Will DA’s expert testify on use of force at murder trial? Judge says to be determined

·3 min read
Amya Collington is being tried for murder in Buncombe County Superior Court. The trial enters its second week.
Amya Collington is being tried for murder in Buncombe County Superior Court. The trial enters its second week.

ASHEVILLE - An expert picked by the district attorney's office will speak on firearms at Amya Collington's murder trial, which moves into its second week Aug. 15, but it remains to be seen if he will also weigh in on use of force.

Collington, 22, is alleged to have shot Dexter Grant, 25, multiple times at Pisgah View Apartments on the night of June 21, 2021. Grant died at Mission Hospital.

Expert witness Donald Guge, after the jury had left for the day and during a proffer, told the court that in his opinion, Collington showed no signs of “fear” in her body language as she allegedly shot Grant. He based that assessment off surveillance footage capturing the incident.

While introducing himself to the court, Guge said that he had trained countless police and civilians how to use firearms and that he worked for the Woodfin Police Department, among other things.

“There was no fear that I observed in the video,” he said of Collington, noting her stance and her position. Her use of force was excessive, he concluded.

“Essentially what we have is an opinion … on what he saw in a security video? Where’s the science in that?” asked Chief Public Defender Sam Snead, Collington’s defense attorney.

Past reporting: Testimony: Before murder charge, 2 families argued over a fight at a Deaverview playground

Guge replied that, although his assessment was not based on science, he had been teaching such material for 32 years. He analyzed the videos in much the same way he did when training police, he said.

Superior Court Judge Daniel Kuehnert, too, questioned what unique insight the jury would get from Guge on use of force. It might even invade the jury’s province, he said, if Guge simply offered up opinions.

Kuehnert requested that Snead and the case’s two prosecutors, Assistant District Attorneys Amy Broughton and Jorge Redmond, submit briefs for him to review over the weekend before he makes a decision on Guge on Aug. 15, when the trial resumes in Buncombe County Superior Court.

“I strive to be as fair as I can be, and I’m not perfect,” he said when explaining the request.

The same patchwork of surveillance videos from Pisgah View were viewed by jurors Aug. 11. Different videos — zoomed and paused at different points by prosecutors and a defense attorney — led one witness, Asheville Senior Police Officer Patrick DeStefano, to say that he saw Collington stepping forward, backward or both at different times.

"Depending on the angle, it can distort what you're seeing — forward, back, side to side," he said in reference to Pisgah View’s cameras.

Pathologist: Bullets entered backside

Earlier in the day, while the jury was still present, Dr. Jerri McLemore of Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and the Wake Forest University School of Medicine pointed out entry wounds along Grant’s back side. One bullet entered through his lower back and one through his mid-back, she said.

Still, that did not provide a conclusive answer in a trial that has largely revolved around whether the shooting was a murder or self-defense.

“That shooter may be in all sorts of positions, as well as the victim,” she said during a cross-examination.

Grant died from gunshot wounds to his torso, McLemore said, referencing an autopsy report prepared by one of her staff’s pathologists.

Ryan Oehrli is the breaking news and social justice reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times. Send tips to coehrli@citizentimes.com. 

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Murder trial resumes: Will DA’s expert witness testify on use of force