Saturday, February 25, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Trial: Day 13, Part II

2-10-12 Lazarus, Judge Perry, © Thomas Broersma

Right after I arrived inside Dept 104, all the female press in the front row are wearing something in a shade of pink or rose. Two blouses, one suit and Pat LaLama’s baby pink A-line skirt. We all comment on the coincidence.

After Rubin’s cross and redirect is finished, DDA Nunez presents the next witness. Mark Safarik is the Executive Director of Forensic Behavioral Services, (FBS) since he retired from the FBI in 2007. FBS is a consulting company that helps in the behavior analysis of violent crimes.

The purpose of the company is to help in understanding the behavioral analysis of violent crime, how and why it (a particular incident) happens.

Safarik was an FBI agent for 22 years. He then presents his CV with the FBI. When he first started with the bureau, he was assigned to an Indian Reservation in California for 3.5 years to work violent crimes. From there he transferred to New York City where he worked under cover and also lecturing and teaching at various law enforcement academies.

I note that Lazarus is paying attention to the witness’ testimony.

After that he worked in the National Center of Violent Crime Analysis and interfaced with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Group. He worked on preparing cases that law enforcement asked for their assistance on. He ended up working in the Behavioral Sciences Unit. He entered in early 1995 and remained there for over twelve years. He then retired from that unit.

Safarik is asked what criminal analysis is. Part of it is analyzing crime scenes. It’s the behavioral, evidence review and forensic science of the scene. The analysis tries to determine what happened at the crime scene, how and why did it occur. He has testified in crime scene cases fifteen or sixteen times in the State of California. He has testified in hundreds of criminal trials.

Safarik was asked to make a behavioral assessment of the crime scene, and what that information told him about the scene itself and render an opinion as to whether it was a staged crime scene.

Safarik first reviewed the original investigation reports and everything attended to in the initial crime scene. From this, he will get an understanding of what occurred at the crime scene. He reviewed the new trajectory analysis, the location and photos taken in 2010. He also reviewed subsequent photos of the town home complex and visited the location in 2010.

PN: Why did you go?

MS: Usually, I can just utilize the crime scene photos, but in this case this is an interior location. The crime scene is multi-level and there was a lot of movement in the scene itself. And I wanted to get a full 3-D perspective as to how close all of these rooms are and the dimensions.

One of the 1986 crime scene photos of the living room area is put up on the overhead screen.

PN: Does this appear to be the crime scene photos that occurred in this case?

MS: Yes.

He went into this room. The furniture was different (than it was in 1986).

PN: Did you get an impression from going to the crime scene?

MS: I think that .... (snip) because there was movement, (I wanted to) get a perspective of height and distances of things and where (they were in relation to each other). I wanted to see all that within the scene itself.

Nunez asks if in his analysis did he develop an opinion of this crime and, “Is it consistent or inconsistent with a random burglary and how it went down and number two, how the crime occurred? (snip) Did you develop an opinion regarding that (event)?”

MO: May we approach?

There’s a sidebar.

PN: Did you arrive at an opinion, if the crime scene referenced an appearance .... (of a random burglary or interrupted burglary?)

MS: It was not, in my opinion, that it was not a burglary or an interrupted burglary.

PN: What is it about the location (that factored into that opinion)?

MS: (I) first looked at the location of the apartment unit within the complex itself. It has a much higher risk. (The) driveway is gated and locked. (snip) ...gaining access (would be more difficult?). The first obstacle, that has a level of risk. (snip) Unit #205 is in the center of the complex and center of a group of units. (snip) For a burglary of property, crimes (there is a?) higher risk to get to the center (of a complex) when you got to have to remove objects. (snip) Access getting to the apartment without being seen and getting property out.

Nunez puts up a drawing of the entire complex and it’s obvious that Unit 205 is centrally located in the complex. Burglars would have to pass many apartments to get to and leave the crime scene, verses selecting an outside unit, so it’s risky.

PN: Do most burglaries happen when they expect people not being home?

MS: The goal: get in and take property (so yes, expectation that people are not home?).

PN: Do they generally have an expectation to use the owner’s vehicle to use to leave?

MS: No.

PN: Did the time the crime occurred, the early morning hours factor in (to your conclusion)?

MS: It’s one component. It’s one factor in it. (But) it’s the totality of the scene.

PN: This one piece doesn’t determine by itself but one of the factors (in your conclusion)?

MS: Yes.

PN: The method of entry, that factor in (to your conclusion?)? (snip) So how did the defendant get in?

Safarik goes over the fact that there is no evidence of kicking in or prying of the front door and that the garage door was an automatic door (so they could not have gotten in that way).

Exterior shots of the front door are put up on the overhead screen.

PN: Did you review the testimony of (?) that there was signage (on the front door) that indicates there was an alarm system?

MS: I think that’s a problem. Again, it’s another piece that elevates the risk (to a potential burglar).

PN: Also, no evidence of pry marks or forced entry? (snip) Also, the certain method of departure, did that factor into your opinion?

MS: Yes, it does.

Safarik goes onto explain that burglars would have made provisions to remove the property before they chose a location to break into. Another issue that factored into his opinion, the BMW was removed and driven 2.5 miles. There was no damage to it and the keys were left in the ignition.

MS: Here’s an opportunity to remove property (but no property was removed) except for Sherri’s purse.

Nothing was stripped off, no wheels, (nothing).

MS: Since there was nothing removed (snip) the problem is, no property taken from the residence except the purse.

Nunez asks about the stereo equipment left at the bottom of the steps.

MS: It’s difficult to extract (?) the only property that is moved are two pieces of stereo equipment sitting in the living room (next?) on the entry way floor in front of the stairs. (snip)

PN: (There’s no indication that anything else is searched?)

MS: I don’t (believe? were?) seeing here is exactly that. (snip) There’s no indication that anything else has been searched. No ransacking. A drawer has been pulled out. The bottom drops out and the drawer leans up against the coffee table. Theres a small box of straight pins (in the drawer) that dislodges. The pins are all together so there’s no movement; no searching of it (the drawer). (Besides) that’s not a place (the side stand) you would expect valuables to be taken.

Nunez puts up a photo of the drawer and you can see how the box of straight pins is on top of items in the drawer. Then a close up of the pins and thread.

PN: If someone (was) looking for property, valuable property, they would also look through the contents (of the drawer)?

MS: It’s not an area one would usually expect valuables to be (found?) searched. (snip) (One) could pull out that drawer and search without pulling it out all the way. (I) don’t see actual searching here.

Another question.

MS: I think if you’re talking about a burglary, one woud search locations where one would expect to steal (valuables; the bedroom, a jewelry box, etc.). There’s no evidence that anyone went through the house. (snip)

(They?) had an opportunity to take things from the house. (The scene?) also indicates that there are (still valuable?) property (at the scene) but you would expect an individual to search for things.

MS: A burglary is a search for property you can steal. Property has value. If there’s nothing that’s been searched... (?) (snip) I would expect areas would have items of financial value to be searched.

PN: Any other factors that rendered into your opinion? (snip) Did you take all these factors into your opinion?

MS: Yes. (snip) You have to look at how things happen on a time sequence and temporal sequence. (Because? Becomes?) when did that happen at that location (snip) and why is that there and when did it get there.

PN: What is staging?

MO: Objection!

JP: Over ruled!

MS: Staging is the attempt by the offender to change or putting in false evidence at the crime scene to create a new motive (snip) to redirect law enforcement to investigate the crime scene.

Nunez again goes over each point. The left behind stacked stereo equipment, the car, the keys in the ignition, the location of the unit in the complex, the lack of evidence that other areas of the apartment are searched.

MS: I didn’t see anything that reflected a burglary or an interrupted burglary.

Now Nunez moves onto the crime of Rasmussen’s murder. Nunez also asks Safarik if he reviewed documents on how Ms. Rasmussen was killed and if he has an opinion as to how certain things occurred.

Safarik has a three dimensional video program, that can be manipulated to show different areas of the apartment from different views. Detective Stearns is at the controls to move us through the apartment while Safarik describes what he believes happened in the attack.

There were two shots fired through the kitchen patio sliding glass doors. The victim was killed in the living room.

PN: (Did the) shots (in the kitchen) come before or after the victim was killed?

MS: (The) one low and one high in the window are the first (shots fired) in the series. (snip) There is an attack in this area (pointing to the kitchen). There is a struggle for the gun. (snip) On the small right finger (victim) there is a soot deposit. That indicates to me her hand is very close to the weapon.

So the first occurrence is in the breakfast nook area and shots (were fired?) very close to the window.

PN: Where the chair (at the dining table) was pulled out and (red? reading? mat? material?) could be where the attack first happened.

MS: Yes. (snip)

No blood was found in the upper level areas and no disturbance of items in that area. The ironing board was not disturbed. Ironing boards are not very stable, yet it's standing. Even though the attack started up there, Safarik thinks they were standing. There’s no blood up there (kitchen, dining room = the upper level). There’s blood found in the entry way.

PN: Do you believe the next attack occurred in the entry way?

MS: I think that Sherri is running for the stairs and (hoping?) to get out and then the next attack is by that gray wall.

(The gray wall in the program is along the tiled entry way where the stairs to the upper levels begin and there’s the door to the garage.)

PN: You know there was a bite on Ms. Rasmussen’s left arm and injuries. Are you able to figure out blow by blow how this crime occurred?

MS: No. And I think all of us would agree, the possibilities are endless. That doesn’t really matter. But what we can construct overall .... (snip) (is a general sequence of events).

PN: Is the bite mark consistent with the victim trying to keep the weapon away from her?

MS: Sure. (snip) To sustain a bite mark, it indicates someone is in close physical contact.

Safarik indicates on the overhead screen where he thinks the defendant recaptured her.

PN: Do you believe the victim died in the entry way?

MS: Oh no. She was killed in the living room.

PN: Did you review that there was blood in the entry way?

MS: (It’s) consistent with injuries occurring in that entry way. (snip) It’s not blood drops. It’s smears. (snip) She’s got blood on her head and she touches her head. She’s injured in the entry way and bleeding here.

However, in the living room she ... (snip) there is a vase and that vase is shattered in the living room.

Judge Perry indicates to Nunez to wrap it up.

Nunez states he has about ten to fifteen more questions.

PN: Is it your opinion that the attack with the vase was before she was shot and killed?

MS: Yes.

Safarik talks about the three bullet wounds being in a small, anatomical area on the body, indicating to him that Rasmussen is not moving when she receives those. Safarik also goes into a description of one wound being a “shored” wound that coroner Dr. Selser talked about. That’s when a bullet hits something hard (the cement floor under the carpeting) and slightly rebounds. That bullet was found just under the surface of the skin. She’s on the floor, on her back and the bullet doesn’t exit. And, we have stippling, meaning the barrel of the weapon was from zero to twenty four inches from the victim. There’s unburnt gunpowder on the red robe.

MS: One (bullet wound) is shored, one is a contact wound. But Sherri never moves. (snip) She had to have been hit first (with the vase) before she was shot. (snip) One of the wounds to her face appears to be from the front, the gun sight, possibly hit in the face with the weapon.

Then, there’s two items, what we call cord. In a burglary, what’s the point of bringing cord? It’s found in the entryway and has blood on it.

There are blood smears on the right hand. The smears may or may not be consistent in size with the white cord. Smearing on the hands is consistent with fighting.

PN: There appears to be barrel cylinder gap (gunshot residue) on the blanket. How did that fit into the sequence of events?

MS: (The) initial attack is in the kitchen and the attack re-engages in the (entry way) evidenced by the broken fingernails and blood. (snip) It then moves into the living room and the broken vase and the blood. (snip) Rasmussen even has a blood stain on her heel, so she’s up and has her foot in a blood stain. (snip) And the entire time the offender is engaged in an attack on Sherri. (snip) And then at some time, the offender decides to use a handgun.

MS: Now the offender decides, I’m going to shoot Sherri. The offender breaks contact.

JP: The use of the robe... (snip) Don’t tell us what the offender is thinking about. Just tell what occurred.

MS: The offender grabs the quilt nearby and wraps the gun and fires three shots.

Now Nunez asks about the stacked stereo equipment at the bottom of the stairs.

MS: The only thing that makes sense is they were placed there after. (snip) If those were there before (the attack) they are undisturbed. (snip) No one is stepping on (them). No one’s disturbing them. (How did they both get down the stairs and over them without disturbing them?)

Additionally, if trying to decide when placed there either before the attack or after, (?) and have to decide what’s more consistent.

A final photograph is put up on the overhead. I’ve not seen this one before. It’s a close up of the bottom of Rasmussen’s right heel and you can see a red stain on her heel.

There was also a large blood stain underneath her.

MO: Objection!

JP: Over ruled. There’s testimony from the coroner.

There are a few more questions and then Safarik is finished with direct.

We take the morning break at 10:55 AM. Detectives and the prosecutors come to the aid of emotionally wrought John Rutten, Nels and Loretta Rasmussen.

Writer Matthew McGough points out to me that in the computer program that had a three dimensional representation of the town home, there was a vase on the dining room table with three roses in it, just like we saw in the evidence photos.

After the break, Overland begins his cross.

Safarik’s company is a for profit company and he charges $350.00 an hour. For his testing and preparation he has charged $9,000.00 so far. He is billing the DA’s office. He first became involved in this case on June 1st, 2010. He received a call from DDA Nunez.

MO: The first thing he asked was whether you could provide assistance (miss the rest of the question).

MS: I don’t recall the first thing.

MO: You knew from the beginning, that was one of the first things.....

MS: I told them I’d need to look at case files.

MO: You told them you needed to visit the crime scene?

MS: Yes.

MO: You knew the crime occurred 24 years prior?

MS: Yes.

Overland asks if he knew there were changes to the scene.

MS: I certainly expected there would be in the crime scene.

MO: Did you determine if there were changes?

MS: What kind of changes?

MO: Well, any changes.

MS: I’m sure there were some changes.

Safarik was interested in how things were, if there were (miss the rest).

MO: So you gave us your version, or your opinion of what happened?

MS: Yes.

MO: And your interpretation, is your, that’s your opinion? (snip) And your interpretation is we’re dealing with smart burglars?

MS: What do you mean? (snip) I don’t know if they would be smart or not. I’m just stating risk.

MO: So a normal burglar would not assume the risk?

MS: That’s not what I’m saying. (snip) I’m not going to extract.....

Overland now asks him about individual aspects of the crime scene and if that was or wasn’t what decided his opinion.

MO: That’s a piece, that you decided, that this (was a staged crime scene?)?

MS: If you’ve got a dumb burglar, he may not know it.

Overland asks another question about burglars and decision making and what the normal burglar may do.

MS: He could have a high level of impulsivity.

Overland now switches to asking questions about his service in the FBI and that he only investigated “federal” crimes.

MS: There are federal crimes. I’m (also?) tasked with helping state crimes.

MO: How many burglaries have you investigated?

MS: Hundreds.

Safarik, in response to the questions about burglaries informs Overland that he started in state level law enforcement before he entered the FBI.

MO: Who did you work for?

MS: Davis City Police.

MO: Did you ever arrest burglars when you were a police officer in Davis?

I believe he answers something to the effect of, ‘I’m sure I did.’

MO: Were you ever aware of a burglar being caught inside a house?

MS: It’s not (uncommon?). (snip) I would say the number is a much smaller number. (snip) It’s very difficult to generalize about what a burglar does. (snip) What I’m doing in this case is specific (to this case).

MO: Another thing you thought (was specific) was the condo had sticker, had an alarm sticker (on the front door).

MS: It’s a piece of evidence.

MO: So you’re saying a burglar wouldn’t go in?

MS: I think that mischaracterizes my testimony. (snip) He would be evaluating his risk by choosing (that apartment).

MO: You’re making an assumption that he saw the sticker, an assumption a burglar is less likely to (?)?

(I'm amazed Overland asked this question. You can see the huge sign in the glass of the front door even in the photo.)

MS: That would be getting into the mind or a burglar. I'm just saying, that elevates the risk.

MO: In your experience, do burglaries happen in homes that have stickers with alarms?

MS: Sure.

Now there is a question about the lack of tool marks on the door. Safark looked at the door and door frame (in the photos) and no evidence of forced entry.

MO: So your concluded that Ms. Rasmussen opened the door for her attacker?

MS: I don’t believe I said that.

MO: You prepared a report?

MS: Yes I did.

MO: Do you have that report with you?

MS: I do not.

A copy of the report is found for the witness to review.

MO: Page 20 of your report. (Please read that to yourself.)

MS: I said if Ms. Rasmussen....

MO: Did determine, based on your review it would have been consistent for the front door had (it) been locked?

I believe the witness goes onto explain that the (entire? scene?) is more consistent if the door was locked verses unlocked.

MO: You concluded that on February 24th, 1986, the front door was locked (snip) (and she was attacked?) in the early morning hours?

MS: I think that’s most consistent, yes.

MO: Did you ever call the coroner?

MS: No.

MO: Had you attended any part of the trial to look at witesses?

MS: No.

MO: Did you review as part of your analysis, a report by them, a progress report and fact sheet by Hooks and Mayer?

MS: If it’s listed on my report, I did.

Overland shows him a copy.

MS: I don’t find it specifically, but in part II of the LAPD murder book.... (but I don’t recall reviewing that...).

MO: Do you remember reading an analysis by Hooks and Mayer where they analyzed (the scene) as a burglary gone awry?

MS: I don’t recall. I may have done so.

MO: Did you interview the original detectives?

MS: I typically do not interview detectives 24 years later as to what they remember. (I) generally review reports at the time they are most accurate.

MO: You knew these were detectives who did a follow up investigation?

MS: I read their follow up investigation.

MO: Was part of your analysis that you based your (invest?) that Ms. Rasmussen responded to (the) front door and Ms. Rasmussen responded to that location (door?)? (snip) Did your report include looking at the DNA analysis of fingernails (at the door)?

Nunez asks if they can approach.

(Off the top of my head, I’m thinking I have a memory that this extra DNA Analysis at the independent SERI was done later than this witness’ analysis.)

Overland now asks him about specific aspects of the crime scene and if he remembers where fingerprints were located. I’m remembering Overland trying to ask the question several ways when Judge Perry interjects with his own question.

MS: I don’t recall if there’s anything significant about it. (finger prints)

MO: One of the things you felt was an important part was the cordage?

MS: Yes.

MO: You said, why bring rope to the location?

(In the context of a burglary.)

MO: How do you know it was brought?

MS: (John Ruetten’s statements in the murder book.)

MO: So you’re basing that on what John Ruetten told you? (snip) So the basis of the rope is what John Ruetten told you or investigators?

MS: Yes.

MO: So you’re assuming John Ruetten is telling you the truth when he said that?

MS: Yes.

Overland puts up defense exhibit triple K (KKK) showing the dry cleaning laid over the back of the love seat.

Looking over at the defense table, it appears to me Lazarus is more engaged with the testimony.

MO: See any rope near or attached to that cleaning? (snip) Can you see that there?

MS: I don’t know what that is.

MO: There is some type of cord holding the dry cleaning together.

MS: I’ve seen this photo. I don’t know what that is.

MO: Have you ever investigated a burglary where they didn’t take anything?

MS: I probably have, but there would be (other? factors?).

MO: (How about) surprised in the middle of burglary?

MS: Sure. (snip) Again, you’re giving me generalized info. I’m giving you a specific case. (snip) The crime would make sense if it would all (be) explained.

MO: When you’re saying ‘make sense’ you’re saying make sense to you.

MS: Make sense to me.

MO: You can’t say what happened because of too many variables?

MS: No, I can look at blood stains, the vase, the bullet wound and see the sequence of events.

Judge Perry interjects (I believe) after other questions.

JP: But that’s just an opinion your offering?

MS: Certainly.

MO: Do you believe that the sequencing of events is impossible?

MS: Right. I didn’t do that. You can do the important aspects. (snip) What you can do is sequence the overall aspects of the case.

Overland asks the witness if the burglars took a considerable amount of time to unhook the stereo equipment and stack it.

MS: I don’t think there was ever an intention to take the equipment. (snip) I don’t think I even addressed the considerable amount of time.

MO: Do you think it took some time?

MS: Yes.

MO: How much time.

MS: Not very long.

MO: Isn’t it just as likely that unplugging and stacking took place (whomever?) was at home surprised the intruder in the (house?)?

MS: No.

MO: Why?

MS: Do you want me to explain it? (snip) The equipment was either stacked before or after.

Overland is trying to ask very specific questions and each time the witness tries to answer with more than a single word answer. And then Judge Perry interjects and tells Overland, “We’re talking about hypotheticals here. I’m troubled by how you’re asking the question.”

Judge Perry takes over and asks a long hypothetical question that I don’t even attempt to get it all. Its based on Overland’s question of a burglar (that) went upstairs (?) after stacking equipment, and is it consistent with (?blood stains?) over (the) stairwell? I miss writing down the answer.

Overland asks another question and Judge Perry responds, “I’m going to sustain my own objection to asked and answered. This is taking a long time.”

Now there are questions about stains retrieved from the wall of the garage.

MO: Did that affect your opinion?

MS: If I did review that it would be part of my analysis.

MO: As you sit here today you don’t know if it affected your opinion?

MS: I’m sure I would have considered it.

Overland asks the question again and Judge Perry says, “Asked and answered!”

It’s noon, and Judge Perry has not called the lunch hour. I want lunch but Overland keeps going. Then Judge Perry interjects about another question that the witness is unable to give a simple “yes” answer to. “I’m not going to allow it to be asked that way. The thing on that particular point, it would be consistent and that’s the answer.”

JP: At a typical case, a donut shop lets say, being broken into (and the burglar is surprised)... (would that be consistent?)?

MS: If that’s the only thing considered, that would be consistent.

There might have been one more question and then cross is finished.

Judge Perry looks at Nunez and asks, “Is that it?” Nunez raises both his hands and we finally go to lunch.

1:30 PM, back inside the courtroom I see the prosecution’s last witness for the first time and I smile. It’s criminalist Steven Dowell, who I first saw testify in the Robert Blake case back in 2005. It’s from Dowell I first learned all there was to know about the unique combination of barium, antimony and lead, more commonly known as GSR and the scanning electron microscope (SEM) that’s used to find it.

The reporter sitting to my left, Jim, from local Fox News has drawn what looks like a pretty accurate floor plan of the town home. Looking over his shoulder, Nels Rasmussen points out corrections to the drawing.

It’s taking some time for court to start and those of us in the front row start to wonder what’s going on. Lazarus was taken back into the jail area and counsel went into Judge Perry’s chambers. Not a single one of us was paying attention as to “who” called the in-chamber meeting. We’re all asking each other, “Did you see?”

Nunez is the first out of Judge Perry’s chamber. He’s smiling and I’m wondering what that’s all about. It appears we are picking another juror! We are now seating another juror in seat number four. We go on the record and the bailiff will make a random draw. Alternate #1, a man is selected by the random draw. Judge Perry addresses the room.

JP: Juror #4 is excused for legal reasons. You are not to speculate. Alternate #1, you are now juror #4.

The panel is now back to eight women and four men.

JP: I’m going to make a few comments before we resume. In this country, trials are public events. (snip) But I want to emphasize once again, (you are to make your decision?) based on the evidence introduced before trial and not a reaction from someone based in the audience. When jurors speculate from things outside (testimony? witness stand?) (snip) they’re probably wrong. What goes on beyond the bar should not impact your decision in any way. We need a decision based only on the evidence.

And with that, Steven Dowell takes the stand.

As Dowell passes, Nunez hands him a bottle of water and tells Judge Perry, “Don’t get alarmed judge, I’m just being polite.”

The room breaks into laughter.

We learn that Dowell recently retired last year. (That made me sad to hear this. I saw him testify in the first Spector trial and I think the second.) He was employed by the LA County Coroner’s office for approximately 36 years, the last 31 as a criminalist. Dowell gives his CV. He joined the coroner’s office in 1975. He became a criminalist after a few years as a histology technician. He became a research criminalist in 1981, which is a supervisory position.

Dowell went to the field, and did examinations in the field and collected evidence. He also did tool mark evaluations in the coroner’s office. This is an exam of a part (of a?) tool that could have been applied to the body and what could have produced that trauma. (tool marks are) It’s the application of the tool to a non moving body.

Nunez asks some supposition questions. Suppose a mark is made on the body and the coroner’s office is able to evaluate it quickly. There is a better chance to compare it to a tool. Then, suppose a mark is placed on the body and the body decomposes, the mark has the possibility to change.

Dowell worked on the case.

PN: Is this one of the photographs you reviewed in this work?

A photograph, of Rasmussen’s face is put up, a close up of her face.

Dowell goes over marks on the face and explains which ones are good for comparison to tools and which ones are not. Dowell points out a mark on the outside edge of Rasmussen’s right eye and identifies it. “This is a pattern mark,” he states.

The next photo is the left side of Rasmussen’s head and the markings above the ear. Dowell doesn’t see any patterns that he could possibly tie to anything.

PN: In your opinion, there are many different tools that could make those marks above the left ear?

SD: Correct.

What Dowell thought he saw in the injury over the right eye was the muzzle end of a weapon. He was asked to compare that mark to a Smith & Wesson Model 49 firearm.

PN: Was that the only firearm you were asked to compare to (the injury)?

SD: Yes.

PN: Did the defense ask for you to compare the marks on the left side of her face to any other type of firearm?

SD: Not to me, no.

He compared the injuries on the site of the face to the grip of the S&W Model 49. There wasn’t anything that he could make a definitive comparison.

Nunez enters fourteen photos into evidence, People’s #331 through #344. There is significant testimony that relies on these photographs.

The photos that Dowell prepared explain what he did. His review took place in 2010 and he also looked at the vase in the last few months. The autopsy photos were used in comparison. He obtained a firearm from the LA County Sheriff’s Firearm’s group.

He examined the firearm, and made a silicone impression of the tip end of the barrel. From the silicone mold, he made a positive model using dental stone.

Dowell now explains that he has an example of the tip of the weapon. The next photo is looking down the barrel of the muzzle of the gun. The following photo is the dental stone case he made from the silicone impression. Now he shows what it looks like on it’s side.

PN: It’s a replica of the very tip or end of the firearm?

SD: That’s correct.

Then another photo, with all three images together. The next set of photographs are now comparing the dental stone cast to the features over the right eye.

Dowell describes what we’re seeing.

SD: These images are brought one to one.

(Meaning, they are brought to the correct scale.)

Dowell points out the semi-circle lines over and on the edge of the right eye and the skin in the center, almost round that’s not involved, not damaged. He places the photo image of the dental stone mold over the photo of Rasmussen’s eye.

SD: This photo is a two dimensional representation to a three dimensional component. (snip) This semi-circular area, could have been produced (by the muzzle of the Model 49).

SD: I think this tool is capable of producing this mark in the right of the eye.

PN: The only thing that holds you back (from making a firm connection) is the curvature of the body?

SD: Right.

Also, the dynamic movement of both items possibly moving. The curvature appears to be repeated on the lower curve.

SD: You also have to remember there’s a bony structure under this part of the eye, and the bony area above that can support... (snip)

(PN?) It (the Model 49 muzzle) could have produced this mark?

SD: I can’t exclude it.

PN: You cannot make a determination as to how much force was used?

SD: I cannot.

It was interesting to see the mold place over the injury to Rasmussen’s eye. The mold appeared to match the injury.

Now Nunez moves onto a clay vase. Dowell examined a vase to see if there was anything in the vase that could make that mark.

SD: It’s a very complex shaped object.

It’s impossible to describe. There are all these, long slender, curving shapes coming out of the sides of the vase in all different directions. Tons of curves and points. It’s a complex of features.

SD: But whether or not this vase produced any marks on the face I can’t say.

The vase is six inches tall and six inches wide.

PN: There were some defects exhibited in this vase?

SD: That’s correct.

Then a photo of a box full of broken shards that Dowell states he reviewed a month or so ago. Apparently, the broken vase was the same size as the image of the intact vase, but not exactly like it.

The intact vase was to show that it has many contours to produce the trauma to the right eye.

PN: What is your opinion based on the review of the photos and vase?

SD: I can’t exclude either of those vases producing these wounds. (snip) I think it’s less likely to this (pointing to the right eye region). However, the vase is so complex, that it could be.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see that John Ruetten is totally leaning forward, not looking at the screen or paying attention to testimony.

PN: How many blows (would it take to create those injuries)?

SD: Maybe as many as four blows, or one blow, if you have the right kind of tool.

Up on the overhead screen is a photo of Sherri on the floor with the broken vase around her. Ruetten still doesn’t look up.

PN: Did you examine any other parts of the gun or butt of the gun (that could?) produce any of the injuries on the decedent?

SD: I did examine the firearm. It does have some sharp edges. (snip) The linear lines, there are some areas that could produce (the injuries on the face) but nothing definitive.

PN: Did you work with Lloyd Mahaney, back in 1986 as part of (your? criminalist? coroner’s?) function?
SD: Yes.

Nunez asks how was it done in 1986 to take fingernail scrapings and clippings.

SD: (The nails were) simply scraped. (snip) Nothing was done to separate one from the other.

All the left hand nails were put together and the right hand nails were put together.

SD: There was a wood stick, we’d scrape the fingernails and a pair of scissors were used to cut the fingernails.

PN: Do you recall if any procedures done to use the scissors?

SD: There was a protocol to clean scissors with an alcohol wipe.

In 1986, scissors were used in procedures to collect nail clippings. As techniques evolved and DNA became in use, collection and protocols changed. As DNA became usable in (DNA testing and forensic science). Later, much more attention was paid to collection coverage.

Dowell is asked about the coroner’s collection tubes. They were single use test tubes in the field.

Direct is finished and cross begins.

MO: You said you knew Lloyd Mahaney. Did you ever go to a scene with him? (snip) Did you observe him collect evidence at the coroner’s office?

SD: I very well may have.

MO: Do you know what type of procedures he used to collect evidence? (snip) So you don’t know how he separated nail evidence?

SD: No, I don’t.

Cross ends and there’s no redirect.

Judge Perry tells the jury, “We’re going to send you home. I’m going to talk to counsel about scheduling. We’ll see you back at 9:00 AM on Monday. I still can’t tell you when the case will go to the jury, but we’re getting closer. See you at what time?”

Jury: Nine!

Judge Perry asks counsel, “We’re all done here?”

DDA Presby asks Judge Perry, “....the issue of scope of cross and what the court will allow.... questions based on not subject to the facts of the case. (snip) His opinion of witness, as to (character?).”

JP: I think that’s going to be a difficult thing for the people to do.

Nunez tells the court they will be working with counsel to work out stipulations with counsel and tell the jury Monday morning that the people rest.

JP: I’ll be available until 4.

And that’s how the day ended.


Shannon said...

Wow, Sprocket! What a detailed report you put together. Thanks again for all of your hard work.

Enjoy your Sunday off! I hope it's restful.

Anonymous said...

You are BEYOND amazing, Sprocket!!! My goodness!! Your notes are so detailed!! Wow!! I feel like I'm in court each day and I live in Georgia!! : )

Have a blessed Sunday : )

LS said...

WOw! that was a great blow by blow!enjoy your sunday and thanks for all your hard work

Sprocket said...

Thank you everyone.

I'm currently working on the witness list for the trial, and getting it updated before the defense case begins.

Here's the link:


You can also find the link on the

STEPHANIE LAZARUS QUICK LINKS page. The quick links link, is also in the list of links on the right side column of the blog.

After I get the witness list updated, I'm going to work on a detailed entry covering John Ruetten's testimony.

Anonymous said...

A tad of minutiae, but the devil is in the details,
RE: S. Lazarus interview/transcript:

After viewing her interview and reading the transcript of it, I noticed that on P. 53, when S.L is asked if J. Rutten told her what happened to his then wife, she raises the issue of drugs/cocaine as perhaps a motive/reason for her killing. She claims that either John told her or she heard it from someone. It appears to me as if she is attempting to dirty up/slander Sherry R. in some way and paint her as drug user or dealer. (Or she thought that she would cleverly point the detectives in a new direction with a drug motive for the murder).
It is also interesting to note that later she specifically mentions the botched burglary motive and claims to have learned of it from a flier that she read or that someone mentioned it. Either a man or women who contacted her about the murder. She does not remember who it was.


You are doing an amazing job with your blog. Thank you for your all your effort.

Sprocket said...

You have to keep in mind, that some of the video was redacted. The transcript the jurors received (with redacted statements) was 87 pages, much longer that the copy I posted, but the page numbers extended beyond that.

Understand that the copy I posted, I believe there are pages out of order. I found it on the web quite some time ago, where it was published by another news agency.

On Day 8 of the trial, outside the presence of the jury Judge Perry went over all the redaction's and what page they were on.

Here is that list from my trial notes.

Page 44 (one time), 67 (one time), 70 (one time), 72 (one time), 78 (2 times), 81, 82, 85, 87 (extends into 88), 88 (3 times), 89 (two times, extends to 90 1 time), 91 (one time), 93 (one time).

Like I've mentioned before, I don't have a copy of the redacted transcript given to the jury.

In cross examination of Detective Jaramillo, one of the first questions Overland asked him was, something to the effect of, "there were words on the video that were not in the transcript" implying the editing of the video was not as exact as the transcript. I believe Jaramillo replied that he did not know that (to be the case).

So keep in mind, some of what you are seeing, the jury may not have seen/heard. Many of the jurors read the transcript and did not watch all the video. Remember, the transcript is not the evidence, the video is. The transcript is just an aid for the jurors.

Thank you everyone for reading! Back to work on the witness list for me.

Sprocket said...

81, 82, 85 (all one time each).

Crickit said...

Thanks again! You are appreciated!

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO Much Sprocket! Fabulous attention to detail as always :) Looking forward to next week! Your fan, Ilene

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Ms. Sprocket, for helping me
out on my site navigation. Now, I have it
made in the shade with lemonade! For
some reason, I found the exchange between
the judge and the jury (What time will I see
you? Nine!) hilarious.

Audra said...

Dear Sprocket,

I have been hooked on this case ever since Stephanie's arrest. Before I comment further, I want to thank you for your hard work, it is greatly appreciated. Since the Lazarus case is the first case I have ever been so keenly interested in, I felt like I had hit a jackpot when I discovered Trials & Tribulations.

Like many others here, John Ruetten is the one that peaks my curiosity the most. Without going into detail or spreading gossip, I have heard some things about Ruetten that are not very nice. This information came from a blog posted by someone who claimed they had known John for years. I just hope that John truly loved Sherri and married her for all the right reasons. He is the only one who knows the true answer to this. God I would hate to be him.

Anyway, thank you again for providing the facts to us.

Arizona court reporters said...

Nice, I think this sample is one of the best I've ever seen so far! Thanks a lot for sharing this, I appreciate this so much!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Sprocket! Your Feb 24th Part II coverage is fantastic. I couldn't put my iPad down until I was completely done reading it and the comments.

What a way for the Prosecution to end its case with the expert suggesting that the crime scene was staged!!!!?????How could a crime scene with such a extensive and violent struggle be so lacking in finger prints from the one who committed the crime?? Only one professionally trained could accomplish this and not trip over the stero equipment, leaving no trace of their blood. Like the DNA profile of one of the fingernails, tape of her interrogation+++, the evidence keeps us focused on Lazarus as the one with the motive, means and many opportunities.

As for John Ruetten, there is a ongoing curiosity about him that covers a wide range of feelings. He's in a tough situation, no matter what your views are. The 2011 48 Hour Mystery episode entitled, "One of their 0wn, is worth seeing. The most intriguing part of this episode was about John!!

sdnokidding said...

May I share my knowledge about John Ruetten? I have known John since 4th grade, we grew up together. He is a nice guy. I don't know about that blogger that was mentioned, but I wonder if they have an ulterior motive for posting those things about John. John was always a nice guy, friend to everyone, but very quiet. He still is. He was devoted to his family, never did drugs and was a "square" in high school. He is not a cad! Please keep this man in your prayers along with the Rasmussen family. A horrible crime has been committed here and even though John remains quiet and non communicative he is grieving along with Sherri’s mom, dad, family and friends.