Kayla Giles Trial: State and defense rest, Giles does not take the stand

Both the State of Louisiana and the defense for Kayla Giles have rested their cases on the fifth day of testimony in the trial of Kayla Giles.
Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 7:46 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 28, 2022 at 8:06 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - Both the State of Louisiana and the defense for Kayla Giles have rested their cases on the fifth day of testimony in the trial of Kayla Giles. Giles chose not to take the stand as a witness for her defense.

Giles is charged with second-degree murder and obstruction of justice for the September 2018 deadly shooting of her estranged husband, Thomas Coutee, Jr., in an Alexandria Walmart parking lot during a custody exchange. The couple was meeting so that their daughter could attend a birthday party with Coutee, Jr.

Ahead of both sides resting, the State called two final witnesses.

Det. Curtis Gunter with RPSO was called to the stand. He is a forensic examiner.

Gunter was able to analyze Giles’ MacBook Pro in the “flower” bag - the laptop Giles’ sister took to Ouachita Parish to give to Giles’ friend, Jennifer Dennis.

It took Gunter several years to properly extract its contents due to Apple’s changing encryption software. That delay in pulling data off the laptop is what delayed the trial from starting last May when it was originally scheduled.

The state presented to the jury some of the data that was discovered on the laptop.

They showed a Word document with a court document that appeared to be waiting to be filed entitled “Defendant’s Notice to Relocate with Child.” That was created on Sept. 4, 2018, four days before the shooting.

Gunter also extracted contact info saved in an address book for USCCA, the insurance company from which Giles bought self-defense policy for the gun she used to kill Thomas Coutee, Jr. That contact information was entered on the date of purchase of the weapon, 12 days before the shooting, and then accessed again on Sept. 1, 2018, seven days before the shooting.

Gunter also found a copy of Louisiana RS 14, which is the criminal law code. Within that document were sections 19 and 20, which pertain to “use of force” and “justifiable homicide.” Gunter said that information was accessed four days before the shooting and recovered by him as an item possibly saved then deleted or accessed and not saved.

Finally, Gunter was able to access archived iMessages sent between Giles and a 214 area code on Aug. 2, 2018.

The conversation that was read began with Giles writing, “I deleted all social media.”

The 214 area code: “Yeah. I saw that. It sucks you have to do that.”

Then Giles, “I may make the news.”

The 214 area code: “Make sure to send me the link. Lol.”

Then Giles, “You may be the one starting the GoFundMe for some bail money.”

During cross-examination, defense attorney George Higgins pointed out that there is no way to know who did the search for Louisiana law on Giles’ computer. He also pointed out that other court documents were saved to the computer.

He showed the jury a small screenshot of a document that he said was from a doctor about Giles having PTSD, as well as another chat conversation between Giles and a woman who was renting out her house who alerted Giles to a “black truck” sitting near her mailbox, wondering if it was Coutee, Jr. The State pointed out that Coutee, Jr. drove a white truck.

Higgins showed the jury Giles’ Texas license to conceal carry, as well as a screenshot of an email from Coutee, Jr. to Giles where he apologized for being a “bad husband” and about his “anger problem.” The state pointed out that within that email there was no mention of violence and Assistant Attorney General Joseph LeBeau said, “It sounds like a husband trying to save his marriage.”

The second witness for the State was Sgt. Doug Alford with the Alexandria Police Department. He is also a forensic examiner.

In 2019, Alford extracted iMessages between Giles and Coutee, Jr. detailing the ongoing disagreements they were having over custody of their shared child.

Here is one exchange on July 23, 2018.

Coutee, Jr.: “What’s T doing?”

Giles: “Unless I tell you different, she is fine. There is no need to text me every day. Stop bothering me.”

Two days later, Coutee, Jr. asks the same question.

Coutee, Jr.: “How’s T doing?”

Giles: “Who is that?”

On July 31, 2018, Coutee, Jr. asks Giles why she is keeping their daughter from him, saying he does not want to just see her every other weekend. He also says he has a right to know what is going on with the school Giles wants to send their daughter to.

A few days later, Coutee, Jr. checks up on the daughter again. Giles says she does not want to talk to him. Coutee, Jr. says:

“I’m asking about our daughter, Kayla. I don’t care about you.”

Giles then says she is going to block Coutee, Jr.’s number.

The prosecution also submitted call logs from Giles’ phone, noting two outgoing calls from the day of the shooting.

The first is a call to 911 at 11:14 a.m. that lasts 13 seconds. The second is a call to Delta Conceal Carry Insurance just six minutes later that lasted about three minutes.

They also submitted a text message from Giles to her sister, Jessica, just one day before the shooting. That message goes as follows.

“Don’t forget my flower bag. Just put it in your car, and I’ll swing by after I drop the girls off.”

Lastly, the prosecution submitted into evidence the Safari search history extracted from Giles’ phone. All searches identified in court were recovered deleted searches.

Here is a look at a few of those searches.

  • On Aug. 24, 2018, Giles searched “Louisiana self-defense spouse” and “Louisiana self-defense laws.”
  • On Aug. 26, 2018, she searched “arrested after self-defense” and “self-defense inside car.”
  • On Aug. 27, 2018, she searched “Dallas Ruger .380.”
  • On Sept. 4, 2018, Giles searched “relocation and restraining order.”

On cross-examination, defense attorney George Higgins asked if it was possible to have a setting on an iPhone where when you close a browser it deletes the history. Alford says anything is possible, but he was not aware of that being the case for Giles’ phone.

He also testified that he was told what to look for and that he sifted through information to find out what else might be important.

Higgins asked if the texts presented reveal any plans by Giles to shoot Coutee, Jr. Alford said he would have to review the messages.

Higgins also asked if he had car insurance. Alford responded, “Yes.” He followed by asking if they want clients to call after an accident. Alford said, “Yes.”

After questioning ended, the prosecution rested.

The defense called witnesses next.

The first witness called to the stand was Jessica Austin, Giles’ sister, who gave Giles’ laptop to Jennifer Dennis.

The center of Austin’s testimony, though, was about the flower computer bag. Defense attorney Rocky Willson asked if she recognized the one submitted to evidence. She said, “No, not the color.”

During the jail phone call between the two sisters, Austin was actually the one to bring up the bag to Giles. She recalled not feeling comfortable with having the bag in her possession, claiming she did not even know what was in the bag. When asked why she felt uncomfortable, Austin said she has a good job and is raising kids on her own. She knew the bag belonged to someone who just killed another person.

In cross-examination, prosecutor Brooke Harris asked if she had ever seen any bruises on Giles. She said no. Harris asked if Coutee, Jr. ever put his hands on Giles. She said he did when they first got together. Harris asked if Giles was ever violent. Austin said no.

Harris then asked her about her testimony with Det. Collin Butler of the Alexandria Police Department.

During that testimony, Austin told Butler that she did not recall Coutee, Jr. being violent toward Giles. Today, Austin said that she meant she had not seen anything recent.

Harris then brought out text messages between Giles and Austin, where Giles told her of the altercation she had with Coutee, Jr. in a Kroger parking lot.

Harris then moved on to the flower bag in question. She asked when Giles gave her the bag. Austin said it was about two weeks prior to the shooting. Giles brought it to where Austin worked.

Harris pointed to testimony she gave Butler in 2018, at which time Austin said she was given the bag the Wednesday before the shooting.

Earlier, when Willson questioned her about when she had received the bag, Austin said it was a few months before the shooting.

After Austin, a friend of Giles named Natasha Lacombe took the stand.

The center of Lacombe’s testimony was about how Giles felt about Coutee, Jr. in the months leading up to his death.

She recalled how Giles moved from her home in Pineville to a gated apartment complex in Alexandria a few months before the shooting, citing that Giles was concerned Coutee, Jr. was following and stalking her.

She said she had never heard Coutee, Jr. threaten Giles, but knew she was concerned.

On cross-examination, Harris asked why Giles would bring her own kids to meet a man she was scared of when that man did not even have custody of them. Lacombe replied that the two girls were the shared daughter’s sisters.

She recalled incidents in which Giles said Coutee, Jr. was violent toward her. Lacombe referenced a custody exchange incident where a car door hit Giles and she punched Coutee, Jr. in the face, leaving a black eye.

Harris then asked if she had ever seen any bruises on Giles. Lacombe said she never showed her any. Harris asked if she found it strange that her friend would not show her bruises she got from an ex.

Lacombe said she had started hanging out with Giles in the summer of 2018, so they had only recently become close.

Following LaCombe’s testimony, Evelyn Jones, Giles’ aunt, took the stand. Her testimony was brief.

Higgins asked if Coutee, Jr. ever threatened Giles. Jones alleged that he had. She started telling Higgins about when that happened, saying Giles was doing her eyebrows when her phone kept ringing over and over again, as she continued to ignore it. Giles eventually answered it. When Higgins asked her to recall what the conversation between Coutee, Jr. and Giles had been about, the prosecution objected on the grounds of hearsay. Judge Greg Beard sustained.

On cross-examination, Jones said she never spoke to the police or called police herself. On re-direct, she said she also had never been contacted by police.

The next witness was Alex Helminger, an officer with APD who was with Giles’ children during the time Giles was being questioned on Sept. 8, 2018.

Higgins played a section of the bodycam footage in which Helminger can be heard talking to officer Ronnie Stevens, who previously testified earlier in the week. Here is that exchange:

“I watched all the bodycam stuff, and it’s just ‘He was coming at me. I was scared,” said Stevens.

“That’s what the little girl said, too,” said Helminger.

In cross-examination, Lebeau asks if he ever interviewed the girl, to which he said he had not. He also asked if Helminger had ever been involved in filing charges against Giles, to which he also said no.

For the defense’s final witness, Detective Collin Butler with APD took the stand again. He previously testified on days two and three.

Higgins played a video submitted into evidence of a 2014 MMA fight Coutee, Jr. participated in. The family of Coutee, Jr. was visibly emotional while viewing it. The defense did not say why they played the fight.

Higgins also played the Sonic surveillance video over again in slow-motion. The video played was a clearer version jointly submitted by the attorneys prior to the prosecution resting.

Higgins verified that Butler had never seen the enhanced video and that he could identify Coutee, Jr. as the person going towards the car door of Giles’ Durango.

On cross-examination, Lebeau asked if the video played changed his mind about the charges. Butler said no.

The prosecution then filed into evidence an image taken from the scene of the backseat of Giles’ vehicle. In the image is a car seat.

In Coutee, Jr.’s truck, the only car seat that had been there was one for the youngest daughter. The car seat in Giles’ vehicle was for that of a small child, not a baby. It was forward-facing.

Lebeau asked if the car seat was still in Giles’ vehicle when Coutee, Jr. approached. He said yes.

In re-direct, Higgins asked if the car seat was the shared daughter’s car seat belonging to Giles. Butler said, if it was, it was “against the law.”

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