Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Trial: Closing Arguments Day II, Part III

The Three B's. DDA Shannon Presby
© Thomas Broersma thomasbroersma AT

Continuing with my commitment to bring T&T readers the complete closing arguments. Sprocket.

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012 Closing Arguments Continued

At 10: 24 AM Judge Perry tells the clerk, “Bring the jury out.”

DDA Shannon Presby gets up to address the jury.

I also want to thank all of you for being here a long time. In jury selection there were a lot of jurors who got out of service... (snip) Some of them were true; some of them pushed the limit.

But not one of you because you answered the questions truthfully and you didn’t work too hard to get away. (It’s) very important that Stephanie Lazarus get a fair trial. (It’s) very important that Stephanie Lazarus get (a fair jury?).

(At the beginning of this trial I told you this case was about) a bite, a bullet, a gun barrel and a broken heart. I told you that evidence (would show?) Stephanie Lazarus murdered Sherri Rasmussen. That was true when I told you (then?) (even more true today?)....

There’s nothing that’s been presented that shows a reasonable doubt ... (snip)... The defendant has failed to provide a reasonable explanation (as to?) how did her DNA get on Sherri Rasmussen. ... a reasonable explanation (why her?) gun disappeared right after the crime..... a reasonable explanation for the fact that Sherri Rasmussen was killed with LAPD bullets.... a reasonable explanation as to why she (died?)..... (and?) who had a motive...

What does that mean, reasonable explanation, reasonable doubt? In the defense (closing argument?) he committed an error in analysis and he committed it over and over again. Let’s look at one marker...just loci D5, let’s look at that...

What did witnesses tell you over and over again? You have to look at the whole profile....everything... the DNA proves.... and it’s that same error in analysis that he wants you to repeat.

He’s saying, that’s fluff and that’s filler...don’t look at that... (snip) and that’s what jury instruction (220) tells you. You must consider all evidence, not (just) one piece of it.

(The defense) called it filler and fluff. There’s another word that described the bullet and the gun, it’s corroboration.

From the human heart to DNA shows only one person committed this crime, the DNA of the killer. But let’s talk about some (specifics?)...

The gun. Every physical attribute of the defendant’s gun matches the murder weapon (of the?) defendant.

Murder weapon was a revolver. (Defendant’s gun was a revolver.)
Murder weapon had five (lands and groves with a) right twist. (Defendant’s gun had 5 right twists.)
The bullets had five right twists.
Murder weapon had a five shot capacity.
Five shots were fired.
And the murder weapon had a short, 2-inch barrel, just like the defendant’s gun.

What about the 1 7/8” verses 2”? There are variances in the model of the gun. When you look at (the) blanket photo, (image of gun laid on the barrel cylinder gap discharge on the blanket).....

Whether 1 7/8, 1 9/8, 1 10/11 or 2 inches, it matched this gun! That gun matched (the barrel cylinder gap discharge) when laid on the blanket.

Patricia Fant (Defense witness #6) said this gun could have been a 3-inch barrel! Could it have been? No way!

The defense made a lot of accusations that the prosecution misled (you?) (but the truth is the defense did just that)... Here’s the evidence of it right here.

The gun. The gun (went) missing. (That’s a) pretty big coincidence that the gun that matches the murder weapon in so many ways.

Presby then goes over the story she told the Santa Monica Police verses what she told Mike Hargreaves (Prosecution #28). What did she tell Santa Monica? What did she tell Mike Hargreaves? When people lie about one thing, you distrust them about another. That Santa Monica Police report is a lie. The only thing that report proves is she reported it.

(Remember back during jury questioning, we talked about questions that matter and questions that don’t. We talked about taking your regular route and your alternate, backup route and the information you needed to decide which route to take.) Presby goes over the questions that are important (when deciding when to take your alternate route). Some questions aren’t important. What’s playing on the radio; the car in front of you.

The defense said the prosecution’s theory is the defendant then went over to Sherri’s house planning on killing her. We never said that and we’re never going to say that.

(The defense said the prosecution’s theory is) she went over there planning on killing her. We never said that. Was she going over there (to kill?) Was she going to tie her keep the pressure on the marriage and confront Sherri? Was she going over there just to sneak around the apartment? We don’t know. It’s a question you don’t have to answer.

Who killed (Sherri)? (Was it?) the defendant, and the moment she chose to kill her, did she make a conscious decision to kill her? On the jury form there’s no question about what she was thinking. That’s a trick, a defense trick and it’s really common.

It’s like a DUI. Was the person driving and were they drunk. Does it matter what lane and where they’re going? Who (who’s car? cares?) doesn’t matter. Just like there are many questions that will never be answered in this case.

The gun - disappeared right after. (She) never reports it to her own department, LAPD.... who (she?) knows that lists every firearm and (she must) present any new firearm for inspection to meet the special requirements (for her to carry).

The defense (said) she reported it to Santa Monica so that means she knew (she was reporting it to AFS). BS! We heard about that system. You have to make a query to it. That’s a lie, (L+G?) one of the deceptions the defense tried to fill you with.

Another thing that’s consistent with the defendant’s firearm and that’s the imprint on Sherri Rasmussen’s eye. Presby goes over the too-mark imprint on Rasmussen’s body.

Another one of the characteristics that is the same as the defendant’s gun.

Presby goes onto speculate that: Maybe she just forgot (to notify LAPD the weapon was stolen). But you know, that doesn’t really fly. March 16th, 1986. Right after... three weeks, ten days or so (after she) reported the weapon stolen, she’s at the LAPD armory, she’s physically present and she presented her new weapon she purchased to the armory (for inspection and modification).

(So at the armory) he’s got the card (listing all the weapons she’s purchased), writing down the new gun. She doesn’t say, ‘You might want to cross that (oher) gun out because it got stolen.’

Is that reasonable and is it true? (The circumstantial evidence jury instruction) explains if there are two reasonable explanations... if they both are reasonable. That’s what reasonable doubt means.... reasonable.

The defense explanation about the firearm is a coincidence upon a coincidence upon a coincidence. It just happened to get stolen. I just happened to tell something different than I (told my friend about my?) stolen my firearm.

In 1986, the best information detectives had was fingerprints and guns. They didn’t have DNA. The defendant knew that. Ms. Fant (Defense #6, Patricia Fant) said microscopic analysis of firearms goes back years. Get the bullet, get the gun and then match (them). The defendant knew this so (she) had a powerful motive to get the gun to disappear.

Is it a coincidence?
Is it believable?
Is it true?

The defendant’s journal. (We’ve) seen a lot of entries, and to be candid, they are banal in the extreme. Restaurants, donut shops, cutie guys. But what does she leave out? I’m a cop and my gun got stolen? Oh the irony. (There’s) nothing about (the gun being) stolen, about making a report, (or) getting a new back-up weapon. And the one thing that happened to you, you conveniently leave it out?

Not fluff. Not filler. It’s fact. It’s corroboration who committed this crime.

The bullets. The defense says it’s just fluff and filler. Is it? In 1986, the LAPD was required to use these type of bullets. (Federal 38J +P) 125 grain. Not maybe they had to use. And these bullets have these unique hoof shaped notch. Mr. Rubin (Prosecution witness #51 Daniel Rubin) looked at those (and he’s?) never seen any other (bullets have that hoof shape?). Mr. Rubin says these are the (Federal brand) bullets. Not consistent with. Not maybe, are.

Presby talks about how Rubin went to the plant with Stearns and saw the machine that imprints the crimp hoof shape on the bullets and cartridges.

The bullet that killed Sherri Rasmussen are these 38 J bullets. At some point those bullets became available to the general public. That’s true and we can’t date when they became available. But what what we know, in 1986, all LAPD officers carried this type of bullets.

By themselves, do they prove (guilt?) No. But it’s one more piece of evidence that outlines the (proof) of this (case?). It’s one fact along with all the others who killed Sherri Rasmussen. It’s not fluff. It’s fact.

The gun disappeared and by the way, the bullets are the same kind. Coincidence upon coincidence upon coincidence. Is it believable? Is it true?

Go back to what the defense said (about) six bullets that were fired. Two through the plate glass window. Three fired into Sherri and one was a contact. And his argument for this (is), the coroner said (the weapon) had to be in contact with the body or cloth. Well we know it was (in contact) with the clothing. We know that contact wound (was in contact with fabric?) I’m going to make sure.... the colored robe folded over.

(The front of the robe, the lapel, was folded over and the contact wound bullet went through two layers of fabric and still left an imprint of a contact wound on Sherri's skin . Sprocket.)

Is it also so difficult to believe it (the bullet) also went through the snuggy (blanket)? The short barrel revolver is an explosive event out of that firearm. More power; more energy, more blast.

Assume there were six bullets. Two through the glass window and three... (snip) Only two went into Sherri (?) Where’s the other bullet? Where is it?

There were five bullets. Anything else is the defense asking you to speculate on something where there is no evidence. Don’t be fooled.

(The defense said) the people say that (the) defendant was obsessed, obsessed with John. We’re saying the defendant had a motive to hurt Sherri. Had a motive to kill Sherri. That’s what we’re saying.

What is the motive? The defendant loved John since college....for a long, long time. She kept those feelings hidden even from John. How could a defendant, a police officer, who’s sworn to protect us from such violence, how can that be?

Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, wrote a letter to his friend Nikolai Vitkevich and ended up in the gulag.

If only it were all so simple..... (snip) The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.

Even people that seems like a good person can do (evil things). (A?) some who have secrets... We know she’s the kind of person (because) she locked those feelings away. She hid them from John. When she sees that John and Sherri are getting closer, what does she do? She see’s John’s car and she watches it. (She left the note on the car.) She stops by his apartment but the girlfriend is there. When John and Sherri become fiancés’ we see the walls of her inner prison begin to crack.

Mr. Stearns didn’t mislead you. The defense asked him if he saw any other journal entries and the defense read you all those journal entries. Let’s take a look at them. Presby goes over the entries one by one. ( I don’t try to write them down a third time.) And each time he asks a question afterwards. Is that a boyfriend? Is that the love of your life? That may be a fun night, but it’s not a boyfriend. It’s not the (int? intimate?)... (snip)...

None of them were a boyfriend. None of them Detective Stearns saw as being a boyfriend. These are acquaintances. (Not def? lies?)

(So what does she do next?) She reaches out to him. She finally confronts her true feelings. I want the future with you, that you plan with Sherri. It’s supposed to be me and John says, “No, I’m marrying Sherri.” And then the defendant asks for sex. Why? Is this going to help her move on?

This is ammunition. Just like bullets. This is manipulation of John. John makes a mistake. John was truthful with you. He was a young man. Just because John made a mistake...Sherri should die?

But what does the defendant do? She uses it as a bludgeon against Sherri. The defendant goes 20 miles out of her way, finds the nursing administration office, finds Sherri and tells her.

What does she tell Mike Hargreaves? Oh, I went and saw that nurse, and she wasn’t even that pretty. And Sherri goes home and tells John and they discuss it. (But fortunately, they get through it and the marriage goes forward.)

The defendant has a different explanation for it.

John Ruetten admitted that he was unfaithful before the marriage.

(But according to the defendant) I went one (time) to tell Sherri to tell John to pick, to choose.

Does that make any sense?

(I can’t believe it. Both counsel ended using this line.)

If John was even calling her, she wouldn’t have told Sherri because she would have wanted that to continue.

Presby then brings up Lazarus’ interview video.

Look at her statements, demeanor, facial expressions! (Look) how she changes the subject! You can see the wheels turning (in her mind). What do they know? What should I say? (When they ask her about confronting Sherri) I’ll just spin it (that) it was about John but it wasn’t very important.

It’s not reasonable.
It’s not logical.
It’s not true.

Presby then goes to the letter Lazarus wrote John Ruetten’s mother, Margaret. (She) then writes at the end of the letter, “I hope I meet some ONE I can love as much. Not some family. Some ONE.

Presby questions the line in the letter that says, “I had to build up the courage...” Why did she have to build up the courage? She had a farewell with John; farewell sex. Why did you have to build up courage, if it was so amicable?

Presby questions the line in the letter that says, “I’m sorry it ended so...” If it (the ending of her and John’s relationship) was so banal, why are you so sorry?

That was an UGLY confrontation at Sherri’s work. She couldn’t know how much John’s mother knows and if she does, she has to give some justification for that, so read it (that letter) closely.

John and Sherri get married, then this, the (Christmas?) card the defendant gets from Mrs. Ruetten and that makes her very sad. Is that Mrs. Ruetten, John’s mom, or is that Sherri? We don’t know. It doesn’t matter.

And we know that many many years later, because she’s (? in the video?)...

(The defense asked if she did kill Sherri, why didn’t she ever initiate contact with John? Why didn’t she try to contact him?)

Are we saying she killed Sherri to get John back? And so if she did that, why didn't she contact him? That would be a little delusional even for this defendant!

That doesn’t make any sense. We’re not saying she went there to kill her. And now she’s beaten this woman down in her own home. She has to kill her, or she’s finished.

It’s an interesting question but it won’t... (snip). It would be delusional to pop back up into John’s life. Here I am! Look at me! But what else didn’t she do? She never reaches out to John, to say, “Oh my God! I know we’ve had our differences! Is there anything I can do? I know I’m not a detective, (snip) but I’m there for you.”

That’s what an innocent person does. It’ can’t (do nothing but?) add (to the) the ugliness of this murder. She did nothing. Another fact. Another piece of the evidence that shows the defendant had a motive to harm Sherri.

Let’s talk about DNA. The defense says this is the (centerpiece? of the prosecution’s case)...

This case is a BANQUET of evidence. We have the vegetables. We have the turkey. We have the salad. What it is, is they are corroboration of each other....

Corroboration (rishing?) against the defendant or motive evidence against the defendant.

The case was reopened. There was the profile. Detective James Nuttall looked at it fresh. He eliminated all the other women in her (Sherri’s) life and he was left with the defendant. Then they took the next step, they looked at the gun. Well, if the bullets were Remington or Winchester...(but that would exclude her?).... but she was included. But if the defendant was working that day....But she wasn’t on duty. That’s what they did. (They followed the evidence.) It led them to the defendant. Because wonder of wonders, she did the crime!

The DNA. Every person is unique, except for twins. DNA doesn’t transfer (into someone else's DNA). No matter how it’s packaged. No matter how it’s stored. No matter where it’s kept. It cannot become someone else’s (DNA). The defendant’s DNA is in item #30.

One in 1.7 sextillion. It’s the defendant’s DNA (mixed with) Sherri’s DNA. Saliva amylase. Degradation can’t explain it. So, how did it get there. But that’s what we see....(?) (snip). Contamination can’t explain it. We see contamination in this case. Presby explains that, with the pieces of evidence (fingernail scrapings, the blood on the garage wall, the blood in the car) that have one or two random allele’s that cannot be traced to any known person.

There’s some kind of break here. No one in the gallery sees everything that happened. Someone saw that Lazarus’ sister Judi pointed to someone on the defense side. Someone else saw that Courtney went up to the court clerk to say something. Judge Perry calls a short break. Overland left the courtroom then came back at the end of the break. We start closings again at 11:30 AM.

Presby begins again. So how did the defendant’s DNA get into item #30?

And then I see Mr. Overland! His face is all red! He’s leaning forward, his arms on the defense table and he’s put his head face down into his arms!

Presby continues arguing, possibly unaware that Overland might not be well behind him.

You get contamination when you have a mix of alleles. What are they? They’re not a complete person. A (random) allele here (is not?) a female there.

The defense says there (there’s?) the only (one?) way you can (get those allele’s in there? and that’s through contact? scratching?)... (snip)

He wants (you?) to reject item #30, where there is the strong (personal?) profile, (of the defendant) but the random (alleles).... (he wants you to question who that is). I’ll tell you who that is. It’s nobody! One allele here, one allele there is not a complete person.

What the coroner did in 1986, (was) use the same clippers, over and over again. They (were not looking for DNA) they were looking for fibers, dirt, big items. Those DNA (random) alleles don’t establish anything. They’re like static, between the radio stations, back when you used to have to tune the radio.

Presby mentions the movie Poltergeist, and that those random alleles are like ghosts, static. That’s what they are. The background static of DNA.

They’re all weak samples. They all had to be amplified. It’s not a full, strong (statistically?), a complete person.

Presby states, the defendant bit Sherri when she was attacking her. Someone had to intentionally bite Sherri.

Let’s talk about what would have to happen for someone to plant evidence in that tube.


What’s the motive for framing Stephanie Lazarus? Have you heard of any motive? So, you’ve heard she was a police officer. She was liked by her family and friends. You have her personnel file. Look at her commendations. Does it say anywhere that Stephanie Lazarus caught a serial killer? No. Stephanie Lazarus helped out with a BBQ. At best, she was a “B” (as police officers go). There was no reason anyone would try to frame her.

(To frame her) the person who did this had to be a scientist or criminalist to manipulate DNA, or be sort of like a Dr. Moreau from H.G. Wells...

They’d have to get the defendant’s DNA, salivary amylase... It’s possible, because detectives did just that. But it took a team of officers following the defendant day after day, following the defendant. Now (the framer is) Dr. Moreau and a combination of Sam Spade. I don’t mean to be flippant, but (I’m trying to show you) how farcical this explanation is.

Then they had to get Sherri’s DNA. Sherri’s skin cells. (How did they get) Sherri’s DNA, when, one week after she was killed, she was buried. So now they’re (the framers) grave robbers? Dr. Moreau meets Sam Spade meets Dr. Frankenstein?

How did they do it? They had to do it in 1986, because that’s when Sherri’s DNA was available. But they had to know that DNA in the future, would be available.

They had to now break into the coroner’s office. Break into the evidence room. Now find the evidence envelope and switch that sample. It’s not to be flippant but it’s a combination of (the characters mentioned before) and James Bond or (what’s the more current one) Jason Bourne.

Occam’s razor
. Selection between two explanations. When you have two explanations of facts, the simpler one, must be true.

It’s clear how it got there, because she bit Sherri when she attacked her.

(During testimony) defense counsel asked witnesses over and over again, why are (the evidence seal) tapes on envelopes? To protect (the) integrity as to what’s inside. And that’s true, in the abstract. He never asked, were the contents tampered with. Not could they have been, but WERE they. He did get an answer when he talked to Mr. Anderson (Prosecution witness #17 Dan Anderson). The outside envelope, yes. (It was torn.) But (Anderson testified) nothing happened to the tube itself.

The explanation is the defendant did this crime and that’s why her DNA is there.

Presby goes over the seals on the evidence.

The first seal is the plastic tube. The second seal is the envelope. Yes, there’s a tear in it. The third seal is the refrigeration (freezer) that locks items away from the rest of the world. The fourth seal is the locked evidence room. The fifth seal is the Coroner’s Office itself. It’s not like it's a public bus station. The sixth seal is the integrity of everyone who worked there. You saw them testify. You saw the (evidence log). If they wanted to frame her, why did they document (everything they did?)? That’s a seal on the integrity of this evidence. That’s a seal.

Now, if we go to the frame job (theory), He (the framer) says, Oh, I’m going to frame her. I’m going to mastermind (a frame up?)...

Why just item #30? Why not put the defendant’s DNA on the snuggy? Why not on (this other evidence, or this other item?).

It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s desperation.

It’s 11:45 AM and I wonder if Presby is going to finish by noon.

There were some real efforts to try to mislead you. Swab verses Swabs.

Look at the testimony of Dan Anderson and Lloyd Mahaney. (Anderson testified the company made both kinds, of swoob tubes single and two sticks inside the tubes.) Since 1990, since (before? and when) I (Anderson) arrived, (they used the two sticks type tubes) and that was mainly to cover the surface of the items being swabbed.

Presby goes onto explain that, the coroner’s criminalists used tubes with two sticks to ensure they had enough material to test more than once.

Presby then reads Lloyd Mahaney’s testimony to the jurors.

It doesn’t mean that there was just one applicator. This was a direct effort to deceive you. Presby puts up a photo SERI took of the tube they received from the LAPD, and the questions the efense put to Jennifer Francis, asking if she put those numbers on the sticks. (Jennifer would have not seen the evidence when it was packaged up five years later, the two sticks labeled separately and sent to SERI.) It’s a desperate attempt to mislead you.

(The defense was) talking about the minor profile in item #30, with respect to (allele/loci) D2. Over and over again he misstated the evidence. There were 9 loci for Sherri Rasmussen. 13 loci for the defendant.

Presby then addresses Judge Perry. “Your honor, I don’t think I’m going to finish before lunch."

I have a note that Mark Overland looked like he was about to faint when we had that earlier break. Someone tells me that at first he was real pale, and then he was real red in the face.

As we pack up to leave the courtroom, the male bailiff addresses the packed gallery. “Be sure to pick up all your things. We had a pair of shoes left behind.” Then the tiny gray-haired female sheriff, (I’ve seen her at many of the cases I’ve covered) I think the name on her badge is Parra, tells us about the shoes..., “And they didn’t match any of our outfits.” The room laughs.

Matthew points out to me who he thinks is Presby and Nunez’ boss, the department head of the Justice System Integrity Division (JSID). Overland wipes his face, his eyes with a tissue. One of the things Matthew noticed was, for several days in a row, Lazarus was drinking water from a plastic coke bottle and not a standard brand of water bottle.

During the lunch break, I finally get confirmation on the name of the woman who sat with the detectives behind the prosecution table and who looked so lovely in her sharp outfits I often commented on. DDA Rosa Alarcon.

1:35 PM. We’re all packed back inside the courtroom, and I mean packed. The room is stuffed with as many people as the Public Information Office can get in there.

Presby continues with his rebuttal argument.

I want to talk to you about a few more things that were not correct or (were) deceptively presented to you by the defense.

Fingerprints. Identified and identifiable. There were two fingerprints of all the prints that were identifiable, that were never identified. One was a joint print on the phone in the kitchen. There’s no evidence that any part of the attack happened in the kitchen. And the palm print on the banister.

The prints in databases in 1986 that were in the database were fingerprints only. (It wasn’t until years later that palm prints and other types of prints were added to the database.)

There were several other (prints) that were unidentifiable. They may very well be Sherri’s or Johns, there’s just not enough information (to tell).

Other DNA in the crime scene. Blood down the stairway. There was no witness who said, this is the blood of (the? killer?). (There was) one marker. It had one allele. One out of thirty (30). (Note here. When Presby states “30” he’s talking about at each loci, you get alleles from each parent. So the 15 loci that are looked at in a DNA analysis, you will get the number of repeats from each parent, ergo 15 x 2 = 30. Sprocket) That’s not a person. That’s a single allele. It’s not a question that can be answered to that very limited stain.

The blood on the arm rest in the vehicle. The blood was Sherri’s blood. A few male alleles in that mixture. We know Brian Lane drove Sherri’s car (the day before). There was no testimony to say (those alleles belonged to the killer) (snip). No evidence of that whatsoever.

The blanket. The “snuggy.” Two swatches were cut. Two samples. On the control swatch, there doesn’t appear to be blood and the DNA is John and Sherri’s. (The swatch with blood) comes back to Sherri with one other allele. The defense wants you to speculate to this stuff, (that) is part of the background noise (we talked about earlier).

But ( the same time, they) want you to ignore #30. Remember, all the blood in the crime scene belonged to Sherri.

Mr. Alexander (Defense witness #4 Michael Alexander) worked with Stephanie Lazarus. He doesn’t remember whether or not the defendant was injured. That’s not surprising. (I believe Presby goes onto remind jurors that he couldn’t remember anything about that day, who he worked with without looking at the work logs.)

Sherri Rasmussen was a nurse. With her whole professional life, she had wanted to help people. The police, part of their training, is fighting, gun retention training. Mr. (?) talked about..... (snip) She was an outstanding, superior athlete. Brian McCartin testified she was the most aggressive female in that (LAPD) academy class. It’s not surprising once the defendant (started) to (assault? Sherri? she won?)... Sherri was in her underwear and the robe. She fought as best she could.

The defense talked about the documentation. The (coroner’s) evidence log, and the missing GSR entries, and that this (the log) was never updated. What’s the reasonable explanation? This is on microfiche. The card (log form) doesn’t physically exist anymore. The fact that GSR kits were destroyed doesn’t mean anything to item #30. In fact, the GSR kits were never released to anyone. (They) were never given to another agency. (They stayed completely in the control of the Coroner’s Office.)

Where do we stand in respect to the evidence?

The gun.
The bullets.
The motive.
The DNA.

The defendant’s DNA could only get there by her doing this crime. The other explanation isn’t reasonable. But there’s more evidence. Sherri’s fingernail, found at the scene, (with a) one in 26,000 (random chance of a match). One in 26,000 is not as much as 1.7 sextillion, but it’s not ‘nothing’ either.

Presby then gives a visual explanation as to how view that one in 26,000.

If you were sitting in the Staples Center (this is a known, local stadium) and it was filled with women, only one of those women could have committed this crime. The defendant is that woman, and one (other) in the Staples Center. That woman, would also have to have, motive, a gun, dispose of the gun, kill with LAPD issued bullets and have the opportunity to bite Sherri in the arm.

DNA. (multiplying) alleles. Let’s talk about how they come to the percentage in a DNA profile, one multiplied times the next times the next time times the next. That’s what you have to do in this case with each piece of evidence.

We’re talking about what is a reasonable explanation and what is a made up explanation. That fingernail was never in the Coroner’s Office. It was in the LAPD. So now, somehow.... and now they would have to plant that DNA in the LAPD also.

If you’re going to plant, why didn’t they put that full DNA profile on the fingernail, or the blanket, or the rope? Why not go all the way?

But there’s more evidence still. There is a staged crime scene. The defense said, Mr. Safarik put this all together. No one put this all together. It’s the evidence that puts it all together. I’m not going to list all the things that Mr. Safarik (testified) that shows it’s a staged crime scene. Wrong apartment; not right for a robbery location. The door has a sticker that there’s an alarm system. Look at the stacking of this stereo equipment. It’s right in the middle of the stairs! We know the fight started upstairs and we know it ended at the bottom of downstairs. So Sherri had to get downstairs over that stereo equipment and so did her attacker.

We know Sherri is crawling around on the ground by that entry way. (You have to conclude they were placed there after) Sherri was killed. The drawer pulled out and not rifled through. The straight pins, undisturbed. This was an after the fact, staging of the evidence. The only person who has a reason to stage (it) is the defendant. A stranger would not have any reason to stage the crime scene.

But, if you’re the ex-girlfriend of someone who’s wife was killed. (Stephanie Lazarus thought he ~John~ should be mine.) It was someone who knew the spotlight would be on them. The BMW was not stripped. This was a made up motive because she knew the police would look at her, and that’s exactly what we see, staging.

There’s one other piece of evidence that this defendant committed the crime. Sherri wasn’t just killed. She was beaten. Her face was disfigured. Her beauty, was marred. IT was that face, that beauty, that took John away from the defendant. Who else had a reason to do this (photo placed up on the overhead screen) to Sherri’s face?

So where does the evidence stand at the end of the day? Presby goes over the list again. (snip) ...And the staged crime scene.

The defense talked to you a bit about reasonable doubt. it’s not just looking at one (DNA allele) marker and having doubt abut the case. It’s about looking at all the evidence, and having an abiding conviction about the evidence in this case.

Mr. Overland gave you an example of himself being wounded, struck, and “Steve” standing next to him. That’s true you couldn’t decide if that’s all the information you had. That’s not a true example of this case.

Lets say, an analysis was done of the wound (on Mr. Overland’s head). The wound was made by a special tool, say a special hammer. Steve owned such a hammer. Steve owned that hammer and then that hammer disappeared.

And lets say, there were particles in the wound. Something like the bullets (but from say, nails). And lets say, the nails that he used in his work, and those nails were special nails. The only nails he could use.

Then, they find out that Steve hated Mr. Overland because Mr. Overland had stolen the woman Steve loved.

But then there’s more. Let’s say the wound was analyzed and there was wiping done around the wound and they find Steve’s skin cells with Mr. Overland’s DNA.

There are too many coincidences to try to explain away.

William Congreve wrote (and it’s often misquoted):

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.

That’s what we see in this case. That’s what we see in Sherri’s face.

You have only two questions to answer in this case. One: Who killed Sherri Rasmussen? (Was it) the defendant, Stephanie Lazarus? and Two: Did she make a conscious decision to kill.

Presby goes over the evidence of the contact wound and how the defendant, at that point can decide. I’ve beaten her. What do I do? Do I leave or finish what I came here to do? She wrapped the snuggy around the gun. And this tells you, she wants to get away with it. She fires once. She fires twice. Sh fires a third time. Each one of those acts was a conscious cold calculated decision to kill.

(You’ve? We’ve) worked on this case a long time. Five weeks. But this case is not about me or Mr. Nunez, Mr. Overland, or you. I’s not about John Ruetten or Sherri’s mom and dad. This case is about Sherri Rasmussen. This case is about justice for Sherri, and it’s about responsibility for this action.

Mr. Overland told you there were tragedies all the time in this courthouse. An equally big tragedy is to have a defendant gain the system, because she knows how to change the crime scene. She knows how to beat the system. But she did steal from Sherri Rasmussen. She stole every day from that day to this day. All the joy and pain that Sherri might have existed. All the pain and joy that makes up a life, she stole from Sherri.

I really implore each and every one of you to use your logic and to look at the big picture and see who did this crime. There really is only one profile that explains all the evidence. (snip) (When you?) go back and do your deliberations, give justice to Sherri Rasmussen.

It’s 2:05 PM. Judge Perry reads the instructions to the jurors.

2:34 PM The clerk administers the oath to the bailiff to take control of the jurors. The prosecution starts to pack up. DDA Nunez takes the prosecution’s evidence books over the clerk, Melody. The alternate jurors are taken to another empty courtroom or empty jury room.

2:35 PM the jurors entered the jury room.

Stephanie Lazarus appears to still be reading the jury instructions. She was reading along as Judge Perry was reading them.

Then Judge Perry asks everyone (prosecution, defense) to stand by.

JP: There’s a minor error in the jury instructions.

Inside I groan. That can totally screw up an entire trial, if they don’t fix that right away and haul the jurors back in. Judge Perry continues to look at the computer screen for the “minor error”.

There is a single line missing from the jury instruction 520 or 521. It has to do with defining second degree murder. The prosecution has no problem adding the missing line in and giving it to the jurors.

JP: I will leave it up to the defense.

MO: As I’ve said (before) I have an objection on second degree.

JP: I will accept your rejection of any modification of the jury instructions.

The courtroom is still packed with most of us in the gallery.

3:05 PM Overland is still in the jail area with Lazarus. He knocks on the door, but the bailiff that’s supposed to be inside the courtroom has left for a moment. Overland is locked inside there.

3:10 PM Overland and Courtney come out. He ensures that Melody has their numbers to reach them.

Most of the press has left. Judge Perry comes back out. He’s not in his robes. I can clearly see the patterned black and white tie he has on. From where I’m sitting, it could pass as an Aubrey Beardsley drawing or some other very intricate pattern.

Judge Perry answers a question about what time the jurors will be deliberating tomorrow. 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

There are questions (to Melody) about the reading of the verdict, once it’s been reached. It would probably be about an hour later, but it’s a function on how long it takes the attorney’s to get here. Mark Overland is about an hour away in Santa Monica.

I finally pack up after seeing the jurors leave at 3:55 PM. They avert their eyes from those of us still in the gallery as they exit.

Outside in the hallway, local CBS reporter Dave Lopez tells me that was the most compelling closing argument he's ever seen. I have to agree that Presby probably gave the presentation of his career. It was quite good.

The rest of the story, y’all know already. Thank you everyone, for reading T&T. Thank you to everyone who wrote me and told me how much you appreciated my coverage of this trial. There is no greater personal reward for myself, than to know that the time and effort I put into this trial was appreciated by so many. And thank you to my new friends in the mainstream media, who told me they thought I did a great job, reporting on this case.
I still have a couple of stories to tell about the Lazarus case. There have been several people who have contacted me, people who knew Lazarus at various times in her life. Of those that gave me permission, I will be sharing their stories soon. Understand though, most of these individuals wish to remain anonymous and I will be honoring that request.
I still hope that, if any of the jurors do decide to come forward they will consider talking to my friend Matthew McGough, who will be writing the definitive book on the case. I know that he will honor any level of anonymity they wish to preserve. If anyone still has questions about the case, I will try to answer them as best I can. Sprocket.

P.S. I'm still working on my mail, so please be patient. I will answer your letters.


Anonymous said...

Presby was BRILLIANT!!! I can't WAIT to hear the "personal" stories!!! I'm SO GLAD I found you Sprocket!!! This has become my favorite site on the Internetz!!!

Anonymous said...

Another unfortunate element to this story is that Stephanie was willing to allow two innocent men to take the fall for her crime. What a shame! It caught up to her, though!! Pie in her face!! LOL

TS said...

Sprocket, thanks so much for such a detailed reply to my question about pre-trial hearings. I'd forgotten you also covered several of those with postings on your blog which I will read. For those out on bond, perhaps lengthy trial delays are welcome (!), but I certainly hope there is a time limit for attorneys to begin a trial when defendants are sitting in jail (sometimes for years!) waiting for a trial to begin.

Anonymous said...

Well... SL refilling the same old coke bottle with TAP water makes me feel a bit better to think we are not providing her with bottled water!

NancyB said...


What does Presby's reference to: "The straight pins, undisturbed" refer to? Also were Sherri's clothes entered into evidence or just the pictures of them? Same question for the snuggy/blanket.

Very masterful closing. He closed up all the loose ends. Very powerful and I loved his everyday common references to movies and Staples Ctr to elucidate his explanations and break it down into very understandable lingo. It reads from your notes as if it also truly was heartfelt.

Sprocket said...

The straight pins undisturbed.

It's part of the evidence of the staging. In the living room, there were two chairs and in between them, a low table, sort of like an end table, with a lamp on it, if I recall correctly.

The drawer to this table was pulled all the way out where it had fallen out and was on it's "end" leaning up against the table.

(Hopefully, I will soon be able to upload a few evidence item photos that Matthew has agreed to share with me. I will NOT be uploading images of Sherri; I believe that would be too painful for all involved.)

Inside the drawer, was a box of straight pins. (I know that Sherri came from a family of sewers.)

The prosecution's crime scene analyst, Mr. Safarik noted that the contents of the drawer were not rifled through. He came to this conclusion because the box of straight pins, precariously balanced, was still in the drawer, still in the box and were not scattered about like they would have been if someone had gone through the contents of the drawer.

A picture would explain it perfectly, and I hope to be able to publish a few of them from the case.

To T&T readers:
I apologize to those of you who have written me or have been so kind to make a donation, and I haven't responded or thanked you yet. I have lots of E-mail I still have to go through however, I'm helping Mr. Sprocket today on that big job project.

The only good news is, it won't be in the basement dungeon but inside the job site itself or up on the roof, so he can finish making the refrigerant connections to the new condenser coils.

Please, please be patient with me. I will try to answer all my mail by sometime tonight.

Sprocket said...

Nancy B: The clothes.

When items have blood on them, or other microscopic evidence (such as gunshot residue, unburnt gunpowder) what I've seen LA County prosecutors usually do is enter photos of the items and not the items themselves.

That's what they did in this case.

Natalie said...

Thanks for posting, Sprocket! Good luck with your project. We are all eagerly awaiting the next trial you cover!!

Anonymous said...

Presby's closing argument is outstanding, weaving and painting a vivid picture of how this horrible murder played out.

Aspects of this case remind me of a cold case that was finally solved in the suburbs of Chicago. Back in January of 1993, 7 workers at a Brown's Fried Chicken fast food chain, were found shot to death in the restaurant's walk in cooler and freezer after closing. A sharp evidence tech, upon realizing that there was one new order taken at closing by employees after they had closed the register for the day and then seeing that meal in the freshly laid trash bag, with a few bites missing from the chicken, decided to take a saliva sample. While DNA testing at that time was not capable of detecting a viable sample, years later when they retested, the DNA technology had caught up and that frozen chicken held the DNA print of the killer. Years and years passed and theories about who did this swirled but unfortunately, the police had nothing. Finally 9 and half years after the crimes, a guilt struck former girlfriend started talking and the knowledge she had, having never been released to the public, told police she knew the killer. A DNA match confirmed, as did a palm print and an accomplice and like this case, all the pieces fit together. The two killers, Luna and Degorski, are serving life without parole and like this case both deny and keep their families in denial. And another parallel is that after murdering 7 people at gunpoint, they both went on to lead normal lives, one marrying and having a child, even saving to buy a house.

The power of DNA is compelling and like this case and so many other cold cases solved from DNA collection, at a time when they were not sure if the collection would mean anything in the future, these evidence gathering folks are heroes, they give the Presbys the foundation for these cases.

Anonymous said...

I have a cousin who is a retired deputy sheriff in Michigan. He told me that when he left the sheriff's office a few years ago, DNA hits from were coming in constantly to solve old cases.

David In TN

Sprocket said...

The thing that is so interesting about this case, is the fact that the Cold Case Unit did not solve it.

The mainstream media is often mis-reporting that fact.

From my understanding (and someone who knows different, please correct me), the Cold Case Unit was trying to use DNA to solve old cases.

So they looked at cases where there might be DNA and submitted that DNA into the national DNA database, CODIS.

There was a priority as to which cases they then followed up on.

If they got a CODIS hit, and the individual was NOT in custody, those cases had priority.

If they got a CODIS hit and the individual was IN custody, those cases would be second or third in priority.

Those cases where there was no CODIS hit, were placed on inactive. That's what happened to the Rasmussen case.

The amount of cold cases (over 9,000 I believe)....that's a LOT of files to store. So it's reasonable to understand that when the Cold Case Unit was storing too many files, the case went back to the originating station: Van Nuys.

It's my understanding that at Van Nuys, the Homicide guys are required to open up old cases when things are slow.

That's what happened in this case and how it ultimately was solved.

My hat goes off to the Van Nuys Homicide guys (Rob, James, Marc, Pete) who solved the case. They are the true hero's here.

Anonymous said...

Here's a thought...

Since everyone taken into custody on a felony rap has their blood taken and DNA put into the database, why not take a blood sample from everyone working in the criminal justice system? We know they are all above reproach, so let's prove that to the public by putting all of their DNA into a database.

Every police union in the country will howl like wolves, but I guarantee you that if that was required of the rank and file and those who are retired, hundreds of cold cases would be solved overnight.

In New York city, two retired cops, Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa were sent to prison for acting as the Gotti mob's hit men. They killed people in NY, Colorado and used their contacts to find a mob problem in Los Angeles and arranged the hit. In Boston it was an FBI man. In Cleveland, another cop.

Ninety-nine percent of all law enforcement people are above reproach, but when that one percent realizes they are above suspicion, bad things happen. Since murders are a one percent problem, why not require blood samples from our policemen, and FBI personnel etc etc and an accounting of their days off when murders have been committed?

It will never happen, I know that... but the sad reality is, Stephanie Lazarus is not alone.

A policeman can carry a loaded weapon inside a vehicle. A citizen cannot. An off duty policeman can sit outside someone's home and surveil them. A citizen cannot. A policeman knows what the system is looking for when a crime is committed. A citizen does not.

If anything, this case asks the question... who is watching the watchers?

Anonymous said...

Hi Sprocket,

Can we please have you have a copy of the letter that SL wrote to J. Ruetten mother and the Chrismas card the SL received from Mrs Ruetten? Know what,just satisfy my more and more curiosity of the case. It does not seems to stop.

An amazing job from your part and powerful rebutal.

Everyone needs to take care of themself and everyonelse so that nobody hurts or kills anybody so that this world can be a better place for all of us.

And who want to come accross prosecutors like Numez and Presby? Not me any way. Fellow human being life is so important to me as well as my own and I love my freedoooommmm.

Please people like me, don't let any stupidity cut you your freeeeeeeeedommmm.

When you are hurt, just let go. It get better with time.

Like SL, she could have let it go and now that she has the beau Scott, she can not even stay with him to raise their beautiful baby girl together. What a waste.

Before, you go do something, thing about the person feellings, his or her familly and freinds, and think about if it is were me, if is my familly and freinds, how would the feel. If you realize your love ones can not afford loosing you, think that the same thing apply to that victim of yours.

Be nice to everybody

thanks y'all.

Anonymous said...

Lazarus: major mistake not to testify in the trial.By testifying in the trial,Lazarus could have turned the whole focus of the trial from "was Lazarus in the condo on that day", to "was the use of force justified?". Really, she made it easier for the prosecution to prove murder, by not testifying and not giving her side of what happened. All the prosecution had to do was put their scientific evidence on to place Lazarus in the condo, which is difficult to challenge. Instead of claiming "I wasnt there the day in question", the defense should have been, "Yes, I went there,a fight started and I was in fear of my life and had to resort to deadly force to defend myself". It would have been harder for the prosecution to prove murder with intent than manslaughter. Also, perhaps more importantly, testifying would have shown the jury Lazarus is a human being,who got caught up in a regretable love triangle, not the cold, calculating sociopath they portrayed her to be. By testifying in the trial, Lazarus could have shown the jury some humanity, humility, and maybe some remorse and regret over causing Sherris death.Regardless of Lazarus's feelings for Sherri in the 1980s, Ill bet now she regrets this whole incident ever happened.Id ask Lazarus, "if you could snap your fingers so this never happened, and then Sherri could go on with her life and you could go on with yours, wouldnt you do it?" And then theres little things, like demeanor in court; why not stand up for the jury entering the court room? The prosecution does, so you should too. Whats wrong with showing a little respect for the people who are going to decide your fate? Also,I thought her style of dressing was too casual. Business attire would have been more appropriate. You should look as professional as the attorneys looked in court. It will be interesting to see what issues are appealed, and if the DNA evidence and interrogation video tape are deemed to have been legally admitted in the trial.

Tia said...

H Sprocket,

Your coverage has been spectacular! I agree with the other readers that Presby's rebuttal was fantastic. It left no room for doubt. I am curious about John Ruetten...did he ever remarry and have a family? I must say your site is the first site I visit on the internet in hopes that you have an update. I am curious as to how you manage to get all the testimony down. Do you use shorthand or some other method? I am glad you have your donate link because you are providing a valuable service to many of us who cannot be in the courtroom ourselves. THANK YOU!!

Bailey said...

I am confused about the Christmas card that was sent by Mrs. Ruetten. I had not heard anything about that, can you please clarify?

Sprocket said...

Tia: Thank you.

John Ruetten. It's my understanding that he did remarry, just like Stephanie. He has a family. Beyond that I believe his biggest concern is protecting his family which is why I won't comment beyond that.

My transcribing. It's a sort of chicken-scratch short-hand that sometimes even I can't decipher what I was trying to quickly write. This is why you will often see partial words with a question mark after them. You are reading what I'm reading, and I can't fathom what word I was trying to capture.

The Christmas Card.
I will try to explain this as best I can. Understand, that I'm transcribing my notes a full week after the rebuttal argument, and I can't remember exactly everything, word for word, so please give me some leeway in this regard.

We know that sometime after the marriage, Stephanie received a card from a "Mrs. Ruetten" that made her very sad. If I'm recalling correctly, this was something Lazarus wrote in her "journal" (or work log, depending on your perspective). My memory is, this entry in the journal was some time in December, which would be after the marriage on November 23rd, 1985. I will try to verify that later, when I get to look at all the exhibits that my friend Matthew ordered.

In my scribbled notes of the closings, I have the following..

"J + S. marr then
this the Ch Card def
gets fr. Mrs. Ruette
+ that makes her very sad."

In my transcribing, I took the "Ch" to be "Christmas", but I put the word in parenthesis and put a question mark after it.

I hope that helps explain the "Christmas" Card.

Sprocket said...

Lazarus taking the stand.

Please keep in mind that in our legal system, the prosecution has the burden of proof. The defendant doesn't even have to put on a defense. They are not required to "prove" anything. And the fact that Lazarus didn't take the stand cannot, in any way, be held against her in jury deliberations.

You have to take into consideration that once Lazarus takes the stand, every single thing she said in the video she can be cross examined on.

Not only that, but every thing that anyone told the prosecution about her, or what she said at one time or another, she can be confronted with.

I don't see her getting on the stand and giving some type of "explanation" for the crime as something that would have helped her case. I really don't.

I believe Overland did a courageous job with what he had. He was quite thorough in his cross examination of prosecution witnesses. His cross examinations were very methodical and drawn out, which appears to be his style. I thought he could have crossed in a quicker, faster pace, but that's just me. His method is something that obviously works for him.

debbiescalisi said...

I like what Anonymous on March 16, 2012 7:59 AM said about SL being put on the stand where this, by some miracle, could been reduced down to manslaughter. SL had almost three years before trial to contemplate doing that if offers were put on the table. But for whatever reason she declined and/or MO decided against it, the only way she could have gone on the stand would have been to admit to being at the condo. Presby and Nunez would have shredded her up on the stand otherwise. SL's demeanor during the interrogation tape, even as a seasoned cop, indicated to the average person first viewing it (like myself) that she couldn't keep it together very well. Does she regret it? Of course. Did she think she would ever be caught? No. I will be curious in future notes Sprocket provides again about the prosecution's theory of why SL did not try to reconnect with JR as months and years passed on after the murder, except for the brief time in 1989.

debbiescalisi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...


After a week or more to contemplate this whole tragedy I returned to take a peek at some of your additions and comments.

A few observations...

I think Presby handled the close well by staying on topic and arguing the facts.

Your reported reactions of (one or more) jurors to Overland's obfuscating were telling and I observed similar reactions while attending the trial. After the verdict, MO said, "We didn't have a chance," and in retrospect, I agree and here's why....

His client was guilty, the evidence was piled as high as that ninth floor courtroom but I believe the jury selection process might have had a big hand in this verdict. MO has himself to blame for that.

I saw one juror in the pool whom I thought was not working class and that was the lady who sat middle front and had Julia Roberts' nose. The rest were not SL's peers, they were the working poor. Mechanics and janitors, warehousemen and a few retired people. For the most part, they were the people she had policed for 25 years, and they didn't much like the fact that a murder was committed, and an LAPD officer's defense hinged on a torn envelope.

They did not like the fact that she showed them no respect by not standing when they entered, while four feet to her left, Nunez and Presby stood and treated them like citizens. SL and her team treated the jury the way LAPD's patrol officers often treat "the little people" in Los Angeles: they sit in their cars and glare at the public as if the people on the sidewalks are from another planet. That act of "sitting" and not standing was damning. I believe the jury subconsciously got that, and it did not sit well.

SL was always dressed in casual clothes. Various takes on three-quarter length cardigans and slacks. That's her choice, but if you're on trial for your life, I think jurors expect you to take it as seriously as the attorneys and the judge and dress like it and act like it. Business suits, no jewelry, maybe a string of pearls on the day you testify.

And yes, I understand that she's under no obligation to testify and that the people have to make their case. But regardless of how many times the Judge reminds the jury that SL was under no obligation to defend herself, this was an unusual case and those working class folks still wondered why a 25 year LAPD officer did not take the stand and vigorously make her case.

When they began their deliberations, I'll bet more than one of those jurors was thinking... "You can pull me over for a broken tail light at midnight, but when you're on trial for your life you won't even stand up when I come in the room... and every day you dress like it's Friday casual day; not a murder trial... you won't stand for me and you won't look at me or anyone else in the jury, and you have only glanced at one or two witnesses, and after five weeks, you could have gone up there and told us your story, but instead, you sat there as if you're above it all...

I don't think SL's behavior left the jury of a mind to search for nuance. I think it left them with crossed arms and wondering how SL's DNA got on Sherri's arm and why they had not been handed an explanation for a mountain of incriminating evidence.

The jury was hungry for evidence but SL's defense and her behavior said, "Let them eat cake."

Sprocket said...

debbiescalisi: Thank you so much!

Robert: I've been told many times, by people who are way smarter in these things than myself...that a trial is won or lost in voir dire.

I've had people tell me many times that voir dire is the most important part of the trial.

To be honest, I was worried that Judge Perry rushed through voir dire. I was afraid that rushing would end up with a hung jury. But he's been a jurist much longer than I've followed trials so I have to say he knew what he was doing.

From a prosecutor's perspective, (this is my opinion now) you've got to select a jury that are leaders, not followers, but still able to work with others. And, they must be able to understand that circumstantial evidence can be like a mosaic, creating a tightly locked image of what you are trying to prove.

From the closing arguments I've heard in person (Robert Blake, Alejandro Avila, Spector 1 & 2, Cameron Brown, James Fayed, Lazarus) to the many I've watched on TV and online, each and every time the defense goes to great length to talk about reasonable doubt.

Personally, I thought the jurors were for the most part, casually dressed. None of the four men or two alternates wore a suit and tie that I can recall. Several of the women wore stretch knit type tops and sometimes leggings.

Robert said...

Re: Lazarus testifying...

If Lazarus had testified, everything would have been fair game, as Sprockets said. Such a decision is unusual in a criminal trial, because most charges are handled by plea agreement and the ones taken to trial are compelling. When felony cases are pushed forward, prosecutors believe they are presenting a slam dunk and won't be embarrassed by the result. When the prosecution is that confident, putting your client on the stand is not wise and strips them of the state's requirement to make their case... Everything the prosecution does not know, and only suspects, your client will give them an opportunity to discover and possibly prove.

So let's pretend we're not after the truth but working to reduce SL's sentence... so we have her admit to being there on the day of the murder and admit to having a fight with Sherri and to biting her on the arm in order to protect herself.

-Excuse me, but why were you there first thing in the morning on your day off, and three months after Sherri's wedding? Is there a record of you calling her to make an appointment to talk with the wife of your former lover or did she ever mention it to John? Did you ring the bell? If she answered, and she invited you in, did she invite you upstairs, neglect to offer you tea, then start a fight?

If that's not how it happened, how did you gain entry and how did the fight start? When you left did Sherri have these injuries (post mortem photo)? Either way, wouldn't you have remembered such a fight in your taped interview with police?

Do you believe this is how your DNA got underneath Sherri's fingernails? Was the fight so violent that she scratched you, and you bit her? After biting her on the arm, did you then agree to disagree, freshen up then leave?

-Did you have your service weapon on you? If yes... why? If not, why not?

-Surely Sherri would have locked up the place after treating her bite wound, maybe swabbing it with iodine, and then called Ruetten...and the LAPD, or maybe her father or her assistant at work? How likely is it that a nurse would not have treated that wound, would not have made those calls, and then been overpowered by a second set of burglars?

How likely is it that a second set of home invaders arrived within minutes or hours of said fight and gained entrance then wrapped a snuggie around a snub-nosed .38, placed it on Sherri's chest, then fired three kill shots, using standard issue LAPD ammunition?

-So what you'd like us to believe is that after a violent confrontation, and no call to Ruetten or the police department by Sherri and no attempt to dress her wound, two burglars coincidentally entered the condo and murdered an already beaten woman, then did not take a thing except her car and purse, which they tossed in the weeds after removing her marriage license, and then those same thieves abandoned the only thing of value they stole....?

What was their motive?

This was the only plausible defense that would have allowed for reduced charges... but once the defense agreed that Lazarus was in the condo, they would have negated their appeal based on "contaminated evidence" or "chain of custody" and we would have had a one week trial with no chance of appeal.

It would have been a simple trial. SL was there because a love triangle existed. She and Sherri had tea. A fight ensued. After SL left, Sherri died at the hands of unidentified burglars due to a gunshot from a snub-nosed .38 that fired standard issue LAPD ammunition. The defendant's weapon was "stolen" a few days after the fight. She lied about the fight to LAPD detectives, and concealed said fightt for 25 years.

That's a bigger slam dunk than the current verdict. It eliminates the BS appeals about evidence handling or the judge's trial behavior or jury instructions, and points straight to prison, do not pass GO...

Which is why MO took the other route and why he said, "we didn't have a chance."

I agree with him.

Richard Savery said...

Sprocket, thanks so much for covering the trial online. I am very interested in hearing about those people who knew Lazarus.

I am glad that Sheri Rasmussen has gotten some justice.

Robert said...

Okay... this is really the last ad, because I'm on my way to dinner...

You made my case without trying, but when you consider what I said and what I meant you will see why.. I was not commenting on dress, except as to how it revealed the defendant's demeanor. The jury is/was not on trial and their dress means nothing because they are nameless and faceless to the world and have nothing to prove.

My estimation of the jury was without bias. What I saw was what one generally sees in a jury - people dressed as comfortably as possible, without giving offense. Rich or poor, they believe they have a job to do, but they don't think black tie is required of them...Judges might, attorneys don't, and very few people show up looking like they are there for a job interview.

Even so, jurors have a different standard for attorneys and defendants.. but especially for defendants.

I won't go into all the ways defendants are perceived, but an attorney should always present his client in a way that levels the playing field. A child molester should look as close to Jack Johnson, the all-American boy as possible...a murderer should always look like Wally Cox, incapable of the crime. If the Wally Cox character is accused of a particularly violent crime, a walking cane would be useful, while sitting at the defense table carving a piece of wood with a two-inch knife would be hurtful.

Those are examples provided to make a point.

From the moment your client walks inside that courtroom and sits in front of a jury, they have twelve sets of eyes on them (depending on the state or federal charges), and those people begin to form an impression on day one. It's unavoidable.

Ostensibly, the attorneys on both sides are committed to empaneling a jury that can fairly handle the evidence and won't form an opinion or bias until all the evidence is presented but both sides know that as soon as a juror looks at their client, an opinion is formed. Every day that follows, that opinion is either reinforced or blunted by evidence presented and/or the appearance and demeanor of your client.

My comments about the jury were not pejorative, but reflective. I did not expect any juror to show up dressed for a job interview, I expected them to show up as they are, and I expected their dress to reflect their station in life and their state of mind.

I wish I had taken notes... but from the five or ten minutes I looked to my left and perused them while listening intently to testimony, I saw one woman in the front center who appeared to be (from a European POV) either well born or well-healed. An older man in the rear middle appeared to be retired and not in want, but not bleeding money. A middle-aged women in the right front appeared to be in about the same station as Sprockets, with an older working husband. The foreman appeared competent, like a fellow who runs a small business, or a labor leader who has to settle disputes. The rest were nondescript except for their common nature. Jeans and sneakers, t-shirts and hoodies, and I say that without guile. They had notepads in hand, and they paid attention... and that was the biggest problem for the defense. They paid attention and were not dissuaded by smoke screens. When Overland took the dais, I watched the jury, and their body language changed.

My post was a reflection on their possible state of mind, and I stand by it... If you go through each of the emotional touch points, you can see how the defense dropped the ball. That jury was not a brie eating latte-drinking group, ready to consider nuance (BS); they were simple people who had a nose for the truth.

I applaud them, and did not write the post to deride them. They came to a correct conclusion and for the right reasons.

If I was Mark Overland and had another chance to defend a policeman, I would have them dress like it mattered and stand when the jury entered.

I hope that is clear now...

debbiescalisi said...

Bravo Robert about your comments about the jury. You are one of the few bloggers that was actually there so you were eyes for us too. The jury were simple people who had a nose for the truth. I am glad to hear that. I am a bit surprised the dress code was not turned up a notch as for me it would mean someone is taking it seriously like a job interview. And that for me would be affordable skirts, dresses, suits from Kohls that would be workplace smart. My point is that you don't have to have a management position or budget to pull off dressing the part. Maybe they were told to dress comfortably because of the long hours sitting and walking to the court room. As far as SL's wardrobe, I agree a professional suit every day would have shown respect. My only vision of what is described is that she was dressing out of pure depression with the long cardigan sweaters and slacks; she did not care. I would have insisted on letting me wear makeup and fix my hair, etc. I would have made up like I was going on the job interview of my life, which is what she was.

TS said...

Below is the suggested juror attire that appears on the LA Superior Court website. I've served on several juries and we were told to dress as if going to our job, which of course could vary depending on the job (!), but I think the intent is clear from the site:

"Dress respectfully – business casual attire is suggested. Do not wear shorts, halter or tank tops, clothing that exposes the midriff, beachwear, sandals, or clothing with inappropriate graphics, logos or wordings."

The SL jurors, for the most part, did not seem to dress "business casual attire". Considering where they were and the seriousness of what they were doing, I was really surprised at how "way too casual" several appeared (to me).

It's interesting to think about how a "jury of one's peers" may vary in interpretation by the defense, the prosecution and the defendant. It often does not seem to be a very literal interpretation for the defendant(i.e. similar educational, economic, work background, etc.)

Anonymous said...

It's 9:00pm Saturday night... & all I can think about is that Stephanie Lazarus (that bad person) is sitting behind bars in her concrete prison thinking about what a bad person she is. Hopefully for a long long time! Happy St. Patricks Day everyone :)

Shannon from Seattle said...

I am certain that the first few years have been spent in a state of absolute shock that she got caught. One can really stretch their legs and relax after having gotten away with a crime of this magnitude for over 26 years.

You can really visualize her house of lies crashing down around her in the interrogation video. I still can't believe she waited over an hour to end the interview. Remarkable.

Anonymous said...

I've watched the interrogation interview probably 20 or so times now. Presby was correct in saying she avoids answers & dances around with things not even relevant to the question asked. AND the "SHE GOT KILLED" statement just FLOORS me! It would be "SHE WAS MURDERED" & even if we go the KILLED route ~ it would be "SHE WAS KILLED", not she GOT KILLED as if it was deserving or something. That interrogation video speaks volumes about SL. EVERYTHING about that woman freaks me out!

Anonymous said...

Has everyone seen Stephanie's brother's latest YouTube video's? Poor guy's desperately reaching....

Maddie said...

This is probably an inane question, but will you be there May 4th for the sentencing? Such poetic justice that it'll be Lazarus's birthday.

I do feel sorry for her family -- I can't imagine their pain -- but I'm glad she was found guilty and will have to be responsible for her actions.

Thank you,


Sprocket said...

Jury of one's peers.
In the eyes of the court, we are all equal, no matter how we dress or our station in life.

Steven Lazarus YouTube videos
I've seen that there are several he has uploaded but I have not watched a single one yet. I don't believe I will hear anything new in them, but you have to commend him for standing by his sister.

May 4th, Sentencing
I plan on being there unless something unforeseen happens.

Anonymous on another entry:

Thanks again dear Sprocket for your coverage.

One thing I missed, did Stephanie L. broke into the house or did she use something to unlock the door?

Is there any information of how long this struggle could have taken place?

Is there any information about how Step. Lazarus is now "treated" in jail.

This was addressed in my trial coverage.

It is unknown for certain how Lazarus gained entry into the town home.

In questioning John Ruetten, he could not remember checking the front door before he left for work. He could not say for certain if the alarm system was still on when he left the condo.

The prosecution suggested that Lazarus could have gained entry via lock picking tools that she showed a prosecution witness, Jayne Weaver (#35 retired LAPD Officer), and through the testimony of Robbery/Homicide Detective Stearns. Stearns testified about entries in her journal (work log) and her calendar for an early 1985 time frame, that had the title of two locksmithing books listed along with the name of a locksmith course.

The defense, in cross examination of Ruetten, suggested the front door could have been left unlocked.

Length of struggle in time.
There were no time frames presented at trial. All that's left is speculation. The best outline would be Mr. Safarik's description of the crime scene and what it tells us: A confrontation that started in the dining room/ edge of the kitchen area, to a bloody fight in the foyer/entry hall, to the smashed vase and three shots fired into Sherri's chest, I would suspect that Sherri fought long and hard for her life.

I have no way to judge how long Sherri's fight for her life might have been.

How is Lazarus being treated in jail?
Unfortunately, I have no information on that either. Maybe one of the mainstream news organizations will be able to contact the LA County jail, and get someone to speak to them about where she is being held and treated.

Although I am recognized by the LA County Superior Court, the LA County Sheriff's Office is not obligated to tell me anything.

Sprocket said...

Okay. I watched one video by Seven Lazarus and part of a second before I stopped it mid stream. I had a feeling I would not learn anything new.

The words Steven Lazarus used to describe what happened during various parts of the trial were, how can I kindly put this, exaggerated at best.

It's one thing to read on camera from a single page of the trial transcript and try to tell your viewing audience what that means.

It's only when you have both the direct examination and cross of the witness can you truly get a full and balanced picture of what a witness is saying and how important that testimony is or isn't in the entire scope of the trial.

James Nuttall's testimony about his recollection of a specific item of evidence and what it was, on a hand written list he created (that was not a complete, detailed and accurate listing copy of the LAPD property room log) did that item have any relevance at trial?

Since that item (#16 on Nuttall's list, a GSR kit that, according to Nunez' talk with Nuttall, came from the "snuggy"/blanket) never testified to at trial, by either the prosecution or the defense, that tells you the item must not have been that important.

And what I mean by "never testified to at trial" is, there was no expert who took the stand and spoke about the GSR kit that LAPD criminalists used on the blanket, and looked at under a scanning electron microscope.

It was pretty much accepted by both sides that the blanket was wrapped around the murder weapon. There was Rasmussen's blood on the blanket as well as holes that were clearly identified as bullet holes by experts, and there was GSR on the blanket in the form of barrel cylinder gap residue.

So how important was it really, this GSR Kit?

Anonymous said...

You are the GREATEST Sprocket!!! Thank you for ALWAYS being there in every way for us!!! xoxoxoxo

Anonymous said...

I have also read Steven Lazarus's You Tube videos and I commend him for voicing his opinions about her innocence, just like everyone out there who voices their opinions about her guilt. He did bring up some good questions about certain testimony and evidence. I believe he was reading directly from the transcripts. Maybe look at his videos again and this time really listen with an open mind. It sounds like from what I've read on various sites, that most people convicted her before she even had her trial. What happen to innocent until proven guilty?. Mark Overland was right. She never had a chance for a fair trial.

Anonymous said...

When I watched the YouTube video's I felt pity for Steven Lazarus and SL's family. They are secondary victims of SL's actions. They care so much for her that they can't see the forest through the trees. The DNA, alone, voids any argument of innocence-- nothing else matters, there's no reasonable way that SL & SR's DNA could have mixed- period. What a terrible place to be in. If SL had any decency, she'd admit to her family that she did this, and let them move on with their lives and not let them suffer further.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 4:47 PM:

Steven Lazarus sat through the same trial the 12 jurors and two alternates did. So did Lazarus' other family members.

I do not see how the Los Angeles Times failure to report on Lazarus' trial had anything to do with her guilt or innocence. Call me crazy, but I find that argument hard to understand.

In pretrial motions, time and time again, Mr. Overland tried to get evidence excluded that was damaging to his client. He was not successful in his oral arguments or moving papers to Judge Perry.

During the trial, Overland tried to present evidence of third party culpability. He presented motion papers to Judge Perry to have this evidence admitted, in other words, he presented arguments and prior court rulings in those motion papers.

Judge Perry, on the record, outlined in detail why those arguments did not apply in this case. Judge Perry also explained in great detail, the differences in the two crime scenes and how there was no evidence presented to him that this other interrupted robbery was linked to the Rasmussen murder.

For 3rd Party Culpability evidence to be admitted at trial, it must meet a standard set by the California Courts of Appeal (CCoA)in their prior rulings on other cases.

Judge Perry went over the evidence that Overland wanted to introduce and explained why it did not meet the Appellate Courts standard.

Steven Lazarus was in the courtroom when Judge Perry made his ruling on this during the trial. I was in the courtroom for the prior year of pretrial hearings where many of Overland's motions to admit or exclude evidence were argued. I cannot say that Steven Lazarus was present at each and every one of those hearings.

What I can say is, the arguments that Overland presented to Judge Perry to get evidence thrown out or certain evidence he wanted admitted at trial, were not compelling enough (in general lacked basis in the CCoA rulings) for Judge Perry to rule in his favor.

Because rulings did not go Overland's way, I cannot say that that is solid evidence of not getting a fair trial.

If Lazarus' family feels so strongly that she is innocent and did not receive a fair trial, then their recourse is the California Courts of Appeal.

It is not going to be through videos that Steven Lazarus puts on YouTube, reading a piece of trial transcript. That will not sway public opinion into outrage that Lazarus did not receive a fair trial.

The appellate process is not a fast route, and it's not a cheap one either. It took Phil Spector's attorney's almost two years to get the California Courts of Appeal to hear oral arguments. And, Spector had quite a bit of cash that he could throw at Dennis Riordan, one of the most respected appellate attorneys out there. I mean, Riordan is a brilliant, brilliant appellate attorney. No one better.

If you're going to have someone represent you in appellate court, you can't get any better than Dennis Riordan.

The initial appeal was a lengthy document. I know. I read it. I also read the State's response as well as Riordan's rebuttal response to the State's reply. The initial appeal was well over 150 pages with an index including references of law of over 25 pages.

Spector's appeal was rejected by the CCoA on every issue that Riordan raised.

The process goes like this.

Continued in next post....

Sprocket said...


There is a filing by Lazarus' counsel with the CCoA. Then, the defense has a certain amount of time to file the appeal. They can ask for extensions though, and those are often granted.

Then the State of California has a certain amount of time to reply to the appeal. This response is no longer handled by the County that prosecuted Lazarus. It's handled out of the State Attorney General's office. They respond. After they respond, then the defense has time to file their rebuttal response to the State's reply.

After all moving papers are presented to the CCoA, then oral arguments are heard within 60 or 90 days. I can't remember which. But by oral argument time, the Justices have read everything and have (most likely)come to a decision. Oral arguments are basically a formality.

I'm not positive, but I believe the appellant has the right to request the appeal be heard by all 11 justices instead of just three, but I honestly can't say I know how that works. Hopefully, I'll talk to an attorney who is familiar with the Appellate court process so I can walk it through with T&T readers.

Anonymous said...

While it's noble of Steve Lazarus speaking out about his sister's trial... In essence he seems to be making a fool of himself... just say'in...

Anonymous said...

Why aren't we hearing from Scott Young instead of or in addition to Steven Lazarus? We have heard absolutely not one word from him?? Scott is more of a mistery than JR ??

Anonymous said...

I've watched the interrogation video twice. It's interesting to see Lazarus spinning in her own spin cycle, miserably attempting to pass things off as trivial and vague. This woman is horrible liar.

And when asked about Sherri, Lazarus said "she got killed" instead of saying "she was killed" or "she was murderedn." I thought that to be odd. Perhaps (in her mind) Lazarus was saying that Sherri GOT herself killed (for 'stealing' John).

Sprocket said...

In Scott Young's defense, he is not obligated to speak to the media or public.

I imagine he would prefer to have his privacy, and I can totally respect that.

Anonymous said...

Sprocket, will you post Steven lazarus' video ? I can't find the link.

Sprocket said...

To find the videos, go to YouTube and put the words "Stephanie Lazarus" in the YouTube search bar.

Scroll down through the list of videos and the new one's Steven has made will show up mixed in with other videos.

debbiescalisi said...

Sprocket, I have not watched the YouTube on Steve Lazarus because I think it would just give me a headache right now. I do not blame him for defending his sister. What SL did in 1986 brought down her whole family 23 years later, little by little. This was a cold case for 23 years and these detectives did their research and homework ten times over before they could even confide to the Rasmussen's they were getting close to arresting SL. By some grace of God, the only thing that incriminated SL was the bite on Sherri's arm and the torn fingernails. Honestly, with the fingernails alone that might have made the case shakey. There is no doubt in my mind a higher power decided SL would pay in time and when that time rolled around, her family, in particular Scott & baby, were all paying just like the Rasmussen's have paid for 26 years.

I have gone back and forth the scene of that morning when SL was there. I keep wondering if she picked the lock and then discovered Sherri was home sick that day. SL had, most likely, made some previous trips to the condo to snoop around and Sherri surprised her this particular day. Remember, Sherri had told one of her friends previously she had a weird feeling someone had been in the condo during the day while they were gone because certain things had been "moved." When SL gained entrance that morning, there was Sherri standing in the kitchen. If SL was in uniform, she would have not appeared suspicious fooling with the door outside AND her uniform would have been somewhat protective of her body, i.e. arms, torso from the horrendous fight/struggle the two women entangled in.

I guess we can all speculate different versions. My money is on that SL had been there numerous times to snoop around and Sherri surprised her that morning. It is a shame SL had not confided in John about the harrassment; I would have been so mad I would have made sure he was on
alert from Day #1 to end that nonsense and quit being Mr. Nice Guy with SL.

Again, as far as Steven Lazarus goes, notice no other family member is speaking out? Her husband Scott is completely under the radar. My heart feels for him. I think he has always known she was guilty and did the right thing by hanging in there until the verdict. Sprocket, cannot wait until you ad more stories for us from contributors of SL's friends, etc. I know you will be very fair.

Anonymous said...

As far as a possible defense, I wasnt thinking about the defense blaming Sherris death on burglars who come after Lazarus leaves. No, a simple explanation: two women are fighting, they fall to the floor, then they are struggling over control of the gun and it goes off. Why there was no forced entry to the condo: Lazarus knocked on the front door, Sherri let her in.(Occams Razor)The two women had talked about John before.Its not such a stretch to imagine Lazarus going there, and saying, "Look, can we just talk about this situation with John?".Sherri lets her in, they talk for a while, but then the emotions flare up and a physical fight starts.If this scenario couldnt happen, then two women have never fought over a man.It happens all the time. I really believe Lazarus taking the stand to explain what happended would have been better than trying to fight the DNA evidence.

Becky said...

Sprocket, thanks for your information on the appeals process. I remember Overland saying that they would definitely appeal. Does that mean he'll be the appellate attorney, or will the family have to hire someone new for that phase?