A federal judge is considering whether convicted child killer Frank Jarvis Atwood's attorneys should be allowed to present evidence they believe will prove detectives planted evidence.
U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour heard four hours' worth of arguments Monday before taking the issue under advisement.
Atwood, 56, was sentenced to die in May 1987 for the September 1984 kidnapping and slaying of Vicki Lynne Hoskinson, 8.
The Homer Davis Elementary School student disappeared while mailing a letter. Her older sister found her bicycle abandoned a few blocks from her home.
Witnesses reported seeing a man in a Datsun 280Z near the school around the time Vicki disappeared, and Atwood's friends told police they saw a bloodied Atwood that afternoon. They said Atwood told them he'd stabbed a drug dealer.
Atwood was arrested in Kerr- ville, Texas, three days after the girl disappeared. Vicki's skeletal remains were found seven months later.
During his trial, jurors heard testimony that pink paint on Atwood's front bumper matched that on Vicki's bike.
On Monday, defense attorney Larry Hammond showed pictures to Coughenour he said proved detectives planted the paint. Two side-by-side photos reportedly show Atwood's bumper before it was removed and flown to Tucson and after it was replaced. In the latter photo, the bumper appears to be misaligned.
Hammond also showed the judge a blown-up photo of the bumper. He said he has two expert witnesses who will testify the reflection in the bumper shows Vicki's bike chain guard - even though the bumper and the bike weren't supposed to be in town together at that time.
Assistant Arizona Attorney General Lacey Gard argued that Atwood isn't entitled to an evidentiary hearing because a state court judge has already ruled on the matter.
Although the defense has suggested investigators planted the evidence because they didn't want to release Atwood from custody, Gard said they knew California was revoking Atwood's parole in an earlier kidnapping case, and they had other evidence linking Atwood to the crime, so there was no reason for them to plant anything.
Also, Gard said the defense has acknowledged a pink smear was found on the bumper. Why, she asked, would the police feel the need to plant more paint?
An investigator said he saw a pink smear on the bumper, but he never mentioned the long pink line of paint that was later tied to Vicki's bike, Hammond said. The smear is unrelated to the case, he said.
When shown the photo of the bumper's reflection, Coughenour told Hammond he doesn't see the chain guard, the man holding the chain guard or the bicycle's wheel - all things the defense experts claim they see.
Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or firstname.lastname@example.org