SUV crash trial: Accident scene footage lacks audio, says defense

The Alaska Courthouse in Cordova. (June 2, 2020) Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

Police video recordings crucial to the trial of a man accused of manslaughter lack proper audio, claimed the defense at a Tuesday, June 2 pre-trial conference.

Jesse James Jones, 50, of Cordova, was charged with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, driving under the influence, and misconduct involving weapons in the fourth degree following an Oct. 8 SUV rollover into Eyak Lake. Jones’s passenger, Andrey Plisko, died following the accident. Jones’s trial has been postponed repeatedly due to alleged issues with the evidence provided by the state and due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jones’s lawyer, Moshe Zorea, first raised issues with Cordova Police Department video recordings at a Jan. 29 pre-trial conference. Four months later, Zorea had still not received video with proper audio, he said.

“I have the imagery, but no audio,” Zorea said. “I can’t hear a single word out of the officers, and they were talking quite a bit.”

Zorea contacted the state about the issue repeatedly but received no response, he said.

State attorney Glenn Shidner said that six body camera videos provided to the defense did, in fact, have working audio, and suggested that the problem might be with Zorea’s computer. Shidner had played the videos on multiple computers and found the audio working, he said. Zorea would be welcome to set up an appointment to view the evidence at Shidner’s facilities, Shidner said.

“Every single video, for me, plays the audio perfectly,” Shidner said. “Every single one, I just opened and listened to the audio, so I don’t know why they’re not playing for Mr. Zorea.”

A clip of overhead footage from a police booking room did not have audio, Shidner said. However, all conversation that took place in the booking room was captured by officers’ bodycams, he said.

Judge Rachel Ahrens granted a continuance until July 7 to resolve issues with the evidence.