Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Trial: Closing Arguments, Day I, Part III

Defense attorney Mark Overland
© Thomas Broersma thomasbroersma AT yahoo.com

UPDATAED 3-7-2012
Continued from Day 1, Part II
March 5th, 2012

Lazarus comes out and smiles at her family. at 1:30 PM, Judge Perry takes the bench. We’re back on the record. “Buzz out the jurors.”

Mark Overland continues with his argument.

When we stopped we were talking about the new investigation on the case and what they had done. In this investigation they were saying, “Trust us. We got it right.” (Yet they were) withholding documents in this case.

Mr. Safarik. He was one who put everything together to the new prosecution theory. One of the things the prosecution didn’t do is give him (Safarik) that fifty page report and he didn’t have a recollection of reviewing the report.

Other areas to “trust us now”. I spoke about prints. (Overland now corrects some items that he misidentified or in error, misrepresented to the jurors in the morning session.)

#6 was identified to (John Ruetten?) as on the compact disc is incorrect. #4 on the VCR is Ruetten. #5 and #6 on the compact disc remain unidentifi(ed? able?). I showed you location of print #10, also unidentified and showed location of Ms. Rasmussen’s print near the electrical outlet.

Print #6, #7, #9, on fingerprint packet B are from the closet door. Print #9, they show location of print of Ms. Rasmussen was very close to the location of print #10 unidentif(ied? iable?) very close in proximity, an area you would not expect. (Down low to the ground and not near door knob.)

Also, print #6, #7, very close in proximity to #10 and not the print of Stephanie Lazarus.

So who’s print is that but certainly not Ms. Lazarus’ print.

The final aspect of the police investigation in this case.

(They?) have no problem suggesting to witnesses as to how they should testify. (Detective) James Nuttall.
Mr. Nunez, if you will recall, was asking questions about going through evidence and opening up some evidence before handing over (the case) to Robbery Homicide.

Defense 5R, James Nuttall’s handwritten notes.

....about what he did about going through this evidence. I think it’s very important as to the prosecution’s investigation of this (case). Overland then quickly reads off evidence item numbers, and I believe I have them all written down. 7,6,8,11,14,16,17,18,19,23. <-- Nuttall remembers taking out what was inside those envelopes. (I) Overland questioned what he did when he looked at the evidence.

Overland challenges what James Nuttall did and as to how he did it. He reads to the jury James Nuttall’s testimony. With respect to item #16, that’s the GSR kit. He said he did not remember #(16?) on kit and very little about the kit.

Then we had a recess. Then we had this testimony from Mr. Nuttall. He remembered now that GSR kit. That that GSR kit related not to anything in the coroner’s office but that it was GSR from the snuggy. He didn’t then lay items out all together. He took them out one by one. Then I asked a question, “Did you have a conversation (with Mr. Nunez)?”

Overland reads the testimony to the jurors. He is attacking the prosecution’s truthfulness.

“So you were repeating what Mr. Nunez told you? That’s correct. So you were repeating what he told you to say?” You know, we were talking about the system works when everyone does their job. They go caught in this one. Let’s talk about the other three.

First one: Mike Hargreaves, skirt chasing decathloner. He told police that Stephanie Lazarus lost her gun. When was the first time that Mike Hargreaves told anyone? February 13th, 2012. When did he testify? February 15th, 2012. He had a conversation with detective Stearns three days before his testimony. He had a conversation with the prosecutors three days before his testimony.

Overland goes over the questions he asked Hargreaves, about all the people he spoke to. “Did you ever say anything to them about this issue (in all your discussions before)? I don’t recall for sure if that was discussed or not.”

Shannon Presby speaks up in the middle of Overland’s closing. “The people stipulate it wasn’t discussed.”

Overland continues reading Mike Hargreaves testimony. “Actually, the first time you ever told any police officer about it was three days ago? Correct.”

And somehow, magically, he has an epiphany when he has to testify in this case.”

(Second) Jennifer Francis. She believes she made the hole bigger in the envelope that made the bite mark. Why is that important? Because that evidence is critical. Critical to the evidence in this case. Because she tested (the evidence). None of her notes made any notation that she made the hole bigger.

(Overland asked in during cross) When is the first time you ever talked anyone, anytime (you made the hole larger)? When was the first time you ever told anyone? (And she answers) Probably within the last three weeks.

But magically, during a conversation with prosecutors, she remembered she might have made the hole bigger. “It would have been a regular conversation in trial preparation.” Seven year’s silence. Then all of a sudden, “Yeah, I probably did it.”

Overland reads (more? of?) her testimony again. “I believe I may have made it a little bit bigger.” Seven years later. Nothing then.

Third one. John Ruetten. Let’s take a look at some of the somewhat troubling testimony of John Ruetten (on February 24th, 1986, and see if it raises concerns that he’s telling the truth. First he told (us? the jury?) Ms. Rasmussen had a lecture that she did not want to give. But on February 24th, that’s not what he said. Ruetten told Lyle Mayer in 1986, the same day (as the murder) that morning his wife was not feeling well. He didn’t say anything about her not (wanting to?) give a lecture. And he said here that he wasn’t worried about her.

We know that John Ruetten was interviewed, so why is he changing his testimony? In the February 24th, interview with Mayer, here’s what he said. “He said he had called her. Probably after two times. I called because i was thinking she got up and went to work, or turned the answering machine off. I thought she might be sick really sick and went to the doctor.”

Now all that doesn’t have to be brought in, if she didn’t have to give a lecture (snip) .... makes more sense. On February 16th, 2012, (he?) explained the difference(s) between February 24th, and today. Here’s (what he said). “I was very upset and I may not have been processing all at that time.” So when you were worried and said she might be sick... (snip?).... “I don’t recall.” I don’t know what that means, “not processing”.

(When I hear this argument by Overland, I have an opinion about it that I write down. I feel it’s bad to attack John Ruetten’s memory. I ask a few of my fellow members in the mainstream media, what they think about this argument strategy but they don’t agree with me.)

The point is, something happened. If the prosecution’s theory is correct and we had an obsessed Stephanie Lazarus who went to the condo, how did she know she (Sherri) was going to be there? It was a last minute decision to stay home. Stephanie Lazarus took a day off that day. Days off had to be scheduled at least a (week-and-a-half?) prior. She had the previous Monday off and the next Monday off. But the prosecution’s theory is that Stephanie Lazarus took (the day?) off to kill Sherri Rasmussen.

Let’s go back to Mr. Ruetten and what he told us happened that morning. He said he telephoned home two to three times. And (the? telephone?) answering machine is usually on, but he was unable to leave a message because the answering machine was not on. And that’s peculiar because we heard from Teresa Lane. She said she called that day and she left message on the answering machine. Overland reads her testimony.

“I know I called three times that day.” John called and he can’t leave messages. Same day, same answering machine. So, he can’t reach his wife. So he goes home to see what’s going on with his wife? No. He goes to the bank and ten goes back to work. So, he’s worried about his wife? No. He goes back to work. So, at the end of the work day (does he rush home?)? No. He goes and picks up shoes and dry cleaning. He gets home, not in 20 minutes but 40 minutes later.

Is he really concerned? Is that what a loving husband would do? He gets home somewhere around 6:00 PM. He sees her car gone and the broken glass. Does he get concerned? No, not really. Is that the reaction of a loving husband? No, not really.

(As I hear more of Overland’s argument, presenting Ruetten’s testimony about what he did the day he found his wife bludgeoned and shot three times, I can’t help myself. I have to turn around to try to see how Ruetten is reacting to this personal attack on whether or not his actions that day were the actions of a loving husband. Usually, I’ve tried to avoid making direct eye contact with Ruetten because I’ve just had this personal unusual gut feeling to do so was to intrude upon Ruetten’s personal loss, even 26 years later. As I remember this moment, I can see how Ruetten’s face looked in my mind’s eye, but I don’t know how to describe it. I observed that he appeared to be breathing heavy. The best I can say is he looked a bit angry but clearly sad at the same time.)

What does he do? Did he drop the dry cleaning on the floor? No. He lays the cleaning on the love seat. The loving husband that has a loving relationship with his wife and is reaction is to lay the cleaning on the sofa rather than drop the dry cleaning on the spot.

Defense exhibit KKK, photo of dry cleaning on the sofa. Overland points out to the jury what he feels is evidence of “rope” in the home.

Mr. Safarik refuses to admit the obvious because it doesn’t fit the people’s theory. His theory, why would a burglar bring this to the house. So... because John Ruetten told him it wasn’t his. His whole theory is based on (the assumption?) these items were not int he house before.

When I asked Safarik to look at this item, here is what he said. Do you see any rope? He says, “Nope.” I knew. You knew. But he refuses to accept the theory. That’s insulting your intelligence. Overland goes into more detail about Safari’s testimony about “rope” attached to the dry cleaning and the fact that it doesn’t fit the prosecution’s theory.

John Ruetten testified about, (snip) that there was no other real valuable property in the house. Mr. Safarik said (the stereo?) was the only expensive item in the condo. John Ruetten didn’t tell us that. Why does Safarik say that? Because it doesn’t fit with that theory.

It’s nonsense because when a burglar is surprised, he doesn’t go on and keep taking things, he stops. He doesn’t try to keep taking things.

Overland now reads a question that was asked by the court, about the surprise of a burglar and that (it’s t with a burglar being surprised; and that’s consistent. The court said, “No, no, I know you want to tell more, but that is consistent with a burglar being surprised and the answer is, ‘Yes.’ “

It’s clear that Mr. Safarik has an agenda and this doesn’t fit the theory. John Ruetten told us that he didn’t check the door before he left. (He said that?) Mike Boldrick went in and out that front door, and the cat. Safarik, (had an?) assumption that front door is locked? He makes it up because it fits the theory of a staged robbery.

Let’s talk about the theory that Stephanie Lazarus planned on going over there. Now, what happens after the death of the wife. She’s now free to pursue John Ruetten with the wife out of the way. Now is the time for (her) to move in. Before we get to that, let’s talk about observations with John Ruetten. Of the 590 entries (in the work log) we had five that referred to Mr. Ruetten and that’s evidence of an obsession of Lazarus about Mr. Ruetten.

I’m falling asleep as I type. I’ll have to try to work on the rest of this day tomorrow while at court. Sprocket.

UPDATE 3-7-2012
Detective Stearns said he didn’t remember any evidence of anything in the log about any other men or boyfriends. But that work log does contain those entries. Overland now goes over the entire work log entries. I try to write them all down, but they are better represented in the detail notes of the defense case.

“Working with someone who likes you....” Funny. He didn’t see that one. “Two cuties....” Guess he missed that. “I met this cameraman Rodger....” Guess he missed that one. “I must say, this is not one of my favorite restaurants....there was this guy I couldn’t keep my eyes off...” Guess he missed that. “Gene, a nice guy.....” He missed that one too.

Courtney quickly steps up to the podium to get her father back on track with his closing. Overland reads more work log entries out loud from over 26 years ago.

It’s 2:30 PM. Several more entries from the work log are read. Even Judge Perry appears he’s trying to get more comfortable in his high-back leather chair.

When Stearns only gives those five entries to John Ruetten or those don’t fit the theory so you don’t have to hear about it.

Prosecution’s 185c The letter to John Ruetten’s mother. Probably the entire letter should be read instead of just parts of it. “I want to thank you for the pictures...” That shows a loving relationship, not only with her but with the family. So it’s a mutual relationship, not only with John but with the family.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever see you and the family again.” The focus of this letter is the family. The relationship of Stephanie Lazarus with John Ruetten’s family, which was close. NOT, I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. NOT that I’ll (never move on?). So what that letter is expressing is also in terms of her relationship to his family. Talk about an obsession with John? Hardly!

In fact, we know some day came because Stephanie Lazarus married Scott. She does have a family. The work log does mention family and touches on each one. Look at entries of the date that John and Sherri got married. You would have expected something, that she’s lost him. But (look at) Defense exhibits PPP, QQQ, RRR; there’s no mention of anything at all of the wedding date. Nothing at all of this (supposedly?) worst day of her life. Nothing.

The prosecution’s further evidence of so-called obsession. Mr. Choi, the computer expert. One thing is clear about Stephanie Lazarus is she’s a pack rat. She has stuff going back to the 1980’s. She has computers (and equipment) going back a long time.

(This comment makes me think I “really” need to go through an old foot locker I have and dump a bunch of things. Mr. Sprocket is a junk collector, but I don’t need to add to it.)

He told us this data equals ten to twenty empire state buildings if (one?) printed out the data. Overland goes over the certain search item criteria he was told to look for. The earliest data was 1998 - 199.9. The latest data was 2006 - 2007. He didn’t pay any attention to any other search results other than John Ruetten because that was his focus. Since he didn’t look for it, we don’t know whatever else she searched for.

He didn’t find any E-mails? No, he didn’t find anything. Didn’t fine anything for attempts to get on social networking cites. Nothing.

2:45 PM The afternoon recess is called.

John Ruetten’s testimony talked about the break-up meeting between him and Stephanie. According to John, he moved in with Sherri Rasmussen between 30 to 60 days (after the engagement). So, the end of June or the end of July is the meeting between the two of them. What happened was, he got a call from Stephanie Lazarus, she was tearful; come over. But that meeting, them having sexual intercourse.... so Stephanie Lazarus is rightfully confused as to what happened. And he calls her afterwards, (resulting in? initiating?) where she goes over to see Ms. Rasmussen.

And (Ms. Rasmussen?) confronts John with it and certainly...

Judge Perry interrupts Overland to clarify the gender of who he’s referring to.

There was a confrontation between Sherri and John. Somehow, they work it out and the marriage goes on. And if you go on with the prosecution’s theory there, the chance for Stephanie Lazarus to fulfill her obsession to have John Ruetten for herself.... (snip)....

After (the murder) Stephanie Lazarus never, never, never contacted John. She did not pursue him in any way. In fact it was John who contacted her. He traveled from San Diego to Honolulu to Kauai, because somehow he knew Stephanie Lazarus was going to be there and it was then he mentioned to Stephanie Lazarus, “Hey, I mentioned your name to police.”

Overland goes over the same “supposed,” did she say, “Oh my God! Why did you do that!” No. She didn’t respond with that. It didn’t phase her at all because she didn’t have any involvement at all. Otherwise, she would have had some kind of reaction. Then when he was in LA, he called Stephanie Lazarus again. So then this obsession must have fizzled out because this was her chance.

The bite mark swab. Everything else is fluff and filler and proves nothing. Let’s talk about what was collected at the scene is what you (really) analyzed. Lloyd Mahaney is the only one who testified what was collected at the scene. Overland goes over Mahaney's testimony in detail. (You can read my summary of that testimony in my synopsis of the preliminary hearing.) He used a swab, singular, which was singular, not one with a coroner’s kit number o it. Mr. Mahaney took breast swabs, plural. Overland quotes directly from Mahaney’s testimony. Look what he said the fist time in his testimony. (I won’t repeat Mahaney’s testimony.)

Lazarus sits quite still with her arms on the table in front of her and her fingers interlaced. Now Overland goes over the documentation checklist that Mahaney prepared, documenting all the things he did to collect evidence from Rasmussen’s body. March 4th, 1986, report dictating what he, Lloyd Mahaney did in this case. “swab of bite mark on left arm.” (swab, singular) Overland goes over every indication on the report of singular and plural to describe evidence he collected.

If you compare handwritten notes to typed, they are exactly the same. So now if you open it there are two swabs so how could that happen? Overland is now comparing the Coroner’s Office property room control log and every item collected thats written in the singular verses plural.

Overland mentions an item on the log I don’t remember hearing about in testimony. Hairs released in 1993, those are lost. They’re never seen again.

Mahaney said there was no blood on the swab. Then Overland shows the jury the bite mark photograph and points to the dark red marks and tells the jury, there could be blood on the arm. It looks like there could be.

Witness after witness has testified about the importance of the sealing of the evidence envelope. I look at the clock. It’s 3:25 PM.

Overland mentions all the people who talked about securing evidence. Starting before sometime in 2004, there was a detective who worked on the case, (Shepard?) Jennifer Francis and this detective started looking for this bite mark evidence before October 2004, because LAPD doesn’t have it and can’t find it. Francis asks Shepard, “Did you find anything out from the Coroner’s Office?”

According to Dan Anderson, he spoke to Ms. Francis on December 20th, 2004. He contacted the Coroner’s Office evidence section and asks Jackie Partida to see if she can find this bite mark evidence. (Her co-worker Alicia) looked through four freezers and one refrigerator freezer. She made no notes but she found it two days later. Found it on December 22nd.

They did have a Coroner’s case number because when Dan Anderson called to look for it he gave them the case number. Overland then reads property section procedures manual to the jurors. Evidence should be stored by case number. They should have (been able to find it right away?). It shouldn’t have to take two days to find it. At one time, it was lying next to an object or document that had a date of November 1982.

Lazarus looks over and the clerks desk. It appears to me that she hardly moves.

Overland goes over Alicia Ramirez’ testimony as to what she has to say. He read her testimony to the jurors. The envelope photo is up on the screen. Is that what.... (snip) See that? Is (that what?) happens with age? Or does it look like someone pulled that back? That doesn’t happen with age. That happens when someone pulls that back.

The staff at the coroner’s office said the cap was protruding. Then look at the back of the envelope. The entire envelope was open. So it’s not surprising that Dan Anderson says, “I can’t let it go out the door like that!” Overland reads Dan Anderson’s testimony about reserving the integrity of the evidence inside.

It’s 3:40 PM. My hand cramps and I stop writing notes while Overland reads testimony. Then Overland reads the Coroner’s Office policy manual.

We break for the day and will take up the rest of Overland’s closing at 8:30 AM, Tuesday morning.

I will continue working on Day 2 of closing arguments while on jury watch, today. Sprocket.