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Pittman murder trial nearly shuts down

After some 2-1/2 days of testimony, the double murder trial of Hobert Alan (also known as Albert) Pittman, 26, nearly came to a halt late Monday morning.
Defense attorney Shane Gibson of New Albany moved for a mistrial after Andrew Naylor of Frankton, brother of the 22-year-old co-defendant, John Michael Naylor, testified that his brother knew Pittman ‘from prison.’
The jury of nine men and five women were sent from the room by Superior Court Judge Roger D. Davis for an early lunch shortly after Gibson objected.
Pittman is on trial for the double shooting deaths on June 12, 2004, of his father, Hobert Pittman, 59, and step-grandmother, Myrtle L. Satterfield, 80, at the Pittman home in Mauckport, and for the attempted murder by gunshot of his stepmother, then 55-year-old Linda Pittman. (On that day, Hobert and Linda were celebrating their 13th year of marriage.)
Out of the jury’s presence, the defense called for a mistrial. Then, Davis recessed court over the lunch hour so he could consider Gibson’s motion for a mistrial. The recess also gave attorneys on both sides time to research case law to find precedent for upholding their positions.
When the lawyers returned to the courtroom an hour later (prior to the jury), Amie Newlon, Pittman’s court-appointed attorney, told the judge, ‘To me, this is an evidentiary harpoon.’
She argued that Pittman is guaranteed a fair trial and due process of law under the Constitution, and that Naylor’s statement placing their client, Albert Pittman, in prison, had prejudiced the jury against him.
‘There is no way you can cure the fact that this has been said; that these parties knew or met while in prison,’ Newlon said. ‘The jury has been tainted.’
But Chief Dep. Prosecutor John Colin argued that was not so. ‘The jury was not told Albert Pittman had been in jail.’
He could have been employed there as a guard or a kitchen employee or could have been a caseworker, Colin argued.
Colin also pointed out that his question to the brother was whether John and Albert were ‘friends.’
Colin said the question was asked to establish a relationship between the two which would be relevant in proving a conspiracy.
‘I did not (ask) the question in an attempt to get that response,’ Colin said. ‘It clearly called for a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response.’
Gibson said Andrew Naylor ‘was not an ordinary lay witness.
‘He is somebody who is clearly looking out for his brother.’
The defense contended the prosecution should have warned their witness not to bring up the word prison or jail, but Colin said they had not anticipated the statement.
The judge countered that the defense should have warned the court if they feared such a statement would be made.
After lunch, both sides presented case law upholding their arguments; in the Pittman case, a similar circumstance led to a higher court overturning the guilty verdict. But for the prosecution, the appellate court had ruled that whether a jury would not be able to return a fair verdict was ‘in the discretion of the court.’
Davis ruled in favor of continuing the trial. ‘A mistrial should only be granted when nothing else will take care of the problem,’ he said.
He added: ‘I do not think the defendant has been placed in a grave position of peril. I’m denying the motion for mistrial.’
Gibson then asked the judge to admonish the jury to disregard the statement, and Colin agreed that an admonishment would be ‘very proper.’
But first, the judge gave Andrew Naylor fair warning that he should not bring up anything about a prison, conviction or jail.
‘If an answer calls for something I’ve told you not to talk about, then don’t answer,’ the judge said, matter-of-factly. ‘You cannot mention anything about Albert Pittman or your brother in prison or jail.’
John Michael Naylor is expected to go to trial this fall on the same offenses as Pittman.
The two are accused of breaking into Pittman’s father and stepmother’s home at Mauckport, burglarizing it, then shooting and killing the father when he arrived home. The two are also accused of killing Satterfield and attempting to kill the stepmother, Linda Pittman, as she drove into the yard and then sped away for help after she had been wounded and her mother killed.
Albert Pittman, dressed in a gray and navy blue striped shirt and black dress slacks and seated at the defense table next to Newlon, smiled and rocked back and forth in his seat while awaiting the jury’s return.
When jury returned to their seats, Colin turned his questioning of Andrew Naylor to the days prior to June 12, 2004.
Naylor said Pittman often telephoned John at the their home in Frankton, about 30 miles northeast of Indianapolis, and they would talk for as long as an hour at times.
‘Who was present (besides Naylor) when you would receive these calls?’ Colin asked.
‘Just me,’ answered Andrew Naylor.
If John wasn’t at home, Pittman would ask that he return the call.
‘My brother didn’t really want to talk to him, so he wouldn’t call him back or he would put it off.’
The calls continued while the two brothers, who were homeschooled, were away at college, Andrew said. ‘He called a lot, dozens of times,’ he said.
John Naylor also visited Pittman at his mother’s home in Corydon ‘three or four times’ during the summer of 2003 and 2004, Andrew said, adding that he was present at those visits.
On June 11, 2004, John Naylor left home about noon in his car.
Andrew said he could no longer recall seeing some of the gear packed in John’s car. (That conflicted with an earlier sworn statement, Colin said.)
Andrew said when his brother left the house he was crying. ‘He said he didn’t want to leave,’ Andrew said. ‘He said he didn’t know how long he would be gone.’
‘I asked him if he had to go and he said there was no other way … I said, ‘Can I go?,’ and he said, ‘No, it was too dangerous.’ ‘
During cross, Andrew Naylor said he and his mother went shopping after John left, to get their minds off the problem. He did not call police, he said, because of threats.
Gibson asked Andrew, ‘Are you aware that John confessed to killing Hobert Pittman?’
‘No,’ Andrew answered.
Again, Gibson said the testimony conflicted with the deposition taken earlier.
Andrew Naylor was released from testifying, but as of yesterday, remained subject to recall.
The trial began Monday, June 12, with the selection of jurors, which continued into the next day. Last Wednesday, the court heard oral arguments on motions made by the attorneys.
Testimony began Thursday morning. Among the first to take the stand, Darryl Mosier, 45, told the court he and a fishing buddy had headed out from his home on Valley City-Mauckport Road west of Mauckport to Rough River on the afternoon of June 12, 2004. When he drove into town, next to the tavern, he said a van was speeding toward him erratically. Thinking the driver was a friend who was pulling a joke on him, Mosier said he slowed to a stop.
Then a woman, bleeding and with white bone fragments on her face, stopped the van next to the driver’s side of the truck and pleaded:
‘ ‘Oh, God, can you help me!’ ‘ Mosier said she asked. ‘ ‘My stepson shot me; he shot my family.’
‘She said that plain as day,’ Mosier said. ‘I was almost in as much shock as her.
‘But right out of the gate, she told me exactly what happened to her. I thought she was going to die.’
The judge had overruled the defense objection to the testimony as hearsay because it fit the allowance for an ‘excited utterance,’ one that occurred soon after an incident, at a time when the person might well have been dying.
Mosier’s friend, Matt Stanley, 42, of New Albany, also took the stand.
‘She was begging for help,’ he said of Linda Pittman, for herself, her husband, who was at their home, and her mother, a double amputee who was in a wheelchair in the back of the van, behind Linda.
‘She earned a lot of respect from me that day,’ Stanley said. ‘She was fighting for her life, but she was still worried about her husband; she was still worried about her mother.’
Stanley also said Linda Pittman named her attacker(s) as Albert, her stepson and they. ‘She said all three,’ Stanley said.
Stanley said because he is certified in first aid and CPR, he went around to the other side of the van, opened it and knelt inside to check on the woman in back.
‘She had no pulse; she wasn’t breathing,’ Stanley told the court.
Stanley described the entire scene as ‘gruesome.
‘I’ve never seen anything like it,’ he said.
Since his cell phone wouldn’t work, Stanley said he went inside the tavern and told a ‘biker-type to get off the phone. I had to call 9-1-1.’
While beside the van, both men said another vehicle raced from the scene, heading toward S.R. 135 and the Matthew E. Welsh bridge. Neither could identify the occupants, except to say one had long hair. But they couldn’t say whether that was the driver or passenger.
‘I’m a big boy and I was scared to death,’ Stanley said. ‘I wanted to run but there was nowhere to go.’
Mosier followed the fleeing red Ford Explorer (which had been parked at the house) to the bridge, where the two men got out and took off in the waiting vehicle, a red and silver Plymouth Horizon.
Police found 15 long guns in the cargo area of the Explorer and two more had been tossed into the back seat; two sawed-off shotguns were recovered from the Plymouth which was confiscated at Daytona Beach, Fla., where the two were arrested a couple of days after the shootings.
A cache of ammunition, survival gear and other items were confiscated from both vehicles and the crime scenes.
Testimony is expected to continue this morning.