Update: Duran’s defense calls expert to stand, tries to cast doubt on eyewitnesses’ memories
Patrick Duran’s defense attorney called an expert witness to the stand on the morning of Thursday, July 26, 2012.
The expert, a retired head of the Criminal Justice Department at UTEP, attempted to put some doubt into the minds of jurors about the identification of Duran as the offender on that night in September 2010. The expert spoke at length about how variables, such as police inadvertently suggesting to an eyewitness the guilt of a person, can influence a witness’s positive identification, but he could not say definitively that the victim in this particular case had been affected by such a thing.
“If your goal is to plant information,” said the expert, Dr. Roy Malpass, on the witness stand, “you can do this easily.”
He added that, even if someone does not intend to do so, the effects of discussing an event with someone else afterwards will have a dramatic effect on how they remember that event.
In terms of the Duran case, the defense’s argument is that New Mexico State Police officers influenced the memory of Samantha Patterson and her boyfriend, Gabriel Montano, while conducting the investigation. They did this, the defense argued, by showing them a picture of Duran.
Patterson then reportedly told SPD Officer Marvin Goke, the one who showed her the picture, that the offender was skinnier than the man in the picture. According to the defense, Goke then commented that Duran had lost weight since the picture had been taken. During his testimony, Goke stated he does not recall saying that and believes he would not make such a comment.
Goke took Patterson and Montano to Duran’s house for a show-up, where she identified Duran as the offender. Showing her the picture and then taking her to his house could have contaminated Patterson’s memory, Malpass said. He added that any information given to witnesses from police officers is especially influential because they are in a position of authority.
Another point Malpass told the jury is that the officer should have instructed her that the man in the picture may or may not be the offender. This way, he said, she would not have been already predisposed to believe the man in the picture was the offender.
When it was his turn to question, Robert Cates, the state’s prosecutor, reminded Malpass that Goke had showed up at another deputy’s house with Patterson and Montano. They told Goke that deputy was not the offender.
“The witnesses were willing to reject (a suspect),” Cates said.
In related news, Shawn Baca was originally supposed to testify during the trial, but he has been removed from the witness list.