Nez Perce County District Judge Jay Gaskill ruled on many motions Tuesday in Mark Lankford’s pending murder trial, including not calling a key witness from a previous trial.
Lankford has twice been convicted of the brutal 1983 beating deaths of a Texas couple, whose bodies were dumped in the Idaho County backcountry. Lankford has won two appeals.
The latest stems from Idaho County Prosecutor Kirk MacGregor failing to fully inform Lankford’s defense about a deal made with an incarcerated witness. MacGregor has been recused from the case because he could be called as a witness at the trial.
The incarcerated witness, Lane Thomas, testified at Lankford’s second trial that Lankford admitted to killing U.S. Marine Capt. Robert Bravence and his wife, Cheryl. MacGregor tried Lankford at his 2008 trial and called Thomas to the stand to testify with the promise of a possibly lenient sentence on an unrelated charge. The current attorney trying the case, Canyon County Prosecutor Justin Paskett, said Tuesday at a motion hearing he has no intention of calling Thomas to testify — partly because of unsuccessful attempts to locate Thomas.
Lankford’s attorney, Sean Walsh, told Gaskill he may want to call Thomas when it comes to the defense’s turn to present its case at the scheduled September jury trial. But that would be decided based on the testimony the prosecution brings at trial.
Multiple other motions were heard Tuesday with little discussion, such as providing transcripts from previous witness testimony of deceased witnesses, preparing transcripts at the end of each day at trial and providing a complete witness list.
One motion, however, was discussed at length and was atypical in the criminal realm — the state asked to depose Lankford’s brother and alleged co-conspirator in the murder, Bryan Lankford. The deposition would not be used as evidence in Mark Lankford’s trial, but the prosecution wanted to question Bryan Lankford and have it recorded in a sworn statement, Paskett said.
Walsh did not object to deposing Bryan Lankford, but wanted his client present at the deposition so that he could be aided by Mark Lankford in cross examining his brother. Gaskill did not rule on whether Bryan Lankford will be deposed until he can speak with Bryan Lankford’s attorney, Rick Cuddihy. Walsh said the law expressly states that a defendant has the right to be present at a deposition of a witness.
“Nobody knows more about this case, I venture — not the court, nor counsel, nor I — than Mr. Lankford, he’s been living with this case for (36) years,” Walsh said. “What if under oath (Bryan Lankford) confesses he acted alone, will the court exclude that exculpatory evidence? I believe that’s inviting error.”
Gaskill asked the attorneys to notify Cuddihy and Bryan Lankford prior to the next pretrial motion hearing July 9 where he will rule on whether Bryan Lankford should be deposed. The jury trial is set to last three weeks beginning Sept. 3.
Holm may be contacted at (208) 848-2275 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomHolm4.