REDMOND — Prosecutor Kristen Hoffmeyer demonstrated Tuesday why defendants rarely take the stand in their own defense, pelting accused murderer Luke Wirkkala with tough leading questions and pressing him to answer only those he was asked.
After a more friendly interview with his own counsel Friday, Wirkkala, 40, an Ilwaco High School graduate from Chinook, retook the witness stand as his retrial for murder resumed in Deschutes County Circuit Court, where he was grilled by Hoffmeyer, a seasoned assistant attorney general with the Oregon Department of Justice.
“Mr. Wirkkala, what question are you answering right now?” Hoffmeyer asked. “You understand how this works, right?”
He sighed, sounding frustrated.
Deschutes County Circuit Judge Randy Miller eventually cut in.
“I can see this is devolving,” Miller said. “Mr. Wirkkala, you are to answer the questions you’re asked.”
Tuesday was the start of the third week of Wirkkala’s retrial. In 2014, a jury convicted the onetime Bend resident of murdering his 31-year-old houseguest, David Andrew Ryder. That conviction was vacated in 2018 when the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled the original jury heard portions of a police interview that took place after Wirkkala had invoked his right to an attorney.
Wirkkala has again claimed self-defense. He faces life in prison if convicted.
Wirkkala might not have opted to testify had the judge allowed a pretrial request by the defense team to present evidence about Ryder’s character, specifically that he was sexually aggressive and violent toward passed-out men.
On Friday, Wirkkala told the jury about conversations he had with Ryder about the latter’s penchant for violence. Wirkkala stated once again how in the early morning of Feb. 4, 2013, Ryder sexually assaulted him, and “made me shoot him” by attacking him after Wirkkala retrieved his shotgun and ordered Ryder to leave.
Under cross-examination Tuesday, he noted the difficulty recalling with precise detail events that took place in a few seconds eight years ago.
After Wirkkala left the stand, forensic psychologist Michelle Guyton testified she evaluated him in 2019 and found he met symptom criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as social anxiety disorder and alcohol use disorder.
Defense attorneys asked Guyton about the connection between PTSD and experiencing a sexual assault.
Throughout trial, prosecutors have sought to poke holes in Wirkkala’s claim he was violently sexually assaulted by Ryder, referring to it as an “alleged” assault and highlighting his level of intoxication.
While cross-examining Guyton, prosecutor Jayme Kimberly asked if the act of killing someone by shooting them in the face could also cause PTSD.
“It could, yes,” Guyton replied.
The defense continues its presentation Wednesday.