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Saturday, September 21, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

DNA evidence presented, events explored in detail at third day of Ennis trial

UPDATED: Thu., March 1, 2018, 9:50 p.m.

Police officer Gordon Ennis, center, listens to his attorney question a witness Wednesday, Mar. 1, 2018 at the Spokane County Courthouse during his trial, where he is accused of fondling a female police officer during a party where she passed out from drinking too much. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Police officer Gordon Ennis, center, listens to his attorney question a witness Wednesday, Mar. 1, 2018 at the Spokane County Courthouse during his trial, where he is accused of fondling a female police officer during a party where she passed out from drinking too much. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Callie Roseland was clear when she said it. Again when she had to repeat it – her friend had been “very drunk.”

In trial Thursday – the third day of the second-degree rape trial of former police Sgt. Gordon Ennis – the word “drunk” was repeated often following attorneys’ questions: How many drinks? What kind? How often? Did the alleged victim, a Spokane police officer, drink before the hot tub? How about after? Was it seven or nine drinks? How much whiskey exactly? Can you measure out the size of the shots?

Roseland recounted what she remembered: that the subject was a “full-grown human being completely drunk out of her mind.”

It was a day of testimony again largely dominated by the night in question: a house party in Colbert on Oct. 24, 2015, featuring several members of the Spokane Police Department and multiple bottles of alcohol.

Similar to other testimony, Roseland said she and the alleged victim got to the home of Officer Doug Strosahl around 7:30 p.m., at which time they and others started drinking. Roseland herself did not drink that night, she said.

By around 9 p.m., eight people were at the party, including Ennis. They hung out in the kitchen and living room area, mostly drinking, eating, dancing and talking.

Roseland, who was new to Spokane, had met everyone except her friend for the first time that night. She remained sober, and said she told her friend at about 11 p.m. she was ready to leave, but was convinced to go into a hot tub with the rest of the party. Eight adults crammed into a square tub underneath the home’s second-floor deck.

Roseland said everyone else continued to drink, including her friend, as the group stayed in the water for about 45 minutes to an hour.

It was after that when things went downhill fast, court records show. One guest passed out in a room on the first floor and Strosahl went to bed, apparently too drunk to stay awake. Roseland said her friend was nowhere to be seen, until she stumbled into the living room unclothed and clearly in need of help. The friend and others at the party decided she was too drunk to travel and should instead sleep overnight in the house.

By the end of that night, the state alleges, Ennis would fondle the alleged victim while she lay passed out drunk in a guest bedroom.

Both the state and the defense have focused heavily on consent during arguments. The state contends not only that the woman was too drunk, but that she also had no intention of doing anything sexual with the married police sergeant. The defense argues the opposite: that she was alert and communicative before the alleged assault, so there’s a chance she consented.

Defense attorney Rob Cossey, as he had done with other witnesses, repeatedly came back to the amount of alcohol the woman drank and when. He went into detail to break down a timeline of drinks, how much at what time, and what type of mental and physical state the alleged victim was in at different parts of the night.

As was consistent with the alleged victim’s testimony, Roseland said her friend was incoherent, confused and vomiting, unable to form complete thoughts, and was often mumbling and disoriented. She had testified herself Tuesday that she had no memory of most events after the hot tub.

“Extreme confusion. Glossed over eyes. Stumbling. Mumbling. Disoriented. All of the above,” Roseland said of her friend. “What you think of when you see a completely drunk person.”

Cossey also challenged Roseland’s testimony that her friend was crying the morning after, when she called Roseland to come get her from the house.

In referring to an interview with detectives taken a day after the assault was reported, the woman apparently never said she was crying, but county prosecuting attorney Kelly Fitzgerald was able to pull up several points during the interview when Roseland referred to her friend as “emotional” and “distraught.”

The jury also heard testimony from a forensic expert at the Washington state Crime Laboratory in Cheney, who said the alleged victim’s DNA was found on a seat belt on the driver’s side door of Ennis’ vehicle. The alleged victim testified Tuesday that she had never been in his car.

Detectives and forensics experts from the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office also testified about their attempts to collect DNA from Ennis’ hands a day after the assault was reported. But when they came to Cossey’s office to collect the evidence, they found Ennis’ fingernails were trimmed too short to cut them any further.

“As a person of ethics and morals, I would not cause harm,” said Jack Rosenthal, sergeant of the Spokane County Major Crimes Unit, of the decision not to attempt the evidence collection. “It would be close to torture if I intentionally injured him to collect evidence.”

The trial will continue Monday with testimony from Detective Brandon Armstrong, the lead detective on the case.

But first, the court will hear from the attorney for John Gately, the former Spokane Police Guild president who was accused of tipping off Ennis about the investigation, which detectives say led to the defendant cutting his fingernails.

According to attorneys on the case, Gately has invoked his Fifth Amendment right and will not testify.

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