Steve Powell not expected to testify

May 9 2012 - 2:33pm

TACOMA, Wash. -- The father-in-law of missing Utah woman Susan Powell is not expected to testify at his voyeurism trial in Washington state.

Defense attorney Mark Quigley told jurors during his opening statement Wednesday that Steve Powell doesn't have any burden of proof in the case, and it's up to prosecutors to provide enough evidence to convict him of charges that he secretly filmed two young neighbor girls in their home as they took baths, used the toilet and got dressed

Susan Powell disappeared from her home in West Valley City, Utah, in late 2009. In February, her husband, Josh Powell, attacked the couple's two sons at a house near Puyallup, Wash., with a hatchet and then ignited an explosive fire that claimed the lives of all three. Josh Powell, Steve's son, is believed to have been involved in Susan's disappearance.

"You know about Josh Powell and Susan Powell, and we all know that's not what this case is about," Quigley told the jury. "What I want you to focus on is the sufficiency of the state's evidence."

Steve Powell faces 14 counts of voyeurism. Judge Ronald Culpepper threw out one charge of possession of child pornography, saying the state's proffered evidence didn't fit the definition of that crime.

In his opening statement, Pierce County deputy prosecutor Bryce Nelson told the jury that Steve Powell recorded the images for his sexual gratification.

"This case is about a secret," Nelson said. The neighbor girls and her mother "didn't know Steve Powell had a secret. But we do."

Authorities searched Steve Powell's home last year for evidence in Susan Powell's disappearance. On Steve Powell's computers, they said, they found thousands of images of women and girls apparently recorded without their knowledge -- some as they walked dogs, strolled through parking lots, or entered their homes in Steve Powell's neighborhood.

There were many images of Susan Powell that appeared to have been filmed without her knowledge. In thousands of pages of journal entries discovered by detectives, Steve Powell detailed his obsession with Susan Powell, prosecutors have said.

Much of that evidence has been barred from the trial as unduly prejudicial against the defendant. Steve Powell is not charged with acts of voyeurism involving Susan Powell because authorities can't prove she didn't know about the filming.

By contrast, detectives were able to identify the neighbor girls and their mother, and they are expected to testify that they knew nothing about the filming.

Susan Powell's father, Chuck Cox, said it was obvious that Susan was unaware that she was being recorded by her father-in-law.

"Clearly their strongest evidence on anything is on Susan being a victim," Cox said. "I don't get it. Does she not count?"

The first witness to take the stand was Pierce County Sheriff's Detective Gary Sanders, who described how investigators found the images and then displayed them for jurors, explaining what they were seeing in each one. The screen on which the images were displayed was turned to avoid showing them to spectators in the courtroom, but Sanders' testimony sounded like a creepy slide show.

"You can see she's using the bathroom, underwear down to mid-thighs," he told the jurors. "Now another scene, both victims in the bath. ... And another bath scene. ... There she is putting on pajamas ...."

Powell faces a standard sentence of around four years if convicted, but the state has alleged aggravating factors that could result in a longer term.



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