Evidence

Murder case tossed mid-trial, judge cites lack of proof


Saying that the prosecution hadn’t even proven that there was a murder, let alone that the defendant committed the crime, a Michigan judge on Monday dismissed a murder case against Mark Coulier after the close of the government’s presentation.

Oceana County 27th Circuit Judge Terrence R. Thomas said he had spent the weekend considering the evidence, and found that reasonable doubt precluded Coulier’s conviction even if the cause of death of his wife, Joyce, could have been established, the Muskegon Chronicle reports.

If her death in the summer of 2000 was due to foul play, there wasn’t enough circumstantial evidence to show that Coulier, rather than someone else, was responsible, the judge explained during a 20-minute ruling from the bench, noting that a number of friends and extended family members had a history of violence and/or drug abuse. And a stranger might also have been responsible for her death, the judge said, after she was last seen leaving her husband’s home to go look for drugs, according to witness testimony.

“What determination can they make based on your evidence?” asked Thomas, at one point, directing the question toward prosecutor Gregory R. Townsend of the state attorney general’s office.

Townsend pointed out that eyewitness testimony is often not available in a murder case, and said the defendant had a motive to murder her. “Could the jury infer from that evidence that the defendant was responsible? And, of course, the answer is: ‘Yes.’ ”

Timothy Hayes, a public defender, represented Coulier.

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