Martin Ish found guilty of manslaughter
POCATELLO – After deliberating for more than 12 hours, a jury, selected from Twin Falls, found Martin Edmo Ish guilty of felony voluntary manslaughter Friday.
Ish, 59, was originally charged with second degree murder in the beating death of Eugene Lorne Red Elk almost eight years ago.
The jury also found Ish guilty of being a persistent violator, an enhancement that could add to up to 15 years in prison onto his sentence. Ish has prior felony convictions for possession of more than three ounces of marijuana in 2003 and in 2011 for felony possession of methamphetamine.
During jury instruction Thursday, Sixth District Judge David C. Nye told the jury that they could consider a charge of voluntary manslaughter, which did not require proof of malice, only evidence Ish had struck Red Elk with a blunt object and that action resulted in his death.
Bannock County Prosecutor Steve Herzog told the eight women and four men of the jury that Ish was motivated by pride when he attacked Red Elk outside Duffy’s Tavern in 2009.
During closing remarks in the 10-day-long trial, Herzog said Ish had already been ejected from two Old Town bars by the time he got to Duffy’s on the night of June 14, 2009 and when Red Elk escorted him out of that establishment as well, Ish was angry and his pride was hurt.
Herzog reminded jurors that a bar patron testified during the first days of the trial that he saw a man matching Ish’s description pacing back and forth in the in the parking lot a few minutes after Ish was removed from Duffy’s.
“I would submit that Ish had his pride hurt several times on June 14, 2009,” Herzog said.
Ish’s told police during a 2015 interview that left with no ride and no money, he walked to Fort Hall after being kicked out of Duffy’s.
But Herzog noted testimony from Charles Tademy who said that the defendant showed up at his home that night and that he drove Ish to his residence in Fort Hall. Tademy said that Ish also asked him to drive by Duffy’s when he returned to see if anything was going on there – Tademy said he saw police vehicles and lights and that he reported the activity to Ish.
Tademy came to the attention of investigators after Ish’s cousin, Jennifer Teton, came forward in 2015. Teton told police that on the morning following the attack, Ish told her that he “blasted” Red Elk and that he was “gurgling blood.” She said Ish believed that he had killed him.
“Just because the case was not solved in 48 hours does not diminish the evidence in the case,” Herzog said.
Public Defenders Randy Schulthies and Scott Andrew rested their case with testimony from Cliff Nelson, a forensic pathologist and an Oregon medical examiner, who rebutted the statement of Charles O. Garrison, a forensic pathologist who testified earlier this week that Red Elk was struck with a moving object.
While both experts agreed that Red Elk died from blunt force trauma to the head, Nelson told the jury that Red Elk’s head injuries occurred when he struck the back of his head on a hard surface, like asphalt.
Nelson said he would have ruled the manner of death in Red Elk’s case as undetermined rather than homicide. He said the injuries could have happened as the result of a vehicle versus pedestrian collision, a fall or being pushed off balance and falling onto the back of his head.
During cross examination, Nelson told Deputy Prosecutor Ryan Godfrey that he did not review witness statements or police reports in the case, but relied on autopsy photos, medical reports and physician’s notes in making his determination.
In his closing statements, Schulthies asked the jury to consider that law enforcement and the state suffered from tunnel vision in the case and that their investigation had focused solely on Ish while disregarding other factors.
Schulthies pointed to conflicting statements made by state witnesses.
“The state has picked out the facts that they wanted and disregarded everything else,” Schulthies said.
He recalled testimony from eyewitness Heather Davis, who identified the man she saw in the parking lot arguing with Red Elk minutes before he went down as a tall, skinny African American male in his early 30s.
Davis also told police that she had seen the man earlier at the Faun Apts. located across the street from Duffy’s.
That man was identified as Ron Bailey Jr. and he was not questioned about his whereabouts on June 14, 2009, Schulthies said.
“The state wants you to believe that (Davis) was right on one point and everything else is wrong,” Schulthies said.
Schulthies stated during closing remarks that the woman who found Red Elk in the parking lot initially reported that he had been struck by a car and Schulthies added that three medical experts failed to exclude a vehicle collision as the cause of Red Elk’s injuries.
“If you accept the state’s version you have to cherry pick information,” Schulthies said. “Your job is not to pick out information, but to look at the entire case.”
In rebuttal, Deputy Prosecutor Ashley Graham told jurors that the description provided by Davis did not match Bailey and there was no other evidence that connected him to the death.
Graham said evidence showing that Ish lied to police about how he got back to Fort Hall that night was an important fact in the case.
“It matters that Tademy took Ish home, much information was gained from Tademy,” Graham said. “(Ish) wanted to keep Tademy out of the loop.”