Jason Carter was acquitted of killing his mother. He was tried by top prosecutor, Ed Bull. The hotly contested case resulted in a not guilty finding. Prosecutor Bull came on Law & Crime Network to discuss the case with host, Bob Bianchi
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Bob Bianchi interviews #JasonCarter Prosecutor, Ed Bull.
March 26th, 2019
Robert Bianchi: Well, welcome back to the Law and Crime Network. My name is Bob Bianchi. I’ll be with you to three o’clock today. Happy Monday to you guys, to our viewers, to those in the chat room. We are on fire at the Law and Crime Network. We have all sorts of things to go over. Let me put the glasses on. We got the Duke’s case, Scandirito recaps, but you guys may remember the Jason Carter case, we covered it the gavel to gavel at the Law and Crime Network. It was a fascinating case. A son accused of shooting and killing his mom. It was a hotly contested case. You see a picture of the defendant there. Well he was found not guilty. That’s right folks not guilty at trial. And I have the honor and privilege of bringing on the show, the Prosecutor who actually prosecuted this case. Ed Bull, you may remember him, he did an outstanding job with the evidence presented to them. But, you know, Prosecutor sometimes when you got to convince 12 beyond a reasonable doubt on a case of this nature, you’re not able to make it past that goal line. So welcome to the show, sir.
Ed Bull: Thank you very much for having me.
Robert Bianchi: Yeah, and, and I found out offline that you’re also a Jersey guy. He comes from Edison, New Jersey so that, that is a point a checkmark, well in your favor, sir, let me just get a little background. You are the chief Prosecutor, the head Prosecutor and you’re in your third term of office. Is that correct?
Ed Bull: That is correct.
Robert Bianchi: Yeah. That, that’s amazing. And, I was as well, I think one of the first questions I want to ask you, you’re elected out there, we’re appointed by the governors. I tried a murder case when I was prosecutor. My team thought I was crazy to do it. And there’s a lot of publicity. Your staff is watching you, kind of takes on a different dynamic. Is this the first case that you’ve actually ever tried or have you tried other cases as well?
Ed Bull: No, we are a rural area. But this is in fact, our third homicide that I’ve prosecuted over the last nine years, within the first week of me taking office we had a husband who paid a hitman to kill his wife. So literally the first trial I tried as a Prosecutor here in Marion County, was a homicide trial, and then we prosecuted, successfully convicted both the shooter and the husband, approximately eight years ago.
Robert Bianchi: Oh, well, I have a lot of respect for it, because I know there’s a lot of pressure when you’re the top guy and then that media focus is like a laser beam on you. So, sir, let’s go to Jason Carter. What do you think of the verdict? I mean, it wasn’t something that was unanticipated, was it surprising? When you were waiting for them to deliberate, were you saying, Eh, comsi comsa? Could go either way here.
Ed Bull: I, you know, bottom line is if you talked to most prosecutors and law enforcement officers, they’ll tell you, you try to solve a homicide case, one of three ways, through a forensic evidence, your eye witnesses, or through a confession. And in this case, we had none of the above. So, we recognized from the very beginning that this would be a difficult case to present with the evidence that we had. But at the end of the day, we believe that we had a good faith belief that conviction was likely. And so, we went ahead with the prosecution. But you know, as soon as you’re sitting there and you present the evidence, we, we thought we did a good job. We clearly didn’t convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. And, and, and the chips fall where they did. And you have to respect, we respect the jury’s verdict when they come back in our favor. We have to respect the jury’s opinion in their verdict when, when they come back not guilty. It’s the way our system is designed.
Robert Bianchi: Of course, sir, now listen, 12 minds are always greater than one I have found in my life. Do you think it’s possible that the jury got it right? And that maybe there’s a potential other suspect in the case and if so, are you looking into or asking the police? In your capacity as a chief law enforcement officer, to see if there’s any other culprits to this crime?
Ed Bull: I wouldn’t have signed my name to the trial information and brought this case up. I did not believe Jason Carter was responsible. With that being said, law enforcement will always continue to investigate as we get leads that are supported by the evidence. And ultimately that’s what this case came down to was we had, in my opinion, a number of adverse rulings. It allowed the defense to get into some things that we didn’t believe were appropriate, that we thought were persuasive to the jury, we will have an opportunity once this jury panel is dismissed from their term of service, we will attempt to contact them through surveys to see exactly what they were thinking. Was this a case where they believe that the defendant was innocent or did, they just simply believe the state didn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt? And we’ll explore those issues. And of course, we are always attempting to, by any Prosecutor I would hope, we want to be certain we have the right guy. And we were certain we did; the jury saw differently.
Robert Bianchi: What did they, you have before you do that kind of due diligence, which is awesome. Do you have an idea in your mind as to what you think the jury had a problem with?
Ed Bull: You know, I think ultimately the forensic pathologist’s testimony, I think we’re all familiar with the doctor. He does an outstanding job as a witness. He did in this case as well. I think that the timeframe issue was problematic. You know, at the end of the day I was amazed by the fact that when the jury came back into the jury room, a half a dozen of our jurors were crying. I’d like to gain some more insight as to what that meant to them. Whether or not it just the emotion of this entire type of case or whether or not they believe Jason Carter was innocent, or whether or not they believed I simply failed to meet my burden?
Robert Bianchi: Prosecutor, I’m curious if you had an opportunity to speak, speak to the husband, Bill Carter and the family and their reaction to this?
Ed Bull: Yeah. I actually visited with Bill Carter yesterday to see how he was doing, expressed my condolences as a result to the verdict, but we were, we were clear with Mr. Carter from the very beginning that we believed that this would be a difficult case. We now live in a world of CSI and other types of shows where jurors want to be firmly convinced. I think that’s appropriate under our current standard of our reasonable doubt instruction here in Iowa. But it’s always difficult to go back to a victim and say, hey, I’m sorry we didn’t get the job done.
Robert Bianchi: Yeah, Prosecutor, there’s something also kind of interesting in this case that I found from a legal point of view, and that is there was a civil trial that preceded the criminal case. And in my experience, when you have both going, typically the civil case is either stayed by the court to the conclusion of the criminal case or if the civil case proceeds, of course the Defendant, that would be Jason Carter, that we see there on our screen, would have a fifth amendment right to remain silent. How was it that the civil case was able to proceed before the criminal one? And did that civil proceeding give you additional information and data that you felt useful in your criminal prosecution?
Ed Bull: Well, truly Bob, it was a double edge sword. The reality was yes, if awarded to us and Mr. Carter chose to participate in not taking his right to the fifth amendment, it did allow us to gather additional statements from him that we did in fact use during the criminal trial. At the same time, though, it also put all of the state’s witnesses under oath as well, including Mr. Carter and his family and law enforcement to some extent. And that then allowed them to have potential evidence for the purpose of impeachment that otherwise may not have existed. So, in this case, we looked at it from a standpoint that of Mr. Carter, that being Bill Carter wanted to go ahead with a civil case. We were not going to stop him. We advised him in advance that we did not think that was the right direction to go, but that’s, that was his choice. At the same time, our investigation did not stop. One of the things that we presented in this case, and I’m not certain whether or not your viewers had the opportunity to see it with some expert witnesses as it related to both crime scenes, staging as well as, where Jason Carter’s handset was immediately after the homicide, we believe the homicide took place. And what was fascinating to us was that Mr. Carter always maintained that he never left the residence of 132 Perry street. However, our expert witness indicated based on his cell phone tower information, he in fact traveled to the north and the east of the property, which we believed coincided with him getting rid of the gloves, the spent shell casing, whether or not it was one or two, or the weapon. And so, the result of that was we thought that was fairly persuasive and that was evidence that we continue to work through with US cellular and with our expert during the time in which the civil case was going on.
Robert Bianchi: Prosecutor, I got a limited amount of time, but I’m glad to hear that you were trying to dissuade the Carter family from necessarily going forward in the civil case. I presume that’s because state’s witnesses would be subject to examination and that could hurt you in the criminal case, but the reason I bring this up is because during the course of the trial, and I got to get this because our views were fascinated, there’s a lot of chat going on about evidence that was developed during the course of the trial. And I’m speaking about a hundred pages of police reports, I believe it was. There was an issue and you can correct me if I’m wrong, that there was a police officer that violated a sequestration order. There were some deleted emails, and that there was an indication that there was an attempt to arrest prior to the civil case. So, this discovery violation issue that the judge found was, did the jury know that? Were they advised of that?
Ed Bull: Well I want to take a step back because I think it’s important to keep in mind that we have a vastly different opinion than the defense did on this issue. One of the byproducts of all of the media attention that resulted as a result of this case, whether or not it was the civil case or the fact that we were moved out of our jurisdiction, was that we had tremendous media attention. That media attention developed additional leads being called in to law enforcement. Additionally, discovery in this case was not completed until about a week and a half before the trial were to begin, the defense listed I think in excess of a hundred witnesses they intended to call at trial. We depose those individuals. Those individuals then in some cases provided us new information that they had never told law enforcement before. The result of that was we chose to continue to investigate this case. I asked my detectives to continue to run down every one of those leads. So, there is some truth to the fact that there was new information that was provided to law or to the defense, but it was information that would, it had been generated in the previous three to four weeks. So, I think any argument to say that there was a discovery violation. No, just the opposite, we continued to investigate this case and we continued to provide the defense the reports that we had, regardless of if they were exculpatory or not, we simply gave them access, unfettered access, to our entire file. In addition to that, about 10 days before the trial, the defense asked for, for the very first time, to the best of my knowledge, all emails that have been sent by law enforcement in this case, well that took some time to have the State’s IT people review in excess of 50,000 emails and then redact potentially confidential information in law enforcement, data related to individuals. We also turned all of that over as well.
Robert Bianchi: But the judge, I’m sorry Prosecutor, did the judge indicate that there was a Brady that’s referring to Brady versus Maryland violation? And the second part of my question is, are you saying that those hundred pages of emails and the discovery that was the subject of this Brady argument was only of recent origin? It wasn’t a long period of time, but did the judge find a Brady violation?
Ed Bull: The judge did not find a Brady violation, the defense repeatedly attempted to move to dismiss this case. The court chose not to do that, took it under advisement, was going to wait until the conclusion of the case, but there was no Brady violation found in this case.
Robert Bianchi: Okay. So, then my last question on this piece was, was the jury ever apprised of this kind of argument that was going on? The reason I bring it up is listen, even though Prosecutors are charged of being in possession of all the reports, even if they don’t necessarily have them in their possession, at least that’s the law in most States. Sometimes something gets past the goal line by accident. Sometimes unfortunately it’s done on purpose. I have seen judges though that will instruct the jury that that violation, that discovery violation, nevertheless has occurred. Did that occur here?
Ed Bull: It did not, the only, I would say adverse ruling that the defense got as way of a jury instruction was a spoliation instruction as, or as needed, to some fly eggs that were located in Mrs. Carter’s nose at the time of her autopsy, but our State medical examiner did not at the time in 2015 routinely collect those eggs. And as a result, that was the only adverse instruction. Now I would also note, there was also a delay in this case during jury selection because the defense also at the 11th hour listed additional expert witnesses. So, we asked for, and we were also granted at that time, permission to depose those witnesses. And so that’s what we did in this case, at the very end or even during the course of the trial, we were continuing to do depositions of witnesses. The defense continued to add during the course of the trial.
Robert Bianchi: Sir, are you indicating to me that in your opinion, in terms of the procedural fairness of things, that the defense was given latitude by the courts or introduce evidence perhaps that was coming in late and that’s somehow kind of threw you off your game? Or did you feel you had the appropriate amount of time to prepare for it and the verdict would not have changed either way?
Ed Bull: The verdict would not have changed either way. I’m not making any excuses whatsoever. The court treated us fairly. The only ruling that I thought was, was contrary to the law, in my opinion, had to do with the defense’s ability to admit hearsay through Special Agent Ludwig, without exception to in essence try to prove an alternative suspect to the court. Probably something that may be interesting, some of your listeners and viewers is what he deemed Soddi 2.0, some other due did it 2.0, which allowed for hearsay to come in and say, did you learn this? And then give the jury an instruction that said, hey, don’t, don’t take it for the truth of the matter asserted. Simply examine it from the context of did law enforcement follow up on those?
Robert Bianchi: Prosecutor, I got ten second left. What’s the one thing we don’t know about that the public should find out about whether it be something fascinating, just a little anecdotal story, or something compelling in your mind?
Ed Bull: I think one of the things that most people don’t realize is that at least here in Iowa, we have a cordial relationship with the defense bar. This was not an adverse proceeding, we’ll fight tooth and nail in the courtroom within the bounds of law. But afterwards, we all go back home, and we all know each other’s families, and we treat each other with respect.
Robert Bianchi: Okay. Prosecutor Ed Bull. Two things. One, I have, three things, mad respect for you from the Edison piece. Two, Any Prosecutor that puts themselves out there in the top job for that public scrutiny, win, lose or draw, I’ve got respect for. And third, I think the last message you said perhaps is the most important in 30 years of practicing law, a cordial relationship. You fight like hell inside that courtroom and then you go out and you treat yourselves with respect and professionalism. Ed Bull, thank you so much for being on the show.
Ed Bull: Thank you for having me. Have a good day.
Robert Bianchi: You got it. Good luck. Okay guys, listen, fascinating interview. You can only get this at the Law and Crime Network. I’m asking where else can you go? This is the place to be. We got a lot more coming up. Stick with us. I’ll be with you to three. We’ll go to break. We’ll be right back.