A judge has thrown out several pieces of key prosecution evidence in the trial of Steven Powell, saying journal entries about his missing daughter-in-law, Susan Cox Powell, would prejudice the jury.
Judge Ronald E. Culpepper ruled Tuesday that the entries, which date back to 2003, do not have a bearing on the ongoing voyeurism case. He said the entries would not be admitted into evidence.
"It certainly shows a guy with some disturbing beliefs about his relationship with his daughter in law," Culpepper said. "But the issues in this case are whether Mr. Powell is guilty of voyeurism involving these two girls who were in the neighborhood. His fantasies about Susan Powell I think don't have much to do with that."
However, Judge Culpepper will allow the jury to hear part of an entry which Powell allegedly wrote in August 2004. It states that Powell enjoys taking video shots of "pretty girls in shorts and skirts, beautiful women of every age." According to the state's trial memorandum, Powell wrote that he took such photos for his sexual gratification.
Powell, 62, has been charged with 14 counts of voyeurism. He also faced one count of possession of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. However, Judge Culpepper threw the latter charge out Monday, ruling that Powell's alleged crime did not fit state statute for child pornography.
Steven Powell is accused of secretly recording more than 2,000 images of two neighbor girls, who were minors, in their home as they took baths and used the toilet.
"I disagree with him, respectfully, on this whole issue on whether you need something more than a picture of private or intimate parts for child pornography," Seattle Attorney Anne Bremner told 97.3 KIRO FM's Ross and Burbank Show. "I think it was Potter Stewart who said on pornography 'You know it when you see it.' You know it when you see it with these kinds of pictures of the girls."
Bremner said she represents the two neighbor girls, who are now 12 and 14. Their mother is expected to testify at Powell's trial on Wednesday.
Prosecutors argued that Washington lawmakers changed the child porn law in 2010 to make clear that such activity is illegal. The law defines "sexually explicit conduct" as the depiction of a minor's genitalia, breast or buttocks for the purpose of sexual gratification of the viewer, and it specifies that the child does not need to be aware that he or she is participating in the conduct.
"I'm sitting here right now looking at this statute and it basically says that if you take a picture or video a child, of their private parts, that's child porn," Bremner said.
Also on Tuesday, a 14-member jury was selected from a field of 70. Two of the jurors will be alternates. Many were excused during the two day selection process because they believed they could not remain impartial. Several jurors said media coverage of the Powell case had already informed their opinions.
Opening arguments and testimony in the trial are scheduled to begin on Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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