Allegations that church pastor Neil Edgar Sr. used an electric stun gun to discipline two children will not be allowed as evidence in his murder trial next month.
A Johnson County judge also ruled today that prosecutors could not introduce testimony about money paid to Edgar and his wife, Christy Edgar, to care for foster and adoptive children.
The Edgars and family baby sitter Chasity Boyd are charged with first-degree felony murder in the death in December of 9-year-old Brian Edgar. Neil Edgar, 48, Christy Edgar, 46, and Boyd, 20, also are charged with abusing two other Edgar children.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Sept. 15.
Brian suffocated after he was bound head to toe with duct tape at the family’s Overland Park house, according to previous testimony in Johnson County District Court.
During today’s pretrial hearing, District Judge John Bennett ruled on several prosecution requests to introduce evidence of other incidents that occurred before Brian died.
District Attorney Paul Morrison argued that the additional information was necessary to give jurors the “big picture.”
Morrison said it was the state’s theory that the Edgars treated the children they took in as “commodities.” He said jurors should also know that they wouldn’t take in a child if they wouldn’t receive state payments.
Bob Thomas, attorney for Christy Edgar, argued that such evidence would inflame a jury and had no relevance to the facts surrounding Brian’s death.
Thomas said foster parents serve a valuable community service and should be reimbursed.
Bennett said the prejudicial effect of the proposed evidence outweighed the usefulness it would have for jurors. He invited prosecutors to bring it up again if during trial one of the defendants brings up information that would make it relevant.
The judge did tell prosecutors that he would allow testimony about prior incidents in which the Edgar children were tied up as punishment. He also said jurors could hear testimony about another child being tied up by Boyd several years ago.
He ruled that the stun gun allegations involving Neil Edgar were too prejudicial and not similar enough to the abuse that led to Brian’s death.
Such evidence of prior crimes or “bad acts” is generally not allowed in Kansas criminal cases.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Aug. 26.
A child psychologist is expected to testify about how the surviving children might be harmed by having to testify in a crowded courtroom in front of the Edgars, whose parental rights have been cut by a judge.
Prosecutors want the children to testify from another room via a closed-circuit television connection.
A final pretrial hearing was set for Sept. 3.