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Updated: Friday, 11 Mar 2011, 3:53 PM EST
Published : Thursday, 10 Mar 2011, 6:32 AM EST
CENTREVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) - After a lengthy trial, the final day of Doug Stewart's murder trial sped through the lead investigator's testimony, the closing arguments and jury instructions.
Testimony began around 8:45 a.m. with Michigan State Police Detective Mike Scott. His brief testimony was followed by the prosecution resting, the defense deciding not to call any witnesses, a lengthy recess and then closing arguments.
The jury will begin their deliberations Friday morning at 8:30 a.m.
In the afternoon
For the first time since Doug Stewart's murder trial began, Venus Stewart's parents were allowed in the courtroom.
As witnesses, they weren't allowed to sit in and listen to other testimony.
Doug is on trial for allegedly murdering Venus in April 2010. Her body has never been found. He faces two counts: premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder.
Venus's brother, Dustin Jasper, other family and friends are in a packed courtroom to hear the closing arguments from prosecutor John McDonough and defense attorneys Jeffrey Schroder and Kymberly Schroder.
Before the closing arguments began, Stutesman said, over defense objections, that the jury should be given instructions they can find Doug guilty without Venus' body.
He also told the attorneys the closings "had better be done by 5 p.m." He will not have the jury stay after 5 p.m.
The jury entered the court and he read them their instructions.
Stutesman went over some key points with the jury, including the testimony of Doug's alleged accomplice Ricky Spencer. He told the jury to think closely before believing Spencer's testimony, in large part because of the immunity deal in Michigan Spencer has with the prosecution.
He also went over the difference between circumstantial and direct evidence.
The Prosecution Closing
In his closings, McDonough told the jury to focus on two time periods: the beginning of April 2010, when Spencer first went to visit Doug. And the end of April, when Venus disappeared.
He said he believed Doug was trying to hide the fact he bought disposable cell phones, and sought to throw off investigators by getting a TracFone with a 269 area code -- the area code for Colon Township.
Doug, he said, bought a disposable cell phone on a credit card because he wasn't able to withdraw cash from his account.
McDonough also said the plot was already underway when Doug was pulled over by an Ohio police officer at 4:25 a.m. the week before Venus disappeared.
He reminded the jury Spencer testified Doug called him after he allegedly killed Venus, and that was the moment Spencer realized Doug actually did it.
People noticed Doug had scratches on his arms in the days after Venus disappeared, McDonough said, and reminded the jury Doug's left little finger fingerprint was found on a tarp wrapper outside Venus' parents home.
The only piece of the puzzle missing is Venus' body, McDonough told the jury. And a reasonable reading of the puzzle shows Doug is guilty as charged.
The Defense Closing
Jeffrey Schroder asked the jury if they're supposed to be putting a puzzle together or deciding the case on evidence.
Schroder went through the prosecution's evidence, and reminded the jury there is no blood evidence at all. And he reminded them they can only consider the fingerprint evidence if they conclude that fingerprint could only have been put there when the crime was committed.
Doug was on a surveillance video in Ohio with the same tarp as packaging found at Venus' parents house, he said. But the fingerprint doesn't prove anything more than his client held the tarp. And, he said, Doug was not hiding when he bought a shovel, a tarp and other items at an Ohio Walmart.
Stewart could not have conspired with Ricky Spencer, Schroder said, because Spencer "didn't want Venus Stewart dead."
Spencer was coached on his testimony, he said, and just recited his "script" on the stand. Ricky Spencer lied during his testimony, Schroder said.
He reminded the jury that the car with Virginia plates seen the morning Venus disappeared in Colon Township was identified by the witness as a Chrysler. Doug's car is not a Chrysler. And, he said, if the woman in that car was Venus, the man may have been the man she was seen with the day before.
Schroder said Venus' family did not like Doug or their volatile relationship.
All things considered, he said, there is reasonable doubt about whether Doug Stewart is guilty of anything. And, Schroder told the jury, you must find him not guilty.
McDonough once again addressed the jury to refute some of the assertions the defense made. Specifically, he talked about Ricky Spencer's testimony about the phone call Doug made with details on how Venus died.
He also said Doug made "a tragic mistake" by leaving a receipt from an Ohio Walmart in his truck, and that receipt for a shovel, tarp, gloves and duct tape led investigators to all the other evidence they gathered, including the cell phones and Ricky Spencer.
said McDonough, had an attack of conscience that led him to tell investigators the truth.
The only one who can tell you where the shovel, tarp, gloves and Venus are, McDonough told the jury, is Doug Stewart.
Judge Stutesman told the jury to first choose a foreperson, and reminded them a unanimous verdict is necessary on each of the two counts. They are separate crimes, he said, and each must be determined separately.
The alternate juror was then randomly chosen.
Immediately after the jury was sent from the court to choose a foreperson, Schroder moved for mistrial on prosecutorial misconduct. Stutesman denied the motion.
Schroder then moved for a directed verdict from the judge on both counts: count one, there is no proof that Venus isn't dead, and count two that spencer and doug did not conspire. Stutesman rejected that as well, because the case is now with the jury.
The defense can file this motion after any jury verdict comes in, if they choose to, the judge said.
The Final Witness
In a brief morning session, Mike Scott, the lead investigator for the Michigan State Police in the murder case against Doug Stewart, was on the stand for no more than 15 minutes Thursday.
Scott testified how he immediately contacted Doug the day his wife, Venus, disappeared, and asked him what he was doing that day.
He also explained why the Michigan State Police searched for Venus' body in northern St. Joseph County and in southern Kalamazoo County. It was, Scott said, because of a phone call made on a disposable cell phone Doug bought.
McDonough then rested his case. Schroder decided to not call any witnesses, and the defense rested their case.
Doug Stewart's father and sister were list of potential defense witnesses, but were not called to the stand.
The defense resting appeared to catch everyone by surprise, including Judge Paul Stutesman.
He adjourned the court until closing arguments began around 1:30 p.m.
24 Hour News 8 will continue to provide up-to-the-minute coverage from reporter Dani Carlson on CoverItLive and on a live stream on woodtv.com