Friday, February 10, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Trial: Day 5

UPDATED 12:40 PM: Edited for spelling, clarity, errors.
8:20 AM
Arlene from the Public Information Office (PIO) tells me that for any evidence to be released, there first has to be a completed pleading from the media, then the judge rules on the pleading. If he rules to release the evidence, then the judge's clerk will contact the PIO. Released evidence exhibits is available at .50 cents a page. I plan on filling our a pleading for evidence to be released as soon as I get a copy of the forms I need to fill out.

8:34 AM:
Highlights from yesterday, February 9th, 2012.

One of the alternates, his wife is having surgery so court will be dark on Thursday, February 16th, 2012. Judge Perry tells the jurors he will not cover with your employer on that date.

Witness #13, William Moore, LAPD criminalist back in 1986. He collected evidence from Rasmussen’s BMW. He collected evidence from four locations in the vehicle. He did not observe any damage to the vehicle. He performed his evidence collection at the Van Nuys Station since there was rain threatening that day. The vehicle was towed to the Van Nuys Station. It did not appear to have been salvaged or stripped for parts. Before he started his investigation on the interior of the car, Mr. Ames conducted fingerprint testing on the exterior of the vehicle.

Swabbed the keys that were found in the ignition that appeared to have biological residue for evidence. He first performed a phenol test (for the presence of blood) and the response was “weak at best”.

More to come....

Swabbed a location on the driver side interior door handle. Phenol test came back positive for blood.

Swabbed a location on the top edge of the driver’s side door. Phenol test came back positive for blood.

Collected a brown fiber resembling human hair from the console between the two front seats. Collected at that time for human hair comparison.

Witness #14 Leona Thomas, retired LAPD Valley Traffic division. Recovered Rasmussen’s vehicle on March 7th, 1986. She completed a vehicle investigation report on the car. The vehicle was located near Zunbar and Cohassett streets at 8:15 at night. The vehicle appeared to be in good condition. Nothing appeared to be missing from the car (battery, stereo, etc.)

Witness #15 Alicia Ramirez, works as an evidence and property custodian for the LA County Coroner’s Office. She’s worked in the property room since 1987. She located the bite mark swab envelope. Today, she doesn’t remember much about looking for this piece of evidence. She did testify that she assisted her coworker Jackie in looking for the piece of evidence. She doesn’t remember if they looked together or separately. She did look for it for two full eight-hour days. She remembers that the front of the envelope was torn and that she could see a red cap through the hole in the envelope. When she found it, she called supervisor Dan Anderson and notified him of the envelope’s condition. She placed a clean sheet of butcher paper on the counter and laid the evidence on top. She observed Dan Anderson repackage the envelope in a new envelope. She started a new evidence log to document (via information on the envelope) when the item was collected, received so that the item could be signed out/released to LAPD.

Witness #17 Jackie Garcia Partida, worded as an evidence and property custodian for the LA County Corner’s Office. She does not remember much about looking for the envelope, only that Alicia found it.

Both witnesses custodian employees were thoroughly cross examined by Overland on department procedures and if they understood what “chain of custody” meant.

Witness #17 Dan Anderson, LA County Deputy Coroner and supervising criminalist. He’s been with the department since 1990 and a supervisor since 1995. He received a request from “Jennifer” at LAPD Serology Unit at the crime lab to locate a piece of evidence. On December 20th, 2004, He called the evidence/property department and put a request for the location of the bite mark swab evidence. The envelope was found two days later.

When he was notified of the condition of the envelope, he immediately went down to the department and repackaged the torn envelope in a new envelope so that it could be released to LAPD.

Anderson was cross examined extensively on his memory of what he did, what employees said to him at the time and policies and procedures of the Coroner’s Office for storing evidence and maintaining chain of custody.

10:30 AM Morning Break
Jennifer Francis returned to the stand this morning under direct examination. DDA Paul Nunez asked Francis if the photo of the torn bite mark swab envelope was in the same condition as depicted in the photograph when she received it.

Francis stated that the photograph up on the screen was taken before the preliminary hearing in December 2009. When she received the envelope, she removed the tube from the tear at the top of the envelope. She stated that the extra folded over flap we see in the image, she created. She made the hole bigger so that she could remove the tube. An image of the back side of the envelope was shown to her and she was asked if the bottom half of the envelope was liked that when she received it. She indicated no. She said that if it was like that, she would have noted that in her report. She also indicated that she returned the swab tube back to the envelope through the hole that she took it out of. This testimony implies that the bottom of the envelope could have opened up through that action.

Right after she testified to this, Judge Perry asked her several questions about the hole in the envelope and "how much" she might have increased it's size.

I don't know what the jury will make of this testimony. What I took away from this testimony is that the hole in the envelope was not as large as now seen in photographs. She testified she had to enlarge it to take out the tube through the hole. Also, that the bottom of the envelope did not appear to be open when she received it, which is different than it looks in the photographs taken in December 2009.

12:40 PM:
We heard from a few more witnesses out of order. One was an LAPD criminalist who took a "bucal swab" (inside the mouth) and head hair samples from Stephanie Lazarus after she was arrested at Parker Center in the jail area. Another LAPD officer testified they observed the collection of the DNA and hair fibers. We also heard from a DNA analyst who did a comparison of the "bite mark swab" DNA profile and compared it to the DNA collected off of the discarded cup and straw by Lazarus. Then, DNA analyst Jennifer Francis retook the stand. She did a comparison of the bucal swab collected from Lazarus while in custody to the bite mark evidence collected at the scene over 23 years before. The DNA profile came back with a match of one in 402.1 quadrillion individuals. Francis will be under cross examination in the afternoon session

2:44 PM:
I can only say that sitting through cross examination of a DNA expert on alleles, base pairs, ladders, quantification, PCR and the very detailed steps of each particular process, and what they mean, for some is like water torture. I don't have a particular problem with it, because each time I do learn something. Cross examinations however, can at times seem long and drawn out.


Susan said...

Why doesn't your site have a "donation" tab/opportunity? I'm sure lots of folks would like to help defray your costs.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is just is probably better than being there because you condense it all down for the reader..and frankly court cases can be a bit tedious. To me it is akin to watching the movie, rather than having to go through the process of seeing it made.

You sure have evolved into a star in the world of reporting...this is first case I have been able to follow, day by day, but I have read some of the other cases and was blown away..keep up the great work!

Francaise Canadien said...

Hi Sprocket,

"Judge Perry tells the jurors he will not cover with your employer on that date."

What does he mean by that. I am not sure I understand it properly. Thanks for the clarification.

I follow you on the radio. It was good but I do not know how you have time for all that. You must be good yourself. I agree with one of your reader who say, there should be a link that we should be able to contribute some thing to you because in my point of view, you do better job than other media coverrage.


Balcony said...

I confessed I became an addict to your blog a year ago, so much that I need constant trials to feed my addiction. Excellent job.

Sprocket said...


When court is not in session during a weekday, that does not give the jurors a day off from returning to work.

The court gives the jurors documentation that they are in court that the jurors in turn present to their employers. Their employers then, pay them their regular salary for their jury service.

So, when court is not in session during that day off, the court will not "cover them" for that day.