lethal injection in fall 1997. Eric Faddis is a former Arapahoe County prosecutor who is now practicing as a criminal defense attorney for Varner Faddis Elite Legal in Denver.

DH: What did you think about how quickly (6.5 hours) the Redwine jury returned the guilty verdict?

Grant: I was surprised it came back so fast, but Friday verdicts are always quick.

Faddis: I was surprised. I’ve had DUI cases where the jury went out longer. After so many delays and so many years since the boy disappeared, you’d expect they would have taken more time.

DH: Before they returned their verdict, the jury had two questions for the court. They wanted to see the transcripts of the testimony of FBI agent John Grusing and they wanted to see his report. What did that mean?

Grant: People are fascinated by the FBI. Grusing gave credible testimony and obviously he’s someone they could trust.

Faddis: Jurors often believe FBI investigators, and they often want to revisit their testimony. It’s a sign of Grusing’s credibility.

DH: Did the amount of blood in the Redwine home make a difference in this case?

Grant: The blood was a throwaway.

Faddis: People believed if Dylan was killed in the home, there would be pools of blood. There really wasn’t.

DH: What do you think was the deciding factor in their guilty verdict?

Grant: The forensic anthropologist (Diane France) testified to the specific head strike, which she said couldn’t have been caused by an animal. The scientific evidence that carries weight is based on common sense for the jurors and the case hinged on that. Look at a sabertooth mark and a knife mark and you can see the difference.

Faddis: I believe the key was in how the boy’s remains were dispersed, which indicated nefarious human involvement. In testimony, prosecutors asked how far mountain lions and bears drag remains. And the answer is they don’t disperse remains that far. The defense brought up the mountain lion possibility as a plausible alternative explanation. They did their jobs.

DH: Do you think the dreadful photos of Redwine make a difference to the jury?

Grant: You’ve got a fractured family with an ultra-mega-weird dad. Those wacko pictures shouldn’t have anything to do with determining the case, other than it sets up animosity between father and son.

Faddis: Jurors are human beings. The photos were inflammatory and rubbed people the wrong way. Even though this wasn’t evidence that Mark Redwine killed his own child, jurors may have had an adverse reaction to them.

DH: Is it hard for a jury to get past the idea that a father could murder and then decapitate his own son?

Grant: Unfortunately, parents do kill their children. We’ve seen it time and time again. This particular case was horrible, but it happens.

Faddis: It was one of the most fascinating aspects of this trial. It’s hard to accept that a father could do this to his own child. Mark Redwine was done away by his own children. Both of his sons, Cory and Brandon, testified against their father and this was compelling.

DH: Any final thoughts?

Grant: In a circumstantial case it’s about how all of the pieces fit together. The only question was, ‘who-dunnit?’ The prosecution answered all of the (jurors’) questions.

Faddis: Through the years, this case has had substantial media coverage locally and nationally. Jurors may have been influenced by the attention this case has gotten and may have felt pressure. After this, they have to go back into town and face their friends and answer for their decision. This may have been a factor in their guilt verdict.

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