Thursday, March 8, 2012

Stephanie Lazarus Trial: Verdict Watch, Day 3

I just got a seat on the Red Line train. When standing at the platform, you first see a glimmering reflection of the train lights on the tunnel walls, then you feel the rush of air come through the tunnel as the train approaches.

The many days I’ve gone on too few hours of sleep has kept me from getting the second day of closing arguments typed out and up on the blog. I apologize about that. I was going to work on those notes today at lunch but I grabbed the wrong notebook.

I will try to summarize here a bit of what I remember from DDA Presby’s rebuttal argument.

The DNA analysts told us that contaminated DNA does not turn into someone else’s DNA. What happens is you will get “less information” in the way of DNA results. Jennifer Francis testified the bite mark swab sample was “robust” and contained epithelial cells, amylase.

To believe that the bite mark swab was tampered with in some way or fashion, because there was a tear in the envelope (and the tube supposedly “sticking out” of it, you first have to have someone who has a motive to tamper with evidence. (There were no witnesses or even a suggestion of a witness who might possibly have a motive to frame Lazarus.)

But let’s say you do have someone who has a motive to frame Stephanie Lazarus, think about what they would have had to have done, to get Lazarus’ DNA inside that tube.

They would had to have obtained some of Lazarus’ DNA from a source that was rich in epithelial cells. They would have had to have tailed her. It took the LAPD Internal Affairs surveillance team at least a week to tail her, and they had three people on the detail.

They would somehow, had to have gotten Sherri Rasmussen’s skin cells from something she touched. Sherri Rasmussen was buried a week after her murder.

They would have somehow, obtained entry into the Coroner’s Office. That’s not like a public building or space that anyone can just walk around and enter. Next, they would have had to have found the property/evidence room and gotten by the locked doors.

After that, they would had to have gotten into the locked freezers.

(Although DDA Presby didn’t describe these freezers, I know that they are walk-in type freezers. It’s not a type of freezer like you might have in your garage. These are small rooms. I saw a similar freezer when I toured the Daviz Hertzberg Science Center Crime Lab in 2009. I was not allowed to go into the freezer, but I could see it as part of the tour of the evidence room. There was a window in the door and lights on in there and I could see shelving.)

So the Coroner’s office has four freezers and one refrigerator/freezer. Each the size of a small room. So this person, who wanted to frame Stephanie Lazarus, would have had to clandestinely gotten into the evidence room and found the right freezer where this envelope might be stored. They had the time to look through all the evidence in that freezer, find the right envelope, tore a hole in the envelope and planted evidence inside this tube that had Lloyd Mahaney’s writing on it.

If the individual, supposedly had all the skills to do this, why did they plant this evidence only on one item of evidence? Why didn’t they do that for all the other evidence that was collected? Why didn’t they plant the evidence on the blood stains collected at the scene? On the rope? On the white towel? Why just the bite mark? And at the same time, how did Lazarus’ profile get on the torn fingernails stored at LAPD, not the Coroner’s Office?

Those were some of the arguments presented by DDA Presby in his rebuttal argument.

We have a verdict at 11:30 am

11:33 AM

Matthew McGough and I were sitting under the clock talking to someone who just introduced himself to us and I rushed outside to publish. As soon as I know when they will read the verdict, I'll let you know.

11:34 AM Verdict will be read at 1:30 PM

11:41 AM
The Public Information Office informs us the verdict will be read at 1:45 PM

12:12 PM
I'm in the cafeteria, trying to wolf down some lunch. I feel quite a bit of nervous energy in my stomach right now. Matthew must be feeling something similar as he is barely touching his sandwich.

12:35 PM
Matthew McGough introduced me to one of the initial detectives on the case who came down to hear the verdict.

12:39 PM
Matt and I are headed upstairs to ensure we get our seats. I'm going to try to get on an aisle end so I can rush out and publish as soon as we hear the verdict.


Theresa M said...

that is exactly what I am saying.. DNA Does not smurf into someone else' s if it is contaminated! period the end! SHE WAS THERE !

Maddie said...

Can't wait to hear how the jurors are dressed today! It seems that when they're planning to render a verdict, it's always reported that they're "dressed a bit nicer than usual."

Has this been your experience?

Thank you, again, for your incredible work keeping us all in the loop. It's as if we're there. Judge Perry sounds like a really cool guy.

Anonymous said...

After reading this latest post, I am feeling much better. Hopefully the jury will make the right decision. Please GOD!! Once again, Sprocket, you are a little gem from heaven!! Keep up the great work and I look forward to reading your posts!! : )

Anonymous said...

Dear Sprocket,

You already answered my question without any question from me.

How would a contaminated DNA match to SL?

You are an extraordinary reporter, but why make it so difficult to comment by giving these difficult letters to repeat for verifying

John Ruetten was a disaster during cross. A weak old boy who does´nt recall or remember.

When such a tragedy happens, usually ppl remmember even details all their lives

Hope this is comment is going through.

Wkr and thanks Maaau, Christina

Anonymous said...

I just CANT stop checking this blog!!! Feel us with you there Sprocket <3

Anonymous said...

Thanks again Sprocket.

If I would have to be juror, the DNA, the stolen Glock and the
"how to pick open a locked door" don´t remember the correct word in American English, I would vote guilty.

Hopefully my message reach you.

Wkr, Chr.

TS said...

If there is a hung jury (and I certainly hope not!), is it automatic that there will be another trial? If so, the attorneys on one or both sides may change - yes? Would SL then have the option of a plea deal if offered? And last, SL would still remain incarcerated waiting for another trial unless the 10 million dollar bail was met?

Shannon from Seattle said...

Presby's rebuttal sounds like it was very thorough.

We all know you are very busy juggling court, family life, and your blog. I think you are doing an amazing job!

So, today I will just have to keep hitting the refresh!

I downloaded "Blink" to my Kindle. I cannot wait to read it!

Sprocket, I would love it if you would provide a list of some of your favorite books in this genre. Specifically, I am looking for books that teach people how to recognize lying by face, body language, etc.


Robert said...

From the sound of it, that's a first class rebuttal, and I am relieved to hear it. Good for Presby.

I'd love to hear how it was closed out, and if mention was made of Lazarus' lack of an alibi / paper trail, but thank you so much for this. I was starting to worry.

Robert said...

Sorry, I should have put this inside the last comment, but having been inside the courtroom and watched Judge Perry closely, I have to commend him on his even disposition. He's disciplined in mind and manner and to me, is the epitome of what a trial judge should be, and seldom is... Perry is after the truth and wants justice served and I'm sure he sleeps well at night. If we had a thousand men like him on the bench, the system would work.

And Sprocket, you are a gem. You write more cleanly and quickly than a beat reporter, and I assume you do all this without a beat reporter's training. I know it's a labor of love, but you also have a gift. Listen to some of your commentators and figure out a way to monetize your efforts. At least pay for the train or Mr Sprocket's gas.

All for now...

Anonymous said...

At Anonymous- about the 'crowing' of the DNA evidence. Read Sprocket's partial summation of the DA's rebuttal: DNA cannot turn into someone else's DNA, it only gets a less robust reading. The DNA in the test tube was robust. The DNA under the broken fingernail was a less robust reading but it was still SL's DNA. The fingernail logically would be less robust because it was not refrigerated.

DNA is evidence of SL biting SR with corroborative DNA evidence in the broken fingernail.

If you are on the jury it is not your choice to either look at the evidence or not. By law you must look at all of the evidence. We don't have the privilege of having the jury instructions in front of us in writing.

The only other way that the DNA could be in that bite is if it was planted.

Then you need to have a REASONABLE, plausible explanation for how that happened. How could that have happened? How could they have gotten SR's skin cells and mixed them in just the right proportions with SL's salivary amailaze? First of all SR was buried a week after her death. They would have had to break into the Coroner's Office AND the Police Dept. because those two DNA samples were in two totally different places. And after doing all this mad scientist/ stealth Jason Bourne/ grave digging/ planting of SL's DNA why would they leave it in a torn envelope?

Your brother's cut that only looked like a bite mark didn't have salivary amilaze so it isn't a good comparison. You MUST look at ALL of the evidence.

Anonymous said...

AH! Sprocket! You kill me when you don't update. I am sitting over here on pins and needles waiting to read "BUZZ, BUZZ, BUZZ"!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Sprocket!! Love the minute-by-minute reporting, as we wait. You were wonderful to join us for lunch on Monday and answer questions despite how busy you are. - Cyndi

Anonymous said...

What's the verdict?!! : )

Anonymous said...

Yikes! Here we go!!

Anonymous said...

I tell you, Sprocket! If there is a blog award we can nominate your blog for, please let your readers know!! You have done one AWESOME job on keeping us updated on this story, and definitely deserve additional recognition. Please let us know!! : )

Anonymous said...

As I commented on a previous thread, the prosecution's closing argument (and rebuttal) are all-important. I expect they will carry the day here.

Thank you Sprocket for what you do!

David In TN

Shannon from Seattle said...

I vote for blog recognition for Sprocket too!! How do we do that?

Kitten said...

Pins n needles....needles n pins. This is crazy.

Anonymous said...

You said that CBS will have a pool camera in the court room when the verdict is read today. Will this be a live feed? If so where can one view it?
Thanks for all you do.

Anonymous said...

1:45 can't get here fast enough!

Also, add a paypal or donate button on your site I would through in a few bucks towards your lunch and transportation costs.

Thank you!

debbiescalisi said...

Sprocket, you won't see this until later obviously...I saw a half hour ago we have about 90 minutes before the verdict is read. It took me back to the time when the news announced they had a verdict pending for the next morning on the OJ Case in 1994. Mr.S and I were talking on the car-phone (pre cell phone era) that evening and I anticipated a GUILTY verdict with such a short-turnaround and Mr.S said not necessarily so....I am pacing around the house (a not so good perk at being currently unemployed) trying to keep busy until 1:45pm. This is teeth grinding. I feel for the families. I feel strongly and have from the very beginning of this story when I read about it in June 2009 SL was Guilty. There are no winners today. I find myself having to catch my breath at the thought of hearing a Not Guilty. Shannon from Seattle and ROBERT have made so many good points that I wish they were in the deliberation room explaining things because I think MO tried to trick some of these jurors. DNA is DNA is DNA. Also, 4onahill hit some nerves about JR being somewhat involved because he liked the chase with SL and SR. I don't necessarily believe that, BUT what I do believe is that IF there is a Guilty Verdict today, just exactly how is JR going to feel knowing that he had subsequent sexual relations with SL in 1989, 3 years after Sherri's murder, being embraced with the same body/arms/hands that murdered his wife?

Maddie said...

I'm sitting here (in Missouri) following this, and it's just an hour away till the verdict. My stomach's starting to get jumbly, too. I can't begin to imagine how Sherri's family, John, and the rest of her loved ones are feeling -- after all this time.

My thoughts are with them all.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Sprocket ... I can't eat ... just too nervous! Hoping for justice for Sherri's family! Thank you for your exemplary work ... waiting ... appreciate so much the way you write and "bring us (your readers) with you!" You are VERY talented!

Anonymous said...

Shame on all of you who are calling for "justice" but only if the jury renders a guilty verdict.

Anonymous said...

I am siting here waiting for the verdict. I can only imagine the tension in the family groups. If she is acqutted SL may have served her last night in custody. If not, she will begin a very lengthy extension of what she has been doing for the last nearly 3 years. And for the Rasmussens who have fought so hard for so long and who are not young people themselves, their sense of duty to their daughter can only heighten their tension.

So many of us are here with you Sprocket. Do you have a way of knowing how many are on this site at a given time....the announcement,,,, for example? That would be very interesting to know. Thank you so much for your dedicated and detailed fine work. I am pleased to be one of your long term followers!


4onahill said...

I think SL will be found NOT guilty because i heard on the radio that the jury asked if they could convict on a lessor change..

4onahill said...

It will be NOT guilty..jury wanted to know if they could convict on.a lessor.charge

Francaise said...

Thanks Sprocket for all your updating.

Anonymous said...

The DNA may place Lazarus in the condo, but it does not prove murder. A possible scenerio: Lazarus goes to the condo to talk with Sherri R. about John R. and their on-again, off-again relationship problem. Lazarus finds the front door ajar, looks inside and sees Sherri R. lying on the floor, injured. The burglars have already mortally wounded Sherri.One of the burglars comes dowstairs and sets down the stereo and VCR, realizing Lazarus is there. Lazarus tries to arrest the burglar and they fight, causing Lazarus's fingernails to break off.The burglar breaks away and runs out to the garage where he drives off in the BMW. Now Lazarus goes over to assist Sherri, who is severely injured and semi-unconscious.Seeing a person crouching over her and thinking it is one of the burglars, Sherri flails her arms outward, and strikes Lazarus in the mouth, leaving a mark on one arm, the other hand scratching Lazarus's skin with her fingernails, thus transferring the DNA. Sherri then passes away.The burglar, knowing the stolen car is "hot", quickly abandons it without taking the time to strip it. He is picked up by his accomplice, who followed in his own car.Knowing she is the ex-girlfriend and will likely be blamed for the crime if she reports it, Lazarus then leaves the condo without telling anyone. Lazarus should have taken the stand to explain what happended instead of fighting an uphill batle against the DNA.

Anonymous said...

OMG, I just burst into tears!! That was so absolutely wrong what she did to that poor lady!! I am so happy for the Rasmussens!! Now they can live out the remainder of their lives in peace knowing they had now seen justice for their daughter. I just can't imagine someone having to suffer the way Sherri did during her final minutes of life. Yay, JURORS!! You ROCK!!!

Anonymous said...

OH GEEZE... put the crack pipe down, Anon March 8, 2012 1:40 pm.

Thanks for the amazing coverage Sprocket. How about that donate to T&T button??? You more than deserve this small show of thanks!

LC, California

Avery21 said...

The jury got it right. In Lazarus' wildest dreams, did she think this day would come??

Kathy said...

Anon @1:40
The only story Lazarus could tell the jury is how she committed the murder.

The only thing less plausible than your scenario is if Jack the Ripper came back from time, found his way to LA, and committed the murder himself.

Thank goodness this jury could think the evidence through with logic and intelligence.

Sprocket, great job. Get some sleep and relax.

Look forward to your coverage of the retrial of Cameron Brown later this summer.

Shannon from Seattle said...

My personal theory is that Lazarus went to the condo to break in and snoop around because she had apparently been found INSIDE the condo before (I know hearsay based on Sherri's conversations with her dad), but she never reported it to police.

I think Lazarus was surprised to find Sherri at home. She was not expected to be home. I think it is possible that Sherri may have told her to leave and said she was calling the police. I think at that point Lazarus made a split second decision to kill her.

The condo had great visibility in the middle of a complex as reported in court. I think Lazarus probably showed up in uniform to provide cover as she picked the locks to gain entry.

These are just my hunches about what occurred that day. I think Lazarus was a stalker, but I don't think she plotted and planned to kill Sherri. I think she was spying on their new life and breaking into their place to go through their things.

Who thinks she intended to kill Sherri all along and who thinks the above scenario might be more plausible?

If Sherri had reported Lazarus for breaking and entering, she would have been in big trouble with the LAPD and probably would have lost her job.

I wish Sherri had reported it the first time Lazarus was found INSIDE the condo. How creepy!