coroner's autopsy report and the videotaped
interrogation of the defendant, the prosecution on
Tuesday presented the strongest evidence yet in the
samurai-sword slaying of a popular local female
impersonator in Columbus, Ohio. Admitted killer Michael
Jennings, 34, sat with his head down as he and the
three-judge panel hearing his case heard for the first
time his version of events in the May 17, 2002, murder of
36-year-old Gary McMurtry.
On the taped interrogation, Jennings answered
basic questions, casually bantering with officers,
then denied involvement in the attack. "They are
actually real good friends of mine, and they helped me out
when I hit rock bottom, so to speak," said the
rather emotionless Jennings after being told someone
had died at a home he was familiar with. "This is
kind of disturbing to hear."
After he spent 20 minutes telling officers
a false story about his whereabouts that morning,
Jennings was told that he would be charged with
murder. "I don't have anything against
anybody.... I had no fallouts with him,"
Jennings told officers of his relationship with McMurtry.
Just a few minutes later however, after being
left alone in the room, Jennings put his head on the
table, appearing to sob, shake his head, and mumble to
himself. At one point he looked directly into the camera.
Five minutes later he suddenly sat back in his chair
and looked up as if talking to God.
"It's all my fault," he said.
Jennings has admitted to the slaying of McMurtry
and has pled not guilty by reason of insanity.
McMurtry's roommate, Brian Bass, who testified on
Monday, was also wounded in the attack.
As the tape played, Jennings, who could hear but
not see himself on the screen in the courtroom, began
to imitate the gestures he made on-screen as he,
according to a defense team aide, relived his interrogation
for the first time since his arrest.
Jennings's defense attorneys confirmed their
client will take the stand on Thursday. Closing
arguments are expected on Friday.
Just prior to the introduction of the tape,
assistant prosecutor George Ellis read aloud the
autopsy report, describing in detail each of the 13
wounds McMurtry received from one sword and one handheld
knife, including the fatal blows to the heart and
liver. As he recounted the 10th wound, Judge Beverly
Pfeiffer seemed to lose her composure slightly, looking
first down at her desk and then up at the ceiling.
Prosecutors introduced testimony from a few
other crime scene investigators, most of whom were not
cross-examined by the defense. The defense team is
expected to begin presenting its case on Wednesday. (Doug