Published on August 15, 2018
John Knospler served with the Marine Corps for eight (8) years, to include three combat tours with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Force Reconnaissance Company, and 1st Special Operations Training Group. John Knospler received an honorable discharge and afterward, he went into contracting work in Africa.
In October 2013, John was invited out to a veteran-sponsored hunting trip with friends and family to Keeline, Wyoming. Mr. Knospler's family reported that he wanted to use a camera instead of a firearm because "he didn't like to kill".
On October 3rd, John Knospler went to a club called "Racks" in Casper, Wyoming. According to Mr. Knospler, rather than drive drunk, he decided to sleep in his car.
It is undisputed that shortly after midnight on October 4, 2013, John Knospler was seated in the driver's seat of his mother's 2008 Chevrolet Cobalt automobile ("2008 Cobalt") in the parking lot of Racks Gentleman's Club, Casper, Wyoming. It was snowing and the temperature hovered near 30 degrees. The 2008 Cobalt was covered with a 3 to 5 inch blanket of heavy wet snow. Mr. Knospler had been alone in this vehicle since he was told to leave Racks at about 10:30 pm on October 3, 2013.
At approximately 12:08 am, Mr. Knospler became aware that someone was yelling and pounding on the passenger side window of the 2008 Cobalt. Mr. Knospler could not get a clear view of this individual because of the snow covering his windows and darkness in the parking lot. Mr. Knospler knew of no one who had any reason to seek entry to his vehicle and did not recognize this individual. Other portions of expert testimony state there was no interaction between them in the establishment.
Mr. Knospler started the car with the intention of leaving the area. He turned on his wipers to clear the snow covering his windshield. As he tried to drive away, he saw a large individual in front of his vehicle pounding on his hood, demanding that he stop. The person was visibly agitated and aggressive. As shown by the vehicle tracks in the snow, the 2008 Cobalt moved forward a little over seven feet. Mr. Knospler stopped and backed up to his original parking position.
Due to a recent motorcycle accident, Mr. Knospler is unable to get involved in a physical altercation. His doctor at the VA in San Diego - La Jolla stated that he would permanently lose function of his arm if he sustained any further damage.
Mr. Knospler retrieved his 1911 Army .45 caliber Nighthawk pistol (".45 Nighthawk") from a small black duffle bag on the passenger's seat. While in the process of finding the pistol, he then heard someone yelling and pounding on the driver's side window of the 2008 Cobalt. He could not see this individual because of the snow covering his window and darkness. It was Mr. Knospler's belief based on the events of the preceding seconds that he was surrounded by at least three individuals demanding entry into his vehicle and they intended to do him serious bodily harm, or death.
In fact, it was a single individual, Mr. James "Kade" Baldwin, who left Racks thinking that he was being picked up by his brother. It was undisputed that Mr. Baldwin initiated the first contact at the passenger side of the 2008 Cobalt and was unsuccessful in gaining entry. This was observed by one of the bouncers at Racks.
Mr. Baldwin during this encounter moved to the front which prevented the 2008 Cobalt from leaving. Mr. Baldwin moved to the driver's side and it appears he used his left arm to scrape snow off of the hood of the 2008 Cobalt. The Racks internal surveillance video established that the total time from when Mr. Baldwin was observed exiting the Racks front door until Mr. Knospler was seen driving past the front door was approximately 2 minutes and 9 seconds.
Mr. Baldwin punched out his window, and began attacking Mr. Knospler. During the struggle, Mr. Knospler shot Mr. Baldwin and was then able to drive away in order to retreat from the attack to a safe location. Mr. Knospler stated that he "vaguely recalled the location of local police station from earlier that day and headed in that direction". Mr. Knospler was pulled over one block from the police station.
The case was tried locally. Mr. John Knospler was found guilty of 2nd degree murder and sentenced to 30-50 years in prison.
A direct appeal was filed by the original trial attorneys. The only errors alleged were related to evidentiary rulings made by the trial judge. The Wyoming Supreme Court denied this first and only appeal.
As a matter of law, where the same lawyers represent a defendant on direct appeal, they cannot allege their own ineffective assistance or matters outside the existing trial record. As a result, this direct appeal did not include matters related to exculpatory information not disclosed by the State, nor ineffective assistance of counsel.
Mr. Knospler's current attorneys filed a motion for post-conviction relief based primarily on ineffective assistance of the original trial attorneys. This motion was dismissed without prejudice for procedural reasons. It is being amended to include new matters prejudicial to Mr. Knospler's constitutional right to a fair trial and a second more detailed motion will be filed in the near future. In addition, current counsel filed a motion for DNA testing of the firearm and spent cartridge. Mr. Knospler was seeking irrefutable evidence showing that epithelial cells (skin) from Mr. Baldwin was deposited on these items during a struggle for control of the firearm. Any deposit of such epithelial cells could only be AFTER Mr. Baldwin broke the side window and cause the jam by obstructing the ejection port. The district court denied the DNA motion and a petition for review is pending before the Wyoming Supreme Court.
FULL REPORT by John Daily - Click Here
In February 2014, John Stensaas of the Natrona County Attorney's Office requested the expert assistance of John Daily in performing an analysis based on the forensic evidence to better understand what had transpired during the seconds before Mr. Baldwin was shot. Mr. Stensaas was personally present during Mr. Daily's re-enactments performed in May 2014 to determine the position of Mr. Baldwin at the time the shot was fired.
The near horizontal positioning of Mr. Baldwin's torso at the time of the shot can be accurately determined by the location of the entrance and exit wound determined by Dr. Carver at time of autopsy, the bullet track through the body, and bullet impact defect on the Ford pickup truck 48 ¾" above the ground as represented below.
The maximum distance Mr. Baldwin could have been from the 2008 Cobalt driver's side window can be determined from the footprints in the Racks crime scene photos. The bullet track establishes that Mr. Baldwin was bent at the waist as shown above at the time of the fatal shot, either outside the window under the State's theory or partially inside the window after it had been broken under the Defense theory.
From the crime scene photos and autopsy findings, under the State's theory of an "intact" driver's side window, Mr. Baldwin's face would have been within 6 to 8" of the window with his right lower jaw within 1-2" of the bullet track to hit the entrance wound and damage to the T-shirt. No glass fragments were found in Mr. Baldwin's eyes, nose, or face at the time of the autopsy.
There were significant scratches to his upper right arm and right hand consistent with punching the window with hitting the window with his fist and scraping the right arm while struggling with Mr. Knospler partially within the vehicle.
In the report commissioned by the Natrona County Attorney's Office, Mr. Daily recommended that an actual shooting re-enactment take place:
"A 230 grain .45 caliber FMJRN bullet fired from inside the passenger compartment would be directing all of its impact force toward the outside of the vehicle. The transit time through the glass for this bullet at a muzzle velocity of about 800 feet per second would be on the order of 0.00006 to .00007 seconds. In addition, the applied force, while relatively large, is concentrated in a very small area. Because of the inertial properties of the glass that would be penetrated, there is only a small amount of glass that could have been projected outward during the transit of the bullet. Absent other forces, it is not unusual for the bulk of a tempered glass window that has been penetrated by a bullet to remain essentially in place except for the region immediately in contact with the bullet. I recommended this shooting test be done in this case, but it has not been carried out as of this writing. If the glass collapsed on the driver's side window after the passage of the bullet, some would likely have fallen to the outside of the Cavalier, with the remainder of the glass being inside the passenger compartment very near the driver's side. It would not have been scattered so widely throughout the passenger compartment."
Mr. Stensaas left the Natrona County Attorney's Office in part because of his disagreement regarding proceeding with the prosecution of Mr. Knospler for murder based upon the actual evidence. Mr. Blonigen took over as lead attorney, rejected Daily's findings, and did not commission or conduct any second re-enactment using the 2008 Cobalt or .45 Nighthawk in their possession. The State did not call Mr. Daily.
The State presented its theory based on forensic expert opinion testimony, primarily through Steve Norris of the Wyoming Crime Laboratory. Mr. Norris testified on direct examination that he used gunshot residue testing in an attempt to determine the "distance" from the firearm to Mr. Baldwin's T-shirt or the existence of an intervening object (window) as follows:
While GSR testing can be a useful tool in an investigation, there are serious limitations as evidence at trial without conducting actual experiments that reproduce the facts at the crime scene. In 2011, the FBI issued a bulletin on "The Current Status of GSR Examinations" stating that:
"Gunshot residue particles can be removed easily from the surfaces they land on. Regular activities, such as putting hands in pockets, rubbing hands together, or handling items, can wipe them away. The washing of hands can remove most, if not all, particles. Rates of loss vary widely with the activity of the subject. Depending on conditions and activity, particles may be removed from a shooter's hands within 4 to 5 hours after a shooting event"
The FBI cited to articles in support of this finding, to wit, J.W. Kilty, "Activity After Shooting and Its Effect on the Retention of Primer Residue," Journal of Forensic Sciences 20, no. 2 (April 1975), and Calloway, Jones, Loper, Nesbitt, and Wolten, 49-51; and D.L Exline and A.J. Schwoeble, Current Methods in Forensic Gunshot Residue Analysis (New York, NY: CRC Press, 2000).
Mr. Norris ignored the unique and unusual environmental factors associated with the crime scene, particularly that Mr. Baldwin was only wearing a T-shirt under wet/snowing conditions at the time of the shooting, fell face down into a slushing snow mixture, was physically turned over while others attempted resuscitation efforts, had his T-shirt pulled up around his neck by the EMTs, remained on his back exposed to the elements for an extended period of time, and then was covered with a tarp and remained in the parking lot in the slushy surface until removed for the autopsy several hours later.
Mr. Norris' testimony was misleading, unreliable, and scientifically false, unless it was supported by actual experiments using the .45 Nighthawk firing a 230 grain slug directly at a similar T-shirt soaked in water placed over a mannequin torso to simulate the conditions on October 4, 2013, involving possible scenarios. These experiments could and should have been performed using the .45 Nighthawk into a T-shirt draped mannequin torso, 1) through the window to act as an intervening object, 2) through a partially damaged window, and 3) through a fully closed window of the 2008 Chevy Cobalt. After the shot, the mannequin torso must then be dropped into a slushy snow mixture for approximately a minute, turned over, the T-shirt pull up to simulate the resuscitative measures by Racks personnel and EMTs, and then allow the mannequin torso with the T-shirt to remain back down in a rain/snow mixture for several hours.
There was fractured glass all along the dash, the center console, passenger seat, and even in the passenger side door when seized by law enforcement within 8 minutes of the shooting. Mr. Norris testified on direct examination regarding the way the glass was dispersed in Mr. Knospler's 2008 Chevy Cobalt as follows:
NOTE: It is not true that what happens is "anybody's guess." The initial impact will cause the entire window to "stretch" on the backside until the bullet punches out a cone-sized piece of glass. The bullet will then continue through the hole. In the case of tempered glass, there will then be concentric fractures radiated from the hole creating the fracture effect or "dicing".
NOTE: The .45 pistol will have a muzzle velocity that is extremely slow, between 800 to 900 fps. The "stopping" power of the .45 is because it is a heavier slug. Most SWAT sniper rifles will have a muzzle velocity of 2500 to 2800, but can go as high as 3500 fps. The reference to the effect of "high velocity" bullets is meaningless and misleading in the context of the facts in this case.
Mr. Norris' testimony and opinion was inconsistent with established principles of physical science. Every bullet shot from a firearm and window struck by the bullet are subject to Newton's Laws which state:
Glass is an amorphous solid and does not have a crystalline structure. It will "stretch" when subject to an external force until it breaks apart. This is true for tempered glass as well as traditional window pane glass.
Mr. Norris' claim that there was scientific support for the "counterintuitive" hypothesis that the window shattered and spread the broken pieces towards the moving bullet flies in the face of Newton's Second and Third Laws. He did not identify any scientific principles or perform any experiments using the .45 Nighthawk and the 2008 Chevy Cobalt establishing the scientific validity of this purported phenomenon.
In point of fact, what really happens is that at the moment the tip of the bullet hits the glass it pushes the glass and creates a pressure wave (just like a sound wave in air, but faster because it is traveling through a solid object) that radiates in a circular pattern from the bullet hole within the glass. The speeds of this pressure wave in air is based on altitude, temperature, and air pressure and subject to Hook's Law as often expressed as c = (E / ?)1/2 where E = bulk modulus elasticity (Pa, psi) and ? = density (kg/m3, lb/ft3). This same formula applies to glass.
As part of the post-conviction investigation by new counsel, Larry Barksdale was retained and conducted six re-enactments of the State's theory regarding the window being up at the time the .45 Nighthawk was discharged from inside/out and killed Mr. Baldwin . These re-enactments were initially for the purpose of showing that the dispersal of the glass within the vehicle was inconsistent with the State's theory. However, as can often happen under these circumstances there were new discoveries found that disproves the State's theory.
NOTE: The defense obtained release of the 2008 Chevrolet, Cobalt, 4dr, blue, EMR 7851 (Pennsylvania) involved in the November 4, 2013 shooting on June 27, 2017, and it was used for all re-enactments. A Ruger SR 1911 model .45 caliber semi-auto and Kimber model 1911 .45 cal. Semi-auto were used. The actual Nighthawk Custom, 1911 style, 45 caliber, semi-automatic pistol, serial number NC00439 (suspect firearm) involved in the original shooting is still in State custody and not available to the defense.
Based on the results of these six re-enactments, it would follow that the glass found on the dash came from the force of Mr. Baldwin breaking the window with his fist/shoulder from the outside/in BEFORE the shot was fired. In NONE of the re-enactments was there anything similar to what was found at the time of the shooting.
During these six re-enactments, there was a new and unexpected finding regarding the way that tempered glass would break when a .45 was shot from the inside/out as theorized by the State.
In EVERY one of the six defense re-enactments, there was a 5-6 inch diameter circle of broken glass driven outward. This circle was not the small, rectangular squares as testified to by Mr. Norris at trial, but long, dagger shape shards. They were stable and not easily broken.
Glass from Rack's parking lot was collected and offered at Ex B1 at the trial. This glass that would have been the result of an inside/out shot did NOT have any of the dagger shaped shards found in all six of the defense re-enactments. This exhibit which is in the custody of the court was photographed in July 2018. There are absolutely no distinctive dagger shards present.
After the trial, the members of the Jury were all interviewed. There were significant concerns within members of the Jury. One of the concerns was Mr. Blonigen's connection to the Foreman of the Jury, Kevin D. Huber.
During the Jury selection process, Huber admitted to working with Mr. Blonigen's wife at the law firm of Williams, Porter, Day & Neville, PC in Casper. Huber and Mr. Blonigen live in the same neighborhood, and work within the same community and profession.
Huber had his experience listed on http://wpdn.net - his old employer, where he worked with
Mr. Blonigen's wife. That information had since been taken down.
The website Zoominfo listed his bio and experience, which was pulled from the law firm of Williams, Porter, Day & Neville website.
During Voir Dire on 12/15/2014, Huber states "I've not done criminal defense"
These were complaints from the Jury member concerning Mr. Huber. Additionally, the Jury's last instruction was to only consider two words: Maliciously and Purposefully. The Jury did not base their decision on the Guide Lines of the American Bar Association requirement of "beyond a reasonable doubt"
Another concern with the Jury was that Mr. Baldwin's Criminal history was not allowed into the court
Mr. James "Kade" Baldwin's death, unfortunate as it may be, is preceded with a history of criminal charges.
The DA claimed Mr. Baldwin was a good man, and was just out to drink. On the night of the incident, Mr. Baldwin was recently out of jail and scheduled to be back in court facing more jail time for a DUI charged just weeks prior.
Mr. Blonigen's office requested one (1) report in Mr. Baldwin's criminal record: CR-09-197-R
Mr. Blonigen stated "Mr. Baldwin was convicted of entering a series of unlocked cars as I recall. That resulted in one conviction of several counts of auto burglary. To caste it as 18 priors is horribly inaccurate. This is not admissible under the rules of evidence. He did have one minor assault conviction and the Jury heard that".
Mr. Baldwin's records show a different story in addition to the "one conviction of several counts of auto burglary [and] .one minor assault conviction"
Mr. Baldwin was also a known and convicted drug user.
Michael Cooper was involved in a shooting and the conviction was reversed for ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) by the Wyoming Supreme Court on March 12, 2014.
This is very interesting because the IAC hearing was held before Judge Sullins in Casper, Wyoming several months before and he was then reversed in the denial of Post-Conviction relief.
This case is very similar in facts to Mr. Knospler's case.
Mr. Blonigen certainly would have been involved in some manner.
Cooper and Knospler case Time Line:
Assistant DA Josh Stensaas contacted John Daily in February 2014 per Daily's report. They met in person concerning Mr. Knospler's case.
John Daily did the re-creation using the 2008 Cobalt was on May 2, 2014 (per the metadata file to the re-enact photos). Detective Ellis and Trooper Sawdon participated. It is indicated in one report that the assistant DA Mr. Josh Stenaas was personally present as well.
John Daily's completed report is date July 12, 2014. However, they knew the results informally on May 2, 2014.
In August 2014, Cooper pled guilty to two MISDEMEANORS and got credit for time served. It would have been normal for Mr. Blonigen to have approved this deal as the District Attorney. LINK
During the course of this investigation, evidence was uncovered that should have been included in the trial. It is clear that the evidence commissioned by the District Attorney's office was very damaging to the State's case; if not making the state's theory null-and-void all together.
There are serious concerns of impropriety on behalf of the DA, starting with the assistant DA, Mr. Josh Stensaas refusing to prosecute based off the evidence, followed by his removal from the case and continued by his departure from the DA's office.
Another serious concern is Mr. Blonigen's refusal to use the evidence (John Daily's Report) commissioned by his office. This is a serious concern, as the DA had evidence of Mr. Knospler's innocence and refused to use it.
Mr. Steve Norris from the Wyoming Crime Laboratory testified to hypothetical questions and no reconstruction was completed. The State presented its theory based on forensic expert OPINION testimony. Mr. Norris admitted he had not seen the crime scene photos, crime scene reports, nor the rolled up soaking wet tee-shirt with the GSR that he used to base his opinion.
Mr. Norris' testimony and opinion was inconsistent with established principles of physical science. After the case, Mr. Steve Norris was fired for drug use.
It should not be without mention Mr. Blonigen's connection to the Foreman of the Jury. Mr. Huber mislead his experience in criminal and civil litigation - which he denied during Voir Dire. This alludes to the fears of "stacking the Jury" and "Jury tampering". At its best, this has the appearance of impropriety.
Mr. Stensaas, along with Mr. Daily, knew the importance of testing the GSR on Mr. Baldwin. This importance ceased when Mr. Blonigen took over the case.
There were inconsistencies with prosecution's witness testimonies, where multiple witnesses changed their story after meeting with the prosecutor. The bouncer, for example, testified that he witnessed the entire incident, even though the bar's camera's photos clearly disproved his testimony. Regardless, the false testimony was allowed as evidence.
Mr. Blonigen claimed Mr. Baldwin was a good man, and was just out to drink, that Mr. Baldwin was "a Happy Drunk". Mr. Baldwin, the night of the incident, was recently out of jail and scheduled to be back in court and would soon be facing more jail time from a DUI charge.
If we look at the timeline of the Michael Cooper Reversal, which was weeks prior to Mr. Knospler's incident, the results of John's re-enactment weren't going well for the State. It is easy to see how Mr. Blonigen could have seen the handwriting on the wall, with Cooper's reversal, as the evidence shows Mr. Blonigen didn't want to use John Daily's report.
The tenor of the case law discussing the role of prosecutors makes clear that prosecutors are held to the highest standard because of their unique powers and responsibilities. A prosecutor has a higher duty to assure that justice is served.
A prosecutor's duty to conform his behavior to the law does not arise solely out of his status as an attorney. As an officer charged with administration of the law, his own behavior has the capacity to bolster or damage public esteem for the judicial system, different from that of attorneys otherwise in practice. 
A prosecutor's responsibility to enforce the laws in his judicial district grants him no license to ignore those laws or the ode of Professional Responsibility.
Prosecutors held to higher standard for ethical violations. '[A]n attorney who is a public official is held to a high standard of conduct because of his or her (1) professional and (2) public trustee responsibilities.'  "Lawyer insensitivity to ethical impropriety [or perceived ethical impropriety] is one of the primary sources of this lack of public confidence in the Bar. The problem is exacerbated when ethical violations are committed by an attorney holding an important public office." ' 
Mr. Blonigen should have refrained from prosecuting a charge that he knew was not supported by the evidence. He should not have engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, deceit, and misrepresentation.
It is my belief, based solely on the evidence, that Mr. Blonigen engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice. Mr. Knospler did not receive a fair trial. A vast majority of the evidence used against Mr. Knospler was knowingly false and misleading testimony and scientifically flawed evidence. It is clear that there was participation in the creation or preservation of evidence that was obviously false.
In my experience, these same actions on other cases have received actions of prosecutorial misconduct, tampering with evidence, unethical conduct based upon deceitful conduct, and obstruction of Justice, as well as others.
Wyoming Law: W.S. § 6-5-107 defines the crime of "official misconduct" if a public servant, "with intent to . . . maliciously to cause harm to another, he knowingly, . . . (ii) Refrains from performing a duty imposed upon him by law; or (iii) Violates any statute relating to his official duties." See also, Haskell v. State, 2018 WY 85, S-17-0294 (decided Aug 1, 2018); Bohling v. State, 388 P.3d 502 (Wyo 2017).
 In Re Roche 540 N.E.2d 36 (Ind. 1989).
 People v. Reichman, 819 P.2d 1035 (Colo. 1991 )
 177 W.Va. at 288, 352 S.E.2d at 38.
 177 W.Va. at 289, 352 S.E.2d at 38. (Emphasis added) ." 181 W.Va. at 265, 382 S.E.2d at 318.
FULL REPORT 156 Page Report by Investigator - Click Here
John needs our help. He has filed for an appeal through the Wyoming state supreme court but his appeal was denied and his options are running out. He has exhausted his life savings and is in need of financial support to continue this fight. His case received some coverage from the local media, however, it has received little attention outside of Wyoming.
We need to generate awareness and make this a widespread issue on a national scale. With all of the ridiculous stories in the media, this should be on everyone's radar.
We need anyone with connections to media outlets, government officials, and / or legal expertise to join us and shine a light on John's story.
This is a clear example of injustice to a decorated combat veteran acting in self-defense. With your help, we can bring John home. Thank you.
Sign the Petition to Governor Mead
If you have time, please call or write Wyoming Governor Mead (http://governor.wyo.gov/contact-us) and ask for a pardon or a commuting of John's sentence.
Take a look at the link below to see evidence files:
Defense page: http://www.johnjr.knospler.com/webver2/index.html
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