Trial by jury
By KELI JACOBI News-Times Staff The state’s case against an El Dorado man accused of killing his wife last June kicked into high gear Monday with opening statements and a string of witnesses for the prosecution during the first day of a trial by jury in Union County Circuit Court.
Robert Oliver, 51, was arrested June 18 following an alleged altercation between him and his wife, Mary Oliver, whom examiners say bled to death when a bullet pierced a major artery in her upper thigh.
Union County Deputy Prosecutor Jeff Rogers told jurors that Oliver used a 12-gauge shotgun to shoot his wife at close range while in a drunken rage and had issued threats to kill her before the incident occurred.
Rogers said the defendant admitted his own guilt after sheriff ’s deputies nabbed him, telling them, "I know I shot her."
But Oliver’s attorneys, while conceding the defendant committed a crime, attempted to paint a different picture of their client’s motive.
"What Jeff Rogers didn’t tell you is the very next thing he (Robert Oliver) said was, ‘I didn’t kill her, did I?’ " attorney Gary McDonald told jurors in his opening statement.
"I’ll tell you what we think happened," said McDonald. "And I say ‘what we think happened’ because there wasn’t anybody who actually saw what happened ... they saw bits and pieces of it. It’s not like a television program where you get to watch it from start to finish."
McDonald alluded to a tape recording which he said would demonstrate Oliver’s remorse following the shooting and how the altercation arose from suspicions the victim may have been "fooling around."
The victim’s brother, Johnny Kilgore, testified that he and their church pastor conducted an intervention with Robert Oliver the day of the shooting at the request of his sister. He stated Mary Oliver was afraid her husband would hurt himself while drinking and driving.
Although Kilgore and the minister agreed that the defendant was severely intoxicated that day, they disagreed as to whether he meant to harm his wife or was letting the "whiskey talk" when he threatened to kill her.
Under cross-examination, State Medical Examiner Dr. Daniel Konzelmann allowed that though he had declared the death a homicide, his office customarily does not draw legal conclusions as to intent. When pressed about the nature of the victim’s wounds, Konzelmann also concluded that Mary Oliver "likely would have survived had it (the bullet) not hit a major artery."
Testimony in the trial is expected to continue today with Judge Hamilton H. Singleton presiding.