In opening statements Monday in the jury trial for a Salt Lake County man accused of stabbing another man to death, the defense argued that the fatal blows were delivered not by the defendant, but by his friend.
Talon Levi Hamann, 20, is charged in 3rd District Court with first-degree felony murder, second-degree felony obstructing justice and third-degree tampering with a witness, all stemming from the fatal stabbing of 25-year-old Michael R. Workman on Aug. 23, 2012, in a Holladay church parking lot.
“There’s no doubt that Talon Hamann stabbed Mr. Workman,” defense attorney Michael Misner told the 10-person jury during his opening statement. “Whether or not anyone else stabbed him is unclear.”
Witnesses reported seeing Hamann stabbing Workman in the legs, but the lethal wounds were delivered to his chest and upper back, Misner said, adding that the medical examiner would testify to finding two different types of wounds on Workman’s body.
“Talon Hamann couldn’t have delivered those lethal blows,” Misner said.
Instead, Misner said, those blows were delivered by Austin S. Taylor, who with Hamann and another friend, Ryan G. Curtz, drunkenly brawled with Workman in the church parking lot. Both Taylor and Curtz pleaded guilty to obstructing justice and misdemeanor assault and, in exchange for promising to testify against Hamann, were sentenced to community service and three years’ probation.
While Curtz has since kept his nose clean, Taylor has not, Misner said. After violating the terms of his probation twice, Taylor was given a prison sentence.
“He’s a jerk. He comes across as a jerk,” Misner said of Taylor. “The deal was made with the wrong person. Austin Taylor is as much, if not more to blame [for Workman’s death] than Talon Hamann.”
Misner added that the fight would have been avoided had it not been for Workman’s aggression. “Mr. Workman wanted a fight,” Misner said.
But Prosecutor Byron Burmester instead portrayed Hamann as the aggressor, consumed by rage after being told that Workman had assaulted Petra Elkaz, Hamann’s close friend, earlier that evening. Two witnesses would later say that the assault never happened.
When Taylor and Curtz got into a fistfight with Workman, Hamann, armed with a knife, joined the fight, Burmester said.
“But instead of hitting with his fists, he stabs [Workman] over and over again,” Burmester said.
The deadly scuffle occurred at about 3 a.m. in the parking lot of an LDS Church on the 1600 East block of Delaware Lane (4945 South), across the street from the house where Workman had spent the evening with friends.
Workman was stabbed eight times and left bleeding to death in the parking lot. His body was discovered the next morning by a neighbor.
During a preliminary hearing on February 2013, Elkaz testified that as she, Hamann, Taylor and Curtz fled the scene in a car driven by their friend Shalynn Caro, Hamann admitted to stabbing Workman. In the days that followed, witnesses say Hamann burned his bloody clothes, disposed of the knife in Utah Lake and told another witness, Kelsey Boren, not to “snitch.”
As she waited outside the courtroom after testifying Monday, Boren, who went home before the fight turned violent, was asked whether she thought Hamann killed Workman.
“I didn’t think Talon was capable of doing something like that,” Boren said. “He wasn’t a violent person, I didn’t think.”
Elkaz, who initially told investigators a fabricated story, avoided prosecution after she agreed to testify against Hamann under oath. During her testimony Monday, Elkaz began to sob when asked to describe her relationship with Hamann.
“I would say he’s my hero,” Elkaz said.
Hamann has been held in the Salt Lake County jail on a $1 million cash-only bail since his arrest on Aug. 25, 2012. Attorneys estimate the trial, presided over by Judge Deno Himonas, will take three to four days.