Sen Trial: Opening Statements

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Robert Ernst, who died August 26, 2009 after being shot in his home.
Robert Ernst, who died August 26, 2009 after being shot in his home.

Once the 13-member jury was selected for the trial of the State vs. Dharminder Vir Sen, opening statements were made Monday afternoon in 4th Judicial District Court.

Assisting lead attorney Matt Redle is Christopher LaRosa, Deputy County Attorney in Sheridan, who opened for the State. He said “This case is about the shooting and killing of 79-year-old Robert Ernst, in his home, in his bedroom, by his bedside, lying beside his wife...  It's a case of burglary, whereupon efforts were made to enter several homes and succeeding in entering one home in order to steal...  It is a case of conspiracy to commit burglary with the intent to enter into homes with weapons, at night, to steal... 

It is the case of the defendant, Dharminder Sen, who, along with Dennis Poitra, Jr. and Wyatt Bear Cloud, planned to enter into an agreement to commit burglary...  And the defendant brought to the plan the gun, which he had in his home, in his bedroom, which he'd stolen a few days earlier, and which he'd shot with others and so he knew it worked...  He had the gun when standing in the doorway of the Ernst's bedroom and fired the gun three times.”

LaRosa continued, “There is a wartime expression "loose lips sink ships" and in this case, 'loose lips break crimes'.  The participants talked to friends and at the risk of turning on those they loved, those friends contacted law enforcement.  Within 24 hours, Dharminder had an encounter with two sheriff's deputies, and in interviewing him, those deputies found the gun under the passenger seat of the truck in which he was riding.  Evidence will show that Dharminder stole the gun and had tried to scratch off the serial number...”

LaRosa ended by indicating the State will ask the jury to find the defendant guilty.

Sen's attorney, Tim Cotton of Casper, opened by saying, “August 26, 2009, that is the night some mistakes were made.  Evidence will show it was Dennis Poitra, Jr.'s idea, and that Sen, who was 15 at the time, followed along against his better judgment.  Dennis Poitra had the gun, a club and a knife, and was the 'point man'. Dharminder was going through the motions, but did not want to be there and made a seriously grave mistake.”

Cotton went on to say, “I ask the jury to take into consideration that Dharminder was 15 and not allowed to speak with his parents or his aunt with whom he was living when law enforcement interviewed him.  I ask you to find him not guilty, and also not guilty by mental illness -- you will hear testimony by Dr. Laura McCormick, the State's expert from the Wyoming State Hospital.”

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