State rests in Morrow murder trial

By DeeAnna Haney | Mar 24, 2013

After a week filled with witness testimony, the State rested its case Friday afternoon in the first-degree murder trial of Michael David Morrow.

He is accused of strangling and shooting his estranged wife, Amanda Smith Morrow, in the early morning hours of Oct. 16, 2010.

Prosecutors played the video of an interview between Michael Morrow and detectives with the Haywood County Sheriff's Office on Wednesday, which revealed his version of what happened that night.

During the hour-long interview, Michael Morrow described a rocky relationship with his wife that often led to arguments and how he suspected infidelity.

“She keeps pushing it to the breaking point,” Morrow said.

Eventually, he recalled that he punched his wife in the face while she was in her car and she ran away.

"She's hollering, 'Help me, help me. Someone's trying to kill me," he said, adding that's when he went to his car, retrieved a gun from under the passenger seat, choked her against the wall of the house and shot her in the head.

"When I shot I thought, 'What the hell have you done?' And that's when I went home," he said during the interview.

Det. Mark Mease, who led the interview, took the stand, explaining that he often agreed with Morrow during the interview and "went along with what he said" in order to build a rapport with him.

"My goal was to try to get him to tell me the truth about his involvement in the incident," Mease said.

Defense Attorney, J. Michael Edney, probed Mease, asking why he did not more thoroughly explain Morrow's rights before the interview. During cross-examination, he also repeatedly said that Mease's interviewing techniques were a "headgame" and "misleading," which led to Morrow's ultimate confession.

Assistant District Attorney, Rachael Groffsky, pointed out that Morrow dominated most of the interview and never indicated that he did not understand his rights.

The State also called six expert witnesses, including the forensic pathologist who performed Amanda Morrow’s autopsy and four employees of the State Bureau of Investigation crime lab who examined evidence in the case.

Dr. Jerri McLemore, an associate professor in the department of pathology at Wake Forest University and a forensic pathologist for autopsy services, issued the opinion that Amanda Morrow ultimately died from a gunshot wound to the head with manual strangulation.

McLemore said most of the injuries found in Amanda Morrow's autopsy were located on the head and neck, including a bullet wound that entered through her right temple. The bullet was recovered during the autopsy. The bullet caused fracturing, which was the reason for the bruises around her eyes, McLemore said.

There was also a cluster of small bruises found on the right side of her neck and a larger bruise on the left side, which upon examination revealed bleeding deeper in the tissue and a broken bone in her windpipe, suggesting she was choked.

Throughout the trial, Edney has questioned the process of chain of custody when it came to the evidence in the case, suggesting it was not properly documented after it was gathered. He has also repeatedly noted that detectives on the scene incorrectly described the weapon as a .32 caliber Smith and Wesson on official documents although it is an I.N.A. gun made in Brazil.

Ronald Bakis, a forensic scientist for the SBI specializing in firearm identification, confirmed during testimony Friday that the bullet retrieved during Amanda Morrow’s autopsy was fired from the gun seized from Michael Morrow the day of his initial arrest.

The defense will begin opening arguments and witness testimony Monday.