Objection Overruled

How the Coming Battle Over Evidence Will Shape The Trial’s Outcome

No doubt many readers of this site – we’re looking your way, legal eagles – have far more experience and expertise in this subject than any of us.  Still, we’re in agreement that the brewing legal battle over what evidence can and can’t be admitted during the criminal trial will greatly affect its outcome, and we want to hear your thoughts.

Of course this is nothing new.  Anyone who has sat on a jury, or even watched a middling court-room drama, knows what’s excluded from a trial can tip a verdict – if only it had been admissible.  Already Judge Brook Hedge, ruling Feb. 26, prevented Kathy Wone’s legal team in her civil case any access to electronic communications (phone calls, emails) between her late husband and the defendants.   We can only speculate what information may be in those records that could affect the criminal case.

What follows are just three issues of evidence that may never make it into the criminal trial, and arguments that both sides may employ.

  • The Knife.  As has been detailed before, the knife found on the scene does not match the three stab wounds.  However a missing knife from Dylan Ward’s cutlery collection, when matched with its replacement from the same company, proves a likely fit.  (The set box contained three tools; the other two were intact.)  Further, relatively little of Mr. Wone’s blood was found on the knife at the scene.  From the prosecution’s view, this appears to be proof of evidence tampering – removal of the actual murder weapon (it still has not been found) and replacement with another weapon from the house butcher-block.  Yet (and I’m not an attorney) I can see how the defense would find this speculation at best.  Nobody says they have the actual knife that matches the wounds; the prosecution is merely surmising that a knife like the murder weapon could have come from Dylan Ward’s room.   What other cutlery sets may have a knife that closely matches the wounds?
  • The Sex Toys.  Clearly the most salacious aspect of this case for many casual observers is the large collection of sex devices, images and literature – much of it a bondage and sado-masochistic bent – found in the house.  The prosecution points to the coroner’s finding of Mr. Wone’s semen in three swab locations (genitals, exterior and interior anus) and conclusion that such evidence was “…suggestive of Mr. Wone having been sexually assaulted.”  Yet this may be an equally strong area for the defense.  Consider: there was no foreign DNA found on Mr. Wone, and (to our knowledge) no sex toys found that had any of his DNA traces.  There were no signs of physical restraint.  There were no traces found of any so-called “club drugs” in Mr. Wone (the defendants were not tested.)   Already we’ve heard the defendants argue that the MPD fixation on what could be the most titillating aspect of their private lives could in fact have absolutely nothing to do with the murder, and may at worst reflect an anti-gay bias…or at least an anti-BDSM bias.
  • The Forensics.   Mike Scarcella has already addressed this, but it’s worth repeating.   While the first affidavit charging only Dylan Ward with obstruction (see “Legal Documents” tab) reads more like a conviction,  Joe Price’s defense attorney Bernie Grimm has pushed back – hard.  In this salvo fired at prosecutor Glenn Kirschner, Mr. Grimm raises serious questions about the bio-tests conducted at Swann, and on materials seized from the house.  Quoting: “The discovery I have so far, in many respects, raises more questions than it answers,” writes Mr. Grimm.  Moreover, he raises a serious legal challenge to the seizure of computers/etc. from the home where Michael Price was living – documents that prosecutors may hope links brothers Joe and Michael into conspiracy to obstruct.  And to be clear: we have not seen the complete Medical Examiner’s report (but are working on it) and have – as discussed in earlier posts – questions about the police forensic work done on this case.  These are serious questions, meriting serious answers.

There is, however, one hurdle we find difficult for the defense to clear: the near lack of blood found on the sheets, clothing, mattress, flooring, walls; anywhere in the house.  The victim himself was largely absent external blood.  This was an immediate puzzle for the EMT’s first to arrive, and soon thereafter for the investigating police.  The nature of the three wounds – one near the aortic base – clearly would produce large amounts of blood.  Blood that would flow and trickle and ooze into a hundred different places within a room, leaving its DNA fingerprint clear behind.  A defense team that can explain this, or even prevent its admission into trial, is worth every dime.

And so an appeal: for all you legal beagles out there, please help us.  Comment here, or write us privately with your thoughts as to what may or may not be allowable in criminal trial, explain why.  Tell us why we’re right, how we’re wrong, and what we’re overlooking.  We can’t pay the going rate – or at all – but your thoughts may be able to help all of us better understand the shape and nature of the case as it goes to trial.

posted by Doug

David adds: The Defendants will seek to reinterpret the burst blood vessels in Robert’s eyes. This occurs when a person has been suffocated. The prosecution said this evidence supported its theory that more happened than the Defendant’s statements.  Yet, this evidence could also support the Defendant’s intruder theory. In their statements Joe and Victor both claim they heard no loud screams prior to the 9-1-1 call, and only heard “low screams and “low grunts” coming from downstairs.  If an intruder was suffocating Robert prior to stabbing him, this testimony could be consistent with the evidence.  The intruder may have suffocated Robert, causing the low sounds or grunts. This caused Robert to be incapacitated, but not yet dead, and was finally stabbed.

However though, the highest hurdle the Defense must clear is the lack of blood found in the bed, in the room and on the scene. According to the first affidavit, which is quoting the Medical Examiner, “The absence of any significant amount of blood from the bed, and the crisp and near pristine condition of the bed in which Mr. Wone was discovered by paramedics is entirely inconsistent with a violent stabbing having been perpetrated in that bed.” Price and Zaborsky’s statements indicate that a stabbing occurred, and that they both found Mr. Wone stabbed, yet curiously, the amount of blood at the scene is extremely limited.

Furthermore, it would be highly likely that additional blood, even just traces, would have been found in the same path that the intruder took to leave the house. Yet, the only additional blood found was located in the lint dryer (which could have been anybody’s blood) and outside in a drain in the backyard. The intruder could have put a bloody item in the dryer. It was right in the path that the intruder could possibly have taken after all. Yet, none of the Defendant’s mention hearing any dryer door open (that doesn’t mean it didn’t) and nothing was found in the dryer. If the intruder put a bloody towel in the dryer, and took it out, wouldn’t there have been a high probability that blood, even traces, would have dripped on the way to the dryer? Yet, no blood was found.

— posted by David

27 comments for “Objection Overruled

  1. Anon. in Arlington
    03/19/2009 at 12:24 PM

    Since reading the affidavit, I have wondered if the blood found in the eyes might have a connection to a physical response to the stabbing and not limited to suffocation. I know my eyes bulged and strained in response to my cutting my finger last night.

    I have been hoping a physician may write in to explain the impact and physical reaction for a body while under the influence of paralytic drugs. Are all muscles equally affected by these drugs? Might eyes fully function while other muscles are paralyzed? As eyes are organs with muscle control, do they see what is happening while the rest of the body cannot respond? Does the person also hear what is in their environment? In short, how “aware” might Robert have been? I pray not at all. But at the root of these questions, I wondered if there was the connection between the broken blood vessels in the eyes and a physical reaction.

  2. Piet
    03/19/2009 at 4:31 PM

    Not a lawyer or detective here, but… it just doesn’t seem to make common sense for an intruder to try to suffocate, THEN stab the victim. Was he trying to be polite and not wake everyone up? And since he didn’t steal anything (when there was plenty in the open to be stolen), what was his motive? It seems if he wanted to kill someone and had a knife, why not just stab the victim to begin with and be done with it? Crazed intruders bent on murder simply don’t do the things that an intruder would have had to have done, all in total silence, in this case: silently incapacitate then stab (with no apparent motive), clean, redress the body after the fact, clean up the excess blood that would have had to have been there, get rid of all evidence of cleaning up after himself, try to frame the occupants by planting one of their knives, etc., ad nauseum. And all this after first having either had consensual or (most likely) non-consensual sex with the victim.

    One of the strangest things to me on a common sense level is that the roommates thought it a good idea to shower up before EMTs arrived. I have been in emergency situations where I had to call EMTs to help a loved one; I never thought to shower first before they arrived. I know this is not evidence of murder, but it sure it very strange and unlikely behavior (I don’t care how vain or smelly you are, you simply don’t shower while your good friend lies dead in your house, unless you have good reason to, and I can’t think of any good reasons other than the obvious…).

    • CDinDC
      03/20/2009 at 1:14 PM

      To ME the obvious was that they were on drugs. Dissociative drugs. Ketamine, to be specific. Hence, the nonchalant attitudes of, especially, Ward and Price (documented). Perhaps they all showered after they showered Wone (to, of course, rinse DNA evidence away, if possible).

  3. Corcoran Cutlet
    03/19/2009 at 6:30 PM

    I remember when I was walking my dog on
    down Swann after the incident and all the News media were camped out there. I thought, geez, how the neighbors must have been inconvenienced by the whole thing. I had a conversation with the cutie from News Channel 8 Steven Tschida. He seemed to know a lot about the case and a lot of the people involved in the investigation. I wish he would contribute in some way and shed some light. By the way he has great looking lips in person!

    • Anon. in Arlington
      03/20/2009 at 11:49 AM

      Oh – soooooo sorry neighbors were/ may have been inconvenienced…. someone lost their life.

      • Corcoran Cutlet
        03/20/2009 at 3:19 PM

        Typical attitude of someone in the suburbs, till crime hits their neighborhood and they always say on TV, “But this is a safe neighborhood I didn’t think things like this happened h-e-r-e.” Of course someone lost their life. The tragedy is that the perps have dragged this out by not coming clean. The press did very little digging on their own, preferring to sit on their butts waiting for someone to make a comment, which was never informative anyway. Whatever its drawbacks, this site has been ten times more informative than months of press
        reporting. That’s a good thing.

        • SwannStObserver
          03/20/2009 at 5:11 PM

          When’s the last time news reportage, or a blog, solved a homicide?

          The delay in justice that has frustrated observers is not due to negligence on the part of, say, local TV stations or print media, but rather is due to:

          1. Trio’s access to costly legal counsel.
          2. Understandably cautious prosecution, especially with the momentary complication of Prices’ brother’s break in.
          3. Churn of personnel in the prosecution.
          4. Possible factor: DCMPD and medical examiner’s ofc unskilled in this type of murder. Someone close to an investigating officer told me they are used to “thug and drug” homicide investigations (and by the latter, I am not referring to gay club drugs).

          • Corcoran Cutlet
            03/20/2009 at 5:44 PM

            I don’t disagree with your points. But let me offer an idea that I have had as a gut feeling about this case from the start. That the slowness and foot-dragging had something to do with a larger political reality. I don’t know how or what. I am a total Obama supporter and I think Holder a good choice for AG. But my nose tells me that it was not a coincidence that the charges finally came as the election was over.

      • N.M.
        03/22/2009 at 7:52 PM

        Excuse me, I’m a neighbor and we were NOT “inconvenienced.” In fact, we would have been happy to have been a lot more “inconvenienced” — by investigators looking, for instance, in our backyards to see if the murder weapon was flung over one of the fences.

        “Inconvenienced” — don’t be absurd.

        • Corcoran Cutlet
          03/22/2009 at 8:24 PM

          Given all the television vans and trucks parked on the block, I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you live there at all.

  4. L.
    03/20/2009 at 10:00 AM

    I think that Ward drugged Wone and used one of his electrical devices to get Wone to ejaculate. Wone probably woke up and Ward had to subdue him or Ward thought he had accidentally killed Wone.

    The bottom line is Price particiapted in the cover-up to save his career. He was just made partner at an important D.C. law firm a couple of months before. That is the motive for the cover-up.
    The thinking? (1) Wone is already dead – can’t bring him back; (2) if firm finds out about drug use and s&m and accidental death in his home – no more career.

  5. L.
    03/20/2009 at 10:06 AM

    Lance is trying to throw people off track. You can engage him all you want but its a waste of everyone’s time.

    • Lance
      03/20/2009 at 3:42 PM

      What? I didn’t even say anything!

      • L.
        03/20/2009 at 4:48 PM

        I’m referring to all of your posts on the blog.

  6. Nelly
    03/20/2009 at 10:29 AM

    Exacty, L. That is why I am no longer responding to him.

  7. david
    03/20/2009 at 11:17 AM

    What is that saying about possession being 9/10 of the law? If someone keeps paper copies of electronic communication, and/or electronic copies stored separately (in shielded containers, no less), then access to the evidence is less of a problem and one need not wait for others to do their job before someone else does their job for them. On the other hand, email, etc., can be misleading. The amateur will avoid using electronic communication for something questionable. The pro will actively use it for cover in a pathological fashion, with no bearing on the facts of what he is doing nefariously.

  8. TK
    03/20/2009 at 11:20 AM

    Not being very knowledgeable about BDSM, I don’t really understand why Wone’s semen was found in his own anus. Is that something that is often done, and if so, is there some specific symbolism? Anyone? I’m also wondering if (and if not, why not) the sex equipment they found in Ward’s room was tested for Wone’s DNA. It sounds like in the following days they did a pretty major sweep of the house.

    Also with Ward & Price’s relationship, how much emotional power might Ward have over Price outside the bedroom? Could it be enough to convince Price to become an accessory to murder? I know this is pure speculation, but that’s what we’re doing…

    On a completely different topic, apparently a sniffer dog smelled blood in the dryer lint trap. Towels and sheets take awhile time to dry, and they’d have to have the blood washed out of them first. It doesn’t seem like there would be time enough for Wone to be killed, the scene to be cleaned up, and anything to be washed and dried before they called 911. Maybe this detail will turn out to be irrelevant, but the timing of it bothers me.

    • CDinDC
      03/20/2009 at 2:00 PM

      >>>Towels and sheets take awhile time to dry, and they’d have to have the blood washed out of them first.

      Considering their sexual practices, it wouldn’t be out of the question that Price’s blood be found in the lint trap. “Run of the mill” BDSM practices can break skin and cause someone to bleed. Then there are the more extreme practices, such as “cutting” and “piercing.”

      ::shutter::

      What’s a little blood-letting amongst friends?

      • TK
        03/20/2009 at 2:41 PM

        But the dog also detected blood in the drain in the back courtyard. Though maybe they washed themselves off there and just disposed of all the bloody linens. The question is why clean it up though. Unless Wone was not even killed on that bed but moved there after the fact…

        • L.
          03/20/2009 at 3:11 PM

          They probably cleaned it up to remove any of their own DNA from the corpse.

          • CDinDC
            03/20/2009 at 3:39 PM

            Agree 100%.

            • Rose
              08/22/2009 at 12:08 AM

              But failed to remove his DNA? Agree the body was cleaned, but seems more likely to be blood removal than DNA.

        • CDinDC
          03/20/2009 at 3:47 PM

          >>>But the dog also detected blood in the drain in the back courtyard.<<>>was not even killed on that bed but moved there after the fact…<<<

          I’ve always believed this was case.

          So, to repeat something someone else posted very recently, did they collect dna evidence from ward’s bedroom and/or any sexual devices in the house?

          • CDinDC
            03/20/2009 at 3:51 PM

            Hmm…something goofy happened to my post….anyway…..here’s the part that got left off…

            >>>But the dog also detected blood in the drain in the back courtyard.<<

            I always believed they sprayed off themselves and/or items back there.

            I wonder if the first detectives at the scene noted any wetness or dampness in the back area.

            Also….maybe the knife was disposed of down that drain.

  9. L.
    03/20/2009 at 12:26 PM

    Price was an accessory to murder in order to protect his legal career.

    • 03/20/2009 at 6:34 PM

      amen, sister. she needed that firm to finance the pills and the thai happy-ending queen (and all those expensive s&m b&d enema kits).

      not sure i am buying your electrical device/wone ejaculation theory; but you are heading down the right path. keep going.

  10. DQM
    03/21/2009 at 5:19 AM

    As an aside, in the civil trial, the judge disposed of the motion to subpoena the communications between Mr. Wone and the defendants by denying it without prejudice pending the stay during the criminal proceedings. This would mean that the Estate of Mr. Wone will be able to bring the motion again, and the issue can be revisited, not necessarily that this information won’t be admissible in the civil trial. The judge did not make a ruling one way or another about the admissibility of that evidence, but is just saving a decision for another time.

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