A Natrona County judge on Thursday denied a request for a new trial made by a Pennsylvania man who was convicted in December of killing a Casper man outside a strip club in 2013.

Attorneys for John Knospler Jr. had argued that the judge who presided over his 2014 trial unfairly excluded evidence that might have bolstered his self-defense claims.

Natrona County District Judge Thomas Sullins disagreed, ruling that a new trial would not be in the interests of justice.

Knospler is in jail while awaiting sentencing after a 12-person jury found him guilty of second-degree murder Dec. 23.

Knospler, 35, fatally shot 24-year-old James “Kade” Baldwin on Oct. 4, 2013, in the parking lot of Rack’s Gentlemen’s Club, which is located along U.S. Highway 20/26 west of Casper.

The request for a new trial focused on evidence that Baldwin had searched for and viewed child pornography multiple times and had videos of violent bestiality on his cellphone the day before his death, and that the court was wrong in forbidding the defense from introducing expert testimony that would have suggested Baldwin had a predisposition for aggression.

Knospler’s attorneys -- Joseph H. Low IV, of Long Beach, California, and Tim Newcomb, of Laramie -- filed the motion on Jan. 7.

“The statistical link between bestiality and interpersonal violence would have assisted the jury -- as triers of fact -- to understand the relevance of the evidence of the decedent’s obsession with human/animals sex, including that which leads to death,” the motion reads.

Newcomb denied a request for comment when reached by telephone Friday. Low did not respond to a message left at his law office.

In its response, filed Jan. 20, the prosecution did not deny that the pornographic websites had been accessed on Baldwin’s cellphone eight hours before Knospler shot him.

In fact, District Attorney Mike Blonigen said additional pornographic videos had been viewed on Baldwin’s cellphone prior to Oct. 3.

However, the prosecutor said there is no evidence Baldwin viewed the videos, and he hadded that one of Baldwin’s friends may have searched for the webpages.

Moreover, Blonigen asserted, any evidence relating to pornography was irrelevant to the matter being discussed at trial and inappropriately profiled Baldwin.

“The fact that a person shares a group of characteristics with others does not tend to prove they acted in conformity with that profile during the incident in question,” the response reads.

Blonigen was not available for comment on Friday.

During the trial, the defense maintained that Baldwin had punched through Knospler’s car window while he was sleeping in the vehicle, causing Knospler to react.

Prosecutors said Baldwin was unarmed and had inadvertently, in his drunken state, walked up to the wrong car.

To acquit Knospler of second-degree murder, the jury would have had to conclude that Knospler had acted in self-defense when Baldwin approached his car shortly after midnight. Jurors also had the option of convicting Knospler of manslaughter.

Before the trial, Knospler's attorneys asked the court to allow experts to visit the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office to view the pornographic images and videos.

Sullins allowed the experts to view the videos but ruled that there could be no reference to the pornographic websites during trial.

Sullins also prohibited the state from speaking at trial about Knospler's 2002 arrest for allegedly assaulting a man while at a bar in Oceanside, California.

The defense’s request for a new trial also claimed that the court forbade one of its witnesses, a 24-year-old man named Kevin Elkin, who testified that he had once been assaulted by Baldwin, from speaking about other instances in which Baldwin acted violently toward him.

Other claims included accusations that the court had allowed the prosecution to introduce new evidence at the last minute and that the judge permitted the state to show a video of police questioning Knospler prior to his arrest, when he had a right to remain silent.

In his legal response, Blonigen said all those matters had previously been ruled upon and did not warrant reconsideration.

When reached by telephone Friday, John Knospler Sr. said he did not want to comment on his son’s case. A message left for Baldwin’s sister, Lynn Rasanen, was not returned.

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Contact Lillian Schrock at 307-266-0574 or at lillian.schrock@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @lillieschrock.


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