CASPER, Wyo. — On Monday morning, the Natrona County District Court addressed several disputed issues surrounding the case of Ryan Nordstrom -- the man accused of aggravated vehicular homicide after the Oct. 20 death of 27-year-old Daniel Barto.
With an impending trial, District Judge Catherine Wilking had to rule on whether a separate scenario, certain photos, testimony and terminology would be admissible.
Defense attorney Kurt Infanger said some graphic photos of the scene would just “enflame” the jury and argued that they were not warranted. The state said the photographs and video were necessary to show the cause, mood and method of death.
Wilking ruled that the decision may require a specific hearing in which she was allowed to review the photos and video in advance.
“I don’t want to have any surprises at trial,” she said.
The judge additionally ruled that if the state wanted to amend the theory on how the defendant committed the alleged crime, as was deliberated in an earlier hearing, the state would need to show probable cause.
By Friday, Wilking said, the state must either withdraw the motion to amend or remand to a circuit court preliminary hearing.
The most impassioned debate, thought, revolved around a substance called XLR-11 that the defendant reportedly consumed shortly before the crash.
The state argued that XLR-11 is in a class of synthetic cannabinoid drugs commonly referred to as the generic term Spice.
District Attorney Michael Blonigen called Colorado Forensic Toxicologist Cynthia Burbach to the stand.
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Burbach said although XLR-11 had not been specifically tested, the drug structurally resembles other synthetic cannabinoids, which can have mood-altering effects.
She additionally stated that there are a variety of these types of substances and that having new compounds doesn’t make the effects on the brain any different.
“It has the same effect, or it wouldn’t be marketed as such,” Burbach said.
Infanger, the defense attorney, argued that this testimony should not be admissible in trial.
“We’re addressing a completely different set of substances,” he said.
Any evidence related to this substance should be excluded, Infanger said.
“We can’t just make these broad, general conclusions,” he said in closing. “Science just is not there yet.”
Infanger additionally asked that any reference related to the word Spice should be excluded, as the reference could be damaging to the defendant and the substance wasn’t officially classified as such under Wyoming law.
Wilking granted the motion that the term Spice could not be used in trial but allowed evidence regarding the psychological effects of XLR-11 -- testimony she predicted would be “hotly contested.”
The trial is scheduled to begin May 13.