Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

A Friend's Betrayal: The Murder of Tammy Epperson

Powell's Defense

Powell blamed his problems on an epileptic seizure as a child and an abusive, alcoholic father. His psychiatrist said Powell wasn't comfortable around women and couldn't handle rejection; it just sent him into a violent rage. Then he had an out-of-body experience after the murder, looking down at what he had done, the psychiatrist testified.

Troy Powell
Troy Powell

The biggest part of Powell's case was when he took the witness stand in his own defense. Murder defendants rarely testify because it often does more harm to their defense than good.

But Powell had been through the system many times, he knew the score. His direct examination was very succinct and he didn't contradict himself. However, his claims that he didn't remember anything rang hollow. Moreno had shown that Powell ransacked the apartment after the murder as evident by bloody fingerprints everywhere. And Powell had the presence of mind to clean up in the sink and steal some of Tammy's belongings.

At one point, Moreno asked Powell point blank if he killed Tammy. He answered, "Yes, I guess I did."

Moreno fired back: "You told the detectives you weren't sure what happened to her. And you didn't know if she was dead or alive. Is that because she was still breathing when you left the apartment? Was she gurgling? Was she crying for help? Was she moaning? Was she bleeding? Why was it you thought she was still alive?"

Powell started to get out of his chair and angrily answered, "No."

"Do you have a problem with women?" Moreno asked.

Powell again angrily tried to rise and denied having any problem.

Powell was shooting for a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity, but that's not what happened. A jury convicted him after several days of deliberations. Then they hung on the penalty phase, forcing Moreno to try that part of the case again.

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