Closing arguments are expected to wrap up today and given to the jury to decide in the Stephanie Lazarus murder trial.
Yesterday, defense attorney Mark Overland insinuated DDA’s Presby and Nunez influenced the testimony of several prosecution witness, including Detective James Nuttall, who along with several other Van Nuys Division detectives was instrumental in solving the cold case.
Nuttall, was one of the last witnesses called by the defense in their case in chief. After a recess in the middle of his testimony last week, Overland questioned Nuttall if he had any conversations with the prosecutor and if the prosecutor told him what to say on the stand regarding his memory of what a specific evidence item was on a hand written list he created of the collected evidence. Nuttall confirmed that DDA Nunez reminded him what evidence item #16 was, a GSR kit taken from the blanket found in the home.
Overland told the jurors they could not trust the testimony of these witness as well as the testimony of LAPD Robbery Homicide Detectives’ Stearns and Jaramillo because they lied to the defendant in an effort to trap her in that interview.
This morning, I almost left the house without a notepad. Mr. Sprocket had to drive back to the house. I’m currently on the 9th Floor. I’ll have an update at the noon hour.
UPDATE 10:09 AM: Mark Overland has finished his closing argument. We are on the morning break. The courtroom is packed to the gills. DDA Presby will present the final rebuttal argument. He is expect to speak for a little over an hour. Then the jurors will be read the jury instructions by Judge Perry and handed the case.
Next update at the noon hour.
UPDATE 12:45 PM In the morning session, Overland presented a thorough review of every piece of evidence in the case and what conclusions the jury should come to regarding that evidence. Overland pointed out the various pieces of DNA evidence that indicated more than one DNA profile and asked the jurors, "Don't you want to know who that was or where that came from?"
In his rebuttal argument, DDA Presby stressed to jurors that conclusions about circumstantial evidence had to be reasonable before you can accept a particular theory. Presby went over every conclusion the defense presented and followed the logic down to a particular conclusion, ending point with, "Is it circumstantial? Is it believable? Is it true?" Presby told the jurors that not one single piece evidence by itself points to the defendant, but it was the totality of the evidence that overwhelming proves Stephanie Lazarus killed Sherri Rasmussen.
UPDATE 4:00 PM The jury started deliberating at 2:35 PM. That's when they first entered the jury room. They didn't actually do a "buzz" to indicate the start of deliberations.
They stopped deliberating at 3:55 PM.
Deliberations begin tomorrow at 9:00 AM.
UPDATE 6:01 PM It was during the reading of jury instructions, that I realized that the jurors will get the option to choose between first and second degree murder. It’s just the way the law is written in California. The charge is specifically 187, murder and it can be in the first or second degree.
It was explained to me today that there are weeks and weeks of law school that are spent understanding just this specific penal code and what constitutes first degree or second degree murder. It’s not something that could be explained to me in five minutes. The official guilty verdict forms give the jurors the option to choose between which degree of murder they feel the evidence proves.
With that being said, the facts of this case do show that whomever committed this murder, it was done with “malice aforethought”, as first degree murder is described in the statute. The specific evidence that proves first degree: the blanket wrapped around the gun; the GSR barrel cylinder gap residue and the bullet holes in the blanket; the contact wound “kill shot” that Dr. Selser described as the muzzle of the gun being right up next to the skin, or pressed up against clothing.
In his rebuttal closing, DDA Presby took every suggestion or supposition the defense raised about each piece of evidence presented and systematically deconstructed the arguments and suppositions and suggestions. Presby then asked the jurors to apply the law of Occam’s razor to the totality of the evidence.
One could say, (depending on how you see the evidence) Presby hit a home run with his rebuttal, not only in his delivery but in the logic and basic reason of the arguments themselves. The question is, will the jury see the evidence that way, or will they see it as Overland presented it?
I just got home. I will answer comment questions then I’ll be spending a short amount of time house cleaning. Then tonight, I’ll be finishing up Overland’s argument from Day 1 as Part III. Wednesday, I'll work on Tuesday's arguments.
Those of you who know my prior trial reporting, I’m dedicated to a case to the finish. I sit on jury watch and report on the amount of time the jurors spend deliberating. I also report as soon as I can, if or when a verdict has been reached.
I made an inquiry with the court if I could work on my laptop while Judge Perry was off the bench. That request was denied, so unfortunately I won’t be reporting directly from the courtroom on this case. I will however, the moment something happens with the jury, step outside to update T&T, so tomorrow, please keep checking back for updates throughout the day. I’ll also answer questions if I can at the noon break.
The other news is, Judge Perry has agreed to let the media film the reading of the verdict when one is reached. However, he will not let that taping be transmitted “live.” NBC is the network that will have the “pool” camera in the courtroom.
Again, thank you one and all, for reading T&T. Sprocket.
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