Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Trial: Day 6

UPDATED February 15th, 2012 7:10 PM for clarity, accuracy.

Sherri Rae Rasmussen, victim

As I come down the escalator to the train platform I see the train slowly taking off. I miss the 7:19 AM train. I don’t think I will be late to court, but I might not get into the courtroom first and get to pick out my spot.

When I see the train leave, I also realize that I left my phone in Mr. Sprocket’s charger in the White Whale Work truck. I will have no phone today. When I put it in the charger as we left the house I said to him, “Don’t let me forget it.” He responded with, “That’s your job.”

It’s 8:14 am and I finally get inside Department 104.

Note. I am working on detailed notes for Day 3, and I'm almost finished. I should have those posted sometime today, hopefully by lunch.

10:25 AM
We had a late start this morning due to late jurors. Alternate #4 was excused. More on that later. Mark Overland is getting into more detail of the DNA analysis with prosecution witness Jennifer Francis. It's very, very detailed.

12:21 PM
When I first arrived in the courtroom this morning, it was virtually empty. There was only one other reporter that I recognized. When court finally started, it was basically the victim's family in the second row and myself and Matthew in the first row. It wasn't until the afternoon break that more people showed up from the public and the press. Matthew was puzzled by the loss people. I explained that most reporters don't like to listen to all this DNA. Matt and I must be out of the norm because we are both fascinated by the DNA. I was able to follow most of what Overland was crossing the witness about when he was presenting her with documents and asking her what the reports were.

The elevator situation is horrible, trying to get off the 9th floor. I was hoping to get out of the building earlier so I could hit the Hallmark store in the underground shopping mall but it's too late. I wanted to update everyone.

LAPD DNA analyst Jennifer Francis is finally off the stand! After what felt like 20 hours of overtime in non-scoring game, Overland finished his very detailed cross examination and a short quick redirect began by DDA Paul Nunez. After that, there were a few more questions by Overland and then the witness was released.

Alternate #4 was released from the case this morning before testimony resumed. Outside the presence of the jury, Judge Perry first asked the parties if they would consider excusing Alternate #4 because it was his wife who was having surgery on Thursday. DDA Presby stated they could possibly work it back in, but the scheduling of witnesses might be an issue. I'm not positive of Overland's response. Then Judge Perry brings up another issue with this juror.

Judge Perry states that this juror approached the court reporter in the coffee room (This could have been the cafeteria, or it could be a room off the hallways behind the well of the court and where the jury room is.) and started chatting her up. He asked if there would be more DNA testimony because it was so boring. He also mentioned he was worried about his job and missing so much of work. Judge Perry didn't think the witness said anything too (untoward?) but still, he didn't like the fact that he approached a court staff member and started talking to her. So he felt that it would be best to excuse the juror so we could continue with court on Thursday.

Then Juror #7 raised her hand and said, that since they were told they would be off, she scheduled a much needed meeting with her work. I believe she is going to look into seeing if this meeting can be rescheduled. Judge Perry stated that if things can't be arranged, then we might schedule 1/2 day on Thursday.

Towards the end of the cross examination, several papers from the witness' work papers/file on the case dropped on the floor and went flying. You could see she wasn't very happy and appeared to be straining under the cross. We know that she had been ill and she didn't look like she had fully recovered.

A dark suited attorney stopped into Department 104 and sat in the back row. Before the morning break was over, she came by the front row and introduced herself to me, that she was an attorney, not affiliated with the case. She said she was fascinated by the case and thanked me for my detailed reports. If any of T&T's readers out there do decide to come down to court to sit in and experience the trial, please do not hesitate to stop by and say hello.

I'm going to spend the rest of my lunch out, trying to finish my detailed notes for Day 3. I'll try to post an update at the afternoon break.

2:41 PM
Afternoon break. We heard from #25 the forensic odontologist Cathy Fox, and #26 Milena Srbova, who picked up evidence destined to the serology lab from the coroner's office and booked it into evidence at LAPD crime lab. Although she picked up the evidence on December 30th, 2004, it was not officially booked (recorded) until January 20th, 2005. This appears to be because on that date, she picked up over 100 pieces of evidence from the coroner's office from several different cases and it took many days for her to book all this evidence.

While the evidence was in her control, items marked "swab" were kept in a walk in freezer until they were all booked. In that freezer she had a box labeled coroner's and only her items were kept in that box. This witnessed is finished and we took our break.

In the hallway I see that Steven Lazarus came up to and said a few words to Dateline producer Robert Dean. I didn't hear what was said.

6:05 PM
There was a problem with the trains. A mechanical problem with the track on the east bound trains into Union Station after Civic Center. I waited in the station over a half-hour for the next train to North Hollywood. For a while, I debated taking a surface bus but I don't know hardly anything about the buses from the Valley into downtown, so I waited with many other temporarily stranded and frustrated passengers. Then when I'm walking down my street and I get closer to home, I see the White Whale Work truck pulled partly in the driveway. Mr. Sprocket tells me that one of his shocks came loose. He didn't even get to the big project today. He's still working on it as I approached and he has several more hours of work. When it rains it pours for us. Once I get inside and comfortable (in my jammies), I can write a bit.

The last few witnesses for the day were #25 Cathy Law, consulting forensic dentist for the coroner's office. She could not compare the bite mark on the arm to anything, even though plaster impressions were made of it. There was not enough identifying indentations on the impression itself. #26 Milena Srbova, in 2003 to 2005 was working as a lab technician whose job duties were to pick up evidence from the coroner's on a weekly or every other week basis, (depending on how much there was to pick up) bring them back to the Serology Unit and book them into evidence.

On December 30th, 2004, she picked up the bite mark swab envelope, along with over one hundred pieces of evidence that day. It took her many days to book all those items into evidence. Items identified as "swabs" were kept in a walk in freezer in the Serology Unit. There was a box on a shelf labeled coroner's and her items she collected were kept in that box until they were all booked. The bite mark swab was booked into evidence on January 20th, 2005.

The last witness of the day was #27 Stacy Vanderschaaf, LAPD DNA analyst who packaged up a few pieces of evidence and sent them off to an independent lab SERI (for short) to be analyzed. One of the items she sent was the bite mark swab.

We almost heard from a retired LAPD officer, Mike Hargrieves, a former roommate of Lazarus' during the time she dated John Ruetten. Overland objected to calling the witness in the afternoon because the prosecution that morning handed him four pages of notes from a new interview with Hargrieves. Apparently, Hargrieves remembered some additional information. Judge Perry asked the prosecution "when" the witness gave them this statement with the additional information. The prosecution replied, "Sunday." Judge Perry wanted to know "why" Overland was just receiving it now. The prosecution stated there was a misunderstanding as to "who" was supposed to pass this information onto Overland, and they apologize to the court. Judge Perry ruled he would not let the prosecution spring this witness on Overland without the defense having the opportunity to go over the new statement before the witness testified. The prosecution will have to board this out-of-state witness overnight to testify first thing tomorrow morning.

Besides Hargrieves, the press expects that we will start getting some of the motive witnesses tomorrow.

I have Day Three's detailed notes finished, I just need to do a quick edit before I post them. I plan to get those up this evening, so keep checking back.


Victoria M said...

Thanks so much for your detailed account of the days activity in court. I feel like I am there with you. I look forward as do many of your readers to your blog.. I hope to make it to court tomorrow morning if I do I will say hi!

Kathy said...

Sprocket, you are a trooper. I'm sorry to hear about the truck. Hope both your vehicles are on the mend. Thanks for the trial updates.

Crickit said...

Thank you so much. Hope you get your car up and running soon! I will check back later tonight for day three.

NancyB said...

Hi Sprocket,

You wrote: "She could not compare the bite mark on the leg to anything, even though plaster impressions were made of it."

I thought that the bite was on the
forearm. Was there another bite on the leg?

Sprocket said...

Nancy B:

I miss typed! Thank you for the heads up! I'll correct my notes.

Anonymous said...

You are AMAZING! I feel as though I'm at the trial. Whew!

Your descriptions of Sherri are heartbreaking; that woman really suffered before she was killed!!! How could people be so heartless??!! I hope she gets what she deserves!!!! Lord have mercy!!!

Anonymous said...

How long do you think the trial will last?