BERNALILLO, N.M. (KRQE) - He was supposed to be a big help to Levi Chavez's defense, but an expert called to the stand in the former cop's murder trial may have done more harm than good.
Day Two of the defense's case focused solely on the testimony of Larry McCann, a crime scene expert from Virginia.
He told the jury based on everything he saw, it looked like Levi's wife Tera committed suicide saying the scene did not look staged. Based on photos of Tera's nails after her death there were no signs of a struggle, he added.
"They look good, and they're not broken, and they don't have anything underneath them which tells me there wasn't a scuffle, there wasn't a fight," McCann said.
He then showed the jury how he believes Tera shot herself, holding the gun upside down and with her thumb on the trigger.
He even tried to demonstrate how she could have fired then gun then unseated the magazine, something the state's experts testified she would not have been able to do.
However, his demonstration backfired, more than once.
"I can't get it to work today," McCann said.
The blunder drew a laugh from Tera's family and the prosecution let the flop speak for itself.
The magazine of the semiautomatic pistol has been an issue in the case since an investigator reported it was unseated, that is disengaged by a button release, although it remained in the grip. There also was a fresh bullet in the chamber, leading prosecutors to argue Tera Chavez could not have shot herself in her mouth and then released the magazine.
On cross-examination Bryan McKay did hammer away at some of McCann's other testimony.
"If someone's asleep there's going to be no sign of a struggle," McKay stated to which McCann quipped, "If someone's asleep and this happens to them it would have to be pretty quick."
Prior to that exchange McCann told the jury it takes less than a fraction of a second to pull a trigger.
The state claims Tera was asleep when Levi shot her once in the mouth in October 2007 and then staged it to look like a suicide. The pistol had been issued to him by the Albuquerque Police Department although he carried a personal sidearm while on duty.
"If someone is asleep and you try and jam a gun in her mouth, I would expect to see some type of injury to her lips." McCann shot back at McKay.
McKay then responded, "Did you know (medical investigators) said very specifically that there were some injuries to her lips."
McCann told the jury that previously it took him less than 10 times to simultaneously fire the gun and unseat the magazine, Tera would have had to do it right the first time.
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