The state has rested its case in the Severson trial, concluding with the testimony of Dalton Watson. The daylong testimony included one expert witness and continued cross-examination of Chief Mark Kraft.
Most of the time revolved around the credibility of Watson, however, the state’s only eyewitness in the case against Kyle Severson, accused of deliberate homicide in the shooting death of Tyler Hayden on July 2, 2019.
Defense attorney Kevin Chapman filed two motions for dismissal after the state rested. The first was for a directed verdict of acquittal, and the second for dismissal due to “multiple Brady violations.”
“Dalton’s testimony should be deemed untrustworthy as a matter of law,” Chapman said, adding, “No rational tryer of fact would believe his testimony.”
Charity McLarty, Deputy Richland County Attorney, objected, saying video evidence corroborates Dalton’s testimony, and a lot of physical evidence has been presented showing Severson shot Hayden.
Judge Olivia Rieger agreed and denied the motion for directed acquittal, adding the credibility of Watson is something a jury can assess.
The alleged Brady violation, meanwhile, stems from the existence of a nearly concurrent investigation into a burglary at the Severson home, which police determined involved associates of Tyler Hayden and Dalton Watson near the same time as the shooting.
The burglary made contents of Watson’s cell phone highly relevant to the case, Chapman contends, but the defense was not made aware of it even after charges were sent to the prosecution. Watson now claims to no longer recall the phone’s password.
The prosecution indicated it wants a hearing on the matter, prompting Rieger to scold the state for not being present at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, as directed. An attorney for the state suggested there wouldn’t have been time prior to the state’s expert witness at 8:30 a.m., but Rieger vehemently disagreed.
“I had time to go do all the things I needed to do and drive here from Glendive and get here at 8:15 when I ordered the parties to be here,” she said.
Rieger also disagreed with the contention the prosecution couldn’t know the contents of the cell phone would have any potential relevance, since it was never established that either Hayden or Watson had any direct involvement in the burglary.
“I absolutely would have issued a search warrant,” she said. “The burglary was absolutely an issue alone.”
Rieger directed the state to file its written responses to Chapman’s motion by 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, and be present by 8 a.m. Thursday to take it up.
Testimony on Day 3
Watson testified he had used methamphetamine that day, but denied knowing whether Tyler Hayden had as well, even though police found meth and paraphernalia that Watson testified belonged to Hayden in Watson’s vehicle.
Chapman suggested that one didn’t take meth along with them in a vehicle if there was no intent to use it.
Watson still reiterated that he had no direct knowledge of whether Hayden used any illegal substances that day.
Prior to Watson’s testimony, however, and unknown to him, a forensic examiner had testified that illegal substances were found in the toxicology analysis of Hayden’s blood. These included components for methamphetamine, THC, and Xanex.
There were many questions surrounding Watson’s testimony about a pistol he had picked up on the parking lot and thrown into his vehicle.
A video of the shooting does show that Watson rushed around the car, hopping on a twisted knee, and bent down to the ground then leaned into the vehicle. After that he went to the door of the Loaf ’N Jug, before finally rushing back to Hayden’s side and kneeling down by him.
Under questioning by the prosecution, Watson testified that he was not asked about weapons by Office Travis Rosaaen. He also said he’d put the gun in his waistband when he entered his vehicle and realized it was Kyle Severson next to him. He testified that he did so because he feared Severson and because “I know what Kyle is capable of.”
The gun, Watson testified, fell out of his waistband when he rushed around the car, so he tossed it in the car.
On cross examination, Chapman pointed out that Officer Travis Rosaaen had in fact talked about weapons in his interview with Watson the night of the shooting. Confronted with the exact time in the interview that this discussion took place, Watson still said he did not recall it.
“So guns were brought up,” Chapman continued. “But even after they were brought up you didn’t tell Officer Rosaaen about what you’ve been stating recently with respect to putting the gun in your waistband.”
Watson confirmed this was true.
As far as fights Hayden was in less than a week before July 2, Watson denied that he knew anything about a fight that near to the shooting. Under further questioning, he said any fights seemed more like “a couple of months” ago to him.
“If your earlier testimony was different, would you go with your earlier testimony?” Chapman asked.
Watson said he wasn’t sure.
Chapman finally asked Watson if it was difficult to keep so many stories straight. After a long silence, Watson agreed with a drawn-out “yes.”
Another inconsistency revolved around the receipt of $300 in stolen cash, which Watson had admitted to police did come from the Severson home — albeit well after the Hayden shooting.
Watson testified he went to the parking lot of Taco Johns that same night after the shooting because Hayden’s girlfriend Keeston Johns was handing out money, pot, and other items to “anyone who would come and take it.”
Watson later told police in an interview that he knew the money had come from the Severson home, but on the stand said he didn’t “put two and two together” at Taco Johns that night.
Jury selection and opening statements in the Severson trial began Monday, and the first full day of testimony, in which officers laid out the timeline of events, was on Tuesday. The Williston and Sidney Herald will have continuing and complete coverage of the case.