And her name is, and her name is G-L-O-R-I-A
We’re forever thankful for the readers who show up at Moultrie, the extra eyes and ears who take in the testimony, and then send us their thoughts.
This past week, Leo, Interested Observer have made the trek and on Friday, Gloria sat in on the proceedings and gives us a very thorough readout on the sights, sounds and scene. From her perspective and background as a psychologist, Gloria paid particular attention to the interactions of the three defendants during Friday’s abbreviated session.
“Although I have followed wmrw.com avidly, today was the first time I had seen the courtroom. In the absence of the gifted courtroom artist, some observations about the scene for those far, far away to get a feel for it: From what I counted, two sections of seats (left and right, facing the judge) of 5 rows with six seats per row x the two sections. The press, including two of our intrepid co-editors, sit in reserved seats in the first two rows on the left side. I counted nine seats reserved by the press; as I understand it, if press do not show up within 30 minutes, their seats are fair game for anyone.”
“Although you encouraged readers to approach you to say hello and said we’d know you, actually, that’s not so easy. I recognized one of you from a TV interview but otherwise would not have known who were OUR very own reporters. Left side seems taken up with casual observers otherwise. Since the attorneys and defendants are on the right side facing the judge, like the bride and groom’s sides at a wedding, it seems that any supporters of the defendants sit in the right section. In the first row, a group of pretty young, blonde women who may be with the law firms as junior staff since there was some interaction between the young women defense attorneys and the first row of observers.
I intended to closely watch the trouple. However, every big haired or big headed person in the room blocked my line of sight to Joe Price so I couldn’t get a fix on him throughout. But I did keep Dylan and Victor in my line of sight. What was most striking was the distance between Joe and the other two, presumably by design. That is, there were no physical obstacles to him sitting closer or even adjacent to them. In addition, his seat placement was directly in front of and under the projection screen so he could not see exhibits projected on the screen behind him.
Nor did he attempt to. (I noted that Bernie Grimm, sitting in front of him, at least made an attempt to crane his neck to view the exhibit behind him.) It would be clear to anyone that Joe placed himself in the middle of the defense team (although not at the table but a row behind so he had to juggle pads of paper on his knee. He had pretty constant interactions with the defense team -– mostly with a few young women attorneys closest to him – but occasionally with the veteran male attorneys whose names are known by wmrw.com readers. (All defense attorneys were there today, except for Spagnoletti.) Dylan and Victor sat next to each other, again in the row behind the attorneys.
From 2:15 (start) to 2:50 pm, hardly a glance was exchanged from the twosome of Dylan and Victor to Joe although right after Dr. Smith went to the witness chair, Joe was staring at the two as if to get their attention, but they did not look his way. After 2:50 and especially during breaks (including 3 lengthy bench conferences), there was more interaction.
During breaks, Joe would slide over to talk to Dylan and Victor and in almost all these occasions, Joe seemed to be explaining points to the other two. Dylan or (more likely) Victor would make a brief comment to Joe (or ask a question), and his reply would be of some length without interruption by the other two who were intently listening. No back and forth; teacher lecturing students. Not surprising from what I’d read earlier on this blog. I think most people would be struck (considering the circumstance of their being defendants in a serious trial) of their occasional laughing and smiling, but I was more struck by signs of stress (in Joe and Victor) than levity. (You’d go crazy, day after day, with 100% intensity, with no breaks for light humor.)
To characterize each: Joe sat with paper pads on his knee, taking notes, referring constantly to documents, showed and discussed passages of documents to the young women attorneys next to him during conference breaks, etc.. His knee was jumping excitedly at times. Victor was the most animated, and his eyes pretty often were scanning the audience. Although his parents (presumably, his parents) were there, he was not noticeably looking towards them. (During a break in the proceedings, he briefly talked with them but no physical touch between them.
I wondered if they’re all staying at Aunt Marcia’s during the trial so that they know they’ll have plenty of time at night and this weekend to talk over things so didn’t need to during breaks. Victor even grabbed a chance to check his Blackberry at one point. I felt he was watching me a lot – maybe because I was staring at HIM much of the time? I got the sense that he was scanning new faces in the crowd and assessing if they were supporters (or at least neutral). He smiled when the witness (Dr. Jeff Smith) recited his credentials, seemingly pleased with the “get” of this well credentialed ER doc.
I found it odd that the only time he nodded (in agreement) were a few times when the most arcane and technical issues were being discussed, in a session of pretty arcane and technical issues. Hard to imagine he was really understanding and thus really agreeing with the twists and turns being discussed. Although he did the most smiling of the three, he also was in my observation the most pensive and worried of the three, a deeply wrinkled brow for example. In all, my observations of Joe and Victor were exactly as I’d have expected from others who have reported their observations of the courtroom on this blog.
Dylan was the defendant of most interest to me because I have always wondered about his very odd reaction to the EMTs — no response – no talking or gesturing; turned around and went into his room while all hell was breaking loose across the hall in the guestroom. At the time I read the reports of first responders, I assumed Dylan was drugged out or in a fugue state. But then we all read the transcript of his interview at the Anacostiapolice facility and were surprised that his seemed the most lucid of the three interviews. So, from the start, he was the person I most wanted to observe.
He was certainly engaged – leaning forward to hear conversations with attorneys/Joe or turning to the projection screen to view exhibits. There was a fair amount of exchange between him and Victor, sitting next to each other, but with few exceptions, the exchanges (usually a few words) were initiated by Victor. On the other hand, Dylan exhibited none of the nervous gestures of Joe (knee bobbing) or Victor (emotive, wiping his brow, head in hands, wrinkled forehead).
Cool as a cucumber. Throughout, I tried to think of a situation to which to compare his attitude – as a rather passive, mildly interested bystander, rather than as a defendant in his own trial. Someone watching an interesting play or listening to a fairly interesting lecture that he would not be tested on later. Aloof, maybe. As if none of this really related to him but it was kind of interesting.
On 6/18 at 11:42 am Kiki wrote: “As long as their clients continue to want to join forces so will the attorneys.” That was a very apt description of what I observed. I did not see ANY indication of a break in the trouple so those bloggers holding out hope of a defendant “flipping” will probably be disappointed. I was surprised at the close working relationship between members of the three defense teams.
I did not detect a single incident in which the attorneys for one defendant were pursuing their own independent actions or strategy. It seemed like one huge defense team. (I did not expect nearly that much collaboration, since each defendant has his own representation.) And I noticed that the defendants chatted with attorneys from different teams pretty spontaneously, depending more on proximity than on who represented whom.
Dr. Jeff Smith: He estimated he’d been an expert witness 20-25 times, when he was paid by the defense, but in most cases, they were medical malpractice (in the ER) cases. I assumed that showed that he’s a “hired gun” and that medical malpractice cases show he’s fairly fresh for this kind of (non malpractice) case.
You caught this – Dr. Smith’s reference to the “perfect storm” started as saying there were “four reasons” but as you said he only got to the first (“stab wound to the heart”) before they took off on that but never returned to the other three. (I doubt that the other three are relevant, but …. Who knows?)
Judge: When presented with an ER expert, she asked the defense if they were not planning to call a cardiac expert. She was told they would not, feeling that Dr. Smith could deliver the goods (“for efficiency sake”). Doesn’t sound as if she was convinced that Dr. Smith’s expertise qualified him as a stand in for a cardiac specialist. Although Schertler, three times, disagreed with her, feeling that Smith’s clinical experience in the ER makes him MORE qualified in the area under scrutiny than a cardiac expert.
You could tell that the Judge is not only relying on Fowler’s testimony but remembers it well. She brought up his testimony (as if it were the gold standard) a few times while Dr. Smith was testifying.Judge to Amy Richardson: “What opinion are you trying to elicit from (the witness)?”
Interesting point not picked up. Maybe so subtle that I misread it and overinterpreted, but for what it’s worth…. When Dr. Smith was being grilled by the defense (making the point that he had not examined Robert but was depending on written notes by other “officials and medical personnel” on site at the house and in the ER), he mentioned that he knew EMT Baker. That Baker had more than 20 years of experience as an EMT and is, in Dr. Smith’s opinion, extremely competent.
I noticed the Judge quickly looking to the defense to see if there would be a comeback or comment from the defense, and she seemed a tad surprised that there were none. I took that to mean that Smith was in effect (but not realizing it) buttressing prosecution witness Baker’s opinions and observations on the scene at the house. Remember that Baker had commented, upon leaving the witness stand – “tough crowd.”
Schertler asked for a break for the defense team to organize. The judge said she had to hear a plea at 3:30 anyway, so called a break until 3:45. After she heard the plea which ran more than 15 minutes, she called for another (10 min.) break because the court reporter needed a break. I stayed to watch how she handled the plea. Unlike her sometimes impatience and clear intent to move things along at warp speed with the Wone case, she took plenty of time hearing the plea.
It was routine but she dotted every I and crossed every t. It was the case of a heroin addicted woman who killed her cocaine addicted husband and immediately called 911 to report it and admitted guilt. (Sounded like self defense to me.) The woman was plea bargaining for a sentence of 7.5-8 years. The judge was infinitely patient, making sure the woman understood her rights, etc. Just sayin’. Oh, and in setting a date for sentencing, she posited a date in September but the defense attorney gently reminded her that it was a “holiday” for him. She caught it – oooops, that’s MY Jewish holiday too!! Rosh Hashunah. Chuckle from the knowing in the crowd.
Observations of Judge Leibowitz: Very, very impressive. While everyone else was drifting off from time to time – examining their split ends, yawning, checking their Blackberries, even reading a book (my seat mate) – she had to be “on” every second. (E.g., she questioned what she heard as “path of pathology,” when actually what was said was “pathophysiology.”
Not letting a single word go by that she did not fully understand.) The judge has to not only moderate the complex legal process but also has to fully comprehend all of the (often arcane) substantive content. Being onsite made me appreciate the enormity of her role as judge and jury, both. Either role would be daunting.
I was surprised how active Leibovitz was in questioning the witness. Certainly juries do not have that opportunity to directly question witnesses and obviously not to the level of detail that she inquired. (No jury would ever pile up all the questions she asked in the jury room, asking for answers to them, and of course, that would not be in real time, when the witnesses were on the stand. More they would ask the judge to clarify instructions or ask to see exhibits or transcripts.)
Not only is she clearly more intellectually equipped than almost any jury of peers that would be assembled anywhere, she also – in exercising the power to intervene by questioning – has a knowledge of facts on this case that far and away exceeds what any jury would be privy to. On top of that, she was mindful of administrative matters, such as breaking for a plea bargain hearing and when the court reporter needed a break. Boggles the mind.
The one negative was her snarky comment at the beginning of Dr. Smith’s presentation, demanding that the attorneys and Dr. Smith ENUNCIATE. I thought they were enunciating fine and felt that she was just reminding the doc early on who was IN CHARGE. But in other contexts, especially in explaining the process to the witness, she was pretty gentle, even touches of light humor. Example: Question: “Does this support or undercut your opinion?” Dr. Smith: “Yes.” Uh, WHICH???
Defense strategy: Actually, I was persuaded by Schertner’s argument, repeated three times, that Dr. Smith’s experience was highly relevant to the questions of PEA and cardiac tamponade. Even persuaded by his argument that an ER physician with Dr. Smith’s qualifications may be better qualified than a cardiac expert on these issues. (Presumably because as a first line ER person, he’s seeing persons closest to how Robert would have presented the first time to MDs, vs a cardiac expert who typically is called in for a consult for still alive, if critically ill patients.)
But clearly, the Judge did not agree with Schertler. Remember that the defense, after the third and final bench conference, answered her pointed query that they hoped to establish certain facts (about time of death, etc.) by Dr. Smith’s testimony so that they would not HAVE to call another witness (presumably, meaning one of their cardiac experts). And that this was being done for “efficiency.” She then referred to Dr. Fowler’s gold standard (my words) and that instructed defense attorney Amy Richardson that she needed to lay a foundation for her strategy with this witness. (Judge: “Why does HE get to say how long tamponade took after stabbing?”)
Since the Judge determined that he was not qualified (and that he did not satisfy her about the robustness of the scientific literature to support his contentions about timing of death), does that mean that the defense team will now have to take another shot at the same issues, this time bringing in a cardiac expert? Or will they concede the point and let it drop?
Moving Forward: Judge: What’s the plan for Monday? Defense: Possibly could rest on Tuesday pending defense clearing up “a scheduling problem.” Grimm: “Hopeful we can resolve the problem.” Judge: How many witnesses? Answer: “No more than six … give or take.” Judge: The devil is in the “give or take.” Doesn’t sound as if six witnesses can be cleared on Monday for Tuesday closing arguments to commence. Grimm: Mentioned the expert witness is in China at a speaking engagement and problems getting back. (Had mistimed when this witness would be needed because of the break last week.)
Later, he mentioned the witness is in Mongolia – apparently not realizing that Mongolia is NOT part of China but is a sovereign nation. Geez. Grimm said there was a possibility that he could replace the witness (referred to as a “doctor”) with another expert with identical areas of expertise. Judge warned defense there would not be “a big break” between the end of arguments and closing so they better be ready to go forward.
Leibovitz, ignoring the comment by Grimm about a substitute witness, asked if they could get the testimony remotely from the overseas witness by Skype or other electronic means, saying that she had done so with a witness in Korea. Can’t be done in THIS courtroom but “I’d be willing to try” with the court setting up audio and visual hookup. No pickup on this from the defense; in fact, Grimm seemed to contradict himself by saying that the problem was not “communications.” Oh?
Mystery Witness: I’m pretty sure the witness in “China” or “Mongolia” is Dr. Lee. Unfortunately, his website – which has a tab for his upcoming speaking engagements – is outdated, only listing a 2008 engagement. On the other hand, a google search shows he has been to Mongolia before. Mongolia is “out there” and exotic enough that it’s unlikely that any of the other intended witnesses would be there.
On the other hand, by now, the dream team must know that Dr. Leibovitz won’t be impressed by a celebrity witness. Actually, I’m now wondering if the defense’s not picking up on her offer for a Skype like hook up for testimony (at least, not that I heard) is that they’re feeling they should drop Dr. Lee and substitute a less colorful, more credible witness who can testify to the forensics involved.
On The Clock: The psychologist in me is currently obsessing over Joe’s recklessness long prior to the murder. (This is being fed by HoyaLoya’s current proposition that Joe should not be disbarred, etc.) Even without the current charges against him, if even 1/10 of the rumors of his behavior are true – drug use, partying, plans for x rated business, etc. – there would be a basis for some serious mental health problems.
We’ve seen some of this, on a lesser level, with politicians whose public persona are out of whack with their private behavior. Not sexually driven as much as compulsive recklessness – a form of “gambling addiction.” How much can I get away with? The private porno on his law firm’s computer is a serious, serious red flag. Inappropriate is the mildest term.
Real psychopathology there – and I am not given to diagnosing from afar usually. I’d be interested in knowing (but never will) whether his risk taking behavior was on a downward, accelerating slope leading up to the murder.”