Hammer slaying trial: Jurors watch police interrogation tapes

Posted: Updated:
By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Jurors Tuesday got to watch a police interview with a woman on trial for allegedly bludgeoning her husband to death with a hammer.

Authorities say 36-year-old Marissa Suzanne Devault fatally wounded Dale Harrell by hitting him over the head with a hammer as he slept in their suburban Phoenix home in January 2009.

Harrell, 34, suffered multiple skull fractures and died at a hospice nearly a month after the attack.

Prosecutors claim Devault killed her husband to obtain an insurance settlement to get out of a deep financial hole. Devault could face the death penalty.

Now, we're hearing Devault's own words delivered during her interrogation with Gilbert police in 2009.

During the taped interview, she talked about the alleged abuse she suffered at her husband's hand during her ten year marriage. "He likes to shove," she said. "He likes to push and shove. He likes to make sure you know you can't fight back. Because he always makes sure you're off balance and there's nothing you can do about it."

Jurors in the high-profile murder trial heard hours of police interviews, both videotapes and audio recordings.

At one point in her interviews, Devault told police how she awoke one night in her Gilbert home to find her husband on top of her, attacking her sexually and physically, and choking her into unconsciousness.

"The last thing I remember is Dale on top of me," she said.  She told police that when she came to, she saw another man who lived at their home, Stan Cook, beating Harrell with a hammer.

"The light was on and Stan was hitting Dale," Devault said in the interview tapes.

But authorities say bloodstain patterns showed Harrell was alone in the bed at the time of the attack and that bloodstains on Devault's clothes were consistent with a person swinging an object repeatedly over her head.

Investigators say Devault later confessed, saying she attacked her sleeping husband in a rage after he had sexually assaulted her.

Police say they later discovered Devault had been dating another man, Allen Flores, for more than two years. The prosecution says she needed to repay a $294K loan from Flores.

Juror issues in Devault's trial also took center stage Tuesday, when a juror was dismissed.

Later in the day, the judge in the case said he got a message from the jury commissioner about a complaint from a juror, who claimed she was being hassled at work for serving on the trial.

"They didn't get the name, but indicated her work is punishing her for being in trial," said Judge Roland Steinle. "She's been moved to part time with no benefits, and she seemed really sad."

The judge went on to ask the jurors to send him a private message so that he can intervene with the employer before this goes too far. Arizona state law does not require employers to compensate their employees while they are on jury service, but many will provide service benefits and continue an employees' wages as he or she serves.

"I will not tolerate employers playing games," said the judge. "We have every opportunity through this process to help people who have work issues. Now that you've committed, I will do everything within my power to enforce the requirements that you not be punished."

State law prohibits an employer from discharging or discriminating against any employee taking time off to serve as a juror, if the employee gives reasonable notice.