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Perjury trial begins for Utah man acquitted of murder in apartment complex death

The 4th District Courthouse in Provo is pictured on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. Elbert John Paule, who was found not guilty of murder after a shooting at an apartment complex near UVU, has a second jury trial this week for two counts of perjury charged against him due to statements he made at the previous trial.

The 4th District Courthouse in Provo is pictured on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. Elbert John Paule, who was found not guilty of murder after a shooting at an apartment complex near UVU, has a second jury trial this week for two counts of perjury charged against him due to statements he made at the previous trial. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

PROVO — A jury this week is considering the statements made by a man at a March 2020 trial, in which he was ultimately found not guilty of murder, reckless endangerment and assault, but was found guilty of obstructing justice.

About two months after the trial, Elbert John Paule was charged with two counts of perjury, a second-degree felony, based on statements he made in the trial.

According to testimony at both trials, Paule, 21, shot and killed Dominique Barnett, 26, with a 12-gauge shotgun near the entrance to Paule's apartment at the Parkway Lofts Apartments near Utah Valley University. The two men were friends, and Barnett was allegedly coming over to the apartment to address a disagreement they had talked about on the phone.

Among the questions presented at trial this week was whether Paule gave false statements in the previous trial regarding who opened the door and whether Barnett stepped into the apartment or was coming toward Paule before Barnett was shot. Witnesses and attorneys also talked about a knife that was on the ground by Barnett.

During the first trial, Paule took the witness stand in his own defense. He stated that after retrieving his shotgun and while standing in the kitchen, "Paule claims Barnett opened the door, entered the apartment with a knife in his hand and advanced toward Paule. Paule testified that Barnett was inside his apartment when he shot Barnett. Paule testified that he did not open the door and although the door was locked, Paule claimed that Barnett somehow opened the door and entered the apartment," according to charging documents filed in May 2020.

However, two other witnesses who were present that night, including Barnett's fiancee, told police that it was Paule who opened the door and shot Barnett in the outside hallway, the charges state.

In addition, after Paule was acquitted, prosecutors "asked two blood spatter experts to review the photographs, scene videos and other physical evidence obtained in Barnett's death. The expert witnesses indicate that the evidence in the case supports a finding that Barnett was not inside the apartment when Paule shot Barnett," according to charging documents.

Prosecutors note that witnesses who were present the night of the shooting and the two blood spatter experts did not testify during Paule's trial.

Tim Taylor, the prosecuting attorney, specified that the case is "not a murder case" because Paule was already found not guilty, but it is a case about a "material misstatement" while under oath. The jury is tasked with determining if misstatements occurred and if they would have made a difference in the outcome of Paule's trial. In his opening statement on Tuesday, Taylor said that the judicial system "is weakened" if someone lies while under oath.

Rudy Bautista, Paule's attorney, said in his opening statement that Barnett was coming toward Paule with a knife. He said regardless of whether Barnett was in the apartment or just outside, Paule was acting in self-defense.

"If somebody is trying to enter your home, you don't wait for them to come into your home with a knife ... if you have an imminent threat against your life, you defend yourself as soon as you can," Bautista said.

Elbert Paule is being tried for perjury after being found not guilty of murder after shooting Dominique Barnett at the entrance of his apartment.
Elbert Paule is being tried for perjury after being found not guilty of murder after shooting Dominique Barnett at the entrance of his apartment. (Photo: Orem Police Department)

At the trial on Thursday, testimony was heard from Barnett's fiancee, a detective with the Orem Police Department and multiple forensic scientists who did the analysis of the blood patterns at the crime scene. Both forensic scientists said there was no evidence to show that Barnett was inside the apartment when he was shot, considering the evidence they were presented.

Barnett's fiancee said on Thursday that although Barnett said he thought there was a chance that the meeting would "go to blows," he did not think it would. If it did, she thought she and her 6-month-old baby would be in a separate room that they typically went to when visiting the apartment. She said they did not expect a confrontation at the door.

Barnett's fiancee testified that she and Barnett did not enter the apartment. She said they were outside the apartment knocking and attempting to enter the apartment using a code sent to them by Paule, which was not correct. She said that the knife fell out of her bag and fell open on the floor, and it was not being held by Barnett.

When the knife was tested with both attorneys present, according to Taylor, the knife did fall open when dropped, but it did not fall into the locked position that it was found in at the crime scene.

Friday is the final day scheduled for the trial.

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