The defense in the Jimmy Eacker murder trial has argued since opening statements that its client had no reason to kill Toni Lister in 1982. Unlike Eacker, Calvin Lister, Toni Lister's husband, had a clear motive, the defense argues.
On Tuesday, Calvin Lister took the stand as a witness for the prosecution.
"When you heard that Jimmy was the last person seen with Toni, what did you think they were doing?" defense attorney Benjaman Adams asked Calvin Lister during cross-examination.
"I didn't know," Lister responded.
"Did it cross your mind that maybe they were having sexual relations?" Adams asked.
"No," Lister answered. "That never crossed my mind. I don't know what I thought back then. I can't say."
"That would have upset you," Adams said.
"I imagine so, yeah," Lister said.
In his testimony, Calvin Lister admitted to cheating on Toni Lister during the couple's brief marriage. They had only been together several months at the time Toni Lister went missing on March 6, 1982.
Adams repeatedly asked Lister if he would classify the couple's relationship as tenuous. Lister hesitated to agree but eventually conceded they had some history of arguing. "Tell me if this is what you said," Adams asked Lister, referring to a paraphrased interview Lister had with police. "Your marriage had been considerably less than perfect. You may have thought about killing her once or twice, but never seriously."
Lister denied the statement.
"I really can't remember saying it. I can't imagine me even saying it," Lister testified.
Earlier in his testimony, Lister admitted to losing much of his memory after suffering a stroke following an automobile accident in the early 1990s.
Lister denied claims that he hit, abused or thought about harming Toni Lister. Adams spent a significant portion of his cross trying to prove Calvin Lister was angry and might have acted on the rage.
The defense attorney read from a transcript of an interview between police and Lister.
"I could put some bullets through some policemen's heads. Man, I am so pissed off. You don't even know," Lister reportedly said in a statement Adams read.
"I can't imagine that I said anything like that. It's on tape, huh?" Lister responded. "You know, at the time I was pretty upset. I remember that. Maybe it was words on my end trying to act big. I'm not sure exactly what."
Adams conducted a similar line of questioning at other times during his cross-examination.
"Would you say, Mr. Lister that you are the type of person who does a pretty good job controlling his emotions but when you get upset you get very upset?"
"I know that when I get upset I get frustrated." Lister responded.
Adams read a statement Lister gave to police in which Lister admitted to having a difficult relationship with Toni Lister. That statement caused Lister to directly address allusions Adams seemed to be making.
"If I had murdered her, wouldn't I be saying 'no'? I'd be putting it off all the way. It don't make no sense," Lister said.
Adams also questioned Lister about his reported state of calm following Toni Lister's disappearance, saying police records made it seem like Lister didn't care that his wife was missing.
"Oh, yeah, I cared, but I don't show my feelings like a lot of people," Lister said.
During his direct testimony, Lister described the night between March 5 and March 6, 1982, which is the last time he recalls seeing Toni Lister. On that evening, the Listers had something of a lovers' spat, Lister testified.
Toni danced with a man and Calvin danced with a woman.
"After the dance was over, I got in a little argument with my wife," Lister testified.
Lister said Toni seemed upset, but it didn't explode into a contentious argument.
At about 1 a.m., Calvin wanted to leave the bar.
"I told her, 'We need to go home because I have to go to work in the morning.' She said 'no' and I said 'yeah,' and she took her beer and threw her beer in my face," Lister said. "I kind of laughed, and I told her I hope you find your way home."
Andrew Waite can be reached at email@example.com.
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