After four days of testimony, the prosecution and defense both rested their cases in the first-degree murder trial for Clyde Ewing.

The trial began at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Nez Perce County Courthouse. The prosecution, led by Nez Perce County Prosecutor Justin Coleman and Chief Deputy Prosecutor April Smith, rested its case at around 1:30 p.m. The defense, led by defense attorney Rick Cuddihy and assisted by attorney Bridget Barr, rested its case at around 2 p.m., then the court was recessed.

Ewing is charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of Samuel Johns on Jan. 8, 2021, at 1706 Seventh Ave. in Lewiston. Ewing’s 17-year-old son, Demetri Ewing, was also charged with first-degree murder and convicted April 22, in a separate trial. He was 16 years old at the time of Johns’ death.

The prosecution finished presenting its case with testimony from expert witnesses. John Stewart of the FBI lab in Quantico, Va., testified via Zoom on mitochondrial DNA, which is DNA passed down from mother to child. He tested DNA on a hair found in the tape of the zip ties in the alley behind the Johns home. He discovered that DNA from Clyde Ewing had the same sequencing as the mitochondrial DNA in the hair, which meant that Ewing “couldn’t be excluded as the source” of the hair. Stewart also compared Ewing’s DNA to a sample group of 10,629 to see if it matched any of those samples. “We had never seen it in the 10,629 individuals,” he said. In cross-examination, Stewart confirmed that Clyde Ewing’s siblings would have the same mitochondrial DNA.

Allison Laneve also testified via Zoom on gunshot residue found on clothing taken from Demetri and Clyde Ewing. Laneve works for RJ Lee Group, a materials analysis company from Monroeville, Pa. She said there are three components specific to gunshot residue: lead, antimony and barium. When all three are present in a particle, it is considered highly specific to the discharge of a firearm and when only two elements are found, it’s considered most likely from the discharge of a firearm.

Laneve tested clothing from Clyde Ewing, including three neck gaiters (face coverings), gloves and camouflage pants, and found four of the five items were positive for gunshot residue. The gloves had all three components highly specific to the discharge of a firearm and two of the neck gaiters and the pants had two of the three components. Clothing from Demetri Ewing also tested positive for gunshot residue.

In Cuddihy’s cross-examination, Laneve said that the presence of gunshot residue means either an individual discharged a firearm, was near a firearm when it discharged or had contact with someone or something that had gunshot residue on it.

“I can tell you one of those three things did happen, but I can’t tell you which one,” she said.

Cuddihy also noted that Laneve couldn’t confirm when the gunshot residue appeared on the Ewings’ clothing. She said it was possible gunshot residue could have been transferred to the clothing from another source when it was handled by police at the time of the Ewings’ arrest.

Prosecution also had testimony by William Schneck, from Microvision Northwest, a forensic consulting firm, who analyzed the zip ties, electrical tape and duct tape found at the crime scene and the Hacienda Lodge, where the Ewings were living at the time of Johns’ death. He examined zip ties found in the kitchen, in the alley behind the home and on the sidewalk at Eighth Avenue Boulevard. Schneck compared the zip ties at the crime scene to those at the Hacienda Lodge and concluded they could have originated from the same source.

When Schneck analyzed the electrical tape and duct tape, he first checked to see if any of the ends of various pieces from either the crime scene of the Hacienda Lodge matched, but no end pieces match. In his analysis of the electrical tape and duct tape, he confirmed that they could have come from the same source. In cross-examination, Schneck confirmed that “same source,” meant the materials were from the same manufacturer, which would ship its products to numerous stores.

A latent print analyst from Idaho State Police Forensic Services, Tara Martinez, also testified on fingerprints found on a Walmart bag found at the crime scene which matched those of Demetri Ewing. She made several points of comparison after realizing the fingerprint needed to be flipped because the clear plastic bag was examined on the wrong side, creating a reversal of the print.

After the prosecution rested its case, the defense called one witness, Lewiston Police Detective Brian Erickson. Ewing used his fifth amendment right not to testify.

Cuddihy asked Erickson about the hair found at the crime scene and confirmed that it was tested three times. Eric Seat at the Idaho State Police Forensic Lab tried to obtain the nuclear DNA from the hair, but was unable to extract it. Nuclear DNA is unique to an individual, whereas multiple people can share mitochondrial DNA. Another scientist at the FBI lab also analyzed the hair before it was given to Stewart for mitochondrial DNA analysis.

Cuddihy then asked Erickson about messages that Virginia Higheagle said she had from Clyde Ewing about his missing bag, which the prosecution alleges was the motive for the shooting. Cuddihy asked whether Erickson would have included the messages as evidence in the prosecution’s case if he had them, which Erickson confirmed. In her testimony to the court Tuesday, Higheagle said her phone was broken and she no longer had the messages. Cuddihy suggested that Higheagle wasn’t honest in telling the jury that her phone was broken. However, Erickson said she had two phones and didn’t tell him about a broken phone when she told him about the messages. In cross-examination, Erickson said Higheagle voluntarily gave him the phone she used most often and he downloaded the phone’s messages.

While the jury was out of the courtroom, Cuddihy made a motion for a directed verdict, meaning he argued that the prosecution failed to prove its case. Cuddihy stated that Ewing was charged with first-degree murder, and therefore each participant must have the same intent. He said that Clyde Ewing shouldn’t be charged with first-degree murder because it wasn’t clear if both he and Demetri had the same intent. Cuddihy said the prosecution hasn’t proven that or that Clyde Ewing was at the John’s home the night of the shooting.

Based on the testimony of Patricia Labombard, who was present at the time of the shooting, Cuddihy said there was no discussion between the two individuals telling the other what to do. He also argued that the prosecution didn’t provide evidence of a burglary or robbery as no property was taken from the Johns home, which also meant there was no underlying felony to justify the first-degree murder charge.

“This cannot go forward on first-degree murder,” Cuddihy said. “It has to go forward on a lesser charge, if it goes forward at all.”

Smith argued that robbery, under the law, is the taking of personal property against someone’s will by force or fear, which she said the prosecution has proven. The zip tie restraints show the intent to commit robbery, aggravated assault or kidnapping, any of which could be the underlying felony for a first-degree murder charge.

She also argued that there was evidence that “Clyde Ewing was present and acted in concert with Demetri Ewing,” which was sufficient for the first-degree murder charge. “(They) don’t have to both be in the kitchen at the same time and both follow each other’s footsteps,” she said.

Second District Judge Jay Gaskill denied Cuddihy’s motion, saying the prosecution provided enough evidence to justify the first-degree murder charge.

The trial will resume at 9 a.m. today with closing arguments and then it will be submitted to the jury with final instructions.

Brewster may be contacted at kbrewster@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2297.

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