Monahan defense contention that shotgun was defective refuted

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Photo by EJ Conzola II. Defense attorneys Arthur Frost, left, and Kurt Mausert, right, confer with their client Kevin Monahan before the start of a hearing on motions in Monahan's murder trial on Monday, Jan. 8.

By Doug LaRocque

The primary point 66-year-old Kevin Monahan’s defense attorney has been making to the media covering the murder trial, is that the shotgun used in the shooting was defective and went off by itself, after Monahan slipped on his deck and either struck the weapon against the railing or dropped it. Arthur Frost has contended the shot that struck and killed 20-year Kaylin Gillis was accidental.

State police forensic scientist Victoria O’Connor spent nearly an hour on the stand Wednesday afternoon answering questions, first from Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan and then facing cross examination by Frost.

Jordan asked several questions of O’Connor, pertaining to her familiarity with a pump-action shotgun and had she thoroughly examined the weapon before conducting a series of 12 drop tests, six from a height of 4 feet and six from 12 inches off the ground. O’Connor admitted the gun discharged during one of the four-foot drops but was not certain of the status of the safety.

“I could not confirm after the fact whether the safety was engaged prior to dropping it,” she said.

She testified that she repeated the test with confirmation the safety was engaged and it did not discharge. When asked by Jordan if she thought the weapon was defective, O’Connor stated that based on the tests she had conducted and the examination of the gun, “it is not defective.”

Frost repeatedly questioned O’Connor about the possibility of a long gun’s (shotgun) mechanism perhaps causing the hammer to strike the primer and thus allowing the weapon to fire. O’Connor indicated she was unaware of any such instances.

Earlier in her testimony, O’Conner confirmed the shotgun slug found in the vehicle Gillis was a passenger in was a ballistic match to Monahan’s weapon. The day’s testimony began with Monahan’s gun being identified by State Police Investigator Kolby Gabler and shown to the jury for the first time.

Gabler also testified under direct questioning from Jordan that he found a spent shotgun shell in a box of unused shells in the loft bedroom. He noted law enforcement could not find any other shells in the residence or on the property. That testimony was backed up by forensic investigator Ryan Carrow, who explained that a cadre of police officers conducted a line search of Monahan’s driveway and lawns for any other shells, with nothing having been found.

The word ‘homicide’ is challenged

Washington County’s Forensic Pathologist Dr. Michael Sikirica was called upon by the prosecution to discuss Gillis’ cause of death. Before he could, however, Frost asked Judge Adam Michelini not to allow the jury to see the autopsy report, which listed the manner of death as a homicide.

He claimed the New York state autopsy report form does not include the option for accidental death, which he contends was the case for Gillis’ death. First Assistant District Attorney Christian Morris objected to the request and it was denied by Judge Michelini. The judge stated there is a difference between the use of the word homicide on an autopsy form and the use of the word in a legal sense that must first be proved in a court of law. He did tell Frost if the word came up during Dr. Sikirica’s testimony, he would instruct the jury as to the different connotations. It was never mentioned, however, during Dr. Sikirica’s time on the stand.

Under questioning, Dr. Sikirica, who performed the autopsy on Gillis, stated the shotgun slug wound to the neck was the only sign of trauma on her body and was the definitive cause of death. The slug entered the left side of her neck, exiting the right and severed the spinal cord, which led to the lost of her ability to breath, he testified.

State Police Forensic Investigator Amanda Puckett testified about the trajectory the shotgun slug took as it struck the vehicle driven by Gillis’ boyfriend, which had entered Monahan’s driveway by mistake, along with another vehicle and a motorcycle. They were looking for another residence along Patterson Hill Road in Hebron. According to the vehicle’s other occupants, they had realized their mistake and were turning around to leave when the shooting occurred.

Puckett testified the slug entered through a rear support column, struck Gillis in the neck, then contacted the inside of the front passenger door before coming to rest under the seat, where it was found. Puckett said she based the trajectory mapping upon investigation of the scene, measurements and some assumptions made after speaking to the vehicle’s occupants. She said the vehicle had to be leaving the driveway when it was struck.

Frost asked earlier if there were indications of alcohol and perhaps marijuana inside the vehicle, insinuating the occupants were perhaps under the influence of one or more of these substances when questioned. Troopers earlier testified they had not confiscated any such substances at the time of their investigation.

The trial continues Thursday, Jan. 18, at 9 a.m. NYVT Media will again provide live Facebook updates throughout the day as the situation warrants.