Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes
Reporter Photographer 

No new trial in Schwan homicide case

 


by Mark Dykes

Following a ruling Monday afternoon, there will be no new trial in a case against Matthew Schwan. After a three-day trial, on March 15 Schwan was found guilty of aggravated homicide by vehicle. The charge is from a May 14, 2016 incident during which Reilly Schwan was struck by a vehicle driven by Matthew following a night of drinking with others and an extensive argument between the couple.

A motion for a new trial and evidentiary hearing was filed in the case. In that motion, defense attorney Richard Hopkinson stated after the trial one of Matthew’s family members contacted Hopkinson and provided a screenshot of Reilly’s Facebook page from March 15. It was asserted an online post from a juror indicated actual or implied bias against Matthew, stemming from the juror’s failure to disclose his relationship with Reilly during the voir dire process.

The motion for the new trial also stated prosecuting attorney Jerry Williams responded inappropriately to an objection made by Hopkinson. That objection was for hearsay, as Williams had asked a witness what Reilly might have said, and Williams said she was unavailable “because he killed her.”

During Monday’s proceedings, Hopkinson spoke to the two issues. As to the Facebook post, he said the juror expressed being part of the case was one of the hardest things he had to do, and his hope is she is having fun “up there” and is watching her children. The attorney said such statements indicated the juror had a strong connection with Reilly which was not disclosed.

As to Williams’ statement, Hopkinson said it was a statement of “forfeiture by wrongdoing,” and there was no pre-trial notice that such was going to occur. Hopkinson also noted the statement was prejudicial toward Matthew.

Williams objected to the motion for new trial, and addressed each issue. As to the Facebook post, he said he never saw the alleged post and there was no foundation for it. Reading from a transcript of the voir dire, Williams pointed out the only thing asked of the juror was about his relationship with Reilly, to which he replied he was a family friend, and this was not a misstatement.

Further, with regard to the alleged post, Williams pointed out that it only indicates it was hard for the juror to sit through the trial and hear horrible things, and that he knew Reilly smiled a lot and had children. The juror was asked if he could be fair and impartial, the same as the other jurors, Williams said, and said he could.

As to his statement during the trial, Williams said it had nothing to do so much with Schwan as it was a response to an objection. He further noted there was no curative jury instruction requested by the defense for the jury to disregard the statement, and that he could’ve said it differently.

In his ruling, Judge Robert E. Skar said he has not seen evidence of the alleged online post, and noted during the voir dire the juror stated he was a family friend but there was no further pursuit into that response by the defense.

As to Williams’ statement, Skar said it was a response to an objection. It may have been inappropriate, Skar added, but it was still only a response.

Following the ruling on the motion for a new trial, Skar also heard, and denied, a modification to Matthew’s bond. In that motion, Williams argued for a “no contact” rule to be added to the bond with regard to witnesses. Williams presented evidence that strongly suggested posts had been made by Matthew or someone in his family which were an attack on witnesses.

 

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