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Jason Krause

Other Arizona Exonerations
On June 24, 1994, 18-year-old Charles Thurman was fatally shot as he was driving a Jeep with three friends along Lynx Creek Road in Prescott Valley, Arizona. Thurman’s friends, Terry Eckerman, 18, and Amanda Miller and Stacy Clark, both 17, said Thurman had been intentionally causing the Jeep to backfire when he was struck in the head by a gunshot.

The shooting took place near the home of 39-year-old Jason “Jay” Krause, who admitted that he was out hunting skunks with his .22-caliber rifle when he heard what he thought were gunshots from a passing vehicle. He said that he fell to the ground and that he believed his gun discharged. The Jeep veered off the road and into Krause's yard where it collided with Krause's truck. When police said the surviving passengers in the Jeep said there were no guns in the vehicle, Krause said he must have been the one who shot Thurman. Police interviewed numerous people who were in the area, including campers and residents. At least 12 people said they heard gunshots they believed came from the Jeep.

Six days later, Krause was charged with second-degree murder and three counts of attempted second-degree murder. He went to trial in Yavapai County Superior Court in May 1996.

Eckerman, Miller, and Clark testified that the Jeep was backfiring that night and that they heard multiple “pops” before Thurman slumped over. Miller and Clark testified that after the Jeep came to a stop, Krause yelled at them, asking why they were doing a drive-by shooting. The three survivors said there was no gun in the Jeep that night, although .22-caliber shell casings were found on the floor of the vehicle.

Harold Kelly testified for the prosecution that Krause had confronted him on Lynx Creek Road in the summer of 1993. Kelly testified Krause banged on his vehicle and yelled at him for speeding. At the time, Krause was holding a rifle with a scope.

Another prosecution witness, Kerwin Ross, testified that he was driving on Lynx Creek Road in 1993 when Krause screamed and yelled at him, accusing him of speeding.

Krause’s wife testified that after the shooting, Krause said that he thought he had killed “the boy.”

The prosecution presented evidence that indicated a tire and a rocker panel on the Jeep had been damaged by gunfire that appeared to be from .22-caliber bullets.

FBI special agent Ernest Peele testified for the prosecution that he was an expert in comparative bullet lead analysis (CBLA). CBLA compared concentrations of seven elements—including arsenic, tin, copper, and cadmium—between the recovered mangled or fragmented bullets from crime scenes to bullets recovered from suspects. If the fragments and a suspect’s bullets were determined to be indistinguishable for each of the seven elements, analysts such as Peele deemed them to have come from the same source of ammunition.

Peele testified that he determined that the concentrations of the elements found in the bullet fragments taken from Thurman’s body and from the Jeep’s tire were “analytically indistinguishable” from the concentrations of the elements in bullets found in Krause’s home. His tests indicated that the bullets “have been in the same box.”

Edward Hueske, who was employed by the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) Crime Lab, conducted a laser analysis to try to determine the trajectory of the bullet that hit the Jeep’s rocker panel. In analyzing the bullet trajectory, Hueske relied on photos of the vehicle and the undisputed position of Krause in his yard. Hueske calculated "both vertical and horizontal angles and determined the angle of the bullet in the rocker panel to be 55-degree horizontal, coming from the rear." Hueske applied a laser test to get an accurate bullet trajectory. Based on that laser test, Hueske concluded that "the shooter was eye level with the rocker panel and that the barrel and Jeep were perpendicular to one another." Hueske did not conduct a similar laser test to determine the trajectory of the bullet that entered Charles Thurman's head. Hueske testified that:

--all three bullets could have been shot from one shooter.

-the presumed bullet holes in the rocker panel and the tire well were shot by the same gun held in the same position.

--the bullet that hit Thurman could also have been shot by the same gun, but the gun would have had to have been repositioned due to the difference in height and its position directly above the rocker panel.

--that the shooter could have been "tracking" Thurman, which Hueske defined as "following the target with the sights of the weapon."

--the shooter would have had to have been positioned lying on the ground.

Hueske testified that he did not test whether the rifle would fire a shot when hit against the ground because he "wasn't asked" to do so and because he "saw no reason to do it as well, given the information that [he] was supplied." Hueske testified that he did not test how much force was needed, or distance required, to pull the trigger of the rifle and make it fire and that he did not test whether Krause had sufficient time to fire three shots at Thurman's Jeep while changing the angle of the rifle between shots to reflect the different bullet entries found in the Jeep. Hueske also testified that the variance in height of the three bullets that struck the Jeep was caused by a shooter changing the angle of the gun barrel or gun butt.

After Krause was indicted, Scott Mascher, a Yavapai County Sheriff’s lieutenant, had conducted a "string" trajectory test on June 27, 1994 to establish that the trajectory proved the bullet came from Krause's rifle. To create the rod the string was attached to for the string test, Mascher instructed Detective Dan Martin to weld the rod in his own home using his lathe. Mascher did not confirm the lathe was in proper condition or that Detective Martin's "welding experience was sufficient."

After conducting the "string" test, Mascher concluded in a report that the bullet that hit the Jeep rocker panel was shot from a standing position, that Krause must have fired two shots, and that he did so intentionally.

But, following Hueske's testimony, Mascher retracted his original assumption that Krause had been standing when his gun discharged. Mascher testified that the shot came from ground level. Mascher testified that, because of the distance between the shooting position and the Jeep—approximately 140 feet—the string was an inaccurate device because it naturally bowed and flexed.

Yavapai County Detective Dennis Price used a drag sled to estimate the Jeep's speed and concluded that the Jeep was going slow enough for Krause to fire three shots at it.

Krause testified that around the time of the shooting, he was spending every night outside of his home with his .22-caliber rifle looking for skunks. He told the jury that on the evening of June 24, 1994, his rifle was loaded and the safety was off. He said he thought he heard gunshots in the distance and the sounds of gunshots kept getting closer—including one or two loud explosions in front of each house on Lynx Creek Road. Krause testified that he believed that someone was driving down the road shooting at houses or through trees and that he was terrified.

Krause said he hit the ground and that his rifle went off as the Jeep drove by his home. He didn’t know, however, if the gun went off before or after he hit the ground. He admitted he knew his gun had fired and that he thought, “I must have shot that boy,” although he didn’t remember how it happened.

Krause's defense lawyer sought to introduce the police reports of interviews with people who had heard gunshots instead of or in addition to backfires coming from the area of the Jeep and two of them said they saw another vehicle following closely behind the Jeep. But the judge barred the reports, ruling they were hearsay evidence. The defense attorney did not attempt to call any of the 12 witnesses named in the reports.

On May 15, 1996, the jury acquitted Krause of second-degree murder, but convicted him of the lesser-included offense of manslaughter in the death of Thurman and three counts of attempted manslaughter of the surviving passengers. He was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison. His convictions were upheld on appeal.

In 2004, the National Research Council issued a report that shredded any validity the FBI attached to CBLA. The report found, among other things, that “[t]he available data do not support any statement that a crime bullet came from, or is likely to have come from, a particular box of ammunition” and that making such connections was “seriously misleading.”

Based in part on that report, the FBI announced in 2005 that it would no longer use CBLA given that neither scientists nor bullet manufacturers were able to definitively testify to the significance of an association made between bullets in the course of a bullet lead examination.

In 2006, Krause was released from prison after serving his entire sentence. He set about rebuilding his life, becoming a successful auto mechanic.

In 2007, the FBI agreed to form a Joint CBLA Task Force of criminal justice experts, including The Innocence Network, to identify cases where the introduction of CBLA evidence may have resulted in wrongful convictions.

The following year, in October 2008, Dr. D. Christian Hassell, Director of the FBI Laboratory, sent a letter to the Yavapai County Attorney’s office regarding Peele’s testimony in Krause’s trial. The letter said that after reviewing the testimony, “it is the opinion of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory that the examiner [Peele] stated or implied that the evidentiary specimen(s) could be associated to a single box of ammunition. This type of testimony exceeds the limits of the science and cannot be supported by the FBI.”

Krause reached out to the Arizona Innocence Project, which began re-investigating his case. In 2012, his lawyers filed a post-conviction petition seeking to overturn his convictions, citing the evidence that CBLA was invalid. Moreover, the petition said that in 1991—five years before Krause’s trial—Peele authored an internal FBI report, which raised serious questions about the validity of CBLA.

Peele wrote that the lead composition of bullets manufactured as much as seven months apart and even from different manufacturers were found to have the same chemical composition—a “match.” In addition, Peele wrote that the compositional elements in ammunition could vary greatly within each box of ammunition. In fact, Peele noted in the report that Winchester ammunition—the same type of ammunition in Krause’s case—could have as many as a dozen different analytical compositions within a single box.

Peele, however, had not disclosed the existence of the report (the prosecution was unaware as well) at the time he testified. In fact, he told the jury that CBLA was a valid, reliable form of forensic evidence.

At an evidentiary hearing in 2013, Phil Locke, an accident reconstruction expert, testified that, based on his analysis of the trajectory of the bullet wound in Thurman’s head, “the muzzle of the weapon is going to have to be 10 to 27 feet above the surface of the roadway” to have fired the fatal shot. It would have been impossible, he testified, for Krause to have been in a position of that elevation. Another expert testified that based on his analysis, the fatal shot “was fired from the back seat” of the Jeep. The defense argued, based on this evidence, that it was impossible for Krause to have fired at a Jeep speeding along the road from 50 feet away and strike Thurman in the head.

At the hearing, John Walker, who was Krause’s trial attorney, testified that because of Peele’s testimony, he pursued a defense that Krause accidentally shot Thurman. Walker said that had he been aware of the invalid nature of CBLA, he would have called witnesses who said they believed gunshots were fired from the Jeep when the vehicle passed their homes that day. Walker said he would have retained experts similar to those who testified at the evidentiary hearing.

However, in December 2013, Superior Court Judge Rick Williams denied the petition, ruling that the new evidence would not have changed the jury’s verdict because Krause admitted that he fired the shot that killed Thurman.

In November 2015, the Arizona Court of Appeals reversed that ruling and granted Krause a new trial. The appeals court ruled that the CBLA evidence likely had a significant impact on the jury. “The state presented no evidence except the CBLA evidence that linked Krause to the lead fragments recovered from [the victim] and from the Jeep’s tire, or suggesting that the lead fragments were from bullets that had been fired from the same weapon,” the appeals court said. “And, even assuming the jury concluded the damage to the Jeep’s tire and rocker panel had been caused by .22-caliber bullets, law enforcement officers found only one shell casing near Krause’s location at the time of the shooting.”

The prosecution filed a request with the Arizona Supreme Court for permission to appeal the reversal of Krause’s convictions. The request was denied in July 2016.

On March 1, 2017, after the prosecution declined to retry Krause, the charges were dismissed. In 2019, Krause filed a federal lawsuit against Yavapai County, several of its officers, and Peele, the FBI ballistics analyst. In October 2021, the lawsuit was dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 5/16/2017
Last Updated: 2/22/2022
Most Serious Crime:Manslaughter
Additional Convictions:Attempt, Violent
Reported Crime Date:1994
Sentence:10 years and 6 months
Age at the date of reported crime:39
Contributing Factors:False Confession, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No