Mistrial motion withdrawn, murder trial continues
The defense withdrew its motion for a mistrial in the case of State v. Thorpe Thomas Bradley Monday morning and the trial continued.
Bradley, of Menahga, is charged with second-degree unintentional murder while committing third-degree assault from an incident Sept. 16, 2006, which resulted in the death of Thomas Charles Hensel.
The defense had said Friday afternoon it wanted to make a motion for a mistrial based on a potential conflict involving a witness for the prosecution. That person was trying to make a deal for his girlfriend, who was being represented by defender Ryan Ries. Ries is also representing Bradley.
Monday morning, Ries said he is no longer representing the other client and Bradley would like him to continue representing him. Ries said there was still a potential conflict but Bradley had a chance to speak with Ries, and his other attorney Joe Parise and was aware of it.
The prosecution continued calling witnesses Monday, beginning with Dr. Timothy Rittenour, who was working at St. Joseph's Hospital in Park Rapids when Thomas Hensel was taken to the emergency room on Sept. 17, 2006.
Rittenour said he saw facial trauma to the left side of Hensel's face and he was breathing on his own when he entered the hospital. Hensel had blood in the brain and a fractured cheek bone, Rittenour said. The injuries were consistent with an assault, he said. When asked if the injuries could have been from a fall, he said they could have been but it would have been quite a fall.
Hensel was in Park Rapids for about two hours before he was transported by helicopter to MeritCare in Fargo.
Wadena County Sheriff's Deputy Nick Grabe was also called as a witness.
Grabe was called to the scene of a medical situation in Menahga on Sept. 17, 2006. When he arrived, first responders were working on Thomas Hensel, he said. Grabe was responsible for investigating the incident and received information about Thorpe Bradley and was told he was at the home of Thomas and Merrie Jo Hensel. Grabe said he went to the home and took Bradley into custody.
Later, he interviewed Bradley at the Wadena County Jail. The interview was recorded and the recording was played in court.
In the interview with Grabe, Bradley described the events that happened on Sept. 16, 2006. He described drinking and riding around with Thomas Hensel, Merrie Jo Hensel and his father, Thomas Bradley. His 6-year-old son was also with him during that day.
At one point, Bradley said in the interview that Thomas Hensel hit him when they were at the Mary Brown Bridge and then he hit him back but didn't put anything into the punch.
Several times, Thorpe Bradley said he had never seen Thomas Hensel drink as much as he had that day. Bradley also said that they were all having fun.
Grabe asked Bradley if his son was present at the Mary Brown Bridge when the punches were exchanged. Bradley said he didn't think his son had seen that.
The prosecution next called Anthony Mitchell as a witness.
He met Thorpe Bradley in 1999. Mitchell said he had spent time in jail in Wadena and was released in January. He had been in jail since February 2007. Mitchell had also been in jail for about a week in November 2006. The jail time was from an assault charge and a controlled substance charge for which he was convicted. Mitchell had other felony drug convictions in 1996 and 2001.
During his time at the Wadena County Jail, he had a conversation with Thorpe Bradley about Thomas Hensel, he said. In November 2006, Mitchell said Thorpe Bradley told him he had gotten in a fight with his son's grandfather and punched him then kicked him. No one else was present when Mitchell and Bradley had the conversation, Mitchell said.
In November 2007, about a year after he first spoke to Bradley, Mitchell contacted law enforcement to tell them about his conversations with Thorpe Bradley. Mitchell said in court Monday that he went to authorities because he didn't feel it was right.
During a conversation later with Deputy Bill Cross, Wadena Sgt./Investigator Tom Crawford and Attorney Kyra Ladd, Mitchell said he heard Thorpe Bradley tell someone else they were bringing in another doctor to do an autopsy.
Parise asked Mitchell about his motivation and his testimony. In letters Mitchell wrote to Bill Cross, there was nothing said about him feeling what Bradley did was wrong, Parise said. In one of the letters, Mitchell wrote that he didn't get along with Thorpe Bradley anymore, Parise added.
Ladd asked Mitchell why he didn't get along with Thorpe Bradley. Mitchell said it was because Bradley was calling him a snitch. He said he was afraid of being a snitch in jail because it is dangerous.
Wadena County Sheriff's Office Dispatcher/Jailer Amy Bergquist was called as a witness. She answered the 911 call that was made by Gladys Bradley, Thorpe Bradley's sister, on Sept. 17, 2006.
A recording of the 911 call was played in court. Gladys Bradley stayed on the phone with Bergquist while first responders and an ambulance were called to the scene for Thomas Hensel.
Steve Young, who was chief deputy for the Wadena County Sheriff's Office in 2006, was called as a witness. He is now retired.
Young was in charge of investigations for the sheriff's office at the time and worked on the Bradley investigation, he said.
After deputy Grabe spoke to Bradley, Young also conducted an interview that was recorded. That recording was played in court on Monday. Bradley told Young that Thomas Hensel hit him twice in the face. Young examined Bradley's face but didn't see any cuts or swelling.
Young told Bradley that Thomas Hensel went to a Fargo hospital and might have had brain damage. Bradley then told Young that Hensel had consumed a lot of alcohol.
In the interview, Thorpe Bradley said he and Thomas Hensel weren't even mad at each other. Thomas Hensel was always punching him, he said, and he didn't know why.
They punched each other when they were at the Mary Brown Bridge, Bradley said. Later in the day, they stopped at Yaeger Lake and Thomas Hensel was falling all over, he said. At that point, Thorpe Bradley's 6-year-old son was helping Hensel walk, Bradley said.
Hensel was left in the passenger seat of the van and was passed out, slobbering, Bradley said in the interview with Young. Later in the interview, Bradley was told that Thomas Hensel wasn't doing well.
During Young's investigation, he went to the Mary Brown Bridge and Yaeger Lake to take photos and examine the areas. At Yaeger Lake, Young said he looked for anywhere someone might have fallen and found one area where there was some matted down grass. At Yaeger Lake there is a path with pallets about 300 feet long that extends from the shore to the open water. On either side of the path is grass and swamp, Young said.
The time line Bradley gave to deputy Grabe and deputy Young fit fairly closely, Young said.
The trial was set to continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday.