Tara Ragone completed testimony and cross. She yielded another headline regarding what Joe Price may have done with the knife.
The day ended with AUSA T. Patrick Martin starting his direct of MPD Homicide Detective Bryan Waid.
In between all that was even more discussion on the admissability of the defendants’ statements. Of course there was.
Full recap on the day hits around 7:00pm.
William and Mary friend of both Robert Wone and Joe Price, Tara Ragone took the stand following the lunch break. She detailed her communications with Price following the murder, emails and phone conversations. Her first call with Joe was on the Sunday following the murder, her second on August 18.
From the second phone chat she said to him directly, perhaps prompted by the initial media stories, “If the scene was tampered with, I’d have real problems with that!”
According to Ragone, Price’s response was, “There’s a big difference between tampering and wiping away some blood, freaking out about a crime scene.”
More updates follow.
Bernie Grimm’s cross of Sarah Morgan elicited some key points: mostly centered on the supposed lack of concern about doors being locked at 1509, day or night. On the afternoon of August 2 when she came home, Morgan said she could tell the back patio door was unlatched and unlocked.
She considered the neighborhood “somewhat dangerous” and kept on her three housemates about unlocked doors. Once while coming home, the front door was ajar with Price’s keys still in the lock. He was inside at home that time.
Her overnight with Tom and John was arranged on the fly, she testified. Grimm walked her through the series of phone calls from the Price brothers and her time at the VCB and Cosi on the morning after the murder. She said Joe Price told her the police accused him of trying to “gay Robert up.”
Grimm went to lengths to make it clear that none of the housemates were “out to get Robert” or that they had never said an unkind word about him. She said as far as she knew, that was the case.
At a follow up luncheon she had with Price at the Daily Grille, she said Joe told her that upon discovering Robert, he tried to feel for his pulse. Morgan testified that she saw herself as an integral member of the larger family: she met the parents of Ward and Zaborsky who had overnighted at 1509 and was at home while the two children of Price and Zaborsky were there.
Again she said they were a “cohesive unit,” and in response to a Grimm question, said that while she saw incidences of tempers, hurt feelings, and arguments among the three, they never escalalted to physical violence.
Asked by Grimm if Price was the dominant “voice” in the relationship, she said Price’s “voice was more frequent,” and then in her first sign of emotion other than tearing up, she giggled.
Schertler’s cross was next and he quizzed her about the extent of the relationships: did they all socialize together and travel with each other? Yes, twice to Italy. Morgan considered herself very much a part of the family, all were very happy and content, and that she witnessed no jealousies or tensions.
Asked if Ward and Zaborsky were “controlled by Price,” she said no. When the basement unit was flooded and contractors were replacing drywall in her apartment, she said she stayed in Ward’s rear bedroom and was never awoken by any sounds in the house. Another giggle.
Zaborsky counsel Tom Connolly’s cross was ten minutes long. She said she believed that the threesome were “emotionally distraught and sincere” after the murder. Zaborsky told her that he was glad she was not there when it happened and that all he wanted more than anything was to see his parents.
In Zaborsky’s telling of the night’s events, he told her that while on the phone with 9-1-1, that he brought down the towel for Price to use as first aid. Certainly, Tom Connolly wasn’t going to ask her why Price didn’t grab one of the available towels that were sitting on the back of the guestroom chair. Those went undisturbed all night it appears.
Judge Leibovitz had questions of her own for Morgan. Did she consider herself part of the family? Yes. Did Price, Ward and Zaborsky confide in her on personal issues? Yes. Did they share their relationship problems with her? No. Did any appear that summer to be stewing about anything? No. Was she aware of any relationship issues? No. Did she ever press either of the three for additional details about the alleged intruder and murder? No.
Schertler was allowed a quick recross and asked Morgan why she didn’t ask any more questions about the night of August 2. Was she aware the three had hired attorneys? Yes, she was. Was she aware of any discord in the house? No.
Connolly passed on a chance to recross and Kirschner began his twenty minutes of redirect. When she left 1509 on the evening of August 2 at 6:00pm, did she set the alarm? Yes, and she also set the internal motion detectors.
When she heard from the Swann neighbor Chuck Wolf about his house being burglarized, did she share any of that with her three housemates? No she didn’t; perhaps an odd response from the most security-conscious member of the family.
Kirscnher then started talking trash…literally. When the garbage cans were washed out by Price or Zaborsky, how were they placed in the parking area? They were turned upside down she said. When all retired for the evening, were the first floor lights turned out? Yes. When she slept in Ward’s room, did the A/C disturb her? Morgan said she was not bothered by it.
Kirschner closed by asking Morgan if it was possible that there were aspects of her housemates’ interpersonal relationships that she may have been unaware of. Yes, she said it was possible.
Judge Lebovitz recessed for the lunch break at 1:00pm and the trial will reconvene at 2:00pm. It’s unclear who the next government witness will be, perhaps it’s Detective Brian Waid.
Earlier updates after the jump.
AUSA Glenn Kirschner’s direct of Sarah Morgan wrapped up at 10:45am. She detailed her set of phone calls from Joe and Michael Price, her visit to the VCB and then to the Cosi afterwards.
She traveled to Cosi with Lisa Goddard while Michael, Joe, Victor and Louis came in a separate car. Joe departed, then came back with Ward in the car but said he was so upset that he wasn’t going to come inside. Sarah went out to the car to say hi to and give Ward a hug.
In a conversation with Zaborsky, he recited the familiar events of the night: grilling, a fire and back in forth into the house by way of the patio door. Later while following up with Ward, he told her that he was alone in his room reading and did not hear anything.
Morgan and the current state of the Swann Street Three, after the break.
Kirschner asked Morgan about the current state of her relationship with the threesome. She has not spoken to any of them “in quite some time.” She teared up at that point and grabbed a tissue. Long-time friend Zaborsky also showed emotion at her telling of the estrangement.
Then it was onto Michael Price and whether he had a key to 1509. She knew of his past history, and even though he helped her move into the house the previous April 2006, she did not want him to be a key holder. Joe assured her that he would not have a key.
Sarah was away when the home was burglarized and only learned of the break-in via a Washington Post story. When asked about the acoustics of 1509, she said sound traveled easily throughout the home due to its wood floors and she could hear people ascending the first floor stairs from her basement unit.
After the next break, a recap of Bernie Grimm’s cross.
9:00am Update: The Hypotheticals and Hypodermics Edition
When this morning session kicks off at 9:50am it’s expected that AUSA Glenn Kirschner will continue his direct with Sarah Morgan, the former downstairs tenant at 1509 Swann Street.
Depending on the length of her testimony and whatever cross examination the defense team has in mind, she could be on the stand most of the day.
What isn’t clear is what else Kirschner hopes to elicit from her.
It seems unlikely he will delve deeply into the lifestyle arrangements of her three former housemates.
Spag’s Star Turn: In a courtroom full of smart people, Ward counsel Robert Spagnoletti stands out. When it comes time to pound the complex issue of the admissibility of the videotapes and other witness statements evidence, his number gets called. He was in command yesterday arguing with Judge Lynn Leibovitz on the latest declaration from the government, to offer all statements for the truth of the matter.
Spagnoletti was firm in asserting this late course change by the prosecution has hampered past defense team efforts. He took the fight right to Leibovitz and maintained this was an unfair move and contends that she actually set up the government’s late pivot. Yesterday, Leibovitz guided the government through a hypothetical (a bank robber and getaway car driver), to help them more clearly focus on how she will address the statements of declarants and non-declarants in this three silo trial.
Spagnoletti pushed back and said, “You gave them a hypothetical to point out flaws in their logic…. (this wasn’t) an affirmative motion by the government to change course due to the Court identifying a problem… It’s fundamentally unfair.”
Time and time again, Leibovitz has reminded both sides that’s she’s capable of following her own instructions and is willing to hear more of Spagnoletti’s arguments and offer a remedy if need be. “I take seriously the switch in course and do want to hear the impact of this and what can’t be fixed by time,” she told him.
Price Cuts: Defendant Joe Price’s brother Michael hogged much of the spotlight yesterday, but it was not of his own choosing. Price counsel Bernie Grimm fought hard to keep the attention off his client’s brother, but to no avail. And he had no back up from the defense table either; colleagues David Schertler and Tom Connolly sat on the sidelines, not joining his effort to exclude testimony on Michael. How the rest of the government’s Michael gambit plays out is anyone’s guess.
My Cousin Lynn: We’re not alone when it comes to using Tinseltown metaphors in trying to describe the elements of this case and trial. Yesterday, Judge Leibovitz, in using a tire track analogy regarding Doug Deedrick’s imprint tests, showed off her silver screen cred from the bench. “If someone sees tire tracks in the mud, like in that Pesci movie…But I won’t be Marisa Tomei…”