In the last year or more it seems that every time we reach the end of the Powell murder mystery, another chapter is written. The latest installment is the disturbing trial of Susan Powell’s uber-creepy father-in-law, Steven Powell.
Detectives investigating Susan Powell’s disappearance served a search warrant on Steven Powell’s home last August. The warrant affidavit would likely have requested a broad scope for the search, and in the case of homicide – okay, disappearance – search and seizure case law can and should allow greater latitude than lesser crimes. The stakes are higher and the evidence could be anywhere.
Given the overwhelming amount of voyeuristic, pornographic and potentially prejudicial evidence allegedly found during the August search, this entire case weighed almost entirely on the pretrial motions. If Powell’s defense counsel could convince the judge that the broad search was indeed a “fishing expedition,” then the loss of this evidence would negate the trial. Powell would likely go free.
Fortunately, the judge ruled against Steven Powell’s motion and by doing so affirmed that detectives had sufficient suspicion to warrant a thorough inventory of the home. At that point the seizure of the alleged computer images would be no different than a building inspector checking on faulty wiring and finding, instead, a hazardous plumbing situation. There are no free passes.
As we learned from a reprinted Salt Lake Tribune article today, the judge dismissed a single count of “Possession of explicit pictures of minors,” because the prosecutor was unable to prove Steven Powell’s active participation. Fortunately for Powell, snapping a lurid photo of innocent children is apparently insufficient participation under this statute.
The last salacious point of contention before trial begins is the argument over Steven Powell’s journal. The judge is considering whether to allow the journal’s contents, in part or in whole, especially given the numerous mentions of his disgusting obsession with his daughter-in-law, Susan Powell.
According to a report in today’s Trib, in the journal Steven Powell openly discusses his bizarre sexual proclivities while admitting he might be losing his mind. That may be why he told reporters that there were “embarrassing things” in his journal. Ain’t that the truth.
If justice prevails then this rare bit of honesty by what appears to be a very deceitful man will play well before a jury. The journal’s narrative would be an apt introduction to the loathsome computer images that Powell allegedly amassed over a ten year period.
If the judge allows the journal’s contents to be included in Powell’s voyeurism trial, then the defense’s best hope may be in the appellate courts. The legal minds on appeals court benches would be far more objective about evidence that would only turn a jury’s stomach.
Following this last pretrial ruling, Powell will proceed to trial on 14 counts of voyeurism. The allegations supporting these charges suggest a predator whose sexual urges appear to be limited to simply stalking girls as young as 8 years of age. One can only hope that it had not become something much worse.
At any point, Powell’s attorneys may offer to bargain a plea agreement with the prosecutor. It appears doubtful that the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office will agree to anything less than the maximum five year sentence. It also appears unlikely that Steven Powell is ready to relinquish his 15 minutes of infamy just yet.
Hopefully this last detestable chapter will have, if not a happy ending, at least a satisfying one for Powell’s alleged victims.