October 8, 2015
The fourth day of proceedings in the Fairbanks Four case focused largely on the testimony of Scott Davison, who testified that Jason Wallace confessed his role in the Hartman killing just days after the murder to Davison and another student.
According to Davison’s testimony, he and a friend were sitting in a car in the Lathrop High School Parking lot just days after Hartman was murdered when Wallace jumped in and the three ditched school to smoke weed. When they were parked near the bowling alley a few blocks away, Wallace produced the local newspaper and told Davison and driver Matt Ellsworth that he and his friends were the ones truly responsible for killing Hartman.
Davison talked about his struggle to come forward, and that he believed Wallace’s threat to kill him if he did, then and now. In previous videotaped deposition, Mr. Davison said he felt blessed that the Innocence Project had tracked him down and allowed him to unburden himself of a secret that had tormented him for years. Davison also outlined other attempts to come forward, most notably when he disclosed the Wallace confession to Officer Avery Thompson, who failed to record only that portion of the interview and did not pursue the information. Thompson blowing the information off, Davison said, was discouraging.
Officer Thompson took the stand briefly and denied much memory of the Davison statements, but came up stammering when the Fairbanks Four counsel produced a string of emails between he and his supervisor (as well as original investigator) Jim Geier to counter his claim that the one-time conversation was never expanded upon. He defended the failure to record the interview its entirety.
Davison’s former girlfriend and mother of his children took the stand as well to confirm that Davison had told her about the Wallace confession during their relationship, which spanned the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.
During cross-examination, State prosecutor belabored Davison’s inability to remember small details of his day or life in 1997 – how many credits he was taking that semester, for example, or small inconsistencies in his story – in one interview he described a man he confided the confession to as a friend, in another he described the man as an acquaintance. Davison defended his inability to remember such distant minutia, stating simply that perception is like that – that he had forgotten small details of the day but that Wallace’s confession was “tattooed into my mind.”
Bachman has previously attacked Davison from all angles, including rather dishonestly in the initial state response to the post conviction filing, and during questioning Davison was frank at his distaste for her tactics. “How is that relevant?” he asked when questioned about his children. He was consistently vocal about her questioning, and at one point when referring to a previous meeting with Bachman he stated that he hadn’t recognized her because she “had her nice face on” then. Judge Paul Lyle had to quell laughter from the public at the remark. In the end, Davison acknowledged his inability to remember some details, but was adamant about his testimony regarding the Wallace confession.
“I am not lying. He confessed to me.” Davison reiterated.
Judge Paul Lyle is taking the approach of hearing everything and considering admissibility when proceedings finish. This leaves his decision solidly unpredictable, as it is possible that any of the witnesses will have testimony excluded from the decision. However, for the time being it allows for the testimony to be heard and as such become public, and Davison proved a powerful addition to the discourse.
A few links for news coverage: