Prosecution Rests Its Case Against Haught

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GLOBE -- This morning, for the fourth day, a crowd of blue jean-clad well-wishers escorted Roy George Haught to the wood-paneled courtroom where he is standing trial for second-degree murder to hear the prosecution's last witness.

The Star Valley business owner, who is accused of punching 53-year-old Jim Cooper of Strawberry in the head and killing him, went on trial Tuesday on the third floor of the Gila County Courthouse in Globe.

The prosecution is expected to rest its case today (Friday) after calling 12 witnesses to the stand, including the victim's wife, Esther Cooper, who was scheduled to testify this morning.

The defense is set to begin its case today. Lead defense attorney Tracey Westerhausen of Phoenix said she expects to conclude her case by the end of the day or the first day of court next week.

Thirty-six-year-old Haught, who has slimmed down and shaved his mustache since his December 1997 arrest, faced a 12-member jury this week from behind a small table where he sat elbow-to-elbow with his prosecutors.

Behind him, friends and family members from Payson, Superior and other parts of the state have crowded into the gallery every day to support him. Cooper's wife and her supporters also have attended daily.

During opening statements Tuesday, the lead prosecutor, Gila County District Attorney Jerry DeRose, promised to prove that Haught was spoiling for a fight Dec. 14, 1997, because Cooper looked like a hippie and was driving too slow for Haught's liking.

DeRose said the evidence would prove that Haught, who was 18 years younger, two inches taller and 55 pounds heavier than Cooper, hit the mechanic with enough force to knock him unconscious and later cause his death.

"This case is about a man who was forced to make a stand to protect his home and his family," DeRose told the jury. "Jim Cooper and his friend David Baham were followed home on a dark road by the defendant, Mr. Haught. Mr. Cooper was going too slow for Mr. Haught so he decided he'd play with him a little."

Defense attorney Westerhausen contends, however, that Cooper provoked Haught by stopping in the middle of the road, yelling at him, pushing him and punching him in the lip.

She also told the jury that the investigation into Cooper's death was mishandled by the Gila County Sheriff's Department and that Cooper suffered many of his injuries after Haught left.

Haught began that chilly December evening playing pool and drinking beer at the Black Bear Restaurant in Strawberry with his friends, Clayton and Reese Randall and their close friends Media Hunsaker and Alissa Herning, who were both 21 at the time.

According to Hunsaker and Herning, who testified for the prosecution this week, the five later decided to pick up some beer and go to the Randalls' cabin at Twin Buttes west of Strawberry.

At this point, the Randalls "were buzzing pretty good," Hunsaker testified.

Herning and Hunsaker both testified that they didn't know Haught well enough to tell if he was drunk, but he seemed to be driving normally.

Haught stopped at the Strawberry Market, but it had just closed, so he drove to the Sportsman Chalet nearby. Clayton Randall went into the Chalet and bought a 12-pack of beer.

When Randall came out, he said "there was a big hippie guy in there," Herning testified. Cooper and Baham left the Chalet minutes later and got into Cooper's car to leave.

Haught, who was driving his wife's maroon mini-van, made a U-turn in the parking lot, passing two exits, to follow Cooper out, DeRose said during his opening statement. Herning and Hunsaker confirmed that on the stand and both testified that Haught tailgated Cooper through the parking lot.

They said Cooper turned right onto Highway 87. Haught waited for a second car on the highway to pass and then also turned right onto the highway.

All three cars then turned left onto Fossil Creek Road, one of two roads leading to the Buttes. The other road is in Pine, three miles south.

The interpretation of what happened over the next few minutes is central to the argument of both the defense and prosecution.

The girls testified that the middle car turned off Fossil Creek Road and Haught closed the gap between his van and Cooper's car.

Herning testified that Haught was driving less than a car length away from Cooper's car as they followed Cooper left on Rimwood and then right on Antelope, heading east away from the Buttes.

"When Mr. Cooper reached his home, he said to David, 'I don't want to take this home,'" DeRose said in his opening. David Baham confirmed that on the stand.

"Mr. Haught ... gets out of his car," DeRose told the jurors. "Clayton goes up to Dave Baham and starts pulling his beard saying, 'you think you bad, you think you bad.'

"They weren't out there to make peace. They were out there to threaten and intimidate Mr. Cooper and show off for the girls. Mr. Haught hit Jim Cooper, got back in his car and went up into the mountains to have his party."

Other prosecution witnesses included Pima County Medical Examiner Bruce Parks, Pine-Strawberry paramedic Don Chester, Cooper's stepdaughter Vanessa Johnson Beckham, Gila County investigator Dave Franquero, former Sportsman Chalet bartender Susan Kay Kromrie, Payson Regional Medical Center emergency room doctor John Waytuk, Gila County Sheriff's Deputy Rodney Cronk and Gila County Sheriff's Detective George Ratliff.

Westerhausen will set out today to knock enough holes in the prosecution's case to give the jury reason to find her client innocent.

"The thing that is important is that no one saw Roy hit Jim more than one time, after Mr. Cooper shoved him twice," she told the jurors in her opening statement.

"Jim Cooper was under the mistaken impression that the van followed directly behind him from the Chalet to his driveway, but that was his tragic mistake. That's what led to this tragedy."

Westerhausen said she expects to call at least five witnesses for the defense, including Payson Justice of the Peace Ronnie McDaniel, Payson Constable Eddie Armer, Clayton Randall and Reese Randall.

Closing arguments are expected to begin Wednesday or Thursday of next week and jury deliberations will begin immediately thereafter. The trial will be suspended Monday due to the President's Day holiday and will not convene again until Feb. 17.

Haught trial at a glance
Defendant: 36-year-old Roy George Haught of Star Valley.

Charges: Second-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault in the death of 53-year-old Jim Cooper of Strawberry.

Judge: Edd Dawson, Gila County Superior Court judge.

Jury:
12 members and one alternate.
7 women, 6 men.
5 from Payson, 8 from Globe.
Majority of members near retirement age.

Where: Third floor of the Gila County Courthouse in Globe.

When: Court convenes at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. with two 20-minute breaks and an hour and a half lunch break.

Defense attorney: Tracey Westerhausen.
Prosecutors: Gila County District Attorney Jerry DeRose, Gila County Assistant District Attorney Patti Wortman.

Court setup: Defense counsel, the defendant and the prosecution sit elbow-to-elbow at the same table in the center of the courtroom facing the judge's podium, witness stand and jury box. Six rows of benches are provided for the gallery directly behind the table for the defense and prosecution.

Trial began: Feb. 9.
Prosecution: Prosecutors, who began presenting their case Feb. 9, the first day of trial, are expected to rest their case today, Feb. 12, after calling 12 witnesses to the stand.

Defense: The defense is expected to begin its case today (Friday) and rest today or the next time the court convenes for this case, Feb. 17.

Conclusion: Closing arguments and jury deliberation are expected to begin as soon as the defense rests, possibly as early as Feb. 17.

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