Kayla Giles Trial: Lead detective plays interview with Giles, jail house calls
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - On day three of testimony for the trial of Kayla Giles, a Rapides Parish jury heard testimony from the Alexandria Police Department’s lead detective on the case, Collin Butler.
Giles is charged with second-degree murder and obstruction of justice in the September 2018 shooting death of her estranged husband, Thomas Coutee, Jr., in an Alexandria Walmart parking lot during a custody exchange.
The State began the day by playing the interview Butler conducted with Giles after she agreed to give a statement to police. Giles told Butler that she shot Coutee, Jr. because she was “scared” as he approached her vehicle.
“He started yelling at me,” said Giles said in the video. “I tried to shut my door...I was scared...I shot him.”
Giles told Butler that she kept the gun in her driver’s side door in a holster. Coutee, Jr. did not have a weapon on him or in his truck. Giles told Butler that Coutee, Jr. wanted to talk to her, but she said she did not want to.
“I did not want to deal with it,” said Giles. “He was mad.”
She also told Butler that Coutee, Jr. had hit her before, but said she never made a police report, never photographed any injuries and never visited a doctor. She said she told friends, but would not tell Butler which friends. Butler also searched the APD records system called CAD, saying he never found any record of Giles calling to report Coutee, Jr.
Butler brought up two documented reports by Coutee, Jr. of Giles allegedly being violent during prior custody exchanges - one in a Kroger parking lot and another in a tattoo parking lot.
“What I’m seeing, Thomas was trying to do things the right way,” said Butler of Coutee, Jr. documenting incidents.
Butler continued to push Giles about what scared her to the point she felt she needed to shoot.
“He was coming after me. He called me a bitch twice,” she said.
“You shot a man because he called you a bitch?” asked Butler.
“I was scared. He’s been doing stuff like this,” responded Giles.
Later, Butler told Giles he believed she was the “aggressor.”
Butler asked if he could search Giles’ phone. She said no, stating that he didn’t like the way Butler was treating her.
The court played a surveillance video from Sonic. In all transparency, it was very difficult for those in the audience to see the video. Butler told the court it did not appear to him that Coutee, Jr. was running in the video, that Giles’ vehicle door was closed all the way, or that she was all the way in her car.
This is important because Giles claims Coutee, Jr. aggressively opened the door and that’s why she shot. Butler pointed out that Giles had said she kept the gun in the driver’s side door in a holster, which he demonstrated to the court could not be drawn with one hand.
Butler said he believed Giles already had the gun out because “action beats reaction every single time.”
“You were ready to kill him,” Butler alleged. “You were ready to shoot him.”
Giles responded she was not.
Giles told Butler she did not recall when she bought the gun, saying “that’s beside the point,” to which Butler responded, “That is the point. You just shot somebody.” He later learned that the gun was bought in Dallas, Texas 12 days before the shooting.
She said she called 911 but did not render aid because she was scared.
During the interview, Butler refers to Giles’s demeanor, saying, “I haven’t seen a single tear yet. You’ve been crying for 30 minutes.”
The prosecution also introduced two phone calls from Giles in the Rapides Parish Detention Center to friends and family.
The first of these calls was to her sister, Jessica Giles. Within the conversation, they discuss several things, including where the kids are staying and whether Giles had called an attorney yet.
They also talked about one thing pertinent to the prosecution’s charge of obstruction of justice.
“Jennifer is going to meet me in Natchitoches,” said Jessica in the recording.
Giles asked about a “flower thing” and made mention that it wasn’t being searched for.
“Give it to Jennifer,” responded Giles.
Attorney Joseph Lebeau asked Butler if they ever found out what the flower thing was. He said it was a computer inside a flower bag, which they then showed the jury but have not yet revealed the contents.
Butler said Jessica took it to the house of a friend named Jennifer Dennis, who lives in Ouachita Parish. The next phone call played was an exchange between Giles and Dennis.
Both women were questioned by police. Butler said it “took some time to get Jessica to tell the truth.” He also said Jennifer met with police and brought an attorney along.
Following both interviews, an obstruction of justice charge was added.
After the jury heard both the interview and the phone calls, attorneys were allowed to begin questioning.
Just a reminder, in opening arguments, defense attorney George Higgins claimed APD did not do a proper investigation in the Giles case, specifically in investigating under the Stand Your Ground statute.
That was pretty much the basis of Higgins’s co-counsel, Rocky Willson’s, line of questioning today.
Willson targeted the fact that Butler had never investigated a Stand Your Ground case, which is the statute Giles was claiming in self-defense.
He also analyzed Butler’s interview techniques, alluding to the exchange between Butler and Giles to be more of an argument, accusing him of interrupting and not allowing Giles to answer questions. Butler denied that.
Willson repeatedly emphasized how shocking the nature of the interview was.
He also questioned whether Butler knew Coutee, Jr. before the case. Butler said “no,” to which Willson asked, “Are you sure?”
Willson referred to Butler knowing that Coutee, Jr. was athletic, to which Butler said he “made it up.”
Willson followed, noting it is not unusual for an investigator to make stuff up in an interview. It is a common tactic.
The defense also questioned Butler about a statement he made in November 2020, when he told Higgins that nothing in the Sonic surveillance video contradicted anything Giles was claiming.
Butler said he meant it did not contradict anything before the shooting, referring again back to his testimony where he said he could not tell much from the video about who opened the door of the vehicle.
When the prosecution was able to redirect questioning, one thing Assistant Attorney General Joseph Lebeau followed up on was Butler’s interviewing techniques. He emphasized the excited nature of the interview, at which time Butler explained that matching the interviewee’s energy “usually leads to the truth coming out.”
Lastly, to end day three, the prosecution introduced a video of an interview conducted between Megan D’Autremont with the Child Advocacy Center who interviewed Giles’ seven-year-old daughter.
When a loud noise is heard during the interview, the girl began talking about the shooting:
“Thomas was in front of mama. He was jumping at her, and then mama grabbed a gun and [girl makes click noise].”
The girl said that the door to the truck the children were in was still open when the shooting happened. She does not remember hearing a conversation between Giles and Coutee, Jr.
The girl recalled seeing a ring of smoke as Coutee, Jr. fell back against his truck, grabbing his chest and falling to the ground. She remembered seeing a little blood on his hands, but the rest of his body was mostly out of sight. The girl recalled Giles trying to keep them distracted in the truck.
During the interview, she recalled Giles saying, “I can’t touch him,” explaining why she wasn’t rendering aid.
D’Autremont asked the girl if she had ever seen Giles get hit. She responded that she remembered her mama throwing a pan at Coutee, Jr., him jumping at her, Giles getting hit in the leg and Giles hitting Coutee.
When the video ended and D’Autremont was briefly questioned, the courtroom cleared at Judge Greg Beard’s request, allowing for the girl to be interviewed. Court adjourned following the interview.
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