Prosecutors in the homicide trial of Ian Cranston want to exclude evidence they say could unfairly portray shooting victim Barry Washington Jr. in “a poor light,” including synced videos of the incident, an account of his behavior with Bend Police and a California conviction for eluding a police chase at speeds of up to 100 mph.
Cranston’s defense says that the evidence, which is scheduled to be discussed at a hearing Thursday in Deschutes County Circuit Court, is relevant and helps lay out the facts of the case.
“The reason (for the hearing) is so both sides know what evidence will be before the jury before the trial happens,” said Deschutes County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Gunnels. “That way we’ll know how the case will be presented to the jury.”
Gunnels declined to comment on the prosecution’s arguments prior to the hearing.
Cranston’s Portland-based attorney, Kevin Sali, also declined to comment.
Cranston faces a second-degree murder charge for the killing of Washington outside The Capitol Bar on Sept. 19, 2021. The evidence in the dispute is contained in court documents filed this summer in the high-profile case.
The shooting garnered outrage from social justice advocates because Washington, a 22-year-old Black man, was shot and killed after complimenting Cranston’s girlfriend in the Bend bar.
The state is seeking to exclude evidence that Washington swore at a police officer on the night that he was shot, court documents state.
The defense argues that this is relevant information because it shows that Washington was angry on the night of the shooting and suggests Cranston was justified in defending himself.
But the prosecution states Cranston would not have known about Washington’s encounter with Bend Police that night, court documents state. Prosecutors also say Washington’s earlier behavior is no indication he would act aggressively toward Cranston when they clashed 45 minutes later.
Including this evidence, prosecutors say, runs the risk of offending jurors and could heighten bias against Washington, due to his apparent views of police, which the state argues is irrelevant in the case.
The defense also filed documents that describe an Aug. 16, 2020, incident when California Highway Patrol officers attempted to stop Washington as he was driving in Citrus Heights, California. Washington ignored police, exceeding speeds of 100 mph, while driving through red lights as police pursued him for “approximately 5.5 miles,” according to court documents. Officers apprehended Washington after he got a flat tire.
At this point, officers say Washington threw bullets out of the car, according to court documents. Officers say they also found a rifle magazine with ammunition inside the car, which Washington said he did not own or know about. Washington said he fled because he had marijuana in the vehicle, but the documents do not say that any drugs were found in the car.
Washington was subsequently convicted of a misdemeanor count of evading police, according to court documents.
Prosecutors argue that Cranston would not have known about the California incident at the time of the shooting “and thus it is not relevant for his self-defense claim.” And under federal rules, specific instances of conduct are prohibited in proving a person’s character, prosecutors argue.
“To be frank, the only purpose defense seeks for this evidence is to cast a poor light on Barry Washington,” prosecutors write in court documents, adding that portraying Washington as a violent and “out of control anarchist deserving of being shot” would “taint” a jury’s decision making process.
Cranston’s defense argues that the prosecution’s efforts to exclude the California incident are “premature.”
Sali, Cranston’s attorney, writes: “The defense does not at this time plan to introduce evidence relating to this prior offense. The evidence may, however, be admissible in response to evidence the State may choose to offer.”
In addition, prosecutors also want to exclude synced video footage presented by the defense, saying that the video is altered to only highlight certain aspects of the incident. But Sali wrote the video is “comprised of the actual footage of the events at issue” and the “primary effect of the composite video will be to assist jurors in analyzing the particular features of the video footage that are pertinent to the defense’s case.”
Deschutes County Circuit Judge Beth Bagley will preside over the hearing.