Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Trial: Day 15


2-22-2012 Defense attorney Mark Overland,
© Thomas Broersma

It's very possible that defense attorney Mark Overland could rest his case by the end of the day today. If that happens, it's projected there will be no court on Wednesday to give counsel time to prepare for closing arguments. Closing arguments would be presented on Thursday and Friday morning this week and optimistically, the jury could get the case by Friday afternoon.

I'll have an update by lunch today.


We had a bit of fireworks this morning over the testimony of James Nuttall, Van Nuys detective who received the case from Cold Case Special in March 2008 and did the majority of the investigation before the case was handed over to Robbery/Homicide. DDA Nunez was on fire in his arguments to Judge Perry outside the presence of the jury as well as his cross of Nuttall after Overland's initial direct examination. It was evident to those of us in the gallery that Nunez was trying to clear up issues Overland raised in his direct of what Nuttall did when he physically reviewed all the case evidence he requested from the various property storage areas and opened items of evidence for verification. I could almost see smoke coming out of Nunez ears, his body language and forceful tone in his questioning conveyed a sense of indignation that Nuttall's integrity had been called into question during Overland's direct examination.

During the morning break, Nunez and Nuttall had a discussion and when Overland redirected his witness, he asked many questions about what Nunez said to him, as well as asked Nuttall if Nunez told him what to say on the stand. At that point, Judge Perry interjected to say, "The prosecutor is not on trial here."

One of the items in contention between counsel, was a GSR kit listed on the property log and could that GSR kit be one of the ones that was collected by the coroner's office or was it a GSR kit used on the blanket/garment "Snuggy."

Overland called two character witnesses this morning, female friends of the defendant who testified in the many years they knew Lazarus, they stated they never knew her to be a violent person. A custodian of records for Santa Monica Police Department testified about the number of auto property thefts that were also reported on the dated Lazarus' reported her gun stolen. There were two others. In cross examination, the witness testified those property thefts occurred from the trunks of the vehicles and from a different public parking structure than where Lazarus had parked her car.

We broke for lunch early at 11:30 AM when Overland ran out of witnesses. There will be more testimony outside the presence of the jury from DNA SID serology lab acting supervisor Thompson on a specific issue of standards and practices over DNA lab procedures and another analyst who may have performed work on the case.

I will try to have a complete write up very late tonight.

6:25 PM:
Judge Perry ruled that Thompson would not be testifying on the issues Overland wanted to raise. His finding after the additional testimony in the afternoon was that the reports did not have any relevance to this case.

In the afternoon session, Detective Gregory Stearns took the stand to read entries from the defendants journal (or “work log” entries depending on your perspective) and calendar entries where the defendant mentioned interest in other men, coworkers who had an interest in her, men she found attractive or things she did with other men such as lunch, biking or other sporting activities.

Overland rested his case with the jury on the testimony of latent fingerprint expert Andrea Dillion and the unidentifiable prints she submitted to IAFIS. The defendant did not take the stand in her own defense.

Before the jury was excused, Judge Perry went over with counsel the various scheduling options. A juror had scheduled an much needed doctor’s appointment that was important on Friday. Earlier on the same day, her relative, possibly daughter, was being induced for labor and she was traditionally the first one to hold the new baby.

Counsel and Judge Perry went over the various options on this scheduling issue with counsel, taking into account how long each side was going to argue. Nunez who would lead the prosecution’s arguments, stated his closing would be one to two hours, closer on the one hour side. Judge Perry indicated Overland would argue somewhere between four and five hours and Presby bringing up the final closing one hour. Presby was willing to do closing arguments on Wednesday, getting the case to the jury by Thursday but Overland felt he needed time to prepare and requested that closings be moved to Monday. Monday it is.

Tomorrow, counsel will decide on the specific language for jury instructions. Judge Perry indicated he was favoring CAL CRIM. I don’t plan on attending this part of the trial choosing instead to take a much needed rest.

I will be working on getting the detail of today’s testimony finished as soon as possible. After that, put up a Q&A thread for questions until closings. Then I’ll finish up with the final testimony from yesterday.


Utah Chris said...

Can you share with us the life John is leading today? Your comment on his genuine grief struck me deeply.

Sprocket said...

All I know is what I've heard in the mainstream press and that is, he did remarry.

It's obvious that, the Rasmussen family, IF THEY EVER had any problems with Ruetten at any time in the past after their daughter's death, have reconciled with him now.

He sits with them in the courtroom and has lunch with them in the cafeteria.

Becky said...

This is the first trial of yours I have followed, so I'm sorry to ask for the basics--but you can explain how the next few days will go? I understand there will be closing arguments and then deliberation. After the jury makes a decision, will it immediately go into sentencing if she is found guilty? What will that entail (i.e. witnesses?) Ultimately does Perry sentence her or does the jury decide? In the alternative, if she is acquitted, is she immediately free to go?

Thank you, as always, for your amazing coverage and your answers. Soon i will become the expert as I keep reading...

Sprocket said...


Once the defense rests, the prosecution has the opportunity to put on a rebuttal case, if they choose to do so. There are even rare occasions that the defense could put on a sur-rebuttal case, to the prosecutions rebuttal.

Once both sides have rested, then there will probably be a day off for the counsel to prepare for closing arguments. The prosecution gets two bites at the apple. They go first, then the defense, then the prosecution gets to argue again.

The jury then receives the jury instructions from the judge and they are handed the case.

When they come to a verdict, the verdict will be read as soon as possible. Sentencing will happen at a later date, usually about a month later.

At the sentencing, the victim's family will be allowed to speak, as well as the defendant's family, I believe. They stand at the podium to give their impact statements. They do not take the stand to testify since the jury is not deciding the death penalty.

If Lazarus is acquitted, then yes, after being cleared through the jail, she will go free.

Simi High Alumni said...

I say lock her up and throw away the key! she done did it!

anonymous said...

You may have covered this before, and if so I apologize, but did the LAPD ever elaborate on the investigation they did on Steohanie Lazarus to clear her as a suspect in 1986?

Anonymous said...

How do you see Overland's defense case? Do you see any way that the jury will disregard or ignore the DNA evidence? As you sit there hearing the evidence, could she be innocent of this heinous crime? Just curious to hear you point of view.
Thank you for your great reporting.

Kathy said...

Thanks for the update.

If Lazarus is convicted, I have wondered where they are going to put her. She is an ex-cop so would be a big target in prison.

Any indication from what you have absorbed about the case?

Susan said...

Hey sprocket! Regarding the defense wit lt. Wade's testimony regarding SL's uniform & weapon in the IA locker,... What possibly could be the point of that testimony? I don't get the point Overland was trying to make w/that. Do you understand what he was trying to do? Thanks!!!

NancyB said...


I wanted to offer my services to you. I would be glad to assist you in transcribing your detailed notes. If you have the ability to scan them into your laptop you could email them a day at a time. Would be glad to help you out.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 1:06 PM:
There was nothing that was presented in this case, that there was evidence in the murder book documenting Lazarus as being cleared.

Anonymous @ 1:48 PM:
My reporting on this case is to remain neutral. I will not be making an evaluation as to the merits of the prosecution's case or the defense.

You are assuming Lazarus will be convicted, correct? I will ask where she might go.

It's my understanding that the point of Wade's testimony was the recovered ammunition, and that it was not Federal 38J +P 125.grain, but ammunition for a more modern weapon.

Nancy B:
That is a very kind offer. Unfortunately, my notes are not readable by another individual; no one could read my mix of my own shorthand and scribble. I fill up a steno pad a day.

As you have read yourself from my own detailed notes, I often have a word in parenthesis with a question mark. Those are words that I can't even figure out what I was trying to write down. In addition, there are words in my narrative that are not in my notes that I remember hearing when I go over my notes.

Shannon from Seattle said...

I think it was very smart for the Rasmussen family and John Ruetten to demonstrate a united front throughout the course of this trial. It is clear that Lazarus' attorney was trying to subtly cast blame in his direction for this crime.

Given the fact that his life was absolutely turned upside down and given the apparent strength of his testimony, there really is nothing there for the defense to hang their hat on there.

Anonymous said...

While I understand that the jury is instructed not to interpret Lazarus's failure to take the stand as a sign of guilt, I question if this decision will bode well for her. If you were accused of a crime that you did not commit, wouldn't you want your day in court to tell the world? Lazarus as a seasoned law enforcement professional,what would be the issue with taking the stand? She knows the drill, she knows trials and testimony, this is not her first day of school. I thought if she had any chance, that she would need to take the stand and tell the jury her story, her truth. Police officer after police officer testified, everyone except her.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit, based solely on the information provided, I am not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that this woman killed Sherri and in good conscious could not convict her of 1st degree murder and the penalty that comes with that conviction. I realize this opinion may not be a popular one, but "beyond a reasonable doubt" is just that. So glad I am not a juror on this one, whichever way it goes.

Thanks Sprocket. You have truly presented this case objectively.

Anonymous said...

I have one question. I understand that Lazarus retired from the LAPD after her arrest and I read somewhere that she is currently receiving her police pension. Should she be convicted, will she continue to receive her pension, or based on a status of convicted felon, will she lose her pension?

Anonymous said...

I still cannot understand why Overland asked the two friends of J. Rutten if he had mentioned to themt that he had sex with S. Lazarus umpteen times. He wanted perhaps to paint him a a hound, but the fact that he did not tell them cuts both ways and indeed speaks to the fact the he respected S. Lazarus and was not blabbing his sexual escaped like a fool.

Was Overland being clever in some way that escapes me?

Anonymous said...

I have attended the trial as often as I am able and each time I notice that you are there. It seems you are present much more than reporters from newspapers, news stations and magazines. I know for a fact that people attending the trial have referred your blog to their friends/relatives who want to get accurate updates on the trial, not just a STORY like the newspapers are trying to get. I normally rather detest blogs but in your case I have found it useful AND accurate. I believe I may be witnessing a new era of reporting. I hope you are recognized for your unfailing tenacity and dedication to accuracy.

Susan said...

Many thanks for the answer regarding Lt. Wade's testimony. If that's the only defense Overland can muster, from where I sit, it looks pretty grim for the defendant.

Regarding the pension, I can answer that... SL will retain her pension regardless of the trial's outcome.

Avery21 said...

I may have missed it, but did anyone try to explain the sheer violence of the crime & the fact that the BMW was stolen, then abandoned a few blocks away? That makes absolutely no sense, especially if the car was the only thing taken.

debbiescalisi said...

Wow, I have all these comments after reading the other observations like Shannon from Seattle that noticed the bonding between John Ruetten and The Rasmussens in court. I am still bothered about the get-together he and Stephanie had in Hawaii in 1989 and the sexual reconnection; that could have not gone over well with the Rasmussen's. Why am I thinking they were unaware of that situation in Hawaii until it came out in the trial? Sprocket, you are doing a wonderful job and you are our ears and our eyes and please forgive me/us if we get a little ADD about some of the questions, but they are overwhelming and my big question/answer is obviously Stephanie is NOT going to take the stand. I know "Anonymous" hit it right on the head saying that if you were in law enforcement you would want your day in court. The Average Joe, like me/us, would be pounding the witness stand for our chance to voice our innocense. Stephanie is a seasoned professional that worked the system for over 25 years on this. I am not holding my breath after the Casey Anthony verdict that shocked us all last summer. Justice for Sherri is all I can hope for.

Tom Idaho said...

I'm glad Anonymous is not on the jury!

Btw- Sprocket- Thanks for keeping us so informed of each and every detail. I have no idea how I could have followed this trial w/o your blog.

Shannon from Seattle said...

Saliva DNA match from the bite would to Lazarus is 420,00000000000000000000 to 1. How many earth worlds is that? I heard 20 billion. I am pretty sure that is a wrap on reasonable doubt, although I did not attend court each day. Also throw in opportunity -- she was off work that day, motive -- jealous jilted ex-GF, and the report of a lost firearm two weeks after the crime? This adds up to a lot of evidence.

Great question too about the pension. I would love to know the answer to that. Although, as odd as it might seem because I believe she is guilty of the heinous crime, I do think her husband and daughter should receive her pension. I don't think it should be revoked even if she is convicted.

Francaise said...


Anonymous said...

So closing is set for this Monday, what time??? And you have done a remarkable job detailing the trial. Have you ever thought of writing a book, you should...


Anonymous said...


You little GEM! You made my day when I read the latest post. Now, I pray that Sherri and her family get the justice they deserve!! This has gone on long enough. I'm also thankful that her parents lived to see this moment. And may they live many, many more years knowing that they fought hard on behalf of their daughter, and irregardless of the outcome, they've already won in many, many ways!! In my opinion, it's only been by the grace of GOD!!

Anonymous said...

Not so long ago, Lonnie Franklin Jr.'s surreptitious DNA sample was enough to capture him for his murders. As for Stephanie Lazarus, her DNA sample was important in the killing of ONE that she was infatuated with. There are too many circumstantial facts to deny this connection to Sherri's murder. How about that videotape of her arrest, which is quite revealing?!

Oh wait ....... did Overland present information so that the jury can ignore the grim lines that point to his client?

Anonymous said...

OMG now that that person above claimed they believe she is not guilty I am FREAKED OUT!!! This case SCREAMS GUILTY!!! Hopefully the above commenter is a friend or relative of SL's because the DNA "cinches" it for the most part. And YES lets not forget the interrogation video! Now I'm freaking that we might see another injustice like Casey Anthony?! Oy Vey!!!! :( Love you Sprocket!

Sprocket said...

Please keep the questions coming. I am working on my detail notes for yesterday. I'll answer all questions once I've got that finished. Thank you everyone for reading T&T!

S said...

Anon above me: I just want to say that every person interprets the evidence differently and takes varying amounts of convincing for any one side of an issue. What I'm trying to say is that, the issue here, what seems obviously guilty to you may seem different to others.
I believe that is one reason for jury- so that divergent opinions can come into one to make a unanimous (though not always) decision, considering all points of view.
We all think differently, so it is only natural that not all of us see her as "OBVIOUSLY" guilty. There are a lot of things to consider here. :)

Anonymous said...

I don't know. I think, if I were on the jury, I would give Ms. Lazarus the benefit of my doubt about the bite-swab evidence. It was found in a state of storage that cannot be trusted. Reasonable doubt? Yes. Is there other evidence of guilt? No.

anonymous said...

Although I did not attend the trial it appears that the brutal and personal nature of the attack was not stressed. Is this something that would be brought up in closing?

Anonymous said...

I believe that this case will come down to the DNA evidence and whether the jury accepts or rejects the validity of the evidence. The rest of the case is circumstantial: SL's interrogation, the gun reported as stolen and the love triangle theory, while compelling, this is not direct evidence. The DNA, if the jury accepts the evidence as valid, puts SL as the murderer of Sherri. There are strict rules regarding the collection, storage and handling of evidence in criminal cases. This case brings in question whether evidence found after 2 days of searching the coroner's freezers, in an envelope that was torn and contained no record of how the tear occurred, and at a time when the vial containing the saliva swab did not contain a tamper seal. Is the bar for the proper handing of evidence allowed to be lowered because it is 20+ years later? Does the fact that the now processed DNA, because it is a perfect match to Stephanie Lazarus, allow us to not question and/or accept compromised evidence handling? Note that I am talking about the handling of the evidence; the location and when the tear on the envelope occurred, should have been documented.
This jury has a huge decision before them. SL, by all accounts, with the exception of this case, has lived an exemplary life. This murder occurred 26 years ago. It would be hard enough to decide judgement in a horrific case that occurred recently, but to decide the fate of someone, when this happened so long ago and if questions arise, it could be the DNA evidence.

Tom ID said...

If some of these folks posting were on juries we would have empty prisons. Sometimes you have to take a stand and follow the preponderance of the evidence and accept this as beyond reasonable doubt. If she gets off I am going to lose all confidence in the system and the impressionable citizens making up our juries. C'mon people the only thing taken from Sherri's apartment was the *#%€+ marriage certificate!!!!!!

Shannon from Seattle said...

People are always looking for a conspiracy. The DNA sample was preserved in a storage freezer. It actually took them several days to find it. Yes; there was a tear in the bag (old bag), but the integrity of the sample was not compromised. The DNA of the sample was tested before they looked at every female (DNA sample came from female) involved in some way with the victim. It took them quite a while and Lazarus was the last to be tested and compared to the sample.

For those who love conspiracy theories, imagine what would be involved to create this DNA sample to frame Lazarus. It simply didn't happen. The DNA is an exact match -- she committed this crime. It is really that basic.

TS said...

Does SL have an alibi for the day of the murder? It's not clear whether SL was off that day because of her usual work schedule, time off requested in advance (i.e. for vacation, etc.) or time off asked at the last minute as one need for an unexpected doctor appointment) - the answer could help or detract from the premeditation theory. One big factor in the verdict decision will be how the law is read to the jury and the parameters of how they may make a decision. As we've seen in many trials, within the law a person may be considered not guilty but that is different than innocent.

debbiescalisi said...

Tom ID and Shannon from Seattle on 2/29 hit it right on the head! There is/was no conspiracy. DNA is DNA. I also agree with another comment that We The People cannot endure another injustice like Casey Anthony. I wish I had a better feeling about this case and justice for Sherri and her parents.

Sunny said...

Sprocket, based on what you learned from the prelims about the defense witnesses that Overland did not call, can you deduce why Overland would choose not to put them on the stand? It seems odd that he would rest so soon. It also seems odd that he wouldn't put on the stand the initial investigator, who thought it looked like a robbery. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I don't know what your background is, but you should really consider going to law school. I think you would ROCK as a attorney!! And I think you would love doing the work : ) Have you ever thought about it? : )

Anonymous said...

"We the people", "Justice". Empty words. to my way of thinking, Casey Anthony received justice from you, the American people. Justice isn't what you think it should be, it's what the jury decides. One cannot be all rah,rah,rah for the U.S. system only until you disagree with it. Whatever happens to Stephanie Lazarus will be justified.

Anonymous said...

Who said anything about a conspiracy? Don't put words in people's mouths.

Sprocket said...

I will take a break from transcribing my trial notes to answer a few questions.

If you go back over my summary notes of the preliminary hearing, (which you can find on the STEPHANIE LAZARUS QUICK LINKS Page, all the witnesses who testified were called by the prosecution.

Overland did not put on an affirmative defense during the preliminary hearing. He did not call a single witness of his own.

Lazarus was off four days in a row, the last day was a requested "TO" = "time off." Those are usually requested in advance. I would have to go back through my notes to find out what the other days were, if they were her normal days off or if those were also TO's. During that time, IIRC, Lazarus worked an evening shift, so technically, she didn't go into work until later in the evening on 2/25/86.

Anon @ 10:40 AM:
There is a misconception that circumstantial evidence is not equal to direct evidence. That is incorrect. Direct evidence is, in other words, eye witness testimony. Circumstantial evidence is considered by the court, and juries are instructed that circumstantial evidence is every bit as equal as direct, eye witness testimony. One does not trump the other.

I do not know if you meant to imply that; I am just trying to clear up what is often misunderstood about circumstantial evidence, what it is and how it can be just as powerful, sometimes even more so that direct evidence.

There is quite a bit of research out there that eye witness testimony (e.g. "That's the rapist. I saw him go in her apartment.") is not nearly as reliable/accurate as people believe it to be. Check out some of the studies that Professor Elizabeth Loftus has done with testing the accuracy of memory.

Anon @10:27 AM:
The brutality of the attack was brought up during the coroner's exam. Photos of her injuries were shown to the jury. Judge Perry mentioned it (outside the presence of the jury) when he ruled against the 3rd party culpability evidence being admitted by the defense. I believe I reported Judge Perry's ruling on that already.

Anon @10:20 AM
"found in a state of storage that cannot be trusted." Can you explain a bit more what you mean?

At the preliminary hearing, Lloyd Mahaney identified the envelope, his writing and his seals on it.

The DNA analyst stated that when she removed the swoob tube from the envelope it was unbroken. She also stated she believes she was the one who made the hole in the envelope bigger, to get the tube out of the hole. She also testified that when she looked at the sample under the microscope, she saw a robust amount of epithelial cells with nuclei.

Anon @ 12:39 AM
Court will start at 9:00 AM Monday.

I don't think the Rasmussen family were surprised by much at the trial. The prosecution spoke to them every day before trial and updated them on what was coming up next.

The independent lab SERI put the match at a random chance of 1 in 1.7 sextillion, (a much larger number than the initial 1 in 402.1 quadrillion) which comes out to something like, 100 million earths.

Lazarus gets her pension, regardless of the verdict.

Natalie said...

Sprocket, You're amazing. Can you explain the significance of the line that you wrote:

"She also testified that when she looked at the sample under the microscope, she saw a robust amount of epithelial cells with nuclei."


Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 10:40 said "SL by all accounts, with the exception of this case, has lived an exemplary life. This murder occurred 26 years ago". So then is what you are saying that everyone should be allowed 1 murder in 26 years because they later lead an "exemplary" life?

Anonymous said...

The tube containing the evidence swab of the bite mark was found sticking out of an envelope before it was re-packaged. Ergo, the storage of the evidence is untrustworthy. I know the tube top, with the swabs attached, was found screwed onto the tube. The interface between the cap and tube was not sealed with tape, or anything else. The sealing mechanism, the envelope, was breached. Does this not make the evidence contained in the envelope suspect. Having said all this, the DNA evidence will likely do Ms. Lazarus in.

Sprocket said...


Cells with a nucleus (nucleui), are cells that have DNA, since the DNA is found coiled up in the nucleus our cells. Analysts find those types of cells inside the mouth, inside the vagina, etc. It's one of the reasons why when they are taking a DNA swab, they swab the inside of your mouth.

Your cells being shed on the inside of your mouth are loaded with cells that are nucleated, ergo, would have lots of DNA.

This is different than just skin cells, or that shed that rarely have a nucleus. Now, if there was some sweat mixed in with the shedding skin cells, you would get cells with nucleated DNA, but not nearly as much as cells from inside the mouth.

"Touch DNA" would also be in the category of skin cells. Your DNA could be there but not necessarily be enough there to make any kind of comparison. It might also be at a level that is undetectable by the analysis process itself, in our current capability to detect it.

So what I'm saying is, Francis testified that there was a "robust" amount of epithelial cells in the swab when she looked at them under the microscope.

For cells to be in such good condition all these years later means to me, they were well preserved. Someone else may have a different opinion as to what it means.

How important/unimportant that is, is up to the jury to decide.

Natalie said...

I understand now. Thanks for the in-depth clarification, Sprocket.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 4:18 PM
I am sorry, but that is not the testimony that I heard in court.

If you were there in court and heard something different, please direct me to a specific witness so I can go over my notes. I would really appreciate that.

The only individual who said the tube was sticking out of the envelope was supervisor Dan Anderson. He then corrected himself in later testimony that same day and said it was "visible" through the hole and not necessarily sticking out.

Not a single witness testified that it was standard practice for the tubes to be sealed with tape.

Quite the contrary. Dan Anderson testified that screwing on the cap was sufficient to seal it. Other analysts testified it was not standard practice to seal tubes with tape.

Understand that we do not have a photograph of the envelope on the day it was found in the property room on December 22nd, 2004.

The photograph of the front and back of the envelope was taken in 2009, IIRC, a few months before the preliminary hearing in December, 2009.

IIRC, At least one witness, Jennifer Francis stated the photograph of the envelope does not depict how it appeared when she received it. She stated that the back of the envelope, where it appears the bottom of the envelope was open, was not like that when she received it. She also testified that it was her memory, that she made the hole bigger, that the left flap of the hole, she pulled back and created that flap, to get the tube OUT of the envelope via the hole.

I believe another witness, one of the property room clerks, said she could not say that the envelope looked exactly like the photo when she saw it after it was found. I believe that was Alicia who found the envelope, but I would have to go back over my notes.

On the 48 Hour show on the case, Mr. Overland stated the tube was sticking out of the hole, and presented a demonstration of a tube sticking out of a hole in an envelope that, in my opinion, did not resemble the envelope photograph presented in court.

Anonymous said...

Oh, OK then. The horse I'm flogging isn't quite dead. Was there a hole in the envelope, or not? No, I haven't been in your courtroom. No, I don't know what 48 Hours is. Good luck. I'll not darken your door again.

Sprocket said...

Anon @4:58 PM

I'm getting the impression there is a misunderstanding here. I apologize. I do not see your questions as "darkening my door". And the courtroom is not "mine" but Judge Perry's.

Yes, there was/is a hole in the envelope when the envelope was found. Several witnesses testified they could see the red cap of the swoob tube through the hole.

Shannon from Seattle said...

I also think the complexities of DNA analysis can be too complex and too overwhelming for some people. Some jurors are not sufficiently bright to understand it. Let's hope that is not the case with this jury.

I hate the fact that Lazarus has a child she cannot parent, but all of this is her doing and she needs to pay the price, if she is found guilty.

I also would ask Sprocket to make the distinction between being found "Not Guilty" and being found "Innocent." Someone here was talking about accepting the verdict no matter how it turns out. We have had to accept many questionable verdicts, this is true. In our justice system it is better to set a murderer free than it is to convict an innocent person. The standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt is very high.

In the end, I am happy to be a US citizen and I accept the rules of the court and I will accept the verdict however it turns out.

Sprocket said...

There are two possible verdicts.

Guilty or Not Guilty.

Not Guilty means the prosecution did not meet it's burden in a court of law.

That burden means for a guilty verdict the jury must find the evidence proves the charge "beyond a reasonable doubt".

I don't believe there is any language in our legal system that states a not guilty verdict is evidence of innocence, but I'm not a legal scholar.

In other countries, (I could not tell you specifically which ones) there are three options, Guilty, Innocent, and Not Proven.

shannon from Seattle said...

Thanks Sprocket!

It is true that a defendant is never found "innocent" when there is an acquittal. For whatever reason, I hear people say it all the time and it drives me nuts, "he/she was found innocent." This is not a subtle distinction. In my mind, a "not guilty" verdict simply implies that there was not enough evidence to convict. It does not necessarily mean innocent.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sprocket! I'm wondering if the Jury knows that SL is being held on Ten Million bond?

Robert said...

First of all, regarding the envelope and the DNA evidence.... There were many seals, and all but one was unbroken, and the one that is being called 'broken' was nothing more than worn. The first seal was the access door to the coroner's lab. The second seal was the freezer door in which the evidence envelope was kept. The third seal was the manila envelope that held the swab, which after twenty years showed very slight, but not unexpected wear. Since the coroner's rep testified that she had to widen the hole to retrieve the swab, that means the swab could not have been pulled out through that hole and tampered with. The fourth seal was the cap on the swab, which according to my recollection of the testimony, was self-sealing.

What is left to be said?

The defense has rested, and it did not show that anyone was able to get into the lab, get into the freezer, get into the envelope or break the seal on the swab kit. Nor did they demonstrate how anyone who might have been able to do so would have been able to buy a twenty-five year old swab kit, collect from SL a 'robust amount of epithelial cells, then inject that ancient swab kit with a "robust" amount of epithelial cells, replace it in what appeared to be a twenty-five year old envelope, falsify the signatures etc on that envelope, then get it past the workers at the coroner's office and into that refrigerator.

Preposterous... absolutely preposterous to insinuate that such a thing could have happened or that a "robust amount of epithelial cells" means something other than a mountain of DNA evidence." Not a slice, not a drop, but a "robust amount of epithelial cells" on that swab; kept in a secure kit, in a secure envelope in a secure freezer, in a secure lab.

The defense produced no expert who could explain how that "robust amount of epithelial cells" could have ended up in the coroner's refrigerator. They produced no expert who could explain how DNA gathered at the scene on that swab, and sitting in that freezer could have morphed from something it once was, into something that exactly matched SL's DNA... a DNA profile that could not be matched if all the people in 100 Million worlds were tested...

Instead... their whole defense rests on a tear in a twenty year old manila envelope.

Added to that... SL is an ex girlfriend who according to testimony was heartbroken by his engagement to Sherri. SL went to Sherri's work and tried to break up her engagement with John. According to Sherri's father, she also appeared in Sherri's condo and was stalking Sherri. She has no alibi for the day of the murder. She bragged about buying a lock-picking kit to a fellow cop and learning to use it. There is no evidence of a forced entry into a unit with a security system, and logo for the security company on the front door. She owned a weapon just like the one used to murder Sherri. She reported that weapon stolen right after the murder, but not to the LAPD - the people investigating Sherri's murder, but to the Santa Monica PD. The bullets used were standard LAPD issue. Nothing but Sherri's engagement gift was stolen... the condo was a center unit - a highly unlikely target for a daytime burglar and the FBI forensic expert called the crime scene, "staged."

Oh... and one last thing... maybe two. Watch the LAPD interview with SL right before her arrest and compare it with the testimony in the case. She lied about everything having to do with Ruetten and Rasmussen, in whole or in part.

Is that the action of an innocent person?

And then, right after being charged with Sherri's murder, she applied for her pension and it was granted. If she had neglected to apply for her pension and been found guilty, she would have forfeited it... Would someone convinced of their innocence apply for their pension.... or press forward, beat the charges and go back to work?

You might have questions... but I don't.

Anonymous said...

Great closing argument, Robert! I hope the one delivered in court is as effective as yours.


Sprocket said...

Anon @ 6:13 PM
Not the amount, no.

All they know is that she has been unable to make bail. Overland told that to the prospective jurors on the first day of voir dire.

He explained that the reason they would not see her walking around in the hallways was because she was unable to make bail.

I seem to remember, but I'm not positive that he mentioned something else about that....I'd have to go back to my notes to look. I think that he said that they shouldn't read anything into that. Something like that.

debbiescalisi said...

Ditto Robert ! I hope that each person on that jury has the common sense you do.

NancyB said...

Reasonable doubt is any doubt the average person could reasonably consider in light of the evidence presented during trial. It is not ANY doubt a juror may have regardless of the facts of the case.

Reasonable doubt does not mean there can be no doubt. If you are using reason and logic to come up with your belief that she is guilty, than it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. There can still be a doubt, but only to the extent that it would not affect a reasonable person's belief regarding whether or not the defendant is guilty.

The standard that must be met by the prosecution's evidence in a criminal prosecution is that no other logical explanation can be derived from the facts except that the defendant committed the crime, thereby overcoming the presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

If the jurors have no doubt as to the defendant's guilt, or if their only doubts are unreasonable doubts, then the prosecutor has proven the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and the defendant should be pronounced guilty.

The term connotes that evidence establishes a particular point to a moral certainty and that it is beyond dispute that any reasonable alternative is possible. It does not mean that no doubt exists as to the accused's guilt, but only that no Reasonable Doubt is possible from the evidence presented.

The government's case, when viewed properly, should carry the day. What reasonable doubt is there? Poor Sherri was not stalked and harassed a month prior to her murder then beaten to a pulp and shot in the heart/chest at close range three times by aliens. The universe of possible person(s) who killed Sherri was small. The evidence established that.

What other reasonable possibilities were there?

The point is not that every rational person had to conclude that everything happened the way the government theorized. The point is that the members of this jury hopefully will have the backbone to stand firm and require the necessary mosaic-like inquiry.

In a circumstantial case, there are always unexplained tidbits and gaps in the evidence. But many mosaic pieces can be missing and one can still figure out — with absolute certainty — what the picture is. How many letters can be missing when you are absolutely certain of the "Wheel of Fortune" word puzzle?

There is a finite universe of possibilities as to what happened to Sherri. When you rule out the impossible, the prosecution's proof — sufficient to support a conviction — becomes irrefutable.

Anonymous said...

I 'm disappointed in Mr. Overland's defense to date.   In his cross examinations of prosecution witnesses and his own, Overland seems to struggle in making clear points.    Sure, "the gun" was not ever found.   But how can we ignore that SL:
1.  Went to Sherri Rasmussen's job and home 
2.  Her surreptitious DNA match with the bite mark.  Neither John Ruetten or the Rasmussen's offer any other female suspect.
3.  The testimony of the expert witness providing information of a staged crime scene.   Who else could have such a violent fight and not leave ANY prints ANYWHERE.  Really?    Points to a professional with knowledge of how to keep the crime seem "sterile".
4.  The interrogation tapes in which SL admits to going to job and home.   Her answers are all over the map with one denial and admission after another.
5.   SL's statements about John Ruetten in her diary and roommate.
6.  Two computer searches for Ruetten on her home computer AFTER SL marries Scott Young in 1996.
7.   Her missing personal firearm?  Really, just coincidence in view of points 1 - 6.

In my opinion, Overland just hasn't produced sufficient information of any of witnesses to help ignore ALL of the above.  

Shannon from Seattle said...

Anonymous said that the tear in the envelope should have been documented. It was documented, I believe in 2004, and the torn envelope was inserted into a new envelope at that point. Sprocket can probably verify when it was documented, but I think it was after it was found in the freezer and the tear was discovered.

Sprocket said...


We learned this from the testimony of Alicia, Coroner's property room clerk.

When she found the item, a piece of butcher paper was put on the counter, the envelope on top of that and she waited for supervisor Dan Anderson to arrive.

She documented on the new evidence log they prepared what they did to protect the evidence. The envelope was placed inside another envelope and sealed by Dan Anderson.

Shannon from Seattle said...

And Robert is awesome..... Just sayin'.......

Sure hope the prosecution closes as effectively!

Shannon from Seattle said...

Thanks for the clarification on the tear being documented, Sprocket!

Anonymous said...

ROBERT @ 6:18pm RULES!!!!!!!!


Sprocket said...

I worked on my notes all day and I'm barely through the one side of the notebook, not even the back side of the notes. I'm starting to fall asleep at my computer. I'll work on them again tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

Not Guilty. No fingerprints, no blood, no hair, no eye-witnesses to place Lazarus at the victims apartment.Bullets that are a common caliber and cant be traced exclusively to Lazarus. Twenty-six year old DNA evidence from an unsealed tube in a torn open envelope that was lost for a time.Lazarus in this violent fight but comes to work the next day without a scratch. Lazarus is "obsessed" but never contacts Ruetten after her rival is out of the way; in fact, its Ruetten who initiates the contact 3 years later. As the ex-girlfriend, Lazarus is the convenient target for LAPD rather than tracking down the burglary ring operating in the victims neighborhood.If you dont think people ever get framed, check out the Rampart scandal where numerous cases were dropped due to planted evidence. Jurors: dont drink the Kool-Aid, think for yourselves! Its "proof beyond a reasonable doubt", not "where theres smoke, theres fire"!

Anonymous said...

Lazarus' family and friends are obviously weighing in. Let the chips fall where they may. GOD sees all, but then again, I would not expect Lazarus et. al. to understand that one.

Becky said...

Anon @ 7:54-- "No blood, no hair, no eye-witnesses" just DNA THAT MATCHES STEPHANIE LAZARUS PERFECTLY.

I'm sure you know Stephanie and I know it's impossible for you to fathom that she could have done this, considering her stellar career as a detective, and her role as a loving mother and wife.

With that in mind, I don't think that any amount of evidence could be given to you to prove that in fact, Stephanie did murder Sherri, and that she did keep it a secret for 20+ years. Denial is a very powerful thing.

Sprocket said...

I would hate to do this, but I will shut down commenting completely, if people can not be respectful to other people's opinion.

We don't know if the commenter's who's opinion is that Lazarus is not guilty are family members or not. They have every right to their opinions and their interpretation of the evidence as everyone else.

I understand that people have strong feelings about this case. Please try to understand that there are many more people affected by this case than just the Rasmussen family who lost Sherri.

It's a strong possibility that friends and family of Lazarus are reading here. Please be human and have empathy for them. Try to put yourself in their shoes. It would be a very difficult and heart wrenching situation to be in.

Thank you, everyone, in advance.

Anonymous said...

I am certain that the family of Scott Peterson did not believe that he could commit such a crime either, however, it is what it is. She did it. Let's hope the jury is smart enough to comprehend the evidence

Anonymous said...

I am Anonymous February 29 @ 10:40 AM and Wow! Did my comments strike a raw nerve in some bloggers? Let me clarify. What I mean by the rest of the case being circumstantial is that if you take away the DNA evidence, I do not believe you could convict Lazarus solely: on her gun reported stolen and her nervousness and inconsistencies during the interview and the testimony regarding the possible “love triangle” and stalking. Keep in mind that the jury was not able to hear all of the testimony regarding SL stalking Sherri. I do not believe that they were able to hear testimony from Sherri’s father regarding what Sherri allegedly told him as this is here say in the eyes of the court. If the jury accepts the DNA evidence as valid, then yes, the rest of the pieces, one could argue, fall into place.
I realize that cases like life are not perfect. However, I was simply bringing up the fact that it took two days to locate the evidence and this may or may not be a factor for the jury. Today, many containers holding evidence are sealed and each time a seal is removed and replaced, it is notated as part of the chain of evidence record. This was not the protocol back in 1986. However, the evidence would have been recorded and the record locator should have led directly to the envelope, it should not have taken 2 days to locate. That may be acceptable in a library but not when the evidence can lead to a murder conviction and the consequences. Additionally, when it was found they notated a hole in the envelope. I would guess that Overland is going to drive this point to the jury, over and over again. My comment about SL leading an exemplary life, other than with the charge of murder, for which she stands, is not excusing her if she is found guilty, but simply that the weight of this decision may be heavier on this jury.
When I look at a case, I try to look at all the angles. I do believe in our court system which is that you are innocent until proven guilty. This is a very interesting case and I am quite surprised that the mainstream media has given it so little attention. I think Sprocket’s reporting is top notch and I anxiously await the verdict. BTW, I am also Anonymous, Feb. 28, 7:58 pm.

Shannon from Seattle said...

I think the debate is going well; however, I think it would be a little easier if everyone in the discussion developed a "handle." It does not have to be your real name, but a consistent name would be helpful.

I work in the medical field, so I understand DNA and the power of this evidence; however, I am also mindful that juries represent all walks of life and backgrounds. I believe SL's only chance in this case is dependent upon the sophistication of this jury and their ability to grasp the science and the power therein.

I have deep empathy for the Lazarus family, especially for the husband and poor child who have been dragged into this unfortunate mess.

This has been a fascinating case to outsiders. I will be happy for a conclusion, no matter the result. I am sure at a minimum that Sprocket could use a rest!

I am astounded that the mainstream media is only barely covering this case. I am sure the police are very embarrassed about the botched investigation and especially for the fact that one of their own is implicated in this heinous crime.

NancyB said...

I have to say that even though many of Judge Perry's decisions have restricted the public's ability to have access to information that was presented in court, I am well impressed with how he controls his courtroom. I believe that he is a much better example of what a judge's role was intended to be than his counterpart in Orlando who was nothing more than a paper tiger.