Ish retrial guilty verdict

Martin Edmo Ish, 64, of Fort Hall, center, lowers his head as a jury again convicts him of voluntary manslaughter on Friday at the Bannock County Courthouse in Pocatello for the death of 56-year-old bar bouncer Eugene Lorne Red Elk.

POCATELLO — For the second time in four years, a Bannock County jury on Friday found a 64-year-old Fort Hall man guilty of beating a well-known Pocatello bar bouncer to death 12 years ago.

After an eight-day trial at the Bannock County Courthouse in Pocatello, a jury of six men and six women deliberated for almost three hours before convicting Martin Edmo Ish of voluntary manslaughter for fatally striking 56-year-old Eugene Lorne Red Elk in the head in the parking lot of Duffy’s Tavern on June 14, 2009. Ish, who has been incarcerated since his 2015 arrest in connection to Red Elk’s death, lowered his head as the verdict was read.

Red Elk, a father of four boys who also operated a newsroom camera for the local NBC affiliate KPVI News Channel 6 for several years and was described as a “gentle giant” by the owner of Duffy’s Tavern, sustained severe trauma to his brain from the attack. His family made the gut-wrenching decision to discontinue life support measures three days later.

Most of Red Elk’s family members live out of state but were kept updated about the case from his eldest son, Derick Red Elk of Pocatello, who was present in the courtroom Friday as the verdict was read.

“I want to thank the prosecuting attorneys for another great job and I’m happy that this is over with once again,” Derick told the Idaho State Journal following the trial.

Ish was previously convicted of manslaughter in 2017 for killing Lorne Red Elk, which was a lesser offense than the second-degree murder charge he originally faced for the incident. The Idaho Supreme Court overturned the conviction last year, citing, among other concerns, erroneous rulings surrounding the justification prosecutors provided for disqualifying a potential juror.

The case against Ish was not open-and-shut, with Bannock County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Ryan Godfrey telling jurors during closing arguments Friday that the facts and evidence against Ish were merely circumstantial. No weapon connected Ish to the killing, no person witnessed Ish attack Lorne and the only people who had information linking him to the crime delayed to report their knowledge for six years — well after the case went cold.

Bannock County Prosecutor Steve Herzog and Senior Deputy Prosecutor Jonathan Radford joined Godfrey to prosecute the case. Ish’s attorneys included Bannock County Public Defender John Scott Andrew and Senior Felony Deputy Public Defender Cody Cottam. Sixth District Judge Rick Carnaroli presided over the case.

”Obviously we are satisfied with the outcome of this trial,” Herzog said. “The positive outcome was the result of the hard work of the police department, the witnesses and my entire staff did a great job. I really attribute the verdict to the collective efforts of a lot of people. I’m really happy for the Red Elk family again and very appreciative of some witnesses where it was difficult for them to participate.”

Andrew and Cottam declined to comment on the outcome of the case after the trial ended.

Though some witness testimony during Ish’s retrial slightly wavered from what was said during the initial preliminary hearing in 2016, jurors apparently felt the evidence against him may have been circumstantial, but it was not coincidental.

Key testimony came from Jennifer Teton, Ish’s cousin, who resurrected the Red Elk cold case in 2015 when she told Pocatello police she was with Ish on the morning after the June 14, 2009, incident and that Ish confessed to her that he “popped” Lorne, adding that Ish said Lorne “didn’t look too tough” as he laid unresponsive in the Duffy’s Tavern parking lot on North Main Street.

Teton testified that Ish was cleaning his shoes during this conversation over coffee at Ish’s Fort Hall home. In 2016 she testified she saw a spot of blood on Ish’s shoe but her story changed on Wednesday when she testified that she didn’t look at his shoes long enough to notice any blood.

Teton testified that Ish told her that he thought he had killed Lorne and that he “hid in the shadows” walking home until he reached his friend Charles Tademy’s house near the area of Hawthorne and Quinn roads where he asked for a ride to Fort Hall.

Another witness, Heather Davis, lived across the street from Duffy’s Tavern and was outside the night of the incident. She testified to seeing Lorne in the bar’s parking lot and hearing him shout to someone, “I thought I told you to leave.” Davis said she heard a loud cracking sound, saw Lorne lying in the parking lot and described a man fleeing the scene.

Though Davis’ description of the suspect did not match Ish when Pocatello police interviewed her the night of the incident, she testified Thursday that she would later learn it was Ish in the parking lot with Lorne after he threatened her to keep her mouth shut when she encountered him in person four months later.

Andrew called about a dozen members of the Pocatello Police Department, including evidence technicians, police officers and detectives, to testify if they had any knowledge of who transferred the contents of a VHS tape containing surveillance footage from inside Duffy’s Tavern the night of the incident onto a DVD during an inventory of the Pocatello police evidence storage area in September 2012. The original VHS tape was subsequently destroyed. Only two Pocatello police officers had ever seen the surveillance footage and none knew who made the copy onto the DVD.

Three hours of recorded testimony from 2017 of a forensic pathologist for the Oregon Medical Examiner’s Office, Clifford Nelson, was played to the jury on Friday. Nelson, who in 2017 said he would have ruled Lorne’s death as undetermined instead of a homicide, contradicted the testimony of Charles Garrison, who was an Ada County forensic pathologist at the time of Lorne’s death. Garrison’s 2017 testimony was played for the jury as well.

Ish was remanded back into the custody of the Bannock County Sheriff’s Office following Friday’s verdict and is currently being held at the Bannock County Jail. He is scheduled to appear back in front of Carnaroli for sentencing on Sept. 23. The maximum penalty for voluntary manslaughter in Idaho is 15 years in prison and a fine of $15,000, though it’s likely Ish gets credit for the time he’s already been incarcerated in connection to this case.

Lorne was a member of the Assiniboine & Sioux Tribes and has family throughout the Intermountain West and Pacific Northwest.

Randy Red Elk of Oregon, another one of Lorne’s sons, said he speaks for the entire Red Elk family when he says Ish’s successful appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court came as a shock. Throughout the retrial, Randy said he grew to accept the possibility that Ish would walk free with an acquittal.

“As the trial moved on, I personally came to terms with him getting off. I mean, we’re talking about a murder that happened in 2009. That’s a long time ago,” Randy said. “For someone to be found guilty of this case in the first place with just circumstantial evidence is kind of a long shot.”

He continued, “But for us to be able to go through all of this again, we knew nothing was guaranteed. I came to terms with the fact that (Ish) has almost served all of his time or that he might get released and I had to be OK with that. But with the guilty verdict, some justice was served and I am so glad that it was. Everyone has always known that Ish did it.”