ANGOLA, Ind. (WANE) - The trial for a man accused of killing someone over a meth deal got off to an unusual start on Tuesday.
Zao Garth Burrell is accused of shooting and killing Brent Dombroski in June of 2012. Police said he then, along with his father Danny Burrell and friend Michael Forrester, led authorities on a high speed chase and shot at officers.
Proceedings in Angola started on Tuesday without the presence of the jury. Steuben County Prosecutor Mike Hess filed a motion to exclude Danny Burrell from being a witness in the trial based on an interview he gave to NewsChannel 15 on Friday that was aired on Monday.
The prosecutor claimed Danny Burrell, who is listed as a witness for the defense, violated a separation of witness order by speaking with NewsChannel 15's Adam Widener on Friday.
During Friday's interview, Danny Burrell claimed he, not his son, was responsible for what he called the accidental shooting of Dombroski. He gave this interview shortly after his son's trial started on Friday.
"At the request of a party, the court shall order witnesses excluded so that they cannot hear the testimony of or discuss testimony with other witnesses, and it may make the order on its own motion."
Reporter Adam Widener and photojournalist Ross Kinsey were called to speak privately with the prosecutor and Defense Attorney Linda Wagoner. Widener clarified for both parties when he spoke with Danny Burrell and what was aired on TV.
The judge ultimately denied the motion to exclude Danny Burrell's testimony. The judge said the "trial process works best with rigorous cross-examination" and encouraged the prosecution to gauge whether or not witnesses had been affected by Danny Burrell's interview with NewsChannel 15 during this process.
During the trial Tuesday, prosecutors called to the stand two Steuben County Sheriff's Deputies involved in Zao Burrell's high-speed chase.
Deputy Richard McCarty was the first officer behind Burrell's vehicle during the pursuit. McCarty said Danny Burrell was driving, Zao was in the passenger seat, and Michael Forrester was in the back. McCarty said Zao shot at him through the passenger side window at least eight different times during the pursuit. In the end, Zao is said to have got out of the vehicle, fired a shot that hit McCarty's police SUV, then ran into the woods. McCarty said the pursuit lasted between five and six minutes.
Deputy Brad Kline with the Steuben County Sheriff's Dept. said he followed McCarty during the police pursuit. Kline said he saw someone fire multiple shots at McCarty's vehicle during the pursuit. He said when the person got out of the car and turned to shoot at McCarty's SUV, he recognized it to be Zao Burrell. Both Kline and McCarty said their vehicles did not have a video recording system on board.
Authorities never found Zao in those northwest Ohio woods. Police found him the next day in Fort Wayne.
Detective Chris Emerick with the Steuben County Sheriff's Dept. testified Tuesday. He said he found two shell casings around the same locations McCarty reported to be shot at.
A juror in the trial was brought in and relieved of jury duty Tuesday. The juror apparently violated an order not to do research on his own. Jurors were reportedly discussing different types of bullets and this jury member looked up two pictures online, printed them and gave them to the bailiff, who confiscated them.
When jurors are not in court they are barred from using computers, laptops, cellular telephones, other electronic communication devices, or any other method to:
- conduct research on their own or as a group regarding the case;
- gather information about the issues in the case;
- investigate the case, conduct experiments, or attempt to gain any specialized knowledge about the case;
- receive assistance in deciding the case from any outside source;
- read, watch, or listen to anything about the case from any source;
- listen to discussions among, or received information from, other people about the case; or
- talk to any of the parties, their lawyers, any of the witnesses, or members of the media, or anyone else about the case, including posting information, text messaging, email, Internet chat rooms, blogs, or social websites.
NewsChannel 15 plans to be in the courtroom for day four of Zao Burrell's trial Wednesday.
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