Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Trial: Day 15, Part II

UPDATED: Edited for accuracy.

Department 104, Judge Robert J. Perry's courtroom,
© Thomas Broersma

Thomas is available for hire and requests via E-mail: thomasbroersma AT
or you can reach him by contacting me.

Continued from Day 15...

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012.
I’m worried that I won’t get inside Department 104 in time. I woke Mr. Sprocket up over a half-our later than his usual time and consequently, breakfast is late and so is he in getting ready and out the door.

As I’m walking from the Metro train to the building on Temple, I come up to a tiny woman with blond hair, shapely legs, wearing a long brown coat that I recognize as belonging to Pat LaLama. When we get inside the building I grab Pat and tell her we’re going in through the employee line, using our green press badges so we can pass the long security lines for the general public. It was my friend and fellow writer Steven Mikulan who passed this suggestion onto me if I was late to court.

I get into Department 104 just in time for Judge Perry to take the bench. Shannon Presby is wearing a silver, black and white striped tie and Paul Nunez is wearing a deep red, maroon colored tie. Lazarus comes out of the jail area in gray pants, a red turtleneck top and a black, loose, hip length cardigan type knit jacket. She is all smiles for her family.

8:35 AM, CBS 48 Hours producer Greg Fisher is here and Steven Mikulan makes it in at the last moment. DDA Presby and Overland chat for a moment in the well before Judge Perry takes the bench. We must be waiting on a juror. Yep. One is late. They are going to hold the juror from entering until they deal with a motion by the prosecution.

On the record. The people have a motion to preclude the testimony of Jeffrey Thompson, who was acting supervisor of the serology lab back in 2009.

Judge Perry indicates he has read defense exhibits HHH, IIII, JJJJ, and KKKK in addition to another document presented to the court by the defense. Judge Perry indicates he will be making reference to the additional documents.

In his review of the documents, HHHH is the inspection report dated April 1998. This is the accrediting agency that certifies labs. (I have in my notes that Judge Perry said "Actually, this is kind of funny to read this ASCLD/ Inspection In 1998 ASCLD/LAB" but I'm not remembering that as I type out my notes.)

Joel Rubin from the Los Angeles Times slips into a seat in the front row.

JP: Indeed, in April 1998, the accrediting board found there were several deficiencies, I will call insufficiency's, when they looked at the lab.

JP: The follow-up in November 1998, November 17, 1998, that report did find that all the had been corrected. They recommended accreditation in the areas and on in the DNA as of November 1998. The DNA portion of the LAPD lab (was) approved (with) accreditation. (snip) I don’t see any value of pointing out the in the deficiencies prior to 1998.

JP: Any deficiencies that may have been observed in the 1998 inspection would appear to the court to be irrelevant and (I) won’t allow (testimony on that issue).

The inspection report dated December 13th, 2004. Judge Perry goes over the findings. There were areas where there was 100% compliance. All of these reports have criteria ratings. (I miss getting the specifics of the various areas completely, but the ratings are all in the 86% to 100%.)

JP: The prosecutions cross identified specific pages and that was helpful to me. (However) cross ignored supplemental findings.

Documentation on temperature recordings on the freezers/refrigerators was not daily and the manual was changed to reflect the weekly recordings. A similar issue for the biology unit.

JP: The supplemental finding was (the procedures were reviewed?) verifying compliance with the procedures. It seemed to me this report found (the lab) to b e in substantial, nearly complete compliance.

Testing, proficiency testing (in the individual units?) (If I’m recalling correctly, was not completely documented.)....

JP: There were no problems that would compromise the later testing in this case. Find (this report?) irrelevant 352; not necessary or helpful in this case. I think it’s remote and there’s nothing to show the work in this case was compromised by these reports.

Now Judge Perry goes over the response to the inspection done January 12th, through the 16th, 2009.

JP: The areas that the defense wanted to go into were, in the courts view, frankly irrelevant. Whether they were completing employee evaluations is irrelevant.

There’s something about tracking evidence in the Van Nuys narcotic unit an the LAPD response (was) the tracking documentation procedures were revised.

JP: In the courts view, nothing applicable to this case in here. In fact, Ms. Francis testified to the documentation they (SID serology lab) prepared when they did their preparations (of the DNA samples).

Then Judge Perry apologizes to the court reporter for burdening her with what he is about to read. It’s a finding in the report in the DNA lab. And it applies to controls an standards as they are properly recorded in the (serology lab’s) case records.

ASCLD/LAB (found) DNA samples and negative concentration extraction controls are not necessarily documented in contamination. (I’m sure I don’t have what Judge Perry quoted from the report exact.) Negative extraction control was not... (snip) It is possible that a contamination in the original sample and control (snip) TRISS EDTA buffer is used with....

I can’t write this stuff. I see 20/20 Producer Lisa Tomaselli is here and takes a seat in the front row to my left.

JP: There’s nothing that I can see in this that relates to any of the work in this case. (snip) There is no suggestion that I’ve seen so far in the two cases that (they found listed in the report) are related to the testing in this case.

JP: It seems to me that Ms. Francis and the other criminalist could have been asked (about the extraction controls). (snip) I just don’t see this as being helpful to the truth of the case (and I’m going to deny it) on 352.

JP: But if you want Mr. Thompson to come back and answer questions on this case.... but I don’t see any evidence that is commented on there that relates to the evidence in this case.

MO: If you want Mr. Thompson here, I will have him here in the afternoon.

Overland then mentions the IDLZOFT (sp?) mistake. One of the analysts that worked on this case. He wants to question Thompson in his issue.

JP: Let’s go ahead and call Thompson and cross on.... (snip) I’m excluding examination for reason stated on exhibits HHH through JJJJ.

MO: So, only thing (to include? exclude?) issues on which.... (snip) so anything contained in report section in 2009?

JP: That’s is correct. Bring out the jury. We’ll have a discussion with Thompson outside the presence of the jury.

At 9:05 AM we finally get testimony started again.

Olson works for the Santa Monica Police Department, records manager. He brought property theft records from automobiles that occurred from February 1st, 1986 to March 30th, 1986. He also brought documentation on thefts relating to parking structures located in downtown Santa Monica, between 4th Street and 2nd Street. Multi-level parking structures. These structures are all in the “Beat Three” district = downtown. The general borders are Wilshire Blvd., to Colorado Blvd., and from Ocean to Lincoln. Olson estimates that’s about sixteen blocks.

Olsen provides documentation on thefts in parking structures on March 9th, 1986. There were three records documenting three property thefts from automobiles.

One record is a theft report from Stephanie Lazarus, assigned a DR (crime report record) number of 86-5715. There were two other on that date, also thefts from parking structures. Lazarus’ vehicle was parked in structure #2 at 1235 2nd Street.

The next theft record was from parking structure #6 at 1432 Second Street, DR #86-5733.

The third report, a theft from a motor vehicle, also in parking structure #6, DR #86-5922.

The second listing above, DR #86-5733 was from a Toyota Camry. The third listing, DR #5922 was from a Nissan Sentra.

MO: How many thefts were there?

CO: There were 33 thefts.

In a time frame of February 1st, 1986 to April 30th, 1986. (This is a discrepancy in my notes. At first, I have that it was through March 30th, 1986.)

Direct is finished and cross begins. DDA Shannon Presby crosses the witness.

SP: Do you have copies of the other DR numbers for the 9th?

CO: Sure do.

Presby looks over the documents and then asks some questions.

SP: In DR #85-5733, what part of the car was broken into?

CO: The trunk.

SP: Was a suitcase (the) item taken from the trunk?

CO: Yes it was.

SP: Any report of a firearm?

CO: I don’t see a firearm taken in the report.

SP: The third DR, #86-5922. What was the portion of the car broken into?

CO: The trunk.

Presby reads the rest of the report.

SP: Any report of a firearm taken?

CO: No.

SP: Did you review all the DR numbers from February 1st, through April 30th?

I miss the answer, but I believe he replied, “No.”

Cross ends and redirect begins.

MO: On those two reports on the trunk, how were they accessed?

SP: Objection! Compound!

JP: I’ll allow one at a time.

MO: DR #5733?

CO: It appeared the trunk lock was damaged.

MO: And the other?

CO: It had been pried open.

This witness is finished and the defense calls it’s next witness. It’s a very tall woman, at least 6 feet. She’s wearing a baby pink suit jacket. She has elbow length blondish-gray hair.

Defense attorney Mark Overland and defense witness, Kim Dittbern
© Thomas Broersma


MO: Do you know the lady sitting at the (counsel?) table?

KD: Yes.

MO: How?

KD: I’ve known Stephanie for (? years?). (snip) I met her at the CPA program in 1983, and we were in the same LAPD Academy class of September 1983.

Dittbern was an LAPD officer for six years. When she was in the academy she became friends with Lazarus.

MO: How about the CPA program? (snip)

KD: (Yes.)

MO: What is the CPA program?

KD: It’s a program for women to prepare for the physical demands of academy (training).

She doesn’t know (remember) how long the CPA training was. Possibly several weeks. It’s physical training, calisthenics, lots of running. Mainly physical training. She observed Lazarus in that training.

MO: (Was she) very athletic?

KD: Yes, she was. (snip) She was excellent. Very fit. A student leader (who) helped bring people into the program. A natural leader.

MO: After (you) completed (CPA) and went into the academy, did you have contact at the academy?

KD: In class, in there together every day. (snip) The women in class (were a) tight knit group.

MO: How many women were there (in that class)?

KD: About a dozen. I can’t say for sure.

MO: How long was the LAPD Academy program?

KD: Six months.

MO: During that six months, did you see (Lazarus) on a daily basis?

KD: Yes, I did.

MO: Saw her interact (with others)?
KD: Yes I did.

MO: Describe the (LAPD Academy) training.

KD: Physically demanding; training in self discipline; academic; legal, conflict resolution.

MO: Did you observe her in conflict (situations?)?

KD: All my memories of her are (?) outstanding. She was a natural leader.

After the academy, Dittbern was assigned to work patrol in Pacific Division. She never worked with Lazarus as a patrol officer.

MO: Did you stay in contact with her?

KD: Yes I did. (snip) We went skiing, also had reunions and class reunions (academy). (snip) Later on in our lives, we both had daughters where our lives came back together.

Dittbern left the LAPD in 1989. After she left, she continued to see Lazarus in social occasions. They attended each others wedding and class reunions.

KD: We got together for lunch a couple of times in those years.

Overland wants to introduce a photograph to his witness. It’s eventually put up on the overhead. It’s taken some time ago; it’s not recent since all the women appear young. The photo is of four women. She is on the far left, she doesn’t recognize the woman next to her, then to the right is Lazarus and then I can clearly see on the far right, a much younger Jayne Weaver who testified about Lazarus showing her lock picking tools.

Dittbern states the photo was probably taken in the late 80’s.

MO: Is that when you were still a police officer?

KD: I cannot say for sure.

MO: During the years you’ve know Ms. Lazarus, (have you formed an opinion) whether or not she is a violent person.

KD: No she is not a violent person. In all the decades I’ve known her, and all the situations... (miss getting the rest, but I believe she adds she’s never seen her be violent).

Direct ends and cross by DDA Nunez begins.

PN: (You were) in the academy with the defendant (for) six months?

KD: That’s correct.

PN: You graduated in March 1984, is that correct?

KD: Right about that time.

PN: You did not work with the defendant at all? (snip) Ho long were you in the Pacific Division?

KD: A little over a year.

She then worked the Harbor Division.

PN: At that point (in time?) you lived in (the?) South Bay?

KD: About that time I did.

She had a six year career.

PN: You said you would see the defendant (about?) once a year?

She moved to Northern California in 1989 when she left the department.

KD: I would see that (as an) average (snip) once a year. (snip) I was thinking of that more as an average.

PN: You would see her during fun times, family times?

KD: Yes.

PN: (You said) the photo was taken in the late 80’s. What is the late 80’s to you?

KD: 1989.

PN: (Did you meet her family?) When did you meet her family?

KD: I can’t remember exactly when I met her family. It was a long time (ago).

I believe Nunez asks a question about her being out of town mostly. I have a question here, but I don’t know who asked it, if it was Nunez or Overland in redirect. “(Her) record in the academy was outstanding?” And the witness answers, “Yes.”

The testimony is complete and the next witness is called. Towards the end of this witness I had a huge coughing fit. It wouldn’t stop. Sherri’s sister Teresa, sitting behind me to my right handed me a bottle of water.


MO: Do you know Stephanie Lazarus?

SH: (Yes.)

MO: How long have you known (her)?

SH: Over 30 years.

They met at UCLA in the dorms. She lived in Dykstra Hall in 1978.

SH: We lived on different floors. She was on the 10th; I was on the 6th. (snip) (We) hung out with the same people.

The witness rattles off a bunch of names quickly that I can’t write down but in the middle of those names is John Ruetten.

MO: Did you ever notice any kind of relationship between Stephanie Lazarus and John Ruetten?

SH: They were friends.

MO: (Did you) notice any kind of romantic relationship?

SH: In college, no.

MO: Was John Ruetten dating anyone else in college:

SH: One of my (friends? roommate? roommate’s friends?) Elaine Schultz.

MO: Did you ever notice any type of jealousy or anger in Ms. Lazarus?

SH: No, never. We were all friends. (We) hung out together.

Overland asks something to the effect if Lazarus was athletic and if she was athletic.

SH: I ran track and cross country. (snip) Stephanie was on the basketball (team?) so we had a common bond (in sports?). (snip) After graduation, I moved out of state. (snip) We talked on the phone, had visits, (during) holidays. (snip) I got married in 1987. Stephanie's was one of my bridesmaids.

MO: When was the last time you saw her.

SH: A few weeks ago.

MO: You visited her at the jail?

SH: Yes, many times. (snip) At least a half a dozen times in the last year.

She would visit her and take one of her (own) kids with her on the visit. She would visit her (before she was jailed). They would go camping together.

SH: She and Scott would come to our house and have dinner. (snip) We/they would come to dinner over the years.

A photo is shown to the witness.

SP: My we approach your honor.

JP: Sure.

MO: How many times have you gone on camping trips?

Objection! Sustained!

MO: How many other occasions...

Objection! 352! Sustained!

MO: Over (the) approximately 30 years you have known Ms. Lazarus, (have you) formed an opinion (whether or not) she was a violent person?

SH: I’ve never seen her be violent.

There is another question with the same answer, “I’ve never seen her be violent.”

Direct ends and cross begins by DDA Presby.

SP: You were very athletic in college?

SH: Yes.

I believe there is a question about Lazarus also being athletic.

SP: You only knew (the defendant in college for one year?)?

SH: I only lived in the dorm (for one year).

SP: What was your major?

SH: Math.

SP: (Do you know what the defendant’s major was?)

SH: Poly Science.

I believe Presby asks a question or makes the reference that the didn’t have many classes together.

SP: How often did you see her when you moved off campus? (snip) So maybe once a week? (snip) Those (relations? references?) to John Ruetten, that’s limited to (your) one year on campus?

In 1981 she moved away from Southern California.

SP: So you don’t have any (precip?) knowledge of her relationship to John Ruetten?

SH: If you asking if I’ve seen them together, I did not.

She was away from Southern California from 1981 to 1984.

SP: You weren’t present in a condo on February 24th, 1986?

SH: No.

SP: You don’t know what happened there do you?

SH: (No) I do not.

SP: When you saw the defendant (with?) in that year on campus, (was she) dating anyone other than John Ruetten?

MO: Objection!

JP: Ask in a different way.

SP: Did you see in that one year, did you see the defendant date anyone?

SH: (No, I did not.)

Cross ends and Overland redirects his witness.

MO: In college, did you set up Ms. Lazarus with your brother?

SH: They did do things together. They went on a trip together. I don’t recall anything beyond that.

Testimony is finished.

I quickly look around and see the back row is filled with people. Some of the people in the back row appear to be either attorneys or detectives, sitting in seats near the door. There is a sidebar and afterwards, Nunez states he will go out and instruct the witness.

Matthew McGough who has been sitting to my right often throughout the trial tells me that the tall slender man sitting in the well directly in front of me was Detective James Nuttall, who solved the case.


Nuttall has been a detective with the LAPD for seven years. Before that, he’s been with the department a total of seventeen years. He started in 1995.

MO: Were you one of the investigators in this case?

JN: That’s correct.

MO: Are you still involved in this case?

JN: No sir.

The case was first transferred to him in 2008.

JN: I believe in March 2008.

It was transferred from Robbery/Homicide to Van Nuys.

MO: At the time you were investigating, you were assigned to Van Nuys?

JN: That’s correct.

MO: Did you go through certain items of evidence (involved?) in this case?

JN: That’s correct.

MO: Did you write some notes in this case?

JN: Yes.

MO: Do you have them with you?

JN: They’re with the case file.

Defense exhibit RRRR.

MO: See if you recognize (that).

JN: I recognize these sir. These are my handwritten notes from inventory.

JP: Don’t publish this (just yet).

MO: Look at the numbers on the left side. What do they refer to?

PN: Objection! Hearsay.

JP: I don’t know. I can’t make a ruling. Lets go to sidebar.

A few of the jurors turn and watch a person enter the gallery. I look over at Lazarus’ family and I see her brother Steven write in a notebook. Judge Perry then addresses the jury.

JP: Ladies and gentlemen, let me ask you to step in the back.

DDA Presby gets up and whispers to the female DDA sitting at the detective’s table.

JP: Mr. Overland can continue with his direct.

I believe all of this testimony next is outside the presence of the jury.

MO: Mr. Nuttall, on May 12th, 2009, did you do an inventory of evidence that was seized in this case?

JN: That’s correct.

MO: And the defense document is accurate as to what you did?

JN: I went through everything and got them from the property division and opened each item.

MO: Were they sealed?

JN: Correct.

MO: Did you open and seal and put (your) initials on them?

Overland points to an item #16 GSR Kit on his manually written list.

MO: What was that?

JN: I don’t recall what that items was, that kit.

MO: But you got that from the property division at Van Nuys?

JN: Yes sir.

Overland asks him to look at item #10.

MO: What you did is you opened up #10? (snip) How did you determine fingernails were inside?

JN: I don’t recall opening items.

(My next line of notes is not clear if it’s part of an answer or a question.)

One by one to (protect? proof?) item of DNA.

MO: As you sit here today (you) don’t remember doing (that)?

JN: That’s correct. (snip) I don’t remember each item.

Direct ends and cross begins. DDA Nunez crosses the witness.

Nunez starts of asking about the handwritten paper.

PN: The inventory, that is your notes? (snip) Were you at the property (room? in the?) station?

JN: So that would be when I had evidence out.

PN: What property location? (snip) Do you know how the items got there?

Nuttall ordered them so he could do an inventory.

PN: Did you open up blood evidence?

JN: No sir.

PN: Did you touch evidence?

JN: No sir.

Nunez asks if he remembers if there were lots of envelopes or lots of boxes.

JN: If my memory serves me, there were many boxes.

PN: Did you open up evidence with blood stain?

JN: (No.)

PN: Did you open up envelope with (the) bite mark evidence?

JN: No.

Judge Perry rules to let the jury hear this testimony.

Nunez argues about the GSR kit.

PN: It was in LAPD custody, taken from the multicolored blanket.

He continues to argue passionately. His tone and body language indicates he’s not happy that the defense is going to get to introduce this evidence. He argues that the defense is somehow going to infer that this GSR kit might be one of the GSR kits in the coroner’s office, misleading the jury.

JP: I don’t know what to do with this. What would you have me do?

PN: But to ask about this evidence....

JP: I don’t think I can do anything either way. Let’s have the jury hear the evidence.

10:10 AM, the jury is brought back out.

MO: Is that (an) (accurate? accounting?) of an inventory of property you made that you wrote down that you looked at?

JN: Yes it was.

The defense exhibit shows that it’s hand written on lined note paper.

JN: The numbers, to the best of my recollection, they were corresponding to numbers in the property book.

MO: And look at... (snip) When (you) went through these items of (property?) was each item in an envelope?

JN: Yes sir.

MO: Did you open each envelope?

JN: Which item(s) sir?

MO: Did you open any envelope from (items numbered) one through thirty-one?

JN: Yes sir.

MO: As you sit here today (miss the rest of the question)....

JN: To the best of my recollection, I was avoiding DNA (evidence) and only (opening) shelf stored evidence. (snip) Evidence that was boxed up.

MO: What did you open and what did you do?

Overland now goes over every item on the list starting with item number one.

Overland asks about items numbered one through five. (Although I don’t have it in my notes, I have a memory these were described as blood on the hand written note.)

JN: One through five, to the best of my recollection, they were in a sealed envelope.

JP: So you did open ....(?)?

MO: (What) about six, seven eight? Did you open (the vase and towel)?

JN: Yes I did. (snip) I took them out.

MO: Did you wear gloves? (snip) What kind?

JN: Standard issue latex.

Then he sealed the envelopes (back up).

MO: What about nine, ten, eleven?

JN: I do not recollect opening number nine and ten and remember looking for number eleven (specifically?).

Number eleven was circular, with a square pattern. He examined it and put it back in an envelope. Everything was kept (separate). (snip) We had a long table. (snip) Everything was spread out on a long table.

MO: So you had a number of items on a long table?

Then (he) went through....

MO: Was anyone with you?

JN: My partner.

MO: Was that Detective Barba?

JN: Yes sir.

MO: (Blkt? Blanket?) number 14. (Did you look at that?)

JN: I did.

MO: (You) laid it out on (the) table also?

JN: I did.

MO: Number fifteen. blood from blanket.

JN: I don’t remember taking that out.

MO: Number sixteen. Do you remember any particular number on that GSR kit?

Nuttall doesn’t remember a number on the GSR kit.

MO: Number seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, clothing; (you) took that out and examined (them)?

I believe Nuttall answered “Yes.”

MO: Numbers twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two?

JN: I don’t recall that, no.

MO: Number twenty-three, a fiber?

JN: Yes. I believe it was taken out. (snip) Placed on brown paper. (snip) Fore each item we handled, (it) was done to protect it and to keep it separate.

MO: Do you remember taking the fiber out with tweezers or your hand?

JN: I don’t recall.

MO: Item number twenty-four, (labeled) blood. Did you take that out?

JN: No.

We move onto page two of this two page document.

MO: Number twenty-five. (What about that item?)

JN: It never made the transfer list. (snip) When I ordered it all transferred it should have made it to Van Nuys. That particular item was missing.

MO: So it never made it to Van Nuys?

Nuttall states that he determined it was at another facility and not transferred. The word (that sounds like to me) “Piper-Tech” is mentioned. At the time, there was an SID lab down there.

MO: Number twenty-six, fingernail kit?

JN: No.

MO: Number twenty-seven, fingernail clippings?

JN: No.

MO: Number twenty-eight, (I can’t read what it says on the list for this item)?

JN: No.

MO: Number twenty-nine?

JN: No.

This item was actually two items booked as number one and changed.

MO: So when property was collected originally two items were changed or someone else had changed previously?

JN: Someone else had changed previously.

MO: Number thirty? (the swab)

JN: No.

MO: Number thirty-one? (DNA extract from number nine)

JN: No.

MO: The signature at the bottom, that is you?

JN: Yes, it is.

MO: All (property? properly?) sealed, is that your writing?

JN: Yes.

MO: What did you mean by (that?)?

JN: All inventory was (re-sealed).

MO: Means, what ever it was, that was opened was resealed? (snip) Why did you do that?

JN: Some of the paper wrappings had become worn.

MO: And the reason you did that is to protect the evidence?

JN: Yes sir.

MO: Take a look at defense exhibit EEE. (snip) Is that your writing?

JN: Yes it is.

MO: Did you write that?

JN: Yes.

JP: I’m confused. I thought EEE was a photograph.

MO: (I’m sorry your honor. It’s the wrong number. (I’m) trying to locate the right number.

We take the morning recess. I have in my notes that Judge Perry and Overland discuss off the record about the defense exhibit number.

We’re back on the record at 10:45 AM.

MO: The property report, (you) have that in front of you?

JN: Yes, I do.

Defense exhibit SSSS. Overland asks him about the writing on that. (As I write this, I can remember, visualize it in my mind, what was put up on the screen.) He had handwritten on the property report, a note, something about evidence item #31 about what it might be.

JN: I didn’t date it. (snip) I don’t recall, but it wasn’t during the inventory.

It was done in error, (he realized?) after speaking to the DNA analyst.

MO: (It states) Is the DNA extracts from #30. Nuttall.

JN: That was an error.

JP: The answer is that’s what he wrote.

MO: Why did you feel you had to write that in there?

JN: (I was) making a note to myself from the telephone conversation.

I think Overland asks who the conversation was with.

JN: Jennifer Francis.

That’s the end of direct and Nunez gets up to cross the witness. (I’m theorizing that a lot of this misunderstanding could have been cleared up if the prosecution had went ahead and had Nuttall testify in their case-in-chief.) When Nunez begins this cross, he has more fire and passion in his questioning than I’ve seen from him before. There’s a forcefulness in his tone and delivery. It’s like he has a bit of impatience; like he’s on fire.

DDA Paul Nunez and defense witness,
Detective James Nuttall

© Thomas Broersma

PN: When you looked at (the) information in 2009, you knew that the bite mark had already been analyzed?

JN: Correct.

PN: You were preparing the case for transfer to Robbery/Homicide?

JN: Correct.

PN: You were trying to find out what item number 31 was?

JN: Correct.

PN: So you contacted Jennifer Francis?

Property report, next in order, People’s exhibits #354 and #355.

PN: Do you recognize that as an LAPD property report?

JN: I do.

Nuttall testifies that the property report reflects that a Milena Srbova booked item #30.

The next item he shows Nuttall, I have the date written down as 1-21-2005, People’s exhibit #355.

MO: Can I see that your honor?

Nunez looks irate that he has to walk this item over to Overland for him to see it before he shows it to the witness.

PN: Let me show you People’s #355

JN: That’s another LAPD property report.

Now there’s the date 2-9-2005, a property report by Jennifer Francis, that indicates item number thirty-one is from item number nine.

PN: You didn’t prepare any DNA extracts?

JN: No.

And the DNA bite mark (was) booked by Milena Srbova.

PN: The DNA and bite mark had already been tested?

JN: Correct.

He was trying to find out if (he was) tracking a female in this case. When he got this case, he knew he was tracking a female.

PN: Where did you get this case?

JN: From Cold Case Special.

Nuttall gets the case in 2008 and understood (the suspect) it’s a female.

PN: And you wanted to make sure all the items (were) there, correct?

JN: Correct.

PN: The items were spread out (on that table?)?

JN: Yes.

PN: They had been previously at (a) downtown (location)?

JN: (Yes.)

PN: (You) looked at (the items) in a (special?) area of the property room?

JN: Yes.

PN: You talked about (items on?) a table?

JN: Yes.

PN: Items in a box?

JN: Correct. (snip) We did it individual item by individual item. (snip) Package by package.

PN: All the items were not in one box?

JN: That’s correct. (snip) There were no more than two, with large individual bags inside.

PN: And it’s your testimony that you didn’t open up.... (?)?

JN: I did not.

Nunez goes over several items. He opened the nail (head?) package and sealed it back up. The blanket, he looked at the blanket.

PN: That GSR kit was labeled for the blanket, correct?

JN: Yes.

PN: It was not from the coroner?

JN: Yes.

Nunez goes over in detail every single item he looked at and wrapped back up.

PN: All the while wearing gloves (while) opening up (items?)?

JN: Yes.

PN: And many items you had opened up had already been tested in 2005?

JN: Yes.

PN: The purse? (snip) The vase?

JN: Yes, yes.

PN: No two items of evidence were ever opened at the same time?

JN: That’s correct.

He was opening up items to ensure everything was there. He is asked if another detective (his partner I think) was there. (Yes.) He is asked if it was normal if the property officer to be there as well. (Correct.) Then, once he was finished the property officer took custody of the items.

PN: When you made note number 31, did you have all the DNA reports in front of you?

JN: No.

PN: Did you know about all the testing that Jennifer Francis had done and her notations?

(I have “correct” but I’m not sure that makes sense.)

PN: You knew she had tested item number 30?

JN: Correct.

PN: Did you look at crime scene photos?

JN: Yes I did.

PN: You also looked at the BMW (reports?)?

JN: Yes.

PN: Was it stripped?

JN: No.

Cross ends and redirect begins.

MO: At the recess, did you have a conversation? (snip) Did you speak to the prosecutor, Mr. Nunez?

JN: He wanted to clear up some issues.

MO: What did he say to you? (snip) Did he appear to be upset?

JN: Knowing Paul, and the heat of the moment (snip) He felt we needed to address some (things?).

MO: Were those his words?

JP: You (know?), the prosecutor is not on trial here. 352.

MO: The GSR kit. Did he tell you that GSR kit came from the blanket?

JN: Yes.

MO: So, you don’t remember... (snip) were there other things... (?)

Judge Perry interjects his own question.

Defense attorney Mark Overland and defense witness, Detective James Nuttall
© Thomas Broersma

JP: Did he tell you what to say?

JN: No sir.

JP: Are you telling (snip?) the truth?

JN: Yes. (snip) That exam was three years ago. I’d have to refer to the original property report. (snip) I’ve been removed from the evidence (snip). Paul has been working with it every day.

MO: So you repeated what he said?

JN: No sir.

MO: Did you interview John Ruetten in this case? (snip) Did you make the statement

PN: Objection! Argument! Sidebar!

Redirect ends and recross begins.

PN: When you had .... (snip) ... separated from the case for three years?

JN: Yes sir.

(I don’t have it in my notes but I’m remembering that at some point in this cross a new document is shown to the witness.)

PN: The GSR kit, that was inventoried by you .... (snip)? Does that property (report?) refresh your memory (where it?) came from?

JN: Yes.

PN: Did that property report indicate it came from the blanket?

JN: Yes.

Objection! Hearsay! Over ruled!

Overland demands to see the property report.

MO: Can I see that! Can I see that!

Cross ends and redirect begins.

MO: That property report (that was) shown to you (snip) ...going to show to you again. (snip) Look at (the) date that was booked.

JN: Booking date, February 26th, 1986.

Another document Overland wants to present the witness. Nunez and Presby look over the document first.

MO: Do you recognize that document? (snip) What type of document that is?

JN: (I don’t.)

MO: Does that look like a property card?

JN: It doesn’t to me.

Overland has no more questions but he is asking Judge Perry not to excuse the witness yet.


Myers is an LAPD Homicide Investigator. He’s been with the department for 24.5 years and homicide for 17 years. He was involved in the search of Lazarus’ locker and recovered some items from her locker.

MO: Did you make a report?

DM: There was a property report generated.

MO: Did you (receive? a) handgun from the locker? (snip) What kind was it?

DM: (A) Smith & Wesson 38. (snip) I’d have to look at the report. Model 67-1. (snip) I’m not the author of the report.

It was a 4” barrel weapon and he (received?) ammunition.

Item #74 on the property report were 38 caliber +P Remington Peters (cartridges). Myers explains that “plus P” means there’s just a little extra powder in the cartridge.

SP: People stipulate there were 31 rounds of ammunition.

Looking over at the Lazarus family, I note that Lazarus’ mother Carol and another woman with the group write notes in a notebook.

Myers goes over all the ammunition that was recovered. Item after item of groups of cartridges that were booked into evidence. Not a single cartridge was the “Federal” type of bullets (cartridges) that the prosecution’s witnesses say was recovered from Rasmussen’s body. There’s no cross of the witness.

Overland has run out of witnesses at 11:25 AM. The defense is trying to get someone here.

JP: Are they in the building?

I don’t know if he is answered or not.

JP: Why don’t we send the jury off to lunch. The jury is ordered back at 1:30 (2 hour lunch) and counsel ordered back at 1 PM for more testimony from Jeffrey Thompson about the findings in the 2009 ASCLAD/LAB audit report.

To be continued with Day 15, Part III


Anonymous said...

Sprocket, your doing great. Just a couple of things. Nuttal's partner, actually one of two others who worked with him, was Barba. The other -Martinez. And the Scientific Investigation Division Property was kept at Piper-Tech. It's the name of the building complex.

Anonymous said...

Was yesterday Trial dark & is today & Friday closing arguments? Sorry if I'm not keeping track :(

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 1:43 PM

The defense rested on Tuesday. There was no rebuttal case from the prosecution, so testimony is over. Done.

Yesterday, counsel went over and agreed upon the fine language of jury instructions.

Court is dark today and Friday. Closing arguments will start Monday @ 9:00 am, or sometime soon after.

It is expected they will go into Tuesday. After closings, the jurors will be read the jury instructions and then they will get the case and we will be on jury watch.

Sprocket said...

Thank you Anon @ 1:01 PM:

I knew that what I heard sounded familiar from the Spector case, but I didn't remember it exactly.

I think when I toured the new crime lab in April 2009, that location/name was mentioned to me.

Sprocket said...

I believe Mark Overland only inquired about a single partner, naming Detective Barba; that's what my notes reflect.

If Dective Nuttall also mentioned Detective Martinez in his response, I apologize that I didn't catch it since it's not in my notes.

Jo said...

Sprocket, thank you for your excellent coverage, and for your attempts at moderating the comments. This has been eye-opening. You are right. Many of SL's friends/family/acquaintances are reading this blog. Many of us knew SL back during the time this crime occurred. I can say that most of us cannot fathom SL being guilty of such a crime. She was not a monster with unusual gorilla strength. The photos that have been published are typical press photos trying to catch people at their worst. If people could see a photo of her then and compare it to SR, they would be shocked to see how similar they looked. She was a young, bubbly, outgoing woman, excited about her career and the possibilities of life. Maybe she is guilty, maybe she is not. Of course her friends hope the latter. They also wish for justice to be correctly served, and realize that if convicted, so be it. This is sad and heartbreaking for soooo many people on both sides. Thank you.

NancyB said...


I'm wondering if you would be willing to speak with one of the prosecutors after the jury has reached a verdict to inquire about the marriage license. That loose end still bugs me. :)

Sprocket said...

Thank so much for your input and for reminding everyone that there are real people who love Lazarus and care about what happens to her in this trial.

I agree that from what I have seen of Lazarus in court, her appearance does not look anything like the arraignment photos or her booking photo.

Like I have mentioned before, I believe the photos of her with her eyes not looking right are related to her thyroid condition/cancer. My step-mother had the exact same condition. If the medication to regulate the thyroid is not exact, it will cause the individual's eyes to have that look.

There's nothing you can do about it except try to get the dosage right, and that can fluctuate from day to day. There is the very real possibility that Lazarus, once arrested did not have immediate access to her daily medication when she appeared for her arraignment.

I will also add that the photo that was shown in court of Lazarus in a bikini on a park bench (taken, I believe during her college days or soon after), although grainy and out of focus, indicated to me she was quite slender, sculpted and toned. She looked good.

I will say this again, I can only have empathy for all parties affected by this case: the Rasmussen family and friends, the Lazarus family and friends, and the coworkers of Lazarus and her husband Scott.

Sprocket said...

Nancy B:
I can ask, but I have no guarantee that they will speak to me about this issue.

We may never know the answer unless someone from the Rasmussen family or the prosecutor's office decides to explain why we did not hear testimony on this issue.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Sprocket, No, your notes are right. It's just that Martinez and Barba get very little credit for their part. Your doing great!

Anonymous said...


Kathy said...

I really like Judge Perry. He seems to take great care in what line of questioning is allowed so as not to confuse the jury.

Am I correct in thinking, that at this late time, Lazarus will not be taking the stand in her defense?

Thank you for all your efforts to bring us inside the courtroom for this very interesting case.

Who do you want to play you in the TV movie? The judge, Rasmussen, Ruetten, etc.?


Anonymous said...

How can ANYONE compare SL's looks to Sherry Rassmussen's??? Sherry looks "angelic" while SL has (from all the photo's, which are MANY, going back MANY years) a cold hard look to her. She even appears kind of masculine IMO.

Avery21 said...

Re bail: Judge Perry set bail in 2009 at twice the amount prosecutors requested & required it all in CASH! (effectively denying bail.) He stated "due to the compelling evidence against her & likelihood of her fleeing, & access to guns." (a threat to herself & others.) My question, Sprocket: Do you think a jury, rightly or wrongly, is ever influenced by the amount of bail set & whether the accused can post it? All beside the point now, I know, but I'm curious. I would have guessed, just by the fact that she is LAPD, bail would have been set at an amt.she could realistically post. Thanks

Robert said...

Murder, like marriage involves two people, and four extended families; sometimes five. The heartbreak of bloody loss is mixed in the same glass with the numbing realization that someone you thought you knew took the life of another. Mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, friends and others on both sides are rocked and sometimes destroyed by the sudden end of a wonderful life. Sometimes the victim's family never recovers, and sometimes after a guilty verdict the murderer's family never recovers because they lose the one they loved as suddenly as the victim's family lost their son or daughter.

I do not wish a guilty verdict on Stephanie Lazarus any more than I wished Sherri Rasmussen to be beaten and subdued in her own home, then shot dead with three bullets to her chest only three months after her wedding. I don't wish Stephanie Lazarus' daughter to grow up with a mother on death row, nor for her husband to grieve over this for the rest of his life anymore than I wished for
Sherri Rasmussen's parents to cry themselves to sleep for the last twenty-five years... or for John Ruetten to live such a broken life, without Sherri and their children.

It is not because I have no heart that I see the evidence clearly indicating that Stephanie Lazarus committed this crime. It is compelling... It seems to shout from the grave, to raise up a chorus from the blood of that poor woman; a chorus that will not be silenced.

Yesterday I wrote about the four seals on that swab and the fact that all of them were unbroken. That’s the evidence.

As to the prosecutions’ motive… The jury should be reminded that initially and culturally, the LAPD could not accept that one of their own was involved. The second time around, LAPD cold case detectives still accorded her the respect due a fellow officer and investigated her last. They were distressed when their investigation pointed to the unthinkable. Those men and women bore no grudge. In fact, they would rather have avoided this trial and avoided the stain on their department’s honor.

If the LAPD did not find the evidence conclusive beyond a reasonable doubt, why would Stephanie Lazarus’ colleagues hand their murder book to the DA?

I assume they moved forward because they felt the DNA evidence was irrefutable and could not be ignored. And when they discovered a love relationship between SL and Ruetten... and threatening behavior between SL and Rasmussen... and no alibi for SL on the day of the murder... and residue from a 2" barrel, and standard issue LAPD ammunition used to commit the crime... and no sign of forced entry along with SL's lock-picking kit... and what looked to them like a staged crime scene, and nothing missing except Sherri's engagement gift…they reluctantly put the case together and handed it to the DA.

The day they handed their case to the DA was not a happy day for those detectives, nor for the LAPD. The entire department acted against their best interest, but they did the right thing, because they felt the evidence they collected indicated Stephanie Lazarus murdered Sherri Rasmussen.

DNA. A raft of circumstantial evidence pointing to Lazarus. A reluctant department uncovering evidence that embarrassed them, yet moving forward.

What could be more compelling?

Anonymous said...

WOW!!! When this case is over with, weather she is found guilty or not, we will never know the real truth. I was surprised that none of her former coworkers like her last partner would testify on her behalf. I understand that he is in complete denial. There were so few, you would think after 26 yrs, her friends on the force one of them would step forward. I guess the LAPD does not encourage their staff to come to the aid of another officer who is on trial. It's a brotherhood/sisterhood that sticks together. Waiting for the verdict can be grueling for both families and SL. You have to stay close to the court house and when the jury reaches a verdict the court likes have it read asap. Let's pray for both families to have the courage to except what 12 jurors decide. For all we know it may end up a hung jury, let's hope not. If I was on the jury I would listen attentively to both sides and make my decision based on all of the evidence and not be swayed by other people. For god's sake, SL freedom is at sake, If she is found not guilty she will disappear in society and if she is guilty she will be locked up for life. You have to do what is right by the law.

Anonymous said...

1. Thank you for your continuing exhaustive detail of the trial, it's much better than TV or being there.

2. Thanks also to the gifted Mr. Broersma for his fine sketches. Request that he sketch you for posting, call a vote of the readers if necessary.

3. How was entrance to the condo achieved, unlocked door or lock picking?

debbiescalisi said...

I am totally on-board with Anonymous at 4:35pm on 3/01.....DNA does not lie, it is what it is. I just hope the jury can sort through all the confusion on the DNA "mis-handling" Mark Overland tried to throw them under the truck with. I think LAPD did their homework and worked hard on this case before arresting Stephanie. Yes, it is sad for all the families involved, but Sherri deserves Justice after 26 years. Why she did not tell John when Stephanie was stalking her at work AND at their condo the first time puzzles me; I would have been furious and wanted my husband to rectify this problem ASAP. Maybe he would have been enraged enough to slam the brakes on Stephanie....I guess we won't ever know. But regardless, many of us are holding our breath for a verdict next week....I don't feel good about the way Mark Overland has tried to confuse the jury on the DNA storage.

Anonymous said...

Sprocket, could you please go over the charges. are there lesser included? or just the one big charge?

Anonymous said...

I see many posts from Robert. He is very smart and has a great understanding of all of the DNA evidence. I wish he was on the jury.

Anonymous said...

Greatly appreciate your coverage of this trial!

Has the defense indicated a direct reason and method the bite DNA tested could be the same as SL if she was not the person who actually made he bite?

Thanks again

Anonymous said...

Sorry, folks, in this particular case, Im a DNA doubter. Us "doubters", contrary to what some bloggers here believe, are not mentally deficient is some way or "dont have the intelligence to understand DNA".I dont just blindly accept the States lab evidence without questioning. Yes, I understand the DNA tested matches Stephanie Lazarus. My question is: Is the sample tested the same sample that was collected at the crime scene in Feb. 1986?Today there are strict protocols for the collection and storage of DNA evidence that wer not followed by the LAPD in 1986 and for years after that. Wasnt their lab sanctioned for deficiencies in lab protocols? Isnt it true that the DNA was stored for years in a tube with no sealed cap so that anyone could open it, in an envelope that was torn open so the tube was sticking out?Isnt it true that the envelope was lost for a time and the lab cant account for its whereabouts during that time? How many lab employees had access to the area where this DNA evidence was stored 24 hours a day,for 26 years? Dozens? Hundreds?Are you sure everone of them is a "straight up" person whos honesty and integrity is resolute?The naieve may say"Oh, they wouldnt do anything unethical".Really? Dont tell me it never happens. Do you recall the LAPD Rampart scandal where 70 officers were brought up on criminal and departmental chages including evidence tampering?(Did anyone check to see if any of the officers or detectives working this case were disciplined as a result of the Rampart investigation? Just wondering.)The defense doesnt have to prove how or when someone could have changed the DNA sample. Just the fact the DNA sample was stored for years in such an open, unsecured manner makes me question the validity of the evidence. I could not, in good conscience, send Lazarus or anyone else to life in prison based on such questionalble evidence. The rest of the states case is circumstantial and insufficient to exclusively link the defendant to the crime. For example, the Federal .38 cal. bullets used iin the crime were available to the general public and cannot be traced back to one person.

Sprocket said...

Clarification I feel I need to address.

"...contrary to what some bloggers here believe,...."

I, Betsy A. Ross, aka "Sprocket" am the blogger. Those who leave comments are not "bloggers" but readers/commenters of my blog, T&T.

I personally have never stated that individuals are "mentally deficient", (nor have I published any conclusions as to what the evidence proves) and I am kindly requesting that y'all please make it clear who it is you are referring to. PLEASE refrain from calling other individuals who leave comments names. It's disrepsectful. It's not necessary to get your point across. I will really have to crack down and reject some of these comments if this continues. I really hate to do that. I hope that we can continue our discussions without lowering ourselves to name calling. Please be respectful to everyone who might be reading here.

It's up to the jury to decide whether or not there was testimony that shows the property room at the Coroner's Office was adequately controlled and evidence properly preserved.

I feel I also need to make a very clear distinction.

The coroner's office is where the bite mark swab was found. It was not found at the LAPD property room but at the Coroner's office. LAPD did not have anything to do with it's storage for sixteen years from the time it was collected until the time it was REQUESTED by the LAPD SID serology lab and subsequently found.

One of the things I've learned since December 2004, when I attended my first trial, the Robert Blake trial in Van Nuys is, here in Los Angeles County, anything attached to the body is collected by the coroner or his representatives (criminalists). They collect it first. They may not do any analysis on the item but no matter what it is, if it's attached to the body, they collect it and initially store it.

(For example, Lana Clarkson's purse that was on her shoulder when she was found in the chair in Phil Spector's mansion. That stayed with the body until the Sheriff's Office criminalist's received evidence from the coroner.)

Anything else, is collected by criminalists from the investigating law enforcement agency, such as the LA County Sherrif's, the LAPD, or other city agency.

In this case, we had different items that indicated a high probability of match, or possible match, to Lazarus' DNA profile, that were collected and stored by two different entities: the LAPD and the coroner's office. The LAPD collected the torn fingernails that were found in the entry way near the front door of the town home.

The torn fingernails, collected by LAPD, when tested, each had DNA that was a "match" to Lazarus' DNA. One fingernail was a random chance of matching of one in 26,000. The other had a random chance of matching of one in 9,000. These numbers were arrived at by an independent laboratory, SERI, that both the defense and prosecution agreed to perform these tests.

There was no testimony presented that there were any holes in the finergnail evidence envelopes. Nor were there any questions of any witnesses about the access to the serology property rooms or other property rooms at the LAPD.