Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bell pulled from witness stand in kidnapping case

Posted By on September 24, 2009, 3:16 PM

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DJ Bell was pulled from stand moments ago after his defense attorney argued with the judge about how much detail Bell could use to describe the attack that caused his head injury. ---

Bell is facing two counts of first-degree felony child kidnapping and one count of second-degree felony burglary. He's accused of taking two children from his next-door neighbors' home on July 4, 2008.

Bell was attacked moment after a mother of one of the children found the kids, ages 2 and 4, in Bell's bedroom where his partner, Dan Fair, was sleeping. Bell was on the floor talking to the children when the mother came in, she testified Tuesday. Everyone was clothed.

Defense attorney Roger Kraft and 3rd District Judge Paul Maughan discussed the attack that then happened against Bell and Fair.

Prosecutors have called that statement a confession. The defense counters that Bell had moments earlier regained consciousness after being attacked and gave a statement that makes no sense.

Kraft said it is "crucial to [Bell's] defense that he had a head injury that caused confusion ... during an interview with police." Kraft said Bell was first attacked in his car port where his head was slammed into pavement then was dragged "by his hair" into the backyard. Maughan said the "dragged by his hair" detail was definitely not admissible.

Discussing details of the attacks, Kraft said, goes to Bell's "emotional frame of mind" at the time of the statement. The testimony would also reveal that a state's witness was lying, Kraft said, which may cast doubt on her testimony in other areas.

"We have to be able to say where these injuries occurred," Kraft argued. "They dragged him into the backyard."

"No, that detail is not coming in," Maughan said.

"It's not fair to sugar-coat it, that it happened in the backyard on the grass," Kraft said.

"It's as accurate as you're going to get," Maughan replied.

Kraft then asked if the defense may pull Bell from the stand--he'd been sitting in the witness chair during the debate. The judge allowed it. Kraft reserved their right to recall Bell at a later time if they choose.

This dispute has been ongoing since before the trial began. Bell accuses the neighbors who were at the next-door party of attacking him after the children were found; some state's witnesses reportedly denied attacking Bell and Fair when they testified yesterday.

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Multiple sources say Bell's defense attorney Susanne Gustin was chewed out by the judge earlier today for making Bell a victim. In this case, Maughan said, Bell is the suspect.

No charges have ever been filed for the attacks which gave Bell and head injury and put Fair in the hospital for three days.

Pool photos by Tom Smart

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