“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
― Isaac Asimov
As we near some kind of reliable trial date for People v. Merritt the question is, what will the evidence prove when placed under the scrutiny of a robust defense? And all indications are that Merritt defense attorneys, Rajan Maline and James McGee are ramping up for a very thorough and comprehensive defense.
The state’s case against Merritt has a fair amount of physical and digital evidence, the problem is that most of it is inconclusive.
- There is a vehicle caught by the surveillance camera of a McStay neighbor on the night the McStays are believed to be murdered. Though only the bottom eighteen inches of the vehicle is viewable, this portion of the vehicle is consistent with the Chevy truck driven by Merritt at the time of the McStays were killed.
- There are two sets of tire tracks leading to the two shallow graves in which the McStays were found. One set of these tracks is consistent in width, with the vehicle Merritt was known to have driven at the time of the murders.
- There is Chase Merritt’s DNA found in minor and trace amounts on the steering wheel, gear shift and air controls in the McStay Trooper.
- There are phone pings that place Merritt in physical locations at specific times, most notably placing him within an 8 mile, or greater radius of the McStay graves on the Saturday following the murders.
- And there is a whole lot of strange and suspicious activity on Joseph McStay’s Quickbook account, right at the time of the murders, all linked directly to Chase Merritt.
That’s a lot of evidence! But how much of this evidence is conclusive?
- There has been no actual identification made of the vehicle captured leaving the McStay driveway on the night of their murders.
- The tire tracks leading to the graves were eroded, to such a degree, it’s hard to imagine an exact match could be made to any vehicle, let alone Merritt’s. (There have to be thousands of trucks that might have left tracks that same width, this in a part of California, where almost everyone owns a truck.) Add to this, the two sets of tracks are of different widths. Indicating that more than one vehicle was present.
- Merritt’s DNA is found in minor and trace amounts in the McStay Trooper, (Joseph McStay was found to be a major contributor in a mixed sample). The defense has already indicated that they believe Merritt’s DNA was transferred to these locations by way of contact between Merritt and McStay. So though the DNA is certain, its meaning is not.
- The phone ping data collected on Merritt seems the most wobbly of all the evidence, even though it should be the most solid. There are a myriad of explanations for many of the locations in which Merritt’s phone pings various towers. And though on first blush his pings near the graves two days following the murders, appears very damning, we don’t really know yet how far a reach the towers had, or if there might not be a very innocent explanation for Merritt to have pinged those towers. Merritt has never adequately explained why he might have been in that region, on that day-so there’s that on the prosecution’s side of things. But on the other hand, if Merritt waited two days to bury the bodies, where were the bodies for those two days? And why would he wait? The timing of those pings raises as many questions, as it answers.
- The suspicious Quickbooks activity does seem conclusive, in that it can be linked to Merritt, and no one but Merritt. But what does that activity actually prove? Neither the state or the defense has really offered much explanation on this. So again, inconclusive.
Everyone on this case, prosecution and defense both, have lots of explaining to do at trial. And it looks like in 2018 we will finally hear both sides, in full.
Until then, open minds make the sturdiest vessels for truth.
Let the evidence lead the way.