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Whittemore on videotape at trial
Rochester, N.Y. -- The words, behavior, and demeanor of Clayton Whittemore hours after the death of his girlfriend, Alex Kogut, was killed are being scrutinized by jurors in Whittemore's murder trial.
On Monday, the jury watched more videotape of Whittemore talking about how he killed Kogut inside her dorm room. The video was captured by New York State Police shortly after Whittemore was apprehended and transported to a state police barracks interview room.
Whittemore, now 22, is charged with second-degree murder for the Sept. 29, 2012 death of his girlfriend. Kogut, 18, was found dead insider her dorm room on the SUNY Brockport campus. She was weeks into her freshman year. Both grew up in the Utica area.
Evidence photos from the crime scene show a dry erase board calendar on which Kogut apparently wrote "Clayton Comes!!!" with exclamation points on the Friday she expected his visit. Other photos show a clothes iron slightly covered in blood. That iron was brought up during Whittemore's videotaped with state police hours later after he was apprehended at a rest stop on the New York State Thruway.
"I believe you've got to look at the first couple minutes of the interview and I think that's the most telling," said Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley when asked if she thought Whittemore gave police a consistent account of what happened. "Not a curling iron; an iron."
Doorley pointed to that because evidence suggested a curling iron or hair straightener were in fact used in the deadly beating. Later on in Whittemore's videotaped interview with state police, he admitted as much. Whittemore can be seen apparently crying or wiping away some tears at one point, but his demeanor is very different at other times.
"I actually think the video speaks for itself," said Doorley. "You've seen him at points brag, I believe brag, about his actions."
Whittemore's lawyers admitted their client killed Kogut, but have told the jury that "the why?" is what matters here. The defense is poised to present evidence that Whittemore suffered from an "extreme emotional disturbance" during the altercation. It is state of mind that is often described by someone who "snaps" and if successful the defense could result in a conviction to a lesser charge of manslaughter.
"His actions after do play to the extreme emotional disturbance defense and, again, we're still early on in the trial and I think that will play out in the course of the trial," conceded Doorley, who added this slight clarification when asked. "There are facts that would support and counter the defense as well."
On Monday morning, one juror was dismissed from the jury for unknown reasons.
Testimony in the trial was expected to continue throughout this week.