POCATELLO — The Fort Hall man whose involuntary manslaughter conviction was overturned by the Idaho Supreme Court in connection to the June 2009 beating death of a Pocatello bar bouncer was back in court Tuesday for the first day of his retrial.
A unanimous Idaho Supreme Court opinion released in April 2020 vacated the involuntary manslaughter charge and 15-year prison sentence levied against Martin Edmo Ish, 64, after he was convicted in April 2017 of beating Eugene Lorne Red Elk, a 56-year-old bouncer at Duffy’s Tavern in Pocatello, to death in 2009. The case was remanded back to the 6th District Court in Bannock County for a new trial.
Police arrested Ish in June 2015 and charged him in connection to the death of Red Elk, who was found severely beaten outside the pub. Emergency responders transported Red Elk to Portneuf Medical Center and later to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, where he died from his injuries three days later.
After eight days of witness testimony, extensive evidence and two days of deliberation, a Twin Falls-based jury determined there was enough evidence to convict Ish of voluntary manslaughter. He was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison.
Bannock County Prosecutor Steve Herzog says all of Tuesday was spent selecting the jurors that will decide Ish’s case. Jury selection, held at the Red Lion Hotel in Pocatello due to spacing requirements associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, will continue Wednesday morning, said Herzog, adding that opening statements from both the prosecutor’s office as well as Ish’s court-appointed Pocatello attorney, John Scott Andrew of the Bannock County Public Defender’s Office, as well as the state's first witnesses will happen later Wednesday.
Ish appeared in front of the judge presiding over the case, 6th District Judge Rick Carnaroli, last week via Zoom while incarcerated at the Bannock County Jail in Pocatello. During the hearing, state prosecutors and Andrew argued for or against various pretrial motions concerning particular pieces of evidence and testimony that should be allowed or prohibited from being discussed during the trial.
Carnaroli approved a Bannock County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office motion preventing either party from referencing during the trial that Ish passed a polygraph test when Pocatello police were investigating the incident after Red Elk’s death. Former Bannock County 6th District Judge David C. Nye, who oversaw Ish’s first trial in 2017 and is now a federal judge in Pocatello, granted this same pre-trial motion.
Additionally, Carnaroli granted a prosecutor’s motion preventing either party from mentioning a toxicology report for Red Elk that showed he had illicit drugs in his system at the time of his death. Andrew argued that the toxicology report should be admitted as evidence because the substances found in Red Elk’s system could be used to show that he had an altered state of mind at the time of his death, either more aggressive or paranoid, and that the information could serve to benefit Ish’s defense. Carnaroli ultimately disagreed with Andrew, again ruling consistently with Nye’s 2017 ruling on the same matter.
Carnaroli approved another prosecutor’s motion to limit the testimony of a former forensic pathologist in Bannock County, Steve Skoumal, who in 2012 surrendered his license to practice medicine in the state rather than fight allegations that he botched several autopsies. Andrew had argued that Skoumal’s testimony would be relevant to Ish’s case despite there being no evidence of any irregularities with Red Elk’s autopsy.
A prosecutor's motion requesting that the previous testimony from Ish’s initial trial in 2017 of another forensic pathologist involved in the case, Charles Garrison of Boise, be allowed in place of Garrison testifying in person during the retrial due to him experiencing medical issues was also granted.
Andrew had filed a motion that asked Carnaroli to dismiss Ish’s case based on a violation of his right to a speedy trial due to two continuances that occurred after the Idaho Supreme Court lifted restrictions placed on jury trials in the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, Andrew argued that Ish's trial should be held outside of Bannock County due to the publicity of this case after 44 of the 92 prospective jurors indicated in a questionnaire that they had knowledge of this case because of media coverage. Carnaroli denied both motions.
Ish’s trial is scheduled to last through next week.
Ish was originally facing 10 years to life in prison when he was charged with second-degree murder in 2015 ahead of his 2017 jury trial, in which he was convicted of a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Therefore, when his case was remanded back to the 6th District judge for a retrial, he only faced the voluntary manslaughter charge, which is punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.