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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Foster acquitted; courtroom shocked

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Blogger Bob said...

Jury rules out homicide in his girlfriend's 1981 death in Maplewood
By Emily Gurnon
egurnon@pioneerpress.com
Article Last Updated: 07/24/2008 07:10:16 AM CDT


Barbara Winn (left) died in May 1981. Prosecutors charged Aaron Walter Foster, Winn's boyfriend at the time, in 2007, a quarter century later. (file)The case was 27 years old, the evidence was gone and two medical examiners said they could not rule out suicide or accident in the death of Barbara Winn.

Late Wednesday, after seven hours of deliberation, a Ramsey County jury ruled out homicide.

In a verdict that shocked a packed courtroom, Aaron Walter Foster, 56, was acquitted in the shooting death of his girlfriend, who died just after midnight May 8, 1981, after a struggle in her Maplewood town home.

"Oh!" yelled Winn's youngest son, Tyrone Winn, standing up as he heard the verdict. Other family members cried out and shouted obscenities.

"He's going to go murder another woman!" yelled one, as Foster was led out through the judge's chamber by his attorney, Earl Gray.

Several members of the jury also cried. One asked if they could be escorted out of the courthouse.

The case drew national attention and became a political issue during the 2006 election for Ramsey County sheriff.

The night she died, Winn, 35, had told Foster to pack his things; she was kicking him out. She told friends and family at the Tipsy Tiger bar that she was finished with him, they testified.

After she left the bar and went back to the house in the 300 block of Dorland Road, Foster went there, too.

Foster told police that night, and maintained throughout the trial, that Winn shot herself.

Winn's children, who were 15, 13 and 12 at the time, heard a struggle that night. Her youngest, Tyrone, heard his mother's last words: "Oh, Bubbie, that hurt."

Bubbie was Foster's nickname.
The jury was not allowed to hear certain evidence — mostly because Gray objected on the grounds that police had obtained it through improper means, like warrantless searches.

Among that evidence: Foster's history of domestic violence against other women and a "Dear John" letter that Winn wrote Foster, saying she would "not be abused."

"The jurors did not have all the information," said Patty Bruce, Winn's sister-in-law.

The prosecution said in its closing arguments Wednesday morning that Aaron Foster may not have tried to shoot Winn to death. But he did commit aggravated assault, and as a result, Winn died, Johnson argued.

"He's already angry with her," said prosecutor Andrew Johnson. "She kicked him out of the house. He beats her up in the bedroom. He points the gun at her chest. There was a struggle, and it went off."

The evidence — including the signs of a struggle, the fresh injuries on Winn's body and her children's testimony — supports that contention, Johnson said.

But Gray blasted police who handled the case in 1981 and said his side had proved "beyond all doubt" that Winn shot herself.

He also emphasized that the physical evidence from the case has disappeared. To convict his client under those circumstances is unacceptable, he said.

"Is that the kind of justice and fairness you want?" Gray asked the jury. "Lose the evidence or throw it away and 27 years later go after the guy?"

Foster was on trial for third-degree murder, as defined in 1981, unintentionally causing the death of another person by committing a felony, aggravated assault, upon that person.

The jury got the case shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday after 3 1/2 days of testimony.

Johnson said there was no evidence Winn had committed suicide — though there was plenty of evidence in the autopsy photos of injuries. Her family and friends didn't notice signs of depression, and she was the one who ended things with Foster, Johnson said.

"She wanted this guy gone," Johnson said. "This is not a situation where a woman is distraught over the breakup of a relationship."

Gray, on the other hand, said she could very well have killed herself, if only accidentally, especially since her blood-alcohol level was 0.13, according to tests.

Gray said Foster's behavior was not that of a guilty man.

After Winn was shot, he ran downstairs to call for an ambulance, and when he couldn't get through right away, drove to the nearby 7-Eleven for help, tossing the gun out the window on his way.

The prosecution said Foster was clearly someone acting out of "consciousness of guilt." Gray said it was rather "consciousness of a little responsibility to get the gun out of the house."

Gray drilled in on inconsistencies among statements from people who were at the Tipsy Tiger bar with Winn in the hours before she died.

Winn's sister, her brother, a friend and the bar's owner all said they saw different things. One said Foster punched Winn in the stomach. One said he slapped her. One said he saw her pressing her palm against her face. One saw no confrontation.

The testimony included minute details such as the time Winn arrived at the bar, how many drinks she had and where she was sitting.

"How do you remember something like that that happened 27 years ago?" Gray asked the jury. "They lied. They lied to help the Winn family."

Gray also criticized law enforcement who worked on the case.

Maplewood investigators said they dropped the case in July 1981, less than 11 weeks after the shooting. Former Maplewood police Sgt. Kenneth Collins testified that he could not remember signing out the evidence, which included Foster's shirt and jacket, from the St. Paul Crime Lab, even though his signature is on the log. No log shows the evidence was ever signed back in to the Maplewood property room.

Largely kept from the jurors was the political backdrop to the Foster case.

Sheriff Bob Fletcher, running for re-election in 2006, reopened the Winn case, saying rediscovered autopsy photos and other evidence would help convict Foster.

Fletcher was running against former St. Paul Police Chief Bill Finney. Finney was a friend of Foster's and hired him to work as a civilian in the police department.

Finney charged that Fletcher used the Winn case to his political advantage. Fletcher denied that his pursuit of charges against Foster had anything to do with politics.

Winn's relatives, meanwhile, raised concerns about Finney's presence at Winn's autopsy, when it was Maplewood's case.

Finney, who was a police sergeant at the time, testified he went to the autopsy while off duty because he was a friend of Winn's, too, and could not believe she was dead.

Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522.

10:31 AM  
Anonymous Foster"not guilty"Kare11 Video's said...

WOW Watch the video's from http://www.kare11.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=519764

10:47 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

My heart goes out to the Winn family.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did Foster pay for gray to defend him or did us tax payors pick up the tab ?

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Foster will burn in Hell. Bill Finney has Bobbi's blood on his hands. Bill Finney, you committed perjury and I have the evidence. I am going to post it all over the internet, along with all of the police reports that show how you have protected your flunkie since 1981. You seem to think that it is ok to beat women. I think someone needs to come to your home and check on Linda to ensure that she is ok.

From: your worst nightmare

11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can't wait to see what this is about!!!!!!

http://www.justiceforbarbara.com/Calender_of_Events.html

1:40 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Link here- check out the banner at Bobbi Winns website

9:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1:40 your link doesn't work.

9:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Foster's defense suggests police interviews problematic
Foster's strategy: Interviews in Winn case problematic
By Emily Gurnon
egurnon@pioneerpress.com
Article Last Updated: 07/23/2008 12:15:19 AM CDT


Aaron Foster seemed in a big hurry the night he came into the 7-Eleven store in Maplewood, where William Peters was working as a clerk, Peters said.

"He came in the front door of the store and shouted out, 'Wow, my old lady just shot herself! Call an ambulance!' " Peters recalled of the incident 27 years ago.

He said Foster then ran out and drove away.

Peters, who now works for the San Mateo County sheriff's office in California, was subpoenaed by the defense to appear in Ramsey County District Court for Foster's trial.

Foster, 56, is charged with third-degree murder in the May 1981 death of Barbara Winn, 35, in her Maplewood apartment.

Other than an interview with a police officer an hour or two later, no one questioned him about the case until he was contacted by defense attorney Earl Gray's office about three weeks ago, Peters testified.

Gray has been asking witnesses how much — or how little — police followed up on Winn's death. Other witnesses, including those who said they saw Foster hit Winn at the Tipsy Tiger bar hours before she died, have testified that they were not interviewed until recently.

Foster has continually maintained that Winn took her own life.

Testifying on that question Tuesday was Dr. Janis Amatuzio.

Amatuzio, chief medical examiner for Anoka County, was asked to review results of the Winn autopsy performed by Ramsey County's medical examiner, Dr. Michael McGee, and agreed that Winn's manner of death was "undetermined," she testified Tuesday.
She said she agreed with McGee that the bullet "dropped approximately five inches as it went through her chest." That was "not the usual path when a gunshot is classified as suicidal."

But Amatuzio also agreed with McGee that suicide could not be ruled out. Neither could accident nor homicide, she said.

Gray asked Amatuzio about the impact of Winn's blood alcohol level, which was measured at 0.13. At the time of Winn's death, the presumed level for impaired driving was 0.10; now it is 0.08.

"In your experience, do a lot of accidental shootings involve alcohol?" he asked.

"They may, yes," Amatuzio said.

Several weeks after Winn died, Maplewood police dropped the case, they testified. Foster was not charged until 2007, after the case was reopened. But most of the physical evidence has disappeared.

Sgt. William Snyder of the Ramsey County sheriff's office led the reopened investigation.

Gray, who called Snyder as a defense witness, questioned him about his interview with bar owner Grady Meadows and what Meadows said he saw the night of Winn's death.

Gray hammered at inconsistencies in certain details, such as where the couple argued (in the vestibule of the bar or outside) and what time they got there that night.

Meadows was consistent on at least one thing: that he saw Foster slap Winn.

In response to another question, Snyder said he learned of Meadows through Patty Bruce, the victim's sister-in-law.

"Did she assist you in your investigation of this case?" Gray asked. Snyder said she did.

Gray also asked Snyder if — as Meadows testified — Snyder told Meadows that a KMSP-TV news crew would be out to interview him. Snyder said he never talked about any such thing.

The Foster case has a strong political component. The investigation was reopened when Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher was running to retain the seat against former St. Paul Police Chief Bill Finney, a close friend of Foster's.

Finney questioned the timing of the investigation, but Fletcher said it had nothing to do with politics.

On the other side, Winn's family has raised questions about Finney's involvement in the Winn case. Finney attended part of Winn's autopsy, though it was a Maplewood case.

It wasn't the first time Finney had intervened in a matter involving Foster.

Four years after Winn's death, Foster's estranged wife told police Foster pointed a gun at her head and threatened to kill her, according to a police report.

Finney, then a police lieutenant not assigned to the case, spoke to a Ramsey County prosecutor about the matter, a police report stated. Foster was arrested but not charged.

Finney, who retired from the police force in 2004, has said he has done nothing improper.

Foster declined to testify in the Winn case.

Closing arguments are scheduled for this morning.

Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522.

9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WHY,WHY WHY WOULD FOSTER NOT TESTIFY WHEN HIS LIBERTY FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE WAS AT STAKE ?

WOULD THE EVIDENCE THAT DISAPPEARED HAVE MADE ANY DIFFERENCE ?

WHAT WAS FOSTER AFRAID OF FOR NOT TESTIFYING ?

IS FINNEY A CROOKED COP FOR NOT HAVING CHARGED FOSTER FOR HIS ROLE IN POINTING A GUN AT SOMEONES HEAD ?

ALL TO SUSPICIOUS TO ME.

6:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like Finney has a big problem! Wonder if Gaertner seen this.

http://www.justiceforbarbara.com/Perjury.html

7:06 PM  

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