The Anacostia Dialogues
The morning and early afternoon sessions of today’s trial were taken up by two of the first responders: MPD Sgt. Charles Patrick and evidence technician from the Crime Scene Investigative Branch, Curtis Lancaster. The afternoon session saw the screening of the first thirty minutes of Joe Price’s police interview from the night of the murder.
Of Ward, Patrick said, “Everytime he tried to talk, he was shut down.” After getting glared at, Patrick said, “he seemed to stop talking.”
Patrick was calm and clear on the stand. Price counsel Bernie Grimm questioned him on who was at 1509 when he first arrived; Patrick wasn’t certain. Officer Hampton was inside the house while Patrick said Diane Durham, once thought to be THE first responding MPD officer, was “…only outside.”
More after the jump.
Did Hampton take notes, Grimm asked “Did you (Patrick) see him writing anything down?” Patrick didn’t recall. Asked when Patrick reported the element of Price’s “stares,” Patrick said he shared it with a Homicide Division detective “a few days later.”
Zaborsky counsel Tom Connolly was next and once again played to role. His cross lasted only a minute with just a question or two about his client’s behavior. Was Zaborsky crying, grieving? Yes to both. “Did that appear natural under the circumstances?” Connolly asked. Yes, said Patrick.
Ward counsel David Schertler’s cross was also relatively brief and centered on where and what the defendants were doing when Patrick arrived. Did they appear as victims? Yes again.
Evidence tech Lancaster spent the better part of two hours detailing the procedures that he and his partner Robert McCollom used to photograph the crime scene, the dusting of prints and the bagging and tagging they did of the physical evidence. Kirschner directed him through the better part of 30 crime scene photos and pieces of evidence including the knife, bloody towel, the bed’s flat sheet and comforter.
Kirschner got Lancaster to say that the house did not look ransacked, the drawers were not rifled and nothing looked like it had been disturbed. Lancaster also characterized the state of the bloody items, saying the knife was “dry or nearly dry when bagged,” and the sheet was “damp to nearly dry.” Kirschner got Lancaster on record saying there was no instances of cross contamination.
One photo Lancaster took was of a thermostat right outside the room Robert was found in. It’s digital readout showed 76 degrees. This stands out because a topic of conversation of when Robert arrived was how hot his room was. The thermostat also displayed the time. More on this later.
The triple cross of Lancaster didn’t seem to reveal much other than what was reported earlier today about Dr. Henry Lee, an expert witness for the defense, on the loose hairs in the US Attorneys’ Office. On redirect, Kirschner was about to unfold the bed sheet in the well of the courtroom, but not before Judge Leibovitz could stop him…none to thrilled about a biohazard risk in room 310.
At 4:00pm the government called the case’s lead investigator, Detective Sergeant Daniel Wagner. Wagner, too, described his observation about his arrival and two hours on the scene. “Price led us (police) around while he told the story,” he said. “He told me an intruder entered the house and stabbed his friend. He came in the backdoor and showed me that it was ajar about a quarter inch.” Wagner heard nothing from either Ward or Zaborsky.
AUSA Rachel Carson Lieber then asked when he returned to 1509. A few days later, the same day they recovered the carving set from Ward’s room, in an “up high cabinet over the (Ward’s) bed.”
The interrogation room at the VCB looked cramped and nondescript, the walls, an institutional yellow, and just a few chairs. The camera was mounted in the ceiling and only showed a wide shot of Price and the two cops.
Wagner sat to Price’s left, leaning back in his chair casually with his arms folder crossed his chest. Detective Milton Norris sat directly facing Price and was the more aggressive of the two; a definite street cop. DC Street. The session did not come off as all that confrontational; the questioning slow paced; it was the middle of the night after all.
Contrasting with Price’s previous statements to first responders about a “black guy” who hangs around the Swann Street alley, Price sanitized his words and told the African-American Norris about “the guy” in the alley. At no time did Price appear very emotional or upset; he was matter of fact in retelling the night’s events.
While the tape was playing, both Zaborsky and Ward, along with most of the courtroom, watching the screen. We didn’t see but were told Zaborsky cried at one point. The screen itself hung nearly over Price’s head and he made no effort to swing around to watch it, even though Leibovitz said the defendants could watch it from a better angle.
The Wone family’s eyes were fixed on the screen, as was Zaborsky’s aunt. Ward’s father, cardiologist Dr. Needham Ward, watched the playback intently. Judge Leibovitz appeared to be more keenly listening than watching as the tape played, also reading along with the transcript it seemed.
The trial resumes at 9:00am Tuesday morning, with Leibovitz at another matter from 10:15 -11:15.
Sketches courtesy William J. Hennessy, Jr.