The after-lunch session kicked off with a mildly exasperated Judge Leibovitz. Fifteen minutes later it was a very, very exasperated Judge Leibovitz.
Again she schooled the government to get squared away on how they will present statements, whether for truth or not for the truth. “Someone is staying up late tonight, it’s not going to be them (the defense) and it’s not going to be me.” AUSA Carlson Lieber was about to interject, but she felt it wiser not to stir the hornet’s nest any further.
Bottom line: the government cannot introduce any statements for the truth, except pursuant to the May 7 filing, and until the USAO gets squared away on their trial strategy.
Detective Lewis was crossed by Connolly and Grimm. Grimm peppered the detective on dust, dirt and pollen on the fence rail. Using a crime scene photo, Grimm tried to get Lewis to admit there was grime visible. “It was not clean sir. I don’t believe that’s an accurate photo,” Lewis shot back.
Detective Brian Kasul took the stand next and Zaborsky’s videotaped interview with him was played. Kasul, appearing more sophosticated than Dets. Wagner and Norris, took the game straight to Zaborsky. He was relentless in his questioning. The transcript does not do it justice.
But Kasul was no prophet. To Zaborsky he said, “As far as this murder case goes, it’s one of the easy ones.” Kasul watched the playback from the witness stand.
The late morning session began with testimony from MPD Detective Gail Russell-Brown. She arrived at 1509 about 1:00am, an hour after the first responders started showing up. Brown and her partner transported Zaborsky to the Anacostia VCB for witness questioning.
Then there was an objection. Well, less an objection from the defense and more like a lecture to the government on the line of questioning. Judge Leibovitz was exasperated. Was Brown’s testimony being offered for its truth?, she wondered…repeating earlier comments from the bench this week.
“I can follow my own instructions, but they (the defense) need to know…I want you to decide what you want to do, government team!” This admonition sent the three government lawyers scrambling to then call an audible. Brown was excused and their next witness was called, MPD Detective Dan Lewis.
Lewis was the one to transport Robert’s clothing from GWU to the evidence techs who were set up at 1509. He then surveyed the scene at 1509; in particular the rear patio area. He maintains he did a thorough search for any signs of entry, forced or otherwise, and saw none. No disturbance to the dust on the fence rails or any in the planter boxes, either.
A new element Lewis added was finding spider webs in the planter box trees and behind them on the fence. They all appeared undisturbed.
Zaborsky’s Anacostia tape was rolled next and half-way through the lunch break was called.11:25am Update
This morning’s session kicked off with brief testimony from Lawrence Grasso, a researcher in the DC US Attorney’s Office. Mr. Grasso testified to the data mining he did on the two addresses found on the cutlery box. Both people listed appear to have died nearly 15 years ago.
Next was a return trip to the stand of MPD evidence tech Curtis Lancaster. He answered several questions to specify the dates that crime scene pictures were taken at 1509 Swann.
At 10:15am, FBI Trace evidence scientist Keith Johnson began his lengthy testimony of how he and his partner Doug Deedrick processed the physical evidence recovered from the town home – including the towel, sheet, knife and Robert’s clothing. Schertler’s cross continued until a 15 minute break was called. Back in at 11:35am.
The trial resumes at 9:45 this morning in room 310 and is scheduled to go until 4:30pm. Judge Leibovitz announced that Friday’s session will start at 11:00am.
We’ll update as soon as we learn who today’s government witnesses are. Additional MPD officers have been seen lingering around the courtroom and in the holding areas over the last couple of days. It’s possible that recent Florida transplant, former MPD Detective Brian Waid is among them.
Heat Wave: It’s getting hot and hotter in Washington today, the forecast says 90. Both the ambient and emotional heat inside Judge Lynn Leibovitz’ courtroom seems on the rise too. It’s a cramped room and you can’t help but rub shoulders getting in and out. Tensions are understandable high, everyone is watching everyone else and each glance seems to carry weight. Moultrie’s hallways are a cool spot to sit, but even they seem to be getting hotter now too. Ahem.
The Dark Arts: It did seem curious that both MPD crime scene techs testified that no latent fingerprints, using the black powder method, were recovered from either the patio door or back gate of 1509 Swann. Whether that means no prints or no prints that didn’t belong to the defendants is unclear, but this may be a case of when no means no.
The defendants claimed they were in and out of the patio door that evening grilling and inspecting bugs on patio lights. If that’s indeed the case, and none of their prints showed up on the doors or knob, then it seems even curiouser. Contrast that with Joe Price’s apparent confidence in his interview, that police would discover the intruder’s fingerprints.
Family Ties: A warm moment of a different kind took place yesterday in the hallway outside room 310. During a break, Dr. Needham Ward gave Joe Price a warm grip on his shoulder, a slap on the back and a big attaboy. Both were smiling broadly.
Also, we may have been under a mistaken impression of two regular court attendees. For some time we’ve been misidentifying a member of Victor Zaborsky’s family, his aunt. The man and woman attending may be his parents. We regret the confusion.