Defense Begins its Case in Stephen Jonas Trial

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The prosecution rested in the mid-morning Tuesday in the murder trial of Stephen Jonas.

50-year-old Jonas is charged with first degree murder in the death of 21-year-old Zachary Paulsen last August. The prosecution began Tuesday morning by playing a recorded phone call made by Jonas from jail. In the brief recording, Jonas can be heard explaining how he can claim self-defense in Paulsen's death.

"In order to claim self-defense, you have to prove that you had an opportunity to go," he said. "You have to prove you had a chance to leave before everything happened. And I did, but I didn't take it."

Prosecutors argue Jonas stabbed Paulsen 35 times before leaving him to die along the Clive Greenbelt Trail last August. The defense argues Jonas was merely acting in self-defense, after being attacked by Paulsen with a hammer on Paulsen's family business property in the early hours of the morning after the two left Tapz Pub in Clive.

In Monday's proceedings, the prosecution aired Jonas' first and second recorded interviews with Department of Criminal Investigation agents. In Jonas' first interview, he lied about several key factors, including how he received the injury on his chin, how he knew Paulsen, and where he had been the night of Paulsen's death. In his second interview, Jonas came clean to officials about stabbing Paulsen, but claimed self-defense.

The defense began calling witnesses in its case Tuesday morning at approximately 11 a.m. The first witness to take the stand was a clinical psychologist who performed an evaluation on Stephen Jonas, Dr. Stephen Reich. Dr. Reich told the jury why he believed Jonas did not take an opportunity to leave the premises of the night in question before events escalated with Paulsen.

"(Paulsen) didn't say get the hell out of here. They shared some beers. That's an awful lot of reinforcement for a man who was desperate for intimacy," Dr. Reich said. "So there was a lot of reinforcement, and that is why he may not have done what a lot of other people would have done. Which is to take a hike."

In the late afternoon, Jonas chose to give his testimony to the jury, despite his defense attorneys' advice not to take the stand. In his testimony, Jonas talked about his tough time making friends in Des Moines - since moving to the area about a year prior to his struggle with Paulsen - and about the alleged unwanted sexual advance witnesses say he made on Paulsen a week prior to the incident in question.

In Jonas' version of the story, the encounter was mutual, and Paulsen never rejected it. Jonas told the jury, after that night, however, Paulsen ignored Jonas' attempts to talk to him. He admitted he had had several encounters with people similar to his in the past, and thought it best to let Paulsen know he was willing to move past it. The, "Get over it," text message he sent Paulsen - shown to the jury by th prosecution last week - was what Jonas said was his way of doing that.

Events leading up to the night the two fought were covered in Jonas' testimony today, but the defense will resume tomorrow as it questions him over the night Paulsen lost his life.

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