To say that day one of the trial of Nick McGuffin for the murder of Leah Freeman had a lot to do with procedure would be an understatement. A great deal of the day was both dry and tedious and spent on entering evidence that will be used later during the trial. That said some of that evidence had to have sent a chill over Leah’s mother, Cory Courtright, who likely hadn’t seen these items in eleven years. For example, the blood stained shoes, one the right found at the cemetery and the left on Hudson Ridge, a popular teenage hangout. Other evidence included a tank top and a sports bra worn by Freeman with reportedly matching tear marks or punctures.
Unfortunately, media missed the first few moments of the opening arguments but prosecutor Erika Soublet was essentially laying out a timeline of events and testimony to be expected including a new witness that will testify on the night Leah went missing she saw two males supporting a demure blond female figure, unable to support herself, walking along the road towards a parked car. Other witnesses will testify that in a fit of rage over a later romantic rival, McGuffin is reported to have warned the rival that I ‘strangled that bitch’ and won’t be afraid to kill again. The prosecution concluded its opening argument saying the jury after hearing all evidence would be convinced that Nicholas McGuffin had purposely taken the life of Leah Freeman.
The role of the defense, the father and daughter team of McCrea, PC is to cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case and part of their strategy will be to whittle away at the circumstantial evidence by exploiting the typical behavior of teens in love and the sometimes incongruous behavior of teens in general. The defense argued that any reports of McGuffin’s behavior perceived as anomalous to a worried boyfriend desperately searching for his missing girlfriend are explained by his age and the dynamics of the Courtright family. Leah’s grandfather, with whom Leah and her mom and sister were living, was very strict and did not approve of Leah dating McGuffin and was openly vocal about his feelings. Consequently, McGuffin was less gregarious about approaching the family the night Leah went missing.
Residents of Coquille who have been subjected to the unprofessional behavior of the former police chief, Mike Reaves, will appreciate some of the testimony today from Denise Bertrand, Leah’s older sister. Bertrand reported that the families attempt to report Leah as missing went “horribly” with Reaves dismissing the disappearance as a runaway and essentially not bothering to look for Leah until after the discovery of a bloody shoe days later.
Throughout the day, Cory was very strong, even at the end when items of Leah’s clothing were entered as evidence. Equally calm and composed throughout the day was McGuffin who actively participated in his defense by taking rigorous notes and whispering to his attorney, Shaun McCrea who in turn was seated next to her father, Robert McCrea. His demeanor was a sharp contrast to his arraignment when he was shaking uncontrollably, flushed and weeping and he watched each witness closely and took notes during their testimony. He did not, as far as I could see, ever look at the jury and in turn, when they passed him to exit into the jurors’ room only a few would steal a sideways glance at him and most preferred not to look at McGuffin at all.
To recap an earlier report, it appears that the exact cause of Leah’s death was never determined evidently because her body was so badly decomposed by the time it was found. Two reports about Nick’s high degree of anxiety at the time Leah went missing came out today, one from the prosecution and one from the defense. Leah’s sister, Denise Bertrand, reported that McGuffin stopped by her work at Denny’s Pizza looking for Leah about 11PM, roughly two hours after she left her friend Sherry Mitchell’s house. She described as extremely anxious, shaking and rushing about.
Later, the defense read an medical report from a local hospital written July 2, 2000, just days after Leah went missing, where McGuffin’s parents took him because he was extremely anxious, shaking, flushed and vomiting. Shortly after taking a lie detector test, he visited Cory along with his parents and vomited in their backyard. The medical description read before the court today was consistent with how McGuffin appeared during his arraignment; flushed, shaking uncontrollably and weeping.
Trial begins again next Monday at 9AM. As much as possible, I will endeavor to attend and catch everyone up.