Jurors in and out of the courtroom during third day in Morales retrial

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 6:14 PM CDT
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MINOT, N.D. – Testimony continued Wednesday in the case against Bradley Morales, the man being re-tried for the 2017 stabbing death of Sharmaine Leake, a Minot mother of three. It quickly turned into an active day for the jury.

Before trial began Wednesday morning, Morales, who is defending himself, told the ruling judge that he was denied access to certain materials in the Ward County Detention Center.

The state called Ward County Detention Center Supervisor Paul Olthoff to testify to Morales’ claims.

“I guess I looked into it when I heard I had to come up here. I checked his requests on Turnkey, whether he electronically put in the request, I did not see any requests to go to the law library,” said Major Paul Olthoff with the Ward County Detention Center.

Trial began after the dispute, however throughout the day, the jury was asked to leave the room multiple times for private conferences after objections from both Morales and the state, one being called after Morales objected to the state showing autopsy photos to the jury.

“It’s about the victim at the time in question, your honor. August 16, 2017. They are trying to introduce some pictures, I don’t even know how long later, of the victim on the autopsy table,” said Bradley Morales, the defendant.

The state argued that Morales knew about the evidence for a while.

“The fact is, he knows, as a self-represented litigate, that anything given to him by the state was possibly going to come in as evidence, that is simply the case, that is how it is in all trials,” said Leah Viste, Ward County’s assistant state’s attorney.

Judge Mattson allowed several of the state’s photos, but he did throw a few out.

When the jury returned to the courtroom, they heard from Dr. William Massello, the state medical examiner who performed the autopsy of Sharmaine Leake.

Massello noted the amount of bruising and trauma to Leake’s body.

“She also had what we call ‘raccoon eyes’ and ‘raccoon eyes’ are a finding that you get anytime you have any injuries to the skull, injuries to the brain, or injuries to the scalp,” said Dr. William Massello, North Dakota’s Forensic examiner in 2017.

The state will continue to present witnesses and evidence to the jury on Thursday including testimony from Leake’s family about the sense of the relationship between Morales and Leake.

The trial is slated to go until May 20.

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