Rhonda Parker / @ 5:27 p.m. / Courts

LIVELY TRIAL, DAY ELEVEN: Victim Had ‘Toxic’ Levels of Meth in His Blood; Defense Rests


The defense rested its case today in the trial of murder suspect Eric Lively, with experts testifying to the “toxic” level of methamphetamine in victim Jesse Simpson’s body, and how that might have made him act.

Eric Lively

Judge Christopher Wilson told jurors all evidence should be in by tomorrow. Deputy District Attorney Adrian Kamada has the option of calling more witnesses to rebut defense testimony, and defense attorney Russ Clanton could call witnesses to counter the rebuttal.

Regardless, Wilson said, attorneys could present closing arguments as early as Monday.

Today forensic pathologist Alan Barbour testified Simpson’s blood contained a level of methamphetamine 50 to 70 times higher than the “therapeutic” level.

“Is that potentially toxic?” Clanton asked him.

“Oh, yes.”

Barbour said a person on a high level of methamphetamine would be agitated, often paranoid.

“They might have an unreasonable fear of someone being after them or threatening them harm,” he said.

Lively has testified that on May 3, the day his pickup truck struck and killed Simpson in Shelter Cove, Simpson walked into the middle of an intersection with a running weed-whacker strapped to his body and swung the machine at Lively’s truck. He was hit, with the weed-whacker reportedly leaving a mark on Lively’s windshield.

There was also alcohol in Simpson’s body, but Barbour said the amount was insignificant. It could have been caused either by drinking three beers, or could simply be a by-product of Simpson’s body decomposing.

Under cross-examination by Kamada, Barbour said how a person reacts to ingesting methamphetamine can depend on his or her experience with the drug. But considering how much meth Simpson had taken, “one would fully expect the person to be acting in some abnormal way.”

Jurors heard a mini-lecture today on the effects of methamphetamine from defense witness Alex Yufik, a forensic psychologist. He described meth as “a particularly potent and very powerful stimulant that affects the brain.”

The first effect of the drug is a rush of euphoria, Yufik said, followed by impaired judgment, a false feeling of invincibility, aggressiveness and often violence.

“A multitude of studies link methamphetamine to violence and aggressiveness in the community,” Yufik testified.

Whether a large dose of methamphetamine caused Jesse Simpson to attack Lively’s truck is a question for the jury to decide. They will also consider a great deal of testimony that Lively threatened his neighbors, talked often about killing them and specifically mentioned killing Jesse Simpson.

On the morning Simpson was killed, Lively had a confrontation with Thomas Simpson, Jesse’s brother. He told two different stories about what Thomas Simpson supposedly did, but whatever it was upset him. Then, later in the day, he came home from work and found $3,000 missing from a safe in his bedroom. He believed Jesse Simpson had taken it, telling his daughter “Jesse robbed us.”

According to Lively, his neighbors had been stealing from him constantly for years, taking everything from his marijuana harvest to Tri-tip steaks and pens.

Lively has essentially said all the people who testified to his threatening remarks and behavior are lying, including his teen-age daughter, his former girlfriend, his former boss and another neighbor.

Today the trial was interrupted briefly because Thomas Simpson and his partner had come to court wearing shirts with large portraits of Jesse Simpson on the front. Judge Wilson sent the jury out of the courtroom and told Thomas Simpson and the woman they must remove the shirts.

“I know that you love Jesse; you’ve been here many, many times,” Wilson said. But he said the jury could be influenced by the portraits, and that could come up as an issue later if there is an appeal.

Thomas Simpson and his partner apologized and immediately took off the shirts. But Thomas asked if it was possible to put a picture of his brother next to Kamada, so the jury could “get some facial recognition.”

Wilson said no. Then the jury was called back into the courtroom and admonished that they could not be influenced by the portraits on the shirts. Some jurors apparently had seen them. Others hadn’t noticed.

Jurors will return to court tomorrow afternoon. 

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CORRECTION: The initial version of the headline of this post misidentified the person in the story who was determined to have “toxic levels of meth in his system.” The Outpost regrets the error.

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