Novak judge throws out previous conviction

By Sharna Johnson: Freedom New Mexico

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE — Monday amounted to a day of housekeeping as attorneys argued motions before the judge in the first day of the first-degree murder trial of a Cannon Air Force Base airman accused of slaying his wife more than three years ago.

Edward Novak II faces possible life in prison if convicted.

Much of Monday’s arguments revolved around what evidence and testimony will be allowed before the jury, which is expected to be seated Wednesday morning.

Jurors will not hear testimony of Novak’s prior conviction of child neglect, Chief Trial Judge for the Air Force Dawn Eflein said.

The decision, made in a written ruling prior to Monday’s proceedings, led attorneys to meticulously comb through anticipated testimony and prior statements in an effort to redact all references to the child’s removal from Novak’s care and the events leading up to that removal.

Novak pled guilty to child neglect in April and is serving a two-year, five-month sentence for child neglect and received a bad conduct discharge from the military.

Military officials previously testified more than a year after Kimberly Novak’s death, the couple’s daughter, under the age of 2 at the time, was found alone in her crib in the military housing unit assigned to Novak.

She was in unsanitary conditions and malnourished, officials testified.

Also, though they are expected to testify, the defendant’s mother and a parent representing Kimberly Novak will be allowed to sit in on the trial, Eflein ruled at the behest of attorneys for the government.

“These people have a lot at stake. One will leave here losing a son or the other not feeling justice was done. I think it’s important that those folks watch our proceedings to see the fairness of it,” Maj. Dan Higgins told Eflein prior to her decision.

Kimberly Novak, 20, died Oct. 28, 2004, of blunt force trauma to the head and neck. Her husband reported finding her in the bathroom of the base housing unit they shared with their young daughter.

The judge denied defense motions to exclude interviews Novak had with investigators, evidence gain in search warrants and a request for a court order to obtain the mental health records of William Riley.

Riley, of Clovis, is serving a minimum of 43 years for the 2005 murder of Roshawn Pitts.

Novak’s attorneys have proffered a theory that Kimberly Novak was mistakenly killed because a witness against Riley lived on the same street as the Novaks.

Defense attorneys are also trying to exclude photos of a crime scene re-enactment conducted by OSI excluded, arguing Novak moved his wife’s body before anyone documented its position and the female agent used in the study was of a different weight and build than Kimberly Novak.

Eflein said she would return with a decision on the photos Tuesday.