Friday, February 6, 2015

Rafael Martinez, Jr., Trial - Day 9, People's Testimony Continues

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Day 8.....

Thursday, February 5, 2015
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One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed covering this case is, I don’t have to drive downtown. It takes about 10 minutes to drive the three miles to the courthouse.  Today I brought an extra sweater because my fingers have been getting so cold inside Dept. V, that it’s been difficult to type.  I don’t know how Judge Speer’s court reporter is able to handle this chilly courtroom.

I understand that we will hear from more forensic experts on DNA. In several of the high profile cases that I’ve covered, I’m one of the few journalists who pays attention to the DNA testimony. I don’t find it boring. I’‘m a geek in that regard. It’s all very fascinating to me and I always learn something new every time any type of criminalist testifies.

Most of the forensics for the LAPD are performed at the Hertzberg Davis Forensic Science Center, aka “The Crime Lab.” The Crime Lab is a collaboration between three entities: California State University, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and the Los Angeles Police Dept. The facility is utilized by all three entities and located on the campus of CSU-LA There are specific courses and classrooms for students in the forensics program.

Back in 2009, after the conviction of Phil Spector, Mr. Sprocket and I were given the opportunity to tour the crime lab. This was due to the generosity of LA County Sheriff’s senior criminalist Dr. Lynne Herold, who testified in the Spector case.  My husband and I spent about 10 hours at the lab that day. I’ll never forget meeting all the very dedicated people who shared with us the work that they did and explained the instruments they used in their analysis.

I took a lot of photographs at the time but unfortunately lost my rough notes, so I was never able to write about what we experienced. The Sheriff’s and LAPD have their own separate property areas where evidence is stored. And they have their own labs. There are a few areas where they share the instruments. From what I remember, that’s the DNA lab andI believe, some of the tools in the firearms section.

I love the sciences and anything of an investigative nature has always been fascinating to me.

After I get set up in my regular seat (I’m in the second row, directly in front of Judge Speer) we go on the record, outside the presence of the jury.  The defense is arguing for a mistrial based on Mr. Callahan’s testimony yesterday.

Mr. Burns mentions the prosecution’s opening statement and comparing that to what came out in testimony. He argues that the evidence just isn’t there to support the 1101b evidence. If the court will not rule on a mistrial, then give a limiting instruction to the jury to ignore all the evidence presented so far.

Judge Speer disagrees. In her view, based on the testimony of the witnesses so far, “I’m considering an instruction [on the 1101b evidence] not only for intent but for motive. Burns asks the court based on what evidence. The court replies, “Based on Salmas, Stockton and Callahan .... credit arrangements.”  Mr. Burns counters, “That has no similarity ... that anything happened in the Nieves case.”  DDA Akemon agrees with the court. Judge Speer tells the parties, “I think there is a sufficient number of similarities for the jury to consider motive. I want to secure my notes and read them more carefully ... [and that?] my memory is serving me well. ... Defense motion for a mistrial or for additional jury instructions is denied.”

Buns and Akemon confer on a witness and agree to take a witness out of order. This is a defense witness presented in the prosecution’s case.

(Defense Witness)

JEFFREY BECK - LAPD Sargent 2, Police Watch Command.
On May 10, 2001, Beck was  P3 working out of North Hollywood station. He responded to a call at the Bonner Ave address. He reviewed a male victim named Mr. Santos. Another officer was with him when Santos was interviewed, Officer Gutherie.  At that time, Mr. Santos was distraught, bleeding and angry. And Burns asks, “And he became a little uncooperative with you and wanted to ‘fuck up’ the assailant?” Beck answers, “I could read it to you if you like.”

Beck reads from the report. He makes it clear that he did not take this statement, that Officer Gutherie took this statement. Per the report: He was not sure where it happened. If it happened in the bedroom or towards the living room.

Direct is finished and cross examination begins.

When Beck responded to the radio call, he was present and participated in interviewing Mr. Santos.

DA: Did Mr. Santos tell you that he was residing with [the other?] victim, who was Luz Mieves?
JB: Yes.
DA: Did Mr. Santos tell you that he was in the bathroom in the apartment when he overheard an argument in the living room?
JB: Yes.
DA: Did Mr. Santos tell you when he walked outside he saw a male, holding an unknown type of knife over victim 1 who was seated on the couch?
JB: Yes.
DA: Did he tell you that he ran into the bedroom to retrieve a baseball bat?
JB: Yes.

The witness basically confirms the testimony Mr. Santos said on the stand.

DA: Did Mr. Santos tell you he was uncertain at what point he got stabbed?
JB: Yes.
DA: At some point he became uncooperative?
JB: Yes.

Nothing further. There’s no more redirect. The people call their next witness, a criminalist.

BARBARA LEAL - Senior DNA Forensic Analyst at Cellmark Forensics. Cellmark is a private lab that specializes in DNA testing for different law enforcement agencies around the country. They do testing for prosecution and defense attorneys. Cellmark has a contract with the LAPD.  Ms. Leal has worked for Cellmark for almost 9 years now. She gives her CV, as well as her Bachelor and Master degrees. She has testified over 40 times all around the country. She’s young, pretty and professional. She looks like she’s about half my age.

Leal is asked to explain DNA. She explains that DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid. THIS is how it’s pronounced.

BL: It’s the blueprint that makes up who we are. It codes for hair color, eye color, that we breathe and have a heart beat. ... DNA is unique, except for identical twins. They would have the same DNA.

She is asked to explain STR DNA Analysis.

STR DNA testing is a type of DNA test. It’s where you look at the parts of DNA that is inherited by both the mother and father. When they run an STR profile, the test looks at DNA that a person received from both a male and female, parents.  STR is short for Short Tandem Repeats.

Leal goes onto explain that DNA is built from four building blocks, A,G,C,T, that appear on the DNA in a certain order.  She explains about how a sequence of DNA will be repeated a number of times.  STR testing is the most common type of forensic testing that’s used throughout laboratories.

They look at 13 different locations. They are looking for the number of repeats at each location. The result for that particular location is the number of repeats.

Leal is asked to explain Y-STR testing.

Leal first explains that a male will inherit a Y chromosome from the father. That is passed down unchanged from father to son. Y-STR testing only looks for areas on the Y chromosome. In this test, it ignores all the female DNA. However, you can’t uniquely identify someone with Y-STR the way you can with standard STR testing.

This witness is involved in the decision making whether to do Y-STR or STR testing. She can offer input as to where she thinks the sample would be best tested, the standard, or Y-STR.  Y-STR is more sensitive than the standard STR testing, there are some samples that are more suitable for Y-STR than STR.  She is then asked to explain “masking.”

Masking is when some of the DNA might ‘overwhelm’ other, smaller amounts of DNA in the sample, making the smaller parts, undetectable.

Leal is asked to explain the procedure that Cellmark uses in order to test a sample. She explains the four steps:
Amplification  (aka Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR)

Continued on Short Update.......