Where is the Evidence?

Could it be over here or over there?

On Monday, The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times broke the news regarding the Government’s Response to Defendants’ Joint Motion to Compel Discovery. The article and the associated response from the USAO probably generates more questions than answers about the evidence in possession of the MPD, given the extensive collection of materials from the crime scene at 1509 Swann Street, and the existence of electronic communications evidence between the victim and the Defendants.

The acknowledgment that the BlackBerry used by Robert Wone had not been imaged as part of the evidence collection is particularly troubling. Is this disclosure really the tip of the iceberg in the management of evidence for this case?

In 2007, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of the MPD’s “Management of Seized and Confiscated Property/Evidence” and focused primarily on the operations of the Evidence Control Branch. The final report, released in January, 2008, portrays a facility and management system with inadequate infrastructure and controls. The report’s synopsis is an eye-opener:

“The ECB facility is in need of vital repairs. Our observation of the facility disclosed problems such as an inadequate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system, a poor electrical system, leaky pipes and roof, severe overcrowding in storage areas, and poor physical security. In addition, the ECB facility does not meet all required health and safety code regulations. These facility-related conditions increase the risk of theft, misuse, or loss of evidence, which may compromise the District’s ability to successfully prosecute criminal cases, thereby hindering the ECB’s mission. Further, these conditions pose a hazardous working environment for ECB personnel.”

In commenting on the inadequate HVAC system, the OIG expressed the following concerns:

“Biological materials (i.e., blood, semen, body fluids, etc.) in ECB’s custody should be stored in a climate-controlled and moisture-free environment to properly preserve evidence. However, we found that biological materials stored in the warehouse are subject to extreme temperatures and humidity levels.”

Were the blood stained sheets, towel, and comforter confiscated from 1509 Swann Street stored in these conditions? If so, has the integrity of the evidence been compromised? The following photographs excerpted from the OIG report are worth more than a thousand words.

Evidence Damaged by Water

Evidence Damaged by Water

Severely Overcrowded Drug Vault

Severely Overcrowded Drug Vault

The upside: a draft contract for the design and build of a new ECB facility was submitted to City Council on March 12, 2009 for approval.

– posted by Michael

70 comments for “Where is the Evidence?

  1. TK
    04/23/2009 at 11:04 AM

    Unfortunately the new facility is way too late to help provide justice for Robert Wone.

    Re the Blackberry, the unsent messages continue to be troubling. I don’t have a Blackberry myself, but why would anyone create messages (especially innocuous ones like those) and not send them immediately? To not disturb the recipient? If they are sent much later than they are created, what is the time stamp on the message; isn’t it still the time the message was created? If I save an email as a draft, it retains the original time and date.

    • CDinDC
      04/23/2009 at 12:37 PM

      My partner, who is tethered to a blackberry, said last night “I wouldn’t email you to tell you I was turning in…..I would have called you.”

      It did not appear to be common practice for Robert to spend the night elsewhere…..seems that given the unusual circumstances, he would have called to say goodnight. Not email.

      And I asked this yesterday….I wonder if the email closed with “I love you.” I can’t imagine Robert would have prepared an advance email like that.

      • TK
        04/23/2009 at 12:44 PM

        Good point about the “I love you.”

        Though, it was an hour and a half later than his previous phone call to Kathy. Perhaps he knew she would be in bed by 11:02 and didn’t want to wake her (assuming he was the one who typed it). Also, I know lots of people who would rather go through the hassle of texting than actually talk.

        • CDinDC
          04/23/2009 at 1:00 PM


          • IKWDI
            04/23/2009 at 1:48 PM

            But then why send the email at all? She’s asleep…

        • ladydetective
          04/23/2009 at 1:49 PM

          One the main reasons for that type of e-mail isn’t the substance of what is being communicated (just showered) but rather the expression of the term of endearment, (love you, sweetie). The absence of the term of endearment is what makes that authenticity of the e-mail dubious.

          • CDinDC
            04/23/2009 at 1:53 PM

            To me, the presence of a term of endearment would make it dubious. I wouldn’t prepare in ADVANCE a note ending with “I love you.”

            BUT, it’s really neither here nor there, as the emails no longer exist. Unfortunately.

            • IKWDI
              04/23/2009 at 2:01 PM

              One question is wehther the email was “saved” as a draft, or whether it was in the “Outbox” pending delivery. If the latter, which sometimes occurs when you don’t have a cell signal, this seems to make the emails perhaps a bit let dubious… if “saved” that seems VERY odd…

            • Lance
              04/23/2009 at 2:16 PM

              To me, the fact that one of you would take the presence of an endearment to indicate that it was forged, and that one of you would take the absence of an endearment to indicate that it was forged, is particularly telling.

              • IKWDI
                04/23/2009 at 2:33 PM

                Lance, I agree with you and Bea… to me, the seemingly important issue is not whether a term of endearment was included, but whether the emails were “saved” as drafts versus having been sent, but “stuck” in the Outbox.

                • CDinDC
                  04/23/2009 at 3:10 PM

                  Re the term of endearment…..just wondering if it’s something Robert did or didn’t do on a regular basis. If the style of writing the email was particularly different from what he usually would do, it would be indicative of forgery.

                  We all have our way of conversing with loved ones. If it was different than USUAL…….well, maybe Robert didn’t write the email.

                  It’s more important than you think.

              • CDinDC
                04/23/2009 at 3:05 PM

                Telling of what, Lance?

                • Lance
                  04/23/2009 at 5:20 PM

                  I could say “it tells me that you’re looking for reasons to prove them guilty”, but really what I think it shows is that evidence can be ambiguous and open to interpretation.

                  • CDinDC
                    04/23/2009 at 7:20 PM

                    Considering I truly think they are guilty, uhhhh, yeah, I am looking for reasons to prove them guilty. You get a big DUH on that one, Lance.

                    • Lance
                      04/23/2009 at 9:08 PM

                      But that’s bad science, and possibly bad law. You don’t form your conclusion and then find data to support it, you find the data and see what hypothesis it supports.

          • Bea
            04/23/2009 at 2:01 PM

            I think we’re just assuming that there wasn’t an endearment – this is ambiguous. I think the fact that they were typed and not sent is what is troubling. I do send the goodnight-love-you email when I’m away (but again I’m a dyke) even after an earlier call, but to answer someone else’s question about whether that would wake the recipient, likely not – it wasn’t described as a text (which might wake the recipient) but instead an email. It’s something to have the wife to “wake up to”.

            So why not SEND? And then go on to make lunch plans (still want to know if it’s a “response” to an invitation) without sending makes no sense UNLESS someone is wanting to establish a time line. The person doing so, let’s call him Joe, is holding the cards here. If he later decides it’s in his best interest to have it show 11:05, then he can send as is. If it later doesn’t suit him, he can delete or rewrite something else (“Honey, it’s strange and I’ll explain later but I have to go over to Northeast in the morning first thing so don’t worry if I’m not at work first thing – we’ll talk tomorrow night”).

            • CDinDC
              04/23/2009 at 2:04 PM

              I stated yesterday that I “wondered” if there was. Just a curiosity.

              But, sigh, we’ll never know….thanks to our fabu MPD/SS/FBI. Kisses to each.

            • Ex Swann Dude
              04/23/2009 at 4:19 PM

              Yes, let’s call him Joe …

              • Bea
                04/23/2009 at 5:20 PM

                Yes, let’s all call him Joe!

                CD, I realize you were just wondering, but then it seemed that some were taking it as fact – I’m hoping you and I can continue our ‘lesbromance’ (I assume you’re male).

                Lance, I too wonder what is “telling” about assumptions about the endearments/lack thereof.

                • Lance
                  04/23/2009 at 5:29 PM

                  Just to expand on the reply I just left above:

                  ladydetective: The absence of the term of endearment is what makes that authenticity of the e-mail dubious.

                  CDinDC: To me, the presence of a term of endearment would make it dubious.

                  Well, so what does this mean? I think one thing it does in fact indicate is that any fact we learn can be taken as evidence that Joe is guilty. Suppose the FBI suddenly says “Oh, look, someone *did* image the Blackberry, we just found it on a hard drive on this old Commodore-64. Sorry about that. Here’s the text of those emails….” Then if the email says “I love you”, CDinDC will say “See, Wone wouldn’t write that. That proves Joe forged it to provide an alibi”; and if it doesn’t, ladydetective will say “See, Wone would have told his wife he loved her. That proves Joe forged it to provide an alibi.”

                  (I now imagine the prosecution combining the arguments and saying, “We don’t have the email, but either it said ‘I love you’ or it didn’t, and either way, Joe must have forged it.”)

                  What’s the upshot? First, it’s easy to speculate. Second, even if we had the email, we just don’t have the information to know how to interpret it. Instead, we have to make an assumption–which might be “Of course Wone would say ‘I love you'” and it might be “Of course he wouldn’t write that in an email”; but either way it’s an assumption, and at that point we’ve left evidence and gotten into interpretation. Another way to put it: we’ve left objective reality, and entered into interpreted reality, i.e. reality with our own worldviews imposed on it.

                  And third: perhaps it’s silly of us to even wish we had the email to look at, since we wouldn’t know what to make of it. (I might wish the lawyers had it to look at, but that’s different.)

                  • CDinDC
                    04/23/2009 at 7:23 PM

                    Oh, for heaven sakes….I wish I’d never said anything.

                • CDinDC
                  04/23/2009 at 7:21 PM

                  Bea, darling, you are still tops in my book.

            • CDinDC
              04/23/2009 at 7:39 PM

              Bea! Love that you said “(”Honey, it’s strange and I’ll explain later but I have to go over to Northeast in the morning first thing”.

              I’ve been wondering….here I go again, wondering about stuff…..WHY did Joe, Sarah and “others” go to a Cosi on Capitol Hill when there’s a freakin Cosi on the corner of Connecticut and R?? Could it have been the proximity to that ramshackle house in NE?

              And who are the OTHER people mentioned in the affidavits?

              • Ex Swann Dude
                04/23/2009 at 8:51 PM

                It was the closest “civilized” spot for Joe and the gang to meet up after the all-night interrogation in Annacostia (DC Homocide Unit).

                And they had to stay close to Annacostia that morning so “someone could dispatch themselves” to retrieve Dylan who was questioned a bit later than the others …

                • CDinDC
                  04/23/2009 at 8:56 PM


    • Craig
      04/23/2009 at 5:48 PM

      The DC DMV Inspection Station on Half Street, SW looks cleaner and better kept than the ECB.

  2. IKWDI
    04/23/2009 at 11:07 AM

    Just a question here — Does anyone know if a trial date has been set, or is it too soon?

    • Craig
      04/23/2009 at 12:55 PM

      Not yet I’m afraid. And I don’t think it’s likely we’ll get a date coming out of tomorrow’s pas de trois.

      • IKWDI
        04/23/2009 at 2:34 PM

        what is happening tomorrow?

        • Craig
          04/23/2009 at 3:45 PM

          Previously scheduled status hearing. 9:45am at DC Superior Court. Open to the public and media. Whether the defendants attend is uncertain. We’ll find out when we get there.

          • IKWDI
            04/23/2009 at 4:27 PM


  3. Anon. in Arlington
    04/23/2009 at 5:22 PM

    There have been a couple of posts to Wone 101 in the last day or so referring to the dingo, but I don’t think my response belongs in that section of the site.

    While in Boulder, CO this weekend, I could not escape reflecting on the JonBenet Ramsey case: how the investigation was so poorly botched; the public anger against the parents for placing their child in pageants; that it seemed obvious the parents must have had something to do with her murder; and/or thoughts of a young jealous brother committed the crime are but a few of the myriad theories and emotions. Remember how confused you may have been when you read that Pasty Ramsey went upstairs and applied makeup before the police arrived? Remember your thoughts when her writing samples kept coming back as inconclusive?

    The Wone case is just as frustrating! After reading the documents released this week, all I could say was “WTF” over and over again. I am not a fan of the three defendants – by any stretch of the imagination- so I am not defending them. I only aim to draw parallels to another case where we try to make sense out of things that do not make sense. Sadly, they may never make sense. That said, I am willing to wait years for a precise and unequivocal “guilty of obstruction” charge for one or more of the defendants. Without one of the triad coming forward, we may never see a murder charge, which really ticks me off to no end. (This is where we expect a frequent contributor to chime in… “Victor! Tell us the truth! Tell us what you know”- and I fully agree!!!)

    Anyone else have a Myers-Briggs scale rating? I am an ENFJ and my high “J” is all up and all over this three men.

    Editors: Thanks for attending tomorrow’s status update! Your readers appreciate the time and energy you take to research, show up to court, blog, and administer the site. Hats off to you.

    • TK
      04/23/2009 at 6:07 PM

      I have a question somewhat regarding tomorrow’s proceedings. If someone (let’s call him ‘Victor,’ thanks Bea) has had a change of heart and wants to do what the prosecution is obviously praying for: turn on the others in the hope of copping a plea, when would he do that? Could it happen at any time, or would they usually wait until, say, after a proceeding like tomorrow to see how things go?

      Anon, I’m an INFJ, we judge based on our intuition. As one profile states, “The concept of ‘poetic justice’ is appealing to the INFJ.” Another says “They get ‘feelings’ about things and intuitively understand them.” So not surprising I’ve been following this case from the beginning when the initial circumstances smelled fishy. The affidavit, and the last few weeks of this blog have almost been overwhelming to me. It’s been great to read so many other insights (and yet dreadful to think of what had been done to poor Robert Wone).

      • 04/23/2009 at 7:47 PM

        TK –

        it could happen at anytime behind the scenes amd at some point the court would need to be notified. there is no deadline for victor to sing — given the government’s fumbles that i have seen, i hope it happens sooner; not later. i renew my plea to victor, it is not too late to listen to your heart. interesting that many (not all, needham) on here belive victor to be the least guilty.

        editors: pictures of the defendants, please. and remember, small inoccuous details may be the most revealing!!!

        • Themis
          04/23/2009 at 9:03 PM

          A plea of guilty may be entered at any point before the court enters an order on the jury verdict. In my experience, and I have worked on 20+ murder cases, rarely does a decision to plead guilty involve remorse. It comes down to what is the government offering and what are me chances if I go to trial. (Granted, I have only represented one professional, educated client, but the same was true with her. And she was not the shooter.) I am not familiar with DC’s sentencing scheme but if it is a structured sentencing scheme like the federal sentencing scheme, none of the defendant’s would likely face more than a few years in prison (not that any time bars is de minimis or trivial) though they would also face the loss of rights and the stigma associated with a felony conviction.

          Conversely, the government’s decision on what to offer in return for cooperation usually is premised on how low do I have to go to get cooperation, what are the chances of success at trial without the cooperating witness, and is the deal that the witness is demanding so sweet that the witness can be discredited on the grounds that his testimony was bought and paid for. What it may come down is whether the government is willing to offer immunity, a plea to a misdemeanor, or plea to a felony with no imprisonment.

          But that’s just another one of my musings.

          • Anon. in Arlington
            04/23/2009 at 10:06 PM

            We appreciate your musings – please keep them coming.

        • Lance
          04/23/2009 at 9:10 PM

          As I noted above (sorry to bring it up again, CD), small, innocuous details are the easiest to read meaning into.

    • CDinDC
      04/23/2009 at 9:57 PM

      INFJ – scorpio – go figure

      • TK
        04/24/2009 at 2:02 PM

        CDinDC interesting we are both INFJs; on one site it said that we make up only 1% of the population.

        Oh and I’m a Libra… justice scales and all…

        • Anon. in Arlington
          04/24/2009 at 2:12 PM

          Lots of interesting over-laps in the M-B types hu? Oh – I am a Cancer BTW FWIW.

        • CDinDC
          04/24/2009 at 2:22 PM


          • TK
            04/24/2009 at 2:25 PM

            from http://www.personalitypage.com/INFJ.html

            “Only one percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types.”

            • CDinDC
              04/24/2009 at 2:28 PM

              We’re special. LOL No comments from the peanut gallery on that.

              • Anon. in Arlington
                04/24/2009 at 2:42 PM

                “And we love you for it!” Sorry… had to take the bait.

                • CDinDC
                  04/24/2009 at 2:57 PM

                  😀 LOL

  4. Nelly
    04/23/2009 at 5:38 PM

    Thank you, editors. I too look forward to news about what goes on at tomorrow’s hearing.

  5. CDinDC
    04/23/2009 at 9:27 PM

    Lance says:
    April 23, 2009 at 9:08 PM
    “But that’s bad science, and possibly bad law. You don’t form your conclusion and then find data to support it, you find the data and see what hypothesis it supports.”

    Lance, do you actually think about what you’re saying sometimes??

    • CDinDC
      04/23/2009 at 9:45 PM

      Lance says: “You don’t form your conclusion and then find data to support it.” Defense and prosection attorneys do that. A client goes to a defense attorney adn says “I’m innocent…help me.” It’s the defense attorney’s job to take the client at his word and “find data to support” the client’s claimed innocence. Alternatively, the D.A.’s job is do the same for the police.

      A jury on the other hand takes the “data and see what hypothesis it supports.”

      So quit it Lance. The horse is dead.

      • Bea
        04/23/2009 at 10:40 PM

        It’s smelling bad it’s so dead.

        Themis is correct that someone, let’s call him Victor (props, TK), could “sing” at any time. The way it usually works is that his attorney would call the DA and they would “talk” off-the-record about the deal, and it would be negotiated. Now if Victor REALLY sang, there would likely be murder charges brought against the other two, so serious jail time is at stake.

        • CDinDC
          04/23/2009 at 10:58 PM

          ~~do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, JOOOOEEEE~~

        • Themis
          04/23/2009 at 11:07 PM


          True. But so far all of the defendants are only charged with conspiracy, tampering with evidence, and obstruction. So if someone was weighing the benefits of cooperating versus going to trial, that person would likely base their decision on the time that could be imposed for those charges. It is also possible that the thought of sending a loved to prison for years on a murder charge might weigh against a plea. That would, of course, vary from individual to individual.

          • Ex Swann Dude
            04/23/2009 at 11:29 PM

            But they are all looking at 38 years. If Victor keeps his mouth shut and goes down with the boat, all three guilty, he (all three) are looking at significant time “on holiday”.

            • CDinDC
              04/23/2009 at 11:34 PM

              But if they can prove the “intruder” cleaned the crime scene, well, maybe we’ll see them at Dupont Italian Kitchen having baked ziti.

            • Themis
              04/23/2009 at 11:35 PM

              That figure is based upon the judge imposing the maximum sentence allowed by statute and running the sentences consecutively. A first time offender does not usually get the statutory max and have his sentences box carred (unless a mandatory consecutive sentence is provided for by statute).

              • Themis
                04/23/2009 at 11:38 PM

                Or maybe you’ll see them in court throwing spaghetti at the ceiling.

              • Ex Swann Dude
                04/24/2009 at 1:29 AM

                I understand that but for crimes of this nature, once found guilty, they’re not going to give them a few weekend stays in DC jail either … there will be considerable time to face here.

      • Lance
        04/24/2009 at 6:25 AM

        CDinDC says:

        Considering I truly think they are guilty, uhhhh, yeah, I am looking for reasons to prove them guilty.


        Lance says: “You don’t form your conclusion and then find data to support it.” Defense and prosection attorneys do that. A client goes to a defense attorney adn says “I’m innocent…help me.” It’s the defense attorney’s job to take the client at his word and “find data to support” the client’s claimed innocence. Alternatively, the D.A.’s job is do the same for the police.

        A jury on the other hand takes the “data and see what hypothesis it supports.”

        So quit it Lance. The horse is dead.

        So, I’m sorry if this seems to you like beating a dead horse, but I do want to be sure I understand you–I’ve already gotten yelled at once here for supposedly misquoting.

        First, let me say that I definitely misspoke when I referred to shaping evidence to support a predetermined conclusion “bad law”. That is, as you say, exactly what the prosecution and defense do. I apologize for the misstatement.

        With respect to this, however: I’ve been accused repeatedly of working for the defense, a rumor which I hope has been put to bed. But let me turn it around and ask: if you admit that what you’re doing is taking the evidence and interpreting it to support the conclusion you want to reach, does that mean that you’re working for the prosecution?

        I know you think the horse is dead. But from where I’m sitting, the question goes to the very core of the purpose of this site. If the purpose of the site is to find the truth, and the goal of the commenters is to help find the truth, then we should be taking the scientific/jury approach, i.e. looking at evidence and going wherever it takes us. If, on the other hand, the purpose of this site is to prosecute the defendants, and the goal of the commenters is to find evidence to support the predetermined conclusion that they’re guilty, then not only should we take the approach of the prosecution, we ought to be getting a salary from them as well.

        I’d like to think that what I’ve been doing here is the former: looking at the evidence as evidence, rather than reading into it to support some conclusion I formed in advance. That was why I objected so strongly to the Culuket thread and to the discussion of Ward and children’s literature; I felt that the discussions there weren’t considering the facts, but were rather interpreting the facts to support a predetermined conclusion. I was hoping that we, like a jury, like scientists, could try to find the truth, rather than having us pick sides and make our cases.

        • CDinDC
          04/24/2009 at 7:41 AM

          :::HEAVY SIGH:: Lance, this is the last time I will address why I do something, why I feel something, why IIIIII do anything….after we we return to the facts of the case. Any further comments on my reasoning, etc will fall on deaf ears.

          Lance says: he is “looking at the evidence as evidence”……me f’in too, Lance. And THAT very evidence in MY mind makes them guilty as guilty can be. An intruder did NOT clean up after themself, and the evidence points to a crime having been committed as an inside job.

          And you know damn well, there have been a few occasions where I have said that a couple of pieces of evidence don’t hold much water in my mind (lint trap for one).

          So, I’m objective here……..but unforutnately, for the defendants there isn’t much going for them. The preponderance of evidence points towards their guilt.

          So, once again, Lance, stop badgering me and return to analyzing an aspect of the case AND NOT ME.

          • CDinDC
            04/24/2009 at 10:02 AM

            Lastly, Lance you say: “If the purpose of the site is to find the truth, and the goal of the commenters is to help find the truth, then we should be taking the scientific/jury approach, i.e. looking at evidence and going wherever it takes us.”

            If we ALL take the jury approach, we’ll sit here and go NOWHERE….someone has to take a stance on defense and someone has to take a stance on prosecution.

            I, admittedly, take a stance on prosecution.

            • unanimous
              04/24/2009 at 6:00 PM


              you might as well give up the whole boyscout routine. Why should you be interested in being objective about things? I mean, our editors are all pseudo-journalists anyways, which makes them only “kinda” beholden to normal journalistic standards. And CDinDC, SDI et al. are only suckers for a good story by the trustworthy men in blue. If I were you, I would take a little comment hiatus. Once these guys are acquitted, then you can have your little “I told you so moment,” if you like. But remember: Even then, all our junior detectives and CSI-addictionados are going to cry foul, since that is not the conclusion they want. Remember, it wasn’t the Germans who killed the Jews; it was those other Nazi guys.

              • N.M.
                04/24/2009 at 6:22 PM

                Wow. That was distasteful.

                Someone needs to take a nice walk in the fresh air.

                Unless your name is Joe, or Dylan, in which case, please keep to your respective selves.

              • 04/24/2009 at 7:42 PM

                needham? or is that you dylan, darling?

                • CDinDC
                  04/24/2009 at 8:38 PM


              • CDinDC
                04/24/2009 at 8:42 PM

                unanimous says: “our editors are all pseudo-journalists anyways.”

                “OUR” editors?…..a bit of a freudian slip there…..what name do you usually post under, unanimous?

                If you were a stranger to this board, you would have said “THE” editors, most likely.

  6. Spike
    04/23/2009 at 10:58 PM

    I’m an INTP. Which means that I get preoccupied that there is a missing piece of information without which I cannot make a good decision but with which I could make the absolute correct one. So, you can imagine what this case is doing to me.

    • CDinDC
      04/23/2009 at 10:59 PM

      Hilarious, Spike. I love it.

      • Anon. in Arlington
        04/23/2009 at 11:05 PM

        You have come to the right place Spike – its driving us all nuts! There are about 2,700 missing pieces to this – one for each second of 45 minutes….most likely more.

    • N.M.
      04/24/2009 at 1:58 PM

      Hmmm. I’m an INTJ, perhaps the only one here? A taurus, too. Not surprisingly, I’ve dug in my heels over this case and I’m not letting go of it until there is a reasonable and just resolution.

  7. Ex Swann Dude
    04/23/2009 at 11:22 PM

    Editors –

    Thank you for covering the events tomorrow.

    It sure would be great to have several photos of all the players, Prosecution and Defense. You could dole them out in increments to torture those of us who spend way too much time here. Or maybe present them in a gallery … along with more photos of Mr. Wone …

Comments are closed.