What were we saying about stepping on the gas earlier?
11:30, Det. Daniel Whalen was called. A 27+ year veteran of the MPD, and homicide detective for over 20.
Whalen was investigating the August 2nd murder, but it was the 1509 Swann burglary that brought him to court. AUSA Glenn Kirschner engaged Whalen on a meeting he had November 8, 2006, with Joe Price and his attorney Kathy Voelcker at Sam’s Pawn Shop, conveniently located on 14th street near Swann.
Joe identified several items as his, and provided Whalen with background: Michael’s health status, his drug and mental health issues, Michael’s posession of the key and security code to Swann. Discussion also followed as to Hinton’s phone call, his identification of the car still containing stolen electronics, and Joe’s suspicions that his brother was involved.
Cross from David Schertler and Bernie Grimm followed, eliciting from Whalen, Joe’s forth-coming and helpful nature on the matter (thus attempting to poke holes in the state-of-mind arguments). Did Joe help with Michael’s medicines? Yes. His finances? Yes. Did he occasionally demonstrate ‘tough love’ by trying to help Michael kick the stuff and become responsible. In defense eyes: Joe Price = humanitarian.
Whalen stepped down at 12:15, followed immediately by Officer Leother Strong, an MPD evidence tech for 6 years.
Photos were introduced of Strong’s work at Swann: dusting the BMW for prints, and taking photos. The sides of the car from end to end were dusted; nothing was found – not prints or any other indentations. The mid-section of the car wasn’t dusted, he told Kirschner, because latent dirt there would have demonstrated prints. On cross, he told Schertler that neither bumper had been dusted.
Here’s where it gets more interesting. The government and the defense are at this moment trying to work agreement on several stipulations that would obviate the need for any other witnesses, save one tomorrow morning: Dr. David Fowler. If agreement is reached, trial will adjourn this afternoon, followed by Fowler tomorrow morning.
Also tomorrow morning, Leibovitz made clear her deadline for Rule 29 filings. No delay. No excuses. An outline if necessary, but she will move immediately to Rule 29 at the close of the government’s case.
The day began with Louis Hinton attorney Barry Pollack arguing his client had standing to invoke his 5th amendment rights against self incrimination. His argument in brief: although Hinton had testified before a grand jury on these matters earlier, circumstances had substantially changed…as in, he went from being a witness in the government’s eyes to a possible suspect.
It was an interesting legal debate regarding the Ellis decision and incrimination…but for naught. Leibovitz ruled she would compel testimony, although with a warning to the prosecution that it would be tightly limited on relevance grounds.
What did we learn? Mr. Hinton had a 8 or 9 year relation with Michael Price, knew Joe well, spent a fair amount of time with the defendants, and had discussions with Joe several times during the night of the burglary. Further, Hinton was asked about instances of support for Michael from Joe, and other instances of what might be called ‘tough love.’
He was never asked on direct, cross or re-direct, where either he or Michael Price were the night of the murder. With clear direction from Leibovitz, Hinton would only play a small role at most in this case.
NEXT UP: State of Maryland Chief Medical Examiner Dr. David R. Fowler to take the stand later this morning.
Earlier updates follow.
8:30am Update: Tuesday Morning Hash
Trial reconvenes at 9:30 in 310 Moultrie today with witness for the prosecution Louis Hinton. Well…sort of. Hinton will be bringing his attorney with him, and is likely to invoke, so his testimony may be somewhat adversarial. We shall see.
Say What?! There seems to have been lots of discussion, and some confusion over Scott Hixson’s testimony. First to make clear, when he referred to “…the night before…”, he was not in any way referencing the night of Robert’s murder. What’s unclear is what exactly he said…and meant.
To the best of our ability, we recall Hixson saying he had been “…with someone who the night before had been with…” Uh, with who? And doing what? Very unclear.
He may have said “with them” or “with the three of them.” And whoever this person was, just what activity on both ends is being referenced? Social or sexual? Before Hixson could clarify he was soundly cut off.
There also was some animated discussion here about “underwear man.” Hixson was fairly clear on this. Going to his bedroom sometime between 11 and midnight, he looked out the windows – which face onto Swann and directly across from 1509 – and saw a commotion outside, meaning emergency vehicles and flashing lights. He then saw a man in “white bikini briefs” open the door, presumably for EMT personnel, but he couldn’t make out who it was. A few moments later he saw a body on a gurney wheeled out.
Hixson says he was at this point increasingly distraught: he didn’t know what had happened or who might have been injured, or worse. He says he then went downstairs and watched from the windows there, not sure what to do. It was some bit later he saw the three Swann Street housemates leave the house and enter the cars that would transport them to the VCB.
Get On With It Not only is Judge Lynn Leibovitz intent on moving the trial forward with no breaks, she clearly wants a little more accelerator and less brake (*ahem*) from both teams. Her growing frustration with AUSA Patrick Martin reached its boil point yesterday: a series of prompts and requests to “get on with it” apparently not working, she finally seized control and one point and questioned witness Hixson on a specific point. Hers elicited one of the clearest statements from Hixson all day.
Presidents Day Yesterday we heard of Jefferson Wilson’s role introducing Price, Zaborsky and Ward to Hixson. By some twist of fate, the man with two President’s names was also in Moultrie yesterday – as a juror. At lunch break Wilson met with all three defendants in what appeared a genuinely amicable group. Smiles and hugs all around.
What Day Is It? There’s been small confusion over what trial day we’re at. Recall that day 13 was, in effect, a punt. However we did post a “Day 13 Update” and so, to keep things straight, we began yesterday with day 14. So for those keeping score at home, today is actually the 14th official day of trial. Sticklers are advised to consider this a leap year.
Artwork courtesy of WTTG-TV and William Hennessy, Jr.