Prosecutors in a Chicago area murder trial have called upon a footwear expert witness in an effort to place the defendant at the scene of the crime. An employee with Nike took the stand this week to identify shoes treads from footwear the defendant was seen wearing, aiding prosecutors in their effort to convict the man they believe is responsible for the killing.
Chicago Area Man Charged with Killing Female Neighbor
On March 2nd, 2013 Lisa Koziol-Ellis, 33, was found stabbed to death in her home in the Chicago suburb of Elgin, Illinois. Koziol-Ellis and her husband had just moved to the home from Chicago, and police suspect she was the victim of an impulsive killing that occurred after walking in on a break-in to her new home. After a two-week investigation, police arrested Paul Johnson, an ex-convict who lived in a neighboring townhouse. According to police and prosecutors, Johnson was in the Ellis home in the early morning hours of March 2nd, and was surprised by Koziol-Ellis before stabbing her more than 50 times.
Johnson’s defense attorneys have argued that it was Johnson’s half-brother, Harry Dobrowolski, who broke into the home and killed Koziol-Ellis. Dobrowolski died late last year before offering any testimony on the matter, but prosecutors have dismissed the notion that he was the killer in part due to footprints they believe link Johnson to the murder scene.
Footwear Expert Witness Takes Stand in Murder Trial
On the second day of Johnson’s murder trial, prosecutors called Herbert Hedges, a Nike employee and footwear historian, to help connect evidence of the shoes Johnson was wearing on the day of the murder to the scene of Koziol-Ellis’ death. Hedges was able to identify a pair of Nike Air Max 90 running shoes on the defendant from a surveillance video of Johnson and Dobrowksi purchasing items at a local drugstore a few hours before the murder. Pointing out to jurors that the shoe is “very unique,” Hedges testified that it was unmistakable that Johnson was wearing the same type of shoe that left the tread marks investigators found at the scene of the crime.
By identifying the type of shoe the defendant was wearing and matching it to the evidence of bloody footprints left at the crime scene, prosecutors hope to place Johnson in the Ellis home and convince the jury that he was responsible for the death of Koziol-Ellis. While deploying a footwear expert may seem like an unusual tactic, prosecutors have been able to take advantage of Hedges’ expertise by using him to tell jurors that the defendant was wearing the type of shoe that was found at the scene, which not only incriminates him but pokes a hole in his argument that Dobrowski was responsible.
Nike Footwear Expert Testified in Aaron Hernandez Case
The Johnson murder trial is not the first time in recent months that Hedges has been called by prosecutors to testify about footwear and shoe treads in a murder trial, although this week’s contribution was significantly lower profile than his previous work on the Aaron Hernandez murder case. During the Hernandez trial, Hedges was asked by prosecutors to confirm that the outsole prints found at the scene of the victim matched a pair of Nike Air Jordan 11’s that Hernandez was wearing at the time of the killing. Hedges’ testimony matching the shoe patterns was part of the evidence that was used to convict the former NFL star.
Hedges has worked with Nike for over 30 years, and, although he is semi-retired, he is responsible for acting as a footwear expert witness whenever attorneys are in need of testimony identifying Nike shoes or tread marks.