Fiber Optics

Government Conducting Additional Tests; Defense Seeks to Limit Results

In the most recent filing in the Robert Wone case, we learn that, as recently as March 24, 2010, the government has been conducting experiments to bolster their evidence of tampering and conspiring to obstruct at trial. The defense has filed to exclude the tests and its results from being entered at trial.

The government experiments focus on three different yet specific areas: the stab cuts found on the T-shirt Robert was wearing at the time of the murder, the blood smear found on the knife at the crime scene, and the type of fibers that should have been found on the knife.

The government simulated conditions with evidence found at the scene: a Wusthof boning knife, as well as a Wusthof utility knife, a white towel, and T-shirts, even one with a William & Mary logo.   To imitate a body, they chose a pork loin.  They chose equine blood to imitate human blood.

Three tests, two knives, one pork loin.  After the jump, discover what the government learned.

The first experiment consisted of two types of knives that are the same make as the knife found at the crime scene, Wusthof knives while wearing the two different T-shirts.  Of the 12 experimental stabs, only one was the complete length of the blade.  The report does not draw any conclusion on this test and requests comparison to the Robert’s T-shirt.

The second test, called the Fabric Imprint Test, examined what looks to be the way blood smears on a knife.  The government tested for T-shirt and found that the test smears were not the same as those found on the photograph of the knife recovered from the scene.

The government also made blood smear on the knife with a portion of a white towel, and it revealed “patterns similar to those previously observed on the crime scene knife.”

The third test, which seems to create the most damage to the defense, analyzed the fiber transfer that should have taken place between the knife and the T-shirt.  After stabbing the T-shirt-dressed pork loin three times, the results ranged from approximately 15 fibers to more than 40 fibers found on the knife.  On the knife found at crime scene there were “no fibers from/consistent with the t-shirt that were found in the blood on the knife.”

Don’t forget what the MPD did find on the knife.  Several white fibers were found in the blood on the knife that were consistent with the white towel found at the scene.   This is critical information because, according to the defendants’ statements, no white towel ever came in contact with the knife.

This evidence advances the government’s argument that the defendants used the towel to wipe blood on the knife to make it appear as if it was the murder weapon.

The defense argues that these tests do not meet the legal standard for experiment evidence because of a lack of information regarding the conditions.  They argue that too much is unknown  about the conditions of the stabbing for the experiments to be credible.

In essence, the defense is saying they’ll believe the results of the pork loin stabbings when pigs fly.

– posted by David

24 comments for “Fiber Optics

  1. NYer
    04/20/2010 at 3:25 PM

    The “fist” experiment? Certainly that would merit a limiting instruction.

    • Doug
      04/20/2010 at 3:35 PM

      NYer…as today’s editor, I’m to blame. Can’t imagine how that got past me.
      -Doug, co-editor

      • Craig
        04/20/2010 at 3:58 PM

        Doug editing David’s copy? What could possiblie go wrong? 🙂

        The Tuesday Tease: More motions hit the clerk’s office today.

        Are paralytics back on the table? The government has some new test results on the remaining 3cc’s of Robert’s blood. Did they file it in time?

        We’ll have it up first thing Wednesday morning.

        • TT
          04/20/2010 at 4:05 PM

          Can’t wait, thanks editors!

      • NYer
        04/20/2010 at 4:37 PM

        By the way guys, that was just some good-natured joking on my part here. You all never cease to impress me with the content you put out on a regular basis- both in quantity and quality. Recent posts that come to mind that were a pleasure to read in terms of just craftsmanship alone were “Gorilla Dust” and “Swann Street Confidential.”
        Keep up the good work.

  2. former crackho
    04/20/2010 at 5:17 PM

    I may be naive here, but why on earth are they waiting until March to conduct these experiements?

  3. Hoya Loya
    04/20/2010 at 5:39 PM

    The government’s theory, based on the forensic evidence and to which I expect they are sticking, is that Robert was unable to move when stabbed. This experiment would seem to establish the blood and fiber evidence that would likely result from a stabbing under these circumstances and that what was actually found doesn’t match.

    The defense can argue that the government’s theory is wrong — that Robert might have moved, etc., but that doesn’t invalidate the experiment on the point for which it is offered. There is some danger for the government here in that it would allow the defense to take the jury off on tangents — all the ways the stabbing might have occurred that might have been consistent with the fiber evidence — and distract them from the government’s (hopefully) straightforward case.

    I have to say, I’m getting a little tired of the defense arguing that every government expert is unqualified. I understand the importance of establishing a record for appeal, but I think it’s overkill, with diminishing returns. Countering the experts with better experts, who can then shed doubt, is surely the preferable defense practice.

    • Bea
      04/20/2010 at 5:51 PM

      Agree, Hoya. Too, I suspect Connolly’s withdrawal of the Motion to Suppress Victor’s statements comes from a realization that the voluntary nature of it was in the transcript – and he doesn’t want to unduly piss off the judge. I do think she’s likely to be frustrated by all the filings – not a single government expect is qualified? Please. She’ll allow the jury to make the call. As for the late testing, I have some concerns but the government has been saying all along that the blood test was continuing – just hope there’s not a continuance as a result.

  4. Clio
    04/20/2010 at 8:51 PM

    Well, at least, no one burned the pork loin! The third test above really seals the deal — start packing for jail, boys.

    How does one eat burned steaks? I guess that they used steak knives that night. Or, perhaps that Wusthof.

  5. 04/20/2010 at 8:57 PM

    These tests sound ludicrous; if the defense can’t block them I imagine the fun they will have : “ladies and gentlemen, consider a pork loin and horse blood…do you consider this the same as a human?” Furthermore, couldn’t the “real” perp simply have altered the scene himself….because it was altered doesn’t mean the three stooges were culpable. I do not have high hopes in the DC Police and this latest development is a bad sign. Right now they’re probably more focused on who mugged Kumar, anyway…

    • Bea
      04/20/2010 at 9:24 PM

      Wentworth, what do you suggest would be more appropriate than pork and horse blood?

      And, no, I can’t imagine any intruder cleaning up after himself let alone switching knives and wiping blood on one – that would seem to require turning on a light, and we know from the defendants’ statements that they had to turn on the light as they entered the stairwell 🙂

    • CDinDC
      04/20/2010 at 10:03 PM

      Wentworth…Doug Deedrick’s forensic fiber analysis was responsible for solving the murders of Kati and Kristen Lisk, and Sofia Silva, and identifying Richard Marc Evonitz as a serial killer. His fiber and hair analysis helped to convict Caleb Hughes in the Melissa Brannen disappearance, and he even helped to solve the mystery of the hole in George Washington’s revolutionary war tent….wow.

      Ludicrous? I don’t think so. I think those wee little fibers are in very good hands.

    • AnnaZed
      04/21/2010 at 11:15 AM

      Well maybe the mystery elf could have altered the scene in the dark in a strange environment (not likely, but for the sake of argument), but not in the time Joe alloted him between chimes and groans he couldn’t have.

  6. Rocket Man
    04/20/2010 at 9:19 PM

    And all this science, I don’t understand. But why are they using pork to simulate the body? Do they think it was Joe who was stabbed?

    • Bea
      04/20/2010 at 9:21 PM

      I can hear the snare drum. . . too funny.

  7. 04/20/2010 at 9:51 PM

    From the perspective of a juror, I believe after all is said and done the jurors will not find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Could a pork loin be the same as a body? Maybe. But I’m sure the defense will have an expert witness with 100 reasons why it is completely different, and why horse blood is different. The switching of the knives makes no sense for the prosecutions theory. They say it was a kitchen knife (due to the one missing from the knife block) but they say the one used is not the kitchen knife. Okay, well then why would it have fibers on it if it’s not the one used? There was a case in the paper (NYPost) of an intruder who went into a house and got a kitchen knife first before proceeding – this is a common MO of intruders; the intruder likely had his own knife, went to the kitchen, grabbed a second knife, went to the bedroom, thought Wone awoke, stabbed him and ran out after taken five minutes to move things around….it may not be what happened, Joe Price may be Satan, but any other theory is equally plausible. The sad fact is that DC police totally screwed this up and like so many murders in DC this is going to go nowhere. The obstruction case is a futile enterprise only demonstrating how weak the government’s case is; people rarely get convicted for this alone. It’s a tragedy.

    • Bea
      04/20/2010 at 10:38 PM

      But Wentworth, what intruder would wipe blood on a second knife? Why would Victor scream BEFORE 11:35 yet the 911 call didn’t come in until 11:49? Don’t forget, Joe was certain that he didn’t fall back asleep after the chime and before the grunt, so the intruder was in the house no more than 3 minutes – pretty difficult to accomplish much in three minutes considering you have stairs to climb and a man to kill. And this is the tip of the iceberg.

      • 04/21/2010 at 6:38 AM

        My experience as a former juror is that all these technical ‘what about” questions fly out the window as soon as the jury room door closes. maybe the clocks were set wrong, maybe someone remembered wrong, maybe someone mispoke. we’ve all had things we were certain about in our lives (hopefully not involving murder) only to be proved wrong and to be baffled by our certainty. If Joe and his lovers killed Wone, it equally makes no sense that they would put blood on the other knife. If the untruder was high on something, his actions might not seem reasonable to armchair sleuths. I had a guy break into my place while I was sleeping and I assure you it is shocking how quiet they are – this is a skill intruders develop in as calculating a way as any of us develop our hobbies or professions. So it is hard for us to understand that an intruder could do all this in a few minutes. From what I’ve read i don’t like any of the housemates, but a jury will be just like the cop in the transcript: what the hell was Wone doing with these deviants anyway? Was he so clueless about human behavior that he couldn’t pick it up? (I’m not saying this is how I feel, just what I think some jurors will feel…I say this because I’ve run the scenario by some completely neutral people and everyone – especially women, have said this). Thus the foucs will, as is often the case, shift to unconsciously blaming the victim. Price and his lovers walk.

        • Nora
          04/21/2010 at 7:44 AM

          Wentworth, I do not understand what you are trying to accomplish here.

          Most of us are trying to solve this puzzle and give an unjustly silenced young man a voice.

          You’re telling us what a jury of complete strangers is going to believe.

          What will happen will happen. What is the point of your analysis-free “predictions”?

          • CDinDC
            04/21/2010 at 10:04 AM

            As a juror, I would be more swayed by forensic evidence. Whether pork loin, filet mignon or lamb shank, I wouldn’t take lightly the forensic evidence the prosecution and/or defense will be presenting. Science is persuasive. If presented in a manner that is easily understood to a layman, forensics can seal the deal everytime. Depends on who’s more persuasive. Defense or prosecution.

        • AnnaZed
          04/21/2010 at 11:38 AM

          Wentworth, I take your point, I do. I hope that things don’t go as you are suggesting that they might, though they might.

          I think it is reasonable to take a position of never underestimating the potential stupidity of a jury. My hope is that Kirschner and company are experienced enough and deft enough to lay out the facts clearly and concisely enough that even the most obtuse among us can comprehend them and go from there. This is, after all, not the murder trial so the burden is different (not lighter necessarily, but different).

          As to the depressing certainty that many unfamiliar with this murder seem to have that Robert somehow was asking for it, behaved with incomprehensible social naivete or was involved in a sexual relationship with one of the defendants, you are right that this initial prejudice is one to be overcome but I think that at the end of the day it might have less of a deleterious effect on the prosecutions’ position than one might initially think.

    • SheKnowsSomething
      04/21/2010 at 6:42 AM

      Wentworth,

      Why are you still talking about some phantom intruder when we know that there simply was no intruder in 1509 Swann Street NW?! Are you buying the crap that Joe Price is trying to sell?

      • plumskiter
        04/21/2010 at 1:54 PM

        i tend to agree with wentworth. the police totally bungled this things from the start and have created huge amounts of reasonable doubt. obstruction is what you charge when you can’t prove the underlying crime. i can’t rule out the possibility of an intruder. conspiracy requires knowledge of the aims of the conspiracy and some action indicating a willingness to knowingly participate in the conspiracy. refusing to divulge what you found out after the fact it not obstruction. i think the police made a mess of handling the crime scene and the interrogations and that the defense will be able to exploit the hundreds of unanswered and now unanswerable questions to get a not guilty verdict. my impression is that this site is for anyone who is interested in this fascinating case to discuss it. i don’t blame the victim, and i don’t think the jury will – i’d like to think a 2010 jury will be more enlightened than the police were, and i want to see whoever killed robert wone be convicted. but i think the police guaranteed that that will never happen, short of a credible confession, by their handling of the crime scene.

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