Saturday, June 8, 2013

Kelly Soo Park Trial: Synopsis Part I

 Park cries at the reading of the not guilty verdict.

Synopsis of Kelly Soo Park Trial: Part I

I promised T&T readers a synopsis of the trial to better understand the jury’s verdict.  The synopsis will be presented in four parts. 

Part I: Opening Statements
Part II: Trial Testimony
Part III: Closing Arguments
Part IV: Non-admitted evidence via pretrial motions

Part I

Prosecution Opening Statement by Stacy Okun-Wiese

SOW: Juliana Redding spent the last moments of her life, literally fighting to save herself.  Juliana Redding unsuccessfully tried to fight off a woman, a woman she did not know, a woman who beat and strangled her until she had her last breath of air, a woman who now sits before this 16 of you in this courtroom, and a woman who needs to be held accountable for her actions on March 15th of 2008. And that person, ladies and gentlemen, is the defendant, Kelly Soo Park.

Okun-Wiese explains the charge, violation of penal code 187, murder, and that it has two elements.  That someone was killed and that it was done with malice aforethought. She talks about the court providing them with instructions on the law, and that the court just read them some of those instructions.

Okun-Wiese explains that the court will provide them with jury instructions.  She also explains in small detail the type of evidence that will be presented to them: Testimony from witnesses, cell phone records, photographs, recordings. Through this, they will learn the facts of the case on March 15th.  The jurors are told that through evidence and testimony, they will be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant murdered Juliana Redding

A photograph is put up on the overhead screen. It’s a photo of Juliana Redding taken on March 15th, at a restaurant, Tengu, where she had dinner with her friend Kelly Duncan. They were there for two hours.   They left the restaurant around 8:15. They each headed for their own homes.  At approximately 9:52 PM 911 was dialed from Juliana’s cell phone, but that call never made it through.

SOW: At 9:53 PM that evening a neighbor of Juliana’s by the name of Lynn Parish heard a commotion, yelling and things being thrown from Juliana’s apartment.  And she knows that was the time that she heard the commotion because she looked on her cable box. And her husband subsequently called her, and she advised her husband about what she heard.

In the evening of March 16th, Juliana’s mother called Santa Monica Police. Her daughter had missed a photo shoot that day and she had not heard from her daughter. The police performed a welfare check on Juliana.

Santa Monica Police went to the location around 6:00 PM.  All the doors and windows were locked and the responding officer couldn’t get inside.  He called for assistance and they were able to enter through the rear door. 

Upon gaining entry to the apartment, they smelled natural gas. The Santa Monica Fired Department was called. Firefighter Gary Marshal, when he entered the location, he also smelled gas. It was coming from the stove. The right front stove knob was turned to the “ON” position. And he turned it off and opened up the windows.

A diagram of the apartment is put up on the overhead screen. Officers entered through the kitchen to the living room.  They observed that the front door knob lock and dead bolt lock were locked from the inside.

To the officers, inside the living room appeared to be evidence of a struggle. ... There was a plate hidden behind the TV stand. There was liquid spilled on the table. The table leg was twisted. They found a chain that was ripped in pieces. One of the pillow cushions, the cover had been taken off. The lamp was unplugged and in an awkward position and that the computer was unplugged from the wall, sitting on the couch. There was a lit candle on the coffee table.  A firefighter will testify that the combination of the gas being on and the lit candle could have caused an explosion in that apartment.

SOW: The officers ... found Juliana lying lifeless in her bed. They observed her injuries, her bruises, her abrasions, all over her body.

Okun-Wiese tells the jury that the first officer on the scene called homicide detectives, the coroner, and crime scene investigators. These individuals collected several items of evidence.  They recovered Juliana's blackberry cell phone on a table in her bedroom. They collected fingerprints; took hundreds of photographs. They took DNA swabs for comparison.  One fingerprint was collected from a plate inside the kitchen sink. The items collected were submitted to the Orange County Crime Lab and numerous items were tested.

Numerous reference samples from different individuals were sent to the crime lab in hopes of determining a match. Okun-Wiese tells the jury about the forensic and DNA testimony they will here. They will learn what it is, how people leave it on items, how it is tested and how profiles are created. Six items were tested for DNA -- there was DNA extracted from these six items: From Juliana’s cell phone, from Juliana’s neck, from Juliana’s tank top, from the right front knob of the stove, from the interior door of Juliana’s apartment, and from the fingerprint that was lifted.

SOW: There were two profiles, a major contributor and a minor contributor.  Sometimes in these items Juliana was the major contributor; and sometimes she was the minor contributor.  But what the criminalist found out was that the other contributor was a female, and that female contributor was the same for each one of these items.

Okun-Wiese explains about the latent fingerprint lifted from the plate.  That examiner Kapala observed what she thought was a spot of blood under the tape, lifted with the latent print.  It was sent to the Orange County Crime Lab to be tested.  It was blood, and  that blood came back to a single source, belonging to a female.  That single source also matched the other six items presented to the jury.

SOW: So we have one person for the spot of blood and also for the six items including the cell phone, the tank top and the neck swabs from Juliana.

Okun-Wiese explains that the investigation went on for two years.  Reference samples were collected from different subjects.  Sometimes those samples came from a cheek swab; sometimes they came from discarded items like a cigarette or wine glass or feminine products. 42 women were eliminated.

Okun-Wiese explains how the investigation fanned out to other people besides women friends of Juliana.

SOW: And what you are going to hear is that there is an individual by the name of Munir Uwaydah.  And Juliana dated him and started dating him in July of 2007.

Juliana introduced Uwaydah, a doctor, to her father, Greg Redding. Redding is an Arizona pharmacist.  Uwaydah wanted to go into business with Greg Redding.  The business venture was Redding would run a pharmacy where Uwaydah would create a pain cream and sell the cream through the pharmacy.

A contract was created and negotiations continued back and forth. Greg Redding, concerned about his daughter, started to investigate Uwaydah. He found out that Uwaydah was married, had children and wasn’t being truthful about his age.

SOW: Greg Redding told his daughter: He said, “I don’t think he is being truthful with you. I found out he is married. I found out he has kids. I don’t think he is being truthful about his age.”

Juliana gets into an argument with Uwaydah and breaks up with him on her 21st birthday.  Time passes, and Redding starts up the business negotiations with Uwaydah.  Redding asks his daughter if she had any problems with the potential partnership. Her father would be moving to Los Angeles. He would be closer to her. Juliana agrees.

Redding does more research on Uwaydah and he’s uncomfortable with the new information.  He decides to back out of the contract.  Uwaydah sends a letter to Redding on March 10th, stating everything is fine and wishing Redding success.

When Detective Thompson learns about Uwaydah, she begins to investigate women associated with him. She collects DNA reference samples from five women associated with Uwaydah, through cigarettes, swabs and submits them to the crime lab for testing.

SOW: All of those samples are eliminated except for one person, the defendant.

A reference sample was obtained from the defendant. It matched all the samples collected at the crime scene.  The sample from Juliana’s neck. The sample from the cell phone. The sample from the tank top. The sample from the blood found in the fingerprint, that was a single source. The sample that was from the interior front door knob.  Okun-Wiese tells the jury they will hear the numbers on those matching from the DNA analyst.

The defendant was arrested on June 18th, 2010 and her fingerprints taken. The prints were entered into AFIS.  One of the defendants prints matched the print found in Juliana’s apartment.   Two forensic specialists compared the print lifted at the apartment  to the defendant and concluded they were a match.

Okun-Wiese asks the jury for their full attention in this case and at the end, she will ask them to find the defendant guilty.

Defense Opening Statement by George Buehler

Buehler explains that he’s not required to give them an opening statement at this time. That he can present one later.  He states that he will take a couple of moments and he will be brief.  He tells them he’s not going to tell them at this time, everything the evidence will show, but he wants to make a few basic points.

GB: I believe that you will find from the evidence that the forensic evidence, the DNA evidence, the fingerprint, are not conclusive.  DNA evidence doesn’t tell you when it got there or how it got there. And that’s important.

Buehler goes onto tell the jury, and he’s emphatic about this point, that there isn’t any evidence to show a reason why Kelly Park would commit such a brutal crime.

GB: She had no connection to Juliana Redding.  Those two facts are very important in this case.

Buehler asks them to keep an open mind and to listen carefully to all the evidence.

Kelly Soo Park Trial Synopsis Part II.....



Anonymous said...

Why wouldn't a defense lawyer give an opening statement? If I were a juror, that would raise a flag to me right away that he didn't have a defense to give. I know he is not required to present an affirmative defense, but his lack of it is what is causing all the anger at this verdict. How common is it that a defense lawyer doesn't accept the opportunity to provide an opening statement?

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 6:47 AM

Let me explain a bit. The defense is not required to do anything. Nothing at all. The burden is on the prosecution.

The definition of "affirmative defense" is, yes I did it but there is an explanation. Here is part of an explanation from 'The Free, LEGAL DICTIONARY.'

"An affirmative defense is also allowed under rules of Criminal Procedure. For example, a defendant accused of assault may claim to have been intoxicated or insane, to have struck out in Self-Defense, or to have had an alibi for the night in question. Any one of these affirmative defenses must be asserted by showing that there are facts in addition to the ones in the indictment or information charging the defendant and that those additional facts are legally sufficient to excuse the defendant."

"Affirmative defense" is not the proper term her. Thanks to my friend Matthew McGough who has a law degree. He set me straight on the definition of 'affirmative defense.'

I do not know how common it is for a defense attorney not to present an opening statement. Maybe some of the legal eagles reading here will chime in.

In this case, Buehler did speak, but only for about two minutes.

I don't think it was because Buehler didn't put on a defense that there is anger over the verdict. Buehler did call witnesses that presented testimony.

I think the anger is because people did not understand the jury's thought process, and because they haven't spoken to tell us.

Sprocket said...

More on Affirmative Defense:
"A new fact or set of facts that operates to defeat a claim even if the facts supporting that claim are true."

Anonymous said...

Yep, I used the wrong word, thanks. I hope a legal beagle can tell us if declining to give an opening statement is common, as it implies guilt to me. I'd just expect a defense lawyer to say "Here is an upstanding citizen...blah blah blah " to set the stage for seeing his client in a positive light. He produced doubt in the prosecution and won a technical acquittal, but left his client looking guilty because he offered no vigorous counter argument. No wonder people feel robbed.

Thanks so much for continuing this analysis, Sprocket; we need to understand to get closure.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 8:05 AM

You said:
"I'd just expect a defense lawyer to say "Here is an upstanding citizen...blah blah blah " to set the stage for seeing his client in a positive light."

Read Buehler's short opening statement again. Do you think he didn't say something similar?

Anonymous said...

I looked back at both Sprocket's summary and back to the original blog and see no case FOR the defense, only negative AGAINST the prosecution. We know the defense has no burden to present a positive case. I'm just saying that people feel robbed because he presented no rebuttal to consider, no reason to think she didn't do it, only that they couldn't prove it.

Anonymous said...

This looks like a total bumbling screw up by the prosecution. If the prosecutor didn't get in all of the motive evidence that was necessary to satisfy the jury's "why" question, then the thoroughness and quality of her legal briefs should be examined. To me, this looks like an unprepared prosecutor who lost a slam dunk case do to a poor case approach and an inability to bring convincing legal motions to the court. Horrible.

Anonymous said...

It's my undestanding that the prosecution is NOT required to present a motive in order to get a conviction. However, any prosecutor should be aware that a jury wants to know "why" the defendant would commit this crime and needs to give the jury something to hang on to, Perhaps in this case, there were legal prohibitions that weakened the prosecution's ability to do so.

Sprocket said...

Nancy B,

I know you left five long, very detailed comments about the jury. Thank you for all of them.

I hope you won't mind, if I hold onto those comments until I've presented Part III, closing arguments.

If you still have the exact same opinion after that, I will publish your comments.

Please email me if you'd like to discuss it further.

NancyB said...

Hi Betsy!

How nice of you to leave me this message. I do not mind at all. Thank-you for your most excellent coverage. There is not another person that covers a trial in the detail that you provide. Your daily turn around time of updated postings when you've already spent a full day at court, continues to boggle my mind! You are much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

We love your gavel to gavel coverage of the cases you cover. I can hardly wait to read your detail documentation of the KSP case. Good luck on future cases.

Anonymous said...

Regarding motive...wouldn't money be the motive? I don't know to what length it was discussed that the doctor made deposits into Soo's bank account before and after the murder. Sure, it could have been for a "real estate deal" etc. Is there a paper trail to prove the nature of these large payments? Those were quite large sums.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 9:30 AM

Quick response. The prosecution presented a witness who testified that Park represented Munir Uwaydah through Park's own company as mortgage broker.

Direct transfers from Frontline Medical to Park's business account were presented to the jury, as well as large checks made out to Park, personally.

Not every transfer and check was presented to the jury, but the grand total of over 1 million, over a period of (without going back to check), 18 months, I believe.

Sprocket said...

Long time T&T readers should know the answer to this question.

Since Spector's retrial, I've written several times what I've been told by attorneys and legal analysts. That there is a part of a trial that is more important than anything else.

Can you state what it is I've said, exactly?

I will publish the response from the first person who quotes me correctly. Please at least sign a first name in your post, or use a Blogger ID in your response.

Anonymous said...

Well said by previous commenters, that while neither the prosecution nor the defense is REQUIRED to present a motive or scenario, it certainly helps both sides. If we knew the context, both families would feel better and the jury would have more to go on - facts without context haven't provided evidence that satisfies anyone.

And regarding the real estate payments, those could clearly be proven, yet no one seems to have followed up.

I don't think either one of these lawyers presented a believable case. If they had, we wouldn't still be discussing it.

Anonymous said...

The most important part of a trial is the jury selection!


Sprocket said...

T&T Readers:

I'm working on getting more documents in the Park case.

Some of the documents I'm waiting on are the 3rd Party Culpability Motions, the successful defense rebuttal motion papers regarding the prosecution's 1101b motion, and other motions that were filed by the defense.

As soon as I get these documents, they will be uploaded to T&T's SCRIBD account.

Anonymous said...

Who gets put away for life when the prosecution puts on less than three days of testimony? Bad. Bad. Bad.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 5:41 PM

I have to disagree that # of witnesses/days of testimony presented in a murder trial equates to a conviction.

Most cases presented in the Criminal Justice Center.... last less than a week. Source: Information given to prospective jurors called for jury service.