May 3, 2011 in Idaho

Edgar Steele murder-for-hire trial wrapping up

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Edgar J. Steele
(Full-size photo)

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Background and the latest updates

Lawyers in the Edgar Steele murder-for-hire trial could give closing arguments as early as Wednesday.

Defense lawyers are trying to secure the appearance of an audio expert to question the authenticity of FBI recordings in which Steele discusses with handyman Larry Fairfax the plan to kill his wife, Cyndi Steele.

U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said the case likely will be with the jury by Thursday morning.

“Certainly we’ll have it presented to you before the end of the week,” Winmill told jurors.

Court is adjourned for today.

Cyndi Steele has told jurors she believes her husband is innocent. She and his other supporters say he is being framed by the federal government and that the recordings played for jurors were manufactured or heavily edited.

Prosecutors say the 65-year-old lawyer, who represented the Aryan Nations in a 2000 lawsuit, hired Fairfax to kill his wife and mother-in-law because he was pursuing a 25-year-old Ukrainian woman he met online. Supporters say the communication was simply part of Steele’s research into the Russian mail order bride scam.

Defense lawyers pushed for audio expert George Papcun to testify, but he is vacationing in Bora Bora with his wife and unable to be in Boise today.

Winmill declined to allow Papcun to testify via video, and he also rejected a two-day extension request from defense lawyers Robert McAllister and Gary Amendola to give them time to get Papcun to Boise.

“This is a problem that the defense is making, not the courts,” Winmill said. He cited the phrase “procrastination on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”

Papcun could be the last defense witness; McAllister said Edgar Steele has not yet decided if he will testify.

“If he does make that decision, I would like him to be the last witness in our case,” McAllister said.

McAllister is expected to recall Fairfax to question him about notes he wrote in jail.

Winmill ordered prosecutors to obtain the notes last week after Fairfax referenced them in testimony, but the judge has since said that was a mistake because the notes don’t qualify as evidence under federal case law. But because prosecutors now have access, Winmill reviewed the material today and gave notes relevant to the case to Steele’s defense lawyers.

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