Friday, March 2, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Trial: Day 15, Part III

UPDATED Edited for spelling.

Stephanie Lazarus and defense investigator, Randal "Randy" Later, in discussions at the defense table. © Thomas Broersma

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Tuesday February 28th, 2012, Afternoon Session
I’m inside the courtroom. We are on the record outside the presence of the jury. Jeffrey Thompson is on the stand. I believe Judge Perry asks Overland if he wanted to ask the questions specifically but Overland lets Judge Perry ask. Judge Perry tells the witness we need additional testimony from you.

JP: Mr. Thompson, lets start with exhibit KKKK, page 4 of 9, at the bottom sir, (could you?) read then the bold... (snip) (snip) I believe there was brief testimony (about? the) mediation (report) March 6th, 2009. (snip) Are you familiar with the report?

JT: I’m familiar with the purpose...

JP: Did you have anything to do with the report?

JT: (I) don’t think I had anything specific.... (?).

In March 2009, Thompson was acting director, overseeing the serology unit.

JT: (?) It has to do with how (the lab? technicians) handle samples.

There were two issues.

It had to do with documenting the lot number of the “reagents”. There was no documentation the same “lot number” for the reagent was used for each control sample and the evidence.

Sometimes, if the sample is very weak, we add a concentration. (In the two instances cited in the report) the negative extraction control was not treated exactly the same.

I believe the witness is struggling to explain something technical in layperson’s terms. I believe Judge Perry asks Nunez for help or he automatically offers the information.

PN: Dilution is not done in all cases?

JT: That’s correct.

PN: Only if too much (snip) do you use dilutions?

(Meaning, if in the magnification process, you get too much DNA, then you need to dilute the evidence and the control samples.)

From my memory (since I didn’t even try to write most of this down), in the amplification process, sometimes you can get too much DNA. In those cases, you have to dilute the sample. Dilution materials come in lot numbers (and those lot batches could possibly differ?). There was no documentation that they might have used a different lot number of dilution solution on the evidence verses the sample, if they had to use a dilution, to reduce it.

That appears to clear up the two instances sited in the report. Judge Perry rules he doesn’t see how any of this could related to the case they are trying and rules 352, it’s irrelevant to the case. He asks Overland if he still wants to question the witness on whether or not the other DNA analyst (EYVAOFF? sp?). Overland has decided he is not going to examine Thompson on this issue.

JP: (Do you wish to) argue on whether (or not) you think this is relevant? (snip) From what I get, these (issues in the report) don’t apply to the case.

MO: It’s certainly relevant to the time frame.

JP: I don’t think it shows lab deficient; just that they were not documenting it accurately.

Thompson is excused. 352. Not allowed.

Overland has two issues.

Overland states he will stipulate with respect to cartridges recovered from the house. He will introduce a stipulation as an exhibit.

An issue with respect to medical records relating to a knee injury in December 1985.

I believe Judge Perry asks how that is relevant.

MO: (It) became relevant. She made a statement relating to a knee injury (in her interview tape). (snip) We’ve been attempting to get records from workman’s compensation and there are no such records.

(Maybe the records are too remote in time?)

The people do not want to stipulate to the date of the injury. My notes are not clear here. I believe it’s the people who state their objection is to statements in those records (Overland? has already) obtained.

JP: Start with the statement of the defendant in the transcript.

There is now a search by all sides through the transcript. I’m not remembering anything mentioned about a knee injury. A leg injury, yes, but I believe that was much later in time.

SP: Page 56, top of the page.

MO: There’s another one.

SP: That’s the only one I remember.

MO: We can look for it at a recess.

JP: Let’s see if our jurors are all back.

It’s 1:25 PM.

Overland leaves the room. There is some joking banter between Presby and Matthew McGough (who is sitting to my right) about how nice McGough looks today, that I at first don’t hear, since I was focused on something else at the moment. I don’t know if Presby made the statement as a teasing comment I would hear because I write about what some people wear in court, or if he really is complementing Matthew on his jacket and tie. Judge Perry is off the bench while we wait for all the jurors to get back to court.

Courtney Overland and Lazarus continue to look through the transcript of the interview for the comment about the knee injury.

We have all our jurors. Judge Perry is on the bench and he addresses the jurors.

JP: (I am going to) give you a fact, give you judicial notice. You must accept the fact. May 27th, 1985 was Memorial Day.

(This relates to John Ruetten’s testimony when he testified about when he and Rasmussen became engaged.)

The next witness is called.


Detective Stearns, Robbery/Homicide Detective who was assigned the case is called to the stand for the defense. Overland starts off by asking him about the “work log” (or journal, depending on your perspective).

The work log is found (the Clerk had it in the court’s evidence safe? locker?) by the clerk and given to the witness. I believe Overland has copies of pages from the work log that he will enter into evidence, and he will have Detective Stearns ensure that the copy entered into evidence is a copy of the work log.

MO: The work log is before you now?

GS: Yes.

MO: You also looked at the calendar for years 1985-1986?

GS: Yes.

MO: (These were) taken in the search in 2009?

GS: Yes.

Overland asks something relating to the entries regarding John Ruetten he read in court.

GS: I do, yes.

Overland states something to the effect of entries in the work log relating to men other than John Ruetten.

MO: November 29th, 1984. (Could you) look in the work log to see the entry for that date?

Defense exhibit TTTT, a copy is put up on the screen. I try to write what is written on the screen but I don’t get it exact. (Many of the entries in the work log I don’t get exact.)

“I worked with McDonald. It’s weird working (?) especially someone who really likes you....”

Stearns indicates there are words crossed out.

MO: May 19th, 1985.

Defense exhibit QQQQ:

“I met two firemen from Glendale. Two cuties. I even got their phone number so we can go bike riding.”

Defense exhibit VVVV1,VVVV2, September 14th, 1985.

“I met this cameraman, Rodger who was asking Kirk and (?) about me. He was asking for my number. I told them (to) try the station.”

Defense exhibit WWWW1, WWWW2, October 12th, 1985.

“Now I must say that this is not one of my favorite places to eat. (Cami?) was (working?) so I asked to sit in her section. There was a guy there; couldn’t keep my eyes off (him). Gene seems like such a nice guy. Has a (gau? we ate? ??) and talked a bit more. Went to (Gues?) Andy was there. We all talked. We drove on to my house (?) (snip) Twilight Zone tape; got some carrot cake and popcorn. Got sick from (that?) and went to sleep until 7:00 hundred. Got my bikini to lay in (the) sun with Gene.”

Defense XXXX (I miss the date).

“Then I went to pick up a salad and pick up two (guys?) with Gene. Went and met his dad.”

Defense YYYY1, YYYY2, December 16, 1985.

“(Worked?) by myself. Went to see if Gene was there. I went out in his yard and talked with him for a while.”

Defense ZZZZ, January 3rd, 1986.

“Smith keeps hinting at wanting to take me out.”

Defense 5A’s1 5A’s2 5A’s3 January 25, 1986. Detective Stearns reads page 5A’s2.

I drove (hear? here? near?) the (?) on Zelzah and Chatsworth. Saw (Glens? Chens?) car and said hello. He’s so good looking.”

Defense 5B’s, July 10th, 1986.

“I had lunch date with DA Investigator (Alfred? Wintfeld?).”

Defense 5C’s, (first page) July 13th, 1986.

“Al (Wintfeld?) was going to meet me but he got tied up.”

Defense 5D’s (withdrawn).

Overland continues to get his exhibit lettering numbers confused and Judge Perry states the correct lettering.

I don’t know if this next item is substituted for the withdrawn item. September 28th, 1985, from the calendar.

“Manhattan Transfer with Rodger.”

MO: (Do you know) what is Manhattan Transfer?

GS: Yes. It’s a musical group.

Defense 5E’s, October 8th, 1985, from the calendar.

“Bike riding with Rodger.”

Defense 5F’s, January 9th, 1986, from the calendar.

“Flip flops Rodger.”

Defense 5G’s, (miss date 1986), from the calendar.

“Basketball game with Rodger.”

Defense 5H’s, April 17th, 1986, from the calendar.

“Dinner with Gene.”

Defense 5I’s, July 9th, 1986, from the calendar.

“Out with Rodger.”

Defense 5J’’s, August 19th, 1986, from the calendar.

“Bike ride with Gene 1900.”

Defense 5K’s, October 24, 1986, from the calendar.

“Lunch with Gene.”

Defense 5L’s, February 9th, 1985, from the work log.

I shot today, ran a little, shot a 382 my highest. Some guys from the station couldn’t believe I shot so well.”

MO: Are you familiar with (the levels? classifications?) of shooting?

GS: (Yes.)

MO: Would 382 be at the level of an expert?

GS: It would.

Defense 5M’s, May 29th, 1986, from the work log.

“I went to my house, but I didn’t have my key. I took (?) to DeSoto. (snip?) I was south on DeSoto from Devonshire. I was on my way to (ck?) house. On the way I see a car wanted for a warrant.”

Defense ? May 29th, 1986, from the calendar.

“Take in car.”

Direct ends and DDA Nunez conducts the cross.

PN: Can you tell with any of those entries if the defendant was in love (with anyone?)?

GS: I cannot.

PN: If they were (dep?) about romance?

GS: No.

PN: Or platonic? (snip) Can’t tell?

GS: No.

PN: Or (if) the car was taken or for what reason? (snip) Many of these activities were related to (or) during work time?

I miss the answer.

PN: December 16th, 1985, (is a) big entry.

Up in the corner of the entry are the letters XL53. Stearns identifies the lettering code and it indicates Lazarus was on watch in a one person car.

PN: So she went to go see somebody at (a) house? (snip) Occasionally she was on duty? (snip) During work hours?

GS: Yes.

PN: Could you tell if this was a romantic relationship?

GS: No.

Cross ends and there’s no redirect.

Before the next witness is called, Overland reads the jurors a stipulation, entered as defense 5O’s.

The stipulation lists various items that were booked as evidence, seized from the search of the home. It’s property items #96, described as 236 cartridges, and #97, described as 50 cartridges, from a standing gun safe in the Lazarus home.

(If there is more about the cartridges I missed writing down, I believe it relates to the cartridges not being Federal issue.)


Dillion is an LAPD SID fingerprint analyst. She’s been with the LAPD for 17 years. She has spent five years in fingerprint identification and twelve years in latent print. She presents her CV. She’s performed over 4,000 latent print exams.

The witness’ phone goes off and she apologizes to the court. She’s testified about 30 times as an expert witness.

MO: Can you look at that chart and tell us what it is you are looking for?

Objection! 352. (Over ruled!)

What Overland has put up on the screen, is a typical fingerprint category chart. An overview on how prints are categorized, and the specific points that they look for, unique identifying characteristics. Here is a similar chart. Let me be clear. This is NOT the defense exhibit. It’s not exactly like the defense exhibit, but it will give you an idea of what the exhibit looked like. The exhibit was a single document and these are two separate images I found on the web.

(I happen to know a bit about fingerprints and what they can tell you about your health risks and the ability to predict disease. This is not conjecture, but from actual studies published in the scientific literature. There is quite a bit of science that links having a certain number of fingerprint patterns, ~whorls, loops, arches, broken lines~ to an increased risk of various illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, celiac, and gluten sensitivity, etc. But that’s off topic and I apologize.)

The witness explains what she is looking for and after a point Judge Perry interjects.

JP: We’ve had a lot of testimony on fingerprints. Let’s get to the question.

Juror #4 is yawning and rocking in his chair. There is a question about if she did analysis of a palm and fingerprint on this case and if she put those prints through IFAIS. She is asked if she reached a conclusion in relation to that fingerprint and palm print. She compared those prints to Stephanie Lazarus and those prints did not match Lazarus.

MO: Do you know if that fingerprint and palm print were ever identified?

AD: I don’t have that information.

Overland asks about print number five from package A.

JP: Is there something in this you want her to look at?

MO: Yes your honor?

Judge Perry has his elbows on his desk, and he’s touching the pads of the fingertips and thumbs of both hands to each other in front of his face. Then he touches both hands to his forehead.

Defense exhibit 5R’s. It’s a comparison report that says it was assigned to Dillion on February 29th, (200*? 2009?)

AD: This report was written by my supervisor and the part I signed was filled out....

This result is from an IAFIS search.

MO: The DNA kit?

AD: That’s not my handwriting. (snip) The detective requested that search through IAFIS (snip) even though the original (analysis?) indicated the print was unidentifiable.

I think there are a few more questions when Judge Perry takes over the questioning. She put it (the two prints) into IAFIS as the request of detectives as either a fingerprint or palm print pattern. Fifty possible matches came back. She compared those fifty possibles to the #5 print on package A. No match.

Unfortunately, at this point I am totally lost as to the reason Overland called this witness.

The afternoon break is called. After the break, there is a sidebar.

DDA Shannon Presby, DDA Paul Nunez, Judge Perry, Courtney Overland and Mark Overland at sidebar.
© Thomas Broersma

I speculate that possibly the defense did not question Dillion adequately before they called her to the stand. I don’t know that, I’m just doing a little wandering in my mind.

After the sidebar, Dillion is back on the stand. Defense exhibit 5S’s. It appears to be a list of fingerprint numbers. She make that list on December 8th, 2009. (That would have been on the second day of the preliminary hearing.) It’s all the latent prints lifted from the crime scene on February 24th through 25th, (26th? 28th?), 1986.

MO: Did you on June 8th, 2009, analyze latent prints #15 and #16 from packet A?

AD: #15 I made a comparison to (the) defendant. No make.

MO: #16 Did you make a comparison to Ms. Lazarus print? (snip) What was the result?

AD: No make.

MO: As far as you know, these two prints have not been identified?

MO: Correct.

In 2008, she ran these prints through IAFIS. Overland asks her about the number of “matches” that came back from IAFIS.

AD: It’s not really a match. It’s a candidate. (snip) It means the lift of the fingerprint, that have ridge characteristics (snip) that’s possibly (a match?).

MO: And there’s no record kept of those (50 prints?) individuals?

AD: Correct.

MO: And no record kept of those comparisons?

AD: Correct.

MO: So if you ran the search again, would (you) get the same search?

AD: No. That would change each time.

MO: (There’s) no way to recreate the 50 you got that time?

AD: Correct.

MO: (Did you do a comparison of ) #10 from packet D?

AD: Yes. I searched i IAFIS. No make.

MO: Compared (it) to the (defendant? Ms. Lazarus?)?

AD: No make.

MO: Did you compare print #12 to (the) (defendant?) Ms. Lazarus? (snip) To John Rutte? To Ms. Rasmussen?

AD: I would have to look at a copy of the lift itself (to answer).

I could swear Nunez’ face is going through contortions while he is watching Overland conduct his direct of the witness. Overland’s direct is finally finished and cross begins.

PN: You only worked with fingerprint and palm prints? (snip) You didn’t work with DNA?

I believe the witness answers “correct” or “yes”. There are no further witnesses. I’m quite surprised. Overland called thirteen witnesses in his case-in-chief and ended it with smudged, unidentifiable prints, not even worthy of IAFIS.

The jury is asked to step out. I believe it’s Judge Perry who states something about there's notiong abut a knee injury in the interview tape. Only a leg injury in 1998. I believe, but I’m not positive, that Overland states he remembers it from the video. (Is he implying that the transcript is not accurate to the video? He did question Jaramillo about that on the stand.) Judge Perry asks, “She was at work on February 25th. Was she not working prior to that?"

MO: I thought there was something more specific.

Overland goes onto mention something about X-rays for bilateral knee pain on December 27th, 1985. It’s held off to see if it is relevant at all. That is Overland’s last witness.

Judge Perry then brings up an issue with a juror. Juror #7 said she has two issues with Friday. A grandchild is coming by cesarian section on Friday, mid day and she must make a medical appointment for herself at 3:00 PM. It’s either at this point or later, Judge Perry states that she told the clerk she is always the first one to hold the grandchild.

JP: Mr. Nunez, you’re on your feet?

Nunez tells the court he’s just stretching.

JP: I’m wondering if we should just schedule Monday for arguments?

There is a discussion about how much time each side will need for closings and if they will go into two days. Nunez states he will open, taking one to two hours but that will be closer to one hour. Overland states he will be arguing four to five hours. There is an offer to start right at 8:30 on Thursday, go into Friday and excuse the jurors so Juror #7 could get to her granddaughter’s birth. Another option would be to excuse the juror, but no one really wants to do that at this point because she has hung in there this long.

SP: We’re ready to start arguing tomorrow.

Either Presby or Judge Perry is “loathe to take a few days break. They could have the prosecution argue tomorrow or we could start Thursday. More discussion about getting the closings in before the weekend and leaving by mid day Friday.

Overland states he would request Monday for several reasons. The other thing is, he needs to go through the trial transcript and he doesn’t have Volume #13.

Judge Perry states the regular court reporter is out having an operation.

Someone says, “It doesn’t make sense to us...” but my notes do not indicate who said it. Judge Perry tells the group that he gives jury instructions after argument.

But at the same time, Overland has an issue on Monday morning in Federal court. Overland states he would be happy to have the court call Federal court to find out what’s going on (because I believe he stated they have not been able to get a response back from the Federal court clerk).

My notes are not clear on who says, “Don’t know that there’s a rush to tie all the evidence together. Juror #7 is mentioned again. Judge Perry makes the final decision.

JP: I think we should just do it on Monday. (snip) Don’t think it’s a question of jurors (not?) remembering the facts of the case. (I do?) want counsel (to be able to?) prepare (for closings).

And that’s it. The jurors are told to report back at 9:00 AM Monday and excused.

Judge Perry will give counsel his copies of the jury instructions he’s proposed from CAL CRIM. Tomorrow, they will go over (argue) the language of those instructions. I make an immediate decision not to come for jury instructions. I sat through jury instructions on one trial. I won’t sit through that again. I need a rest and my house and gardening projects are suffering, although I probably won’t get to them until we have a verdict.

So far, this trial has been a life changing experience for me, both on a personal level and on a quality of neutral reporting level. I believe my work on this case is the best I’ve achieved so far in documenting what I’ve heard and seen in as neutral a tone as possible. I hope to continue to maintain or improve that level of reporting in any future case I am fortunate to attend.

Today, I will be working on finishing the testimony of defense witnesses that were in the afternoon session on Monday, specifically Patricia Fant. When that is published, I will have written a detailed summary of every witness in the defense case. Tomorrow morning I will put up a Q & A entry for any last minute questions before closings. I also want to let you know that I still have a couple more stories coming from interviews I’ve conducted. Those will most likely be published after the case reaches a verdict.

I have also placed an inquiry with the Public Information Office (PIO) for Judge Perry's court, as to whether or not I will be able to blog on my laptop from Judge Perry's courtroom during verdict watch when he is off the bench. I was able to do this in the second Spector trial in Judge Fidler's courtroom and the James Fayed case in Judge Kennedy's courtroom. I am waiting for a response back on that issue.


Anonymous said...

Gosh, you've done such a great job. I feel as though I've been attending this trial. And, yes, unlike most of your blog readers, you've been completely neutral.I especially appreciated your concise reporting of the Criminalist, Safarik's, description of the home and the sequence of events. Gripping testimony! There is one issue about the BMW that puzzles me. With such a bloody struggle, shouldn't there have been blood on the seat? Yet I didn't read or see anything that indicated the BMW was in anything but pristine condition. Hmmmmm...

Anonymous said...

I have to say this is some of the best trial reporting I've had the privilege to read. I can only surmise that the fingerprint expert was called so Overland can argue that because there were prints not identified, the 'real' suspect is still out there. Though you addressed something of that, can I take it that Nunez brought out that those prints not identified were smudges. Which would indicate to me that though they couldn't be definitely matched to Lazarus, it doesn't necessarily mean they weren't hers. Or Sherri Ramussen's or even John Rutten's. Hope you continue to report on trials. maybe a paid position. Something to supplement Mr. Sprocket's car repair!

Natalie said...

I also have a question about the BMW. I think I recall that it was found a few days after the murder, nearby Sherri's condo. Do they believe the car was immediately left there, or was it stolen, and left a few days later? This may answer Anon's question above regarding the blood. Thanks, Sprocket. You rock.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you for making us feel like we have been there everyday! So , if I understand correctly, the bite mark DNA led to finding that a woman caused this and that led to the fingernail and bite mark DNA match? Wow!

Wish I could come on Monday - but I can't! So I will be watching for your report!

Thanks, Darlene

Anonymous said...

One more question for your Q&A, Sprocket. How do you decide which cases to report on? Why did you decide to report on the Stephanie Lazarus case. As always, many thanks.

Shannon from Seattle said...

About the BMW, I have a theory regarding the wisdom of the killer dumping it. I believe the killer stole the vehicle and dumped it unlocked with the keys in the ignition in the hopes that someone would steal it.

If that person or persons got caught with prints on the vehicle and the car in their possession, that person would take the rap for the murder/robbery.

That was a miscalculation and backfire.

Kathy said...

Some time in the future, in between trials when you have some down time, I would love to see a discussion on fingerprints and predicting disease. What an interesting connection.

Sprocket said...

Kathy, I posted links in the above entry on where you can find more information on the link between fingerprints and disease.

You can also find more information here:

It's all about tailoring diets to your own personal genetic profile. Looking at your fingerprints is just one of the tools used to identify how unique you are, and what diet is best for your individuality.

I will be working on getting the Q&A up for early tomorrow. I will start it off with some of the questions I haven't answered yet.