KALAMAZOO (AP) — Prosecutors are urging a judge not to reopen a case involving the 1990 slayings of two hunters in southwestern Michigan, saying an alternative theory of the fatal ambush wouldn’t have led to a different verdict against an aggressive property owner.
Jeff Titus is serving a life sentence in the deaths of Doug Estes and Jim Bennett. The Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan’s law school is trying to get him a new trial by raising questions about evidence and certain people who weren’t called to testify at the 2002 trial.
Kalamazoo County prosecutors, however, said there’s no reason for a new trial. They said many trial witnesses testified about Titus’ hostility when he confronted hunters on his property. Estes and Bennett were nearby on public land when they were shot.
Titus’ legal team claims his trial lawyer wasn’t told that a sheriff’s officer believed there were two shooters.
In response, assistant prosecutor John Anderegg said the opinion of Sgt. Richard Mattison was “only just that — his own lay opinion.”
“His opinion was based only on his subjective review of the crime scene photos, the autopsy photos and his imagination on how the murders might have been committed. It carries no greater weight than that of any other lay opinion because there is no special weight to attach to it,” Anderegg said in a Jan. 15 court filing.
Two sheriff’s detectives who interviewed Titus and others believed his alibi that he was hunting about 30 miles away at the time of the shootings. But the investigators were never called as witnesses at trial.
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