Prosecutors want police body camera footage of a Park Point man talking to police after being assaulted in his home included as evidence in the trial of the man now accused in his murder.
Darrel Darryl Mayhew, 31, of Duluth, is accused of striking 70-year-old Larry Watczak over the head with a blunt object before taking off with his cellphone, tablet computer and roughly $2 in cash.
Mayhew in March pleaded not guilty to charges of intentional second-degree murder, unintentional second-degree murder, aggravated first-degree robbery and first-degree burglary.
Sixth District Judge Dale Harris considered the request during a motion hearing Wednesday morning in State District Court in Duluth.
Assistant St. Louis County attorneys Vicky Wanta and Chris Florey are prosecuting the case while Mayhew is representing himself, with attorney Scott Belfry in an advisory role.
The body camera footage shows Watczak speaking with Duluth police at his home about 30 minutes after the Jan. 2 attack, according to a motion filed by the prosecution to have the footage admitted as evidence.
At issue is whether presenting footage of Watczak’s statements to police violates Mayhew’s right to question the prosecution’s witnesses — in this case Watczak himself as a witness to his own assault — as well as whether the statements violate court rules on hearsay evidence.
In the footage, Watczak answers the door while holding a bloody towel to his head. When police asked what happened, Watczak told them that “two guys broke in.” He then removed the towel to show an officer a large, bloody cut on his head, according to court documents.
Watczak tells police in the footage that he didn’t know what the assailants looked like because they threw a blanket over his head. However, he told police he recognized one of the men’s voices - since alleged to be Mayhew’s - as belonging to a man who’d asked to shovel his sidewalk for money the week before.
Watczak was soon taken to a local hospital, where he soon slipped into a coma and died 10 days later.
Watczak’s statements to police qualify as hearsay, which typically is not allowed at trial, but exceptions can be made in some situations.
Based on the prosecution’s motion, Harris must now decide whether:
- Watczak’s statements to police identifying Mayhew were merely to help officers assess an emergency, as the state contends, and should be admitted as evidence because Watczak himself can no longer testify, or;
- Watczak’s statements should be excluded because they violate Mayhew’s right to question a witness making an accusation against him, even though that witness is now dead.
The state also argued that Watczak’s identification of Mayhew falls under exceptions to the hearsay rule that give weight to relevant statements made in times of distress.
Wanta also argued that other witnesses in the area corroborated Watczak’s statements by identifying Mayhew as recently having been in the area asking to shovel sidewalks for money.
Harris said he would take the motion under advisement and issue a written ruling early next week.
‘All charges were dismissed’
For his part, Mayhew told Harris that he doesn’t object to the body camera footage being admitted as evidence — because he doesn’t believe he should be in court at all.
Citing court rules and case law, Mayhew filed several motions within the past week asking for immediate dismissal and release from custody after a grand jury last month declined to indict him on first-degree murder charges.
“All charges were dismissed (by) the grand jury,” Mayhew told the judge more than once Wednesday.
Wanta, for the prosecution, argued that the grand jury proceedings and criminal complaints were separate. A grand jury only considered a charge of first-degree murder, she said, and its decision not to indict doesn’t prohibit the state from filing a second-degree murder charge.
Mayhew also asked the judge to review the state’s determination of probable cause in the case, telling Harris he believed the murder charge was baseless.
“I feel (Watczak) died of natural causes or seizures,” he told Harris.
Harris told Mayhew that he’ll take the matters under advisement and issue a written decision soon.
Without a grand jury indictment on the first-degree murder charge, Wanta said the state would drop its intentional second-degree murder charge and proceed with the unintentional murder charge.
Mayhew also told Harris that he feared local news coverage of the case could sway a jury.
“The newspaper made me look (like) a monster,” Mayhew said.
The judge assured Mayhew that the pool of potential jurors would be questioned during jury selection.
Mayhew is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on May 17.