A Whitley County judge is expected to sign a proposed order by June 24 which will determine if a witness’s identification of a Corbin man, who is awaiting trial for three counts of capital murder, fetal homicide, and tampering with physical evidence, will be allowed during the trial.
Judge Dan Ballou heard testimony from Corbin Police Detective Coy Wilson and Justin Collins, the brother and grandson of two of the victims.
Paul Brock, of Corbin, is accused of killing Mary Jackson, Aaron Byers and Tiffany Byers. At the time, Tiffany Byers was pregnant and her death also caused the death of her unborn infant, according to Brock’s indictment.
Mary Jackson, 74, was the grandmother of Tiffany Byers, 33. Aaron Byers, 45, has both been referred to as Tiffany’s husband and her boyfriend in court records.
Defense counsel Andrea Kendall argued that Collins’s identification of Brock was the result of a “suggestive” action by Wilson, but Commonwealth Attorney Ronnie Bowling argued that the action was not suggestive because the action was taken to allow Collins to corroborate a previous identification he had made prior to the “suggestive” incident.
Prior to the incident cited by Kendall, Collins’s visited the Corbin Police Department after having allegedly been a witness to the shooting of his sister Tiffany Byers.
Upon his visit to the department, Collins’s was interviewed by Wilson in his office. The interview was recorded.
During the interview, Wilson used an outdated police database called Bookmate to show a series of photos of different Pauls whose photos were logged into the system by members of the Corbin Police Department prior to the system being archived.
The name Paul was used as search term because that was the name given by Collins to dispatch when he called the police after the alleged shooting.
Wilson testified that he when he typed in the name Paul, the search yielded nine photos, which were admitted into evidence by Bowling.
Using those photos, Wilson testified that Collins recognized at least one of the Pauls whose photo appeared in the search results stating that it wasn’t him.
According to Wilson’s testimony, Collins asked for Wilson to zoom in on a particular photo after looking at a series of images on the screen.
The photo Collins asked Wilson to zoom in on was a 2015 image of the defendant Paul Brock. Collins told Wilson that the image looked similar to the person that visited his home.
During cross examination by defense counsel, a portion of Wilson’s recorded interview with Collins at the Corbin Police Department was played.
The video did not show the computer screen, so the images that Collins was shown were not visible. The video did contain audio from the interview, including Wilson asking Collins to come look at the photos, Collins identifying a Paul stating that it wasn’t him and identifying who that Paul was, Collins asking Wilson to zoom in on what would be later identified as a 2015 photo of Brock, and Collins telling Wilson that the person in the photo looked similar to the person that had visited his home.
During the video, Wilson can be heard telling Brock that he will try to find some other photos of Paul via Facebook.
Collins did not identify Brock from the Facebook photos located by Wilson.
Wilson later allegedly texted a photo of Brock to one of Collins’s family member’s cell phone, which was the point of contact between Collins and the Corbin Police Department. From that photo, Collins confirmed that the person in the photo, Brock, was the suspect.
During Collins own testimony, he corroborated statements Wilson made, such as his identifying Brock through a photo on Bookmate.
Collins was questioned as to whether he actually saw Brock on the property the day of the incident. He testified that he did not see Brock, but heard his voice and his sister remark “Paul, you shot me” after he heard an alleged gunshot. At the time of his call to 9-1-1, Collins testified in court that he did not know Paul’s last name.
During court, Collins was presented with the nine photos he was shown on Bookmate, and he positively identified Brock’s 2017 photo.
In closing arguments, Bowling argued that Collin’s identification of Brock should not be suppressed because, according to the testimony given before the court, there was no fault in the actions of the Corbin Police Department. He argued that the only reason the testimony should be suppressed in this manner was if the government agency involved had unduly suggested a suspect, but Bowling claimed that prior to Wilson sending the photo to the family member’s cell phone, Collins had already identified Brock and thus the photo was sent to corroborate what Collins had previously stated.
In rebuttal, defense counsel argued that the singular photo sent by Wilson to Collins’s family member was suggestive because it was the only photo sent by Wilson. Counsel argued that Collins had not made a definitive identification of Brock by looking at the Bookmate photos, thus the text was the first identification and it was made as a result of suggestive action.
Brock was not present in the court room during Collins testimony. The two individuals were kept separate while present at the courthouse.