Battle over witness credibility continues in Mendenhall trial

Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 2:50pm

A second inmate testified Thursday morning that Bruce Mendenhall asked him to kill police detectives as retaliation, after the suspected killer learned law enforcement officials had caught him on tape plotting the deaths of witnesses.

On the third day of testimony in Mendenhall’s murder-for-hire trial, Michael Ray Jenkins told jurors Mendenhall was incensed following a May 29 meeting with lawyers and police, where it was revealed Roy Lucas McLaughlin wore a wiretap on two occasions in the spring 2008. The day before that meeting, Mendenhall learned his wife Linda had died.

As a result, the witness testified, a distraught Mendenhall asked him to kill Metro Police detectives Pat Postiglione and Lee Freeman at some point during Jenkins’ incarceration at the Criminal Justice Center over the summer.

During cross examination, the defense again painted Jenkins as a career criminal with a history of testifying as a bargaining chip.

From the witness stand, a shackled Jenkins — now serving a 10-year prison sentence — told jurors he and Mendenhall arranged for a member of the defendant’s family to contact Jenkins on the outside with a payment of $15,000 and the names of the two detectives.

Since his first felony conviction in the ’80s, Jenkins has continuously offered to work as a confidential informant for authorities, and in at least one case testified in exchange for dropped charges in Florida. Defense attorney Jason Gichner alleged Jenkins only decided to come forward on June 18, 2008, after he violated the terms of his June 5 release, and was arrested on a new felony charge. The defense also produced letters Jenkins wrote to prosecutors in the case asking for help on his own charges.

Prosecutors are expected to introduce further evidence to corroborate Jenkins’ testimony this afternoon.