I’ve now watched the Dateline episode The Evil That Watches three times. While I gained a little more insight with each viewing, there remains a host of unanswered questions. I hope that supporters of Kit Martin will provide more clarity. If you know the answers to some of my questions or can provide additional information, please respond in the comments section. My knowledge of this case is based solely on the Dateline episode. I was not present at trial, nor have I read any trial transcripts.
As someone who writes about wrongful convictions, I feel that I can sense when someone is lying. I didn’t sense any deceit in Kit’s interview with Keith Morrison. But I know from past wrongful conviction cases that overturning a conviction is difficult and time-consuming. I believe his best chance for a reversal is by arguing that he had ineffective counsel. More on this later.
First, I do not believe that the evidence used against Kit at trial was planted, as suggested by his attorney—for example, the dog tag evidence. If you were going to plant evidence incriminating someone else, you wouldn’t use a dog tag on a string. That would be like painting on the wall that “Kit did it.” That makes zero sense. Additionally, if I’m planting evidence, I wouldn’t place it on the top of a bookshelf hoping that someone might find it. That’s nonsense. Now the defense attorney argued in court that Joan, Kit’s ex-wife, had access to Kit’s belongings, including his dog tags. In his interview with Keith Morrison, Kit claimed that those were not his dog tags. That his dog tags would not have had his nickname on them.
Did the defense attorney challenge the authenticity of the dog tags? Did he explain to the jury that dog tags don’t use nicknames? Did he provide Kit’s actual dog tags? Did he conduct any research on where the dog tags might have come from? Dateline was able to reproduce the dog tag.
Next, we have the shell casing. Once again, the defense attorney claimed that the evidence was planted. The police searched the house, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have missed the shell casing. Once again, if you are planting evidence, you would not plant it at a later date in the hopes that someone might find it.
The prosecutor had an expert witness say that, in his opinion, the shell casing came from a gun owned by Kit. Did the defense attorney challenge that? Did the bullets that killed Cal come from the same gun? Was there any ballistics evidence at all?
Then there is Kit’s alibi. He says that his security video evidence proved that he was home the whole time. He claims that he could not use the front door because it didn’t work and was nailed shut. On the Dateline episode on this topic, the prosecutor stated that there was nothing wrong with the front door.
Did the defense attorney challenge this? Did he provide any evidence that the front door was, in fact, unusable and nailed shut? Did Laura Spencer testify at trial that Kit was with her at home during the time of the crime?
These are just a few of the questions I have about this case. Below are a few more.
There were apparently two guns used in the crime – a 22 and a 45. Would one person commit a crime with two different guns? Did they find the 22?
The police found a gun and phone near Ed’s house. Was the gun and phone Ed’s?
Did Kit have an explanation for the person who testified that he saw Kit a few days before the murder in the vicinity of where police found Pam’s burnt-out car?
Was the damage to Cal’s face caused before or after he was shot?
Did Kit appeal his conviction on the court marshall? Was there any attempt to question the children Kit supposedly abused?
Kit claims that he thought Cal would be helpful to his case with the court marshall because he claimed on audio that he never saw any abuse, but the audio has Cal saying that one of the kids told him that Kit abused him. That is just as damaging as witnessing the abuse.
At one point, Joan claims to have found a phone in her yard that later proved to be Pam’s phone. What yard did she supposedly find the phone?
A two-hour Dateline episode can not distill all the information about a case that took four years between crime and trial. My take is that the defense attorney should have spent more time attacking the evidence and less time talking about planted evidence. I do not believe the evidence was planted.
One last note. If you go to the site map page on this site and type in wrongful convictions in the search box, you will see that I have been covering this topic for a while. My last book, Scapegoat, tells the story of a flight crew wrongly blamed for causing a near-fatal crash. I’ve been looking for a story for my next book. As a professional pilot (soon to be retired) and author, this is a story that has piqued my interest.
To Kit’s supporters, please take as much space as needed to respond to this post. I will approve the response as soon as I can.
You can watch the Dateline episode here Watch Dateline Episode: The Evil That Watches – NBC.com
I’ve now had a chance to watch the entire trial. My initial impression from the Dateline episode about Kit’s innocence remains. There’s no way he could have been involved. The security video and his alibi witnesses clear him of any involvement. As for the many questions I had after the Dateline episode, I now know the answers to all of them.
I won’t go over all of the questions and answers here, but I do want to address the comments I made about planted evidence. I still believe that the shell casing and dog tag were not planted, however, the defense attorney made some persuasive points in defense of his planted evidence theory. I only wish he would have emphasized that there were other possibilities. There was one piece of evidence, though, that I do believe was intentionally staged – the subpoenas. If you saw videos of the residence, you might agree. The house was a cluttered mess. What are the chances that amongst all that clutter the two subpoenas would be laid out on a table for investigators to find?
Lastly, I need to address my comment about the defense attorney. The Dateline episode only showed snippets of the trial. I suggested that he had ineffective counsel. After watching them in action, I now believe that the defense team gave everything they had. There were points in the trial where I felt could have been handled better, but overall I give them high marks. I thought the lead defense attorney did a great job in his closing statement. I thought the Prosecutor’s closing was one misstatement of fact after another. It was also a textbook example of reasonable doubt. Just listen to her explaining how anyone of Kit’s 22 guns “could have been” the murder weapon. She tried to paint Kit as a military killing machine who also happened to be a cell phone tower expert. It was a ridiculous theory of what happened.
Lastly, I have decided that this story is worthy of a book treatment. Stay tuned.