A Payson man is back in court on murder charges. Kevan Kuhlman's first-degree murder trial is before Judge Peter Cahill. Kuhlman is charged with murdering Payson television station manager Susan Birchak in October 2001.
Kuhlman won a post-conviction relief appeal that nullifies a plea bargain agreement in which he pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter. Kuhlman contends he did not understand the plea agreement. It required that every day of his 20-year sentence be served. Kuhlman claimed to believe he would be entitled to credits for good behavior.
Kuhlman remains in custody as the trial proceeds. In the Globe courtroom, Kuhlman appeared at ease and attentive, engaging in small talk with attorney Christy Riggins and sheriff's deputies. Kuhlman smiled during a break while telling his attorney, "My sense of humor is the only thing I've got left."
Defense attorney Christy Riggins sparred with the court and prosecution over admissibility of exhibits, items of evidence and testimony allowed to be presented to the jury.
Judge Peter Cahill denied a defense motion for a mistrial over an exhibit. Cahill said the exhibit speaks for itself in the context of the facts. The exhibit in question is a recording of an answering machine message.
Prosecutor Daisy Flores displayed caution as she built the foundation for questioning. Flores said the prosecution case is expected to continue though Friday or possibly the beginning of next week. The trial is expected to last at least three weeks.
A juror has been excused due to the illness of her infant son. Judge Cahill advised the juror to return on Tuesday when the trial resumes in the event her son's condition has improved.