Published November 20, 2014
Inside the jury room, the case had nothing to do with Susan Powell. Outside, it was all about her.
Family members of the missing Utah mother cheered a verdict Wednesday convicting her father-in-law of 14 voyeurism charges. Susan Powell's parents have long believed that Steve Powell knows something about her 2009 disappearance.
Her father, Chuck Cox, hoped a looming prison term would push Steve Powell to speak up.
"It kicks another crutch away from him," Cox said. "The main question is: Where is Susan? Now, perhaps he'll answer it."
The trial itself largely ignored Susan Powell, even though the images used as the basis of charges were found in Steve Powell's home during the missing-persons investigation.
Authorities said they found images indicating Steve Powell had an obsession with his daughter-in-law, though they focused the voyeurism case on photos of two young girls who lived next door to him.
Prosecutors said the files show the young girls in a bathroom as they bathed and used the toilet. The girls, identified in court only by their initials, were about 8 and 10 when the images were captured. They testified they had no idea they were being photographed.
Dodd Tremaine, a Tacoma truck driver who served as the presiding juror, said after the verdict that the images in the case were disturbing. He also said jurors were aware of the Susan Powell investigation, but he said it played no role in their decision.
"We eliminated that right from the beginning," Tremaine said. "We never even discussed it."
Authorities long focused on Susan Powell's husband, Josh, during the investigation into her disappearance, but he killed himself and the couple's two young children earlier this year. Investigators have said Steve Powell has been uncooperative during the probe, though they do not consider him a suspect in that case.
Steve Powell's daughter, Alina Powell, attended the trial in support of her father and took diligent notes throughout. On Wednesday, she remained in the courtroom long after the verdict was read, at times crying.
"My family was automatically convicted two and a half years ago," Alina Powell said, referring to when Susan Powell disappeared.
Alina Powell said she has mourned the loss of family members — both to death and separation — in what has been an "unimaginably complicated and difficult situation that even I have a hard time understanding."
During closing arguments Tuesday, Pierce County prosecutor Grant Blinn methodically showed photos of the young girls to the jury while saying Steve Powell captured the images from his bedroom window. He accused Steve Powell of "lurking in the shadows" to leer at the children.
Defense attorneys had argued there were too many uncertainties in the evidence to convict. Lawyer Travis Currie repeatedly emphasized the standard of "reasonable doubt" during closing arguments, raising the prospect that others could have captured the images.
Tremaine, the jury foreman, said the argument affected jurors, who grappled with the issue during deliberations.
They asked a question early in the process Tuesday about whether a disc that contained the images was found in boxes holding only items belonging to Steve Powell. They then asked to view the disc to get clarity on two of the counts.
On Wednesday, jurors asked a question about exhibits used by the prosecution, indicating they felt that images in one of the exhibits didn't meet the reasonable doubt requirement.
Prosecutors said they don't plan to seek information on the Susan Powell case as part of a trade to reduce Steve Powell's sentence. He faces a standard sentence of around four years, but the state has alleged aggravating factors that could result in a longer term.
Sentencing is scheduled for June 15.
Associated Press writer Mike Baker can be reached on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/HiPpEV