The Wone trial officially ended at 4:59, Judge Leibovitz expects to issue her verdict Tuesday at 11am, pending any changes.
Wrap coming soon
3:15 Update – Who’s Under the Bus?
Bernie Grimm, for Joe Price, and Thomas Connolly for Victor Zaborsky have finished their statements. It was a study of contrasts.
Grimm focused only evidence tampering, in what might be termed a scattershot presentation. “The government says the only truthful thing he said was that he pulled the knife from Robert’s body. If he pulled the knife out, that’s proof it was the murder weapon,” he said in a strong flourish. He also suggested that three college educated men could surely create a stronger lie to throw the police off the track other than an unseen, unheard and unlikely intruder.
Tom Connolly began at 2:40 and wrapped at 3:05 – the only one so far to come in on time (or under.) “I understand the frustration of people for the lack of clear answers in this case. Mr. Zaborsky shares that,” he said, his voice rarely raising past a near whisper. Victor Zaborsky “…is a kind and gentle person,” he said at the top, and the end, and throughout, suggesting there is absolutely no evidence of Victor having any knowledge at all of what happened.
There was an interesting moment of separation, characterized by Leibovitz as “…throwing (your colleagues) under the bus…” But we are heading in now for the remaning statements. That, and more, in our final wrap post.
Earlier updates follow.
1:45 pm update
Doug and Craig are back in the courtroom, but I was there with Doug this morning, and wanted to fill in with some observations as we wait for the next update.
As the defendants walked in, the family members of the defendants were seating in the first row behind the well were the defendants are seated. As the defendants entered, Dr. Needham Ward stood and gave a hearty handshake, first to Joe Price. It was lengthy and looks like words of encouragement were exchanged. Then he shook his son Dylan Ward’s hand, and finally Victor Zaborsky’s hand. The rest of the family including Victor’s family remained seated.
More observations follow.
When Glenn Kirschner began his closing argument, which was very strong at the beginning, he went right to the human reaction one would have when finding a close friend stabbed, and that would be to immediately check to see if your (other) loved one, who was just down the hall, was OK. At this point, Diane Ward, Dylan’s mother broke out crying uncontrollably. Tissues were exchanged.
Glenn went on to say that this human reaction on checking on your loved one, in this case, Dylan Ward, and whether they had also been injured, belies the fact that the story they are telling does not add up.
When describing the conspiracy, GK focused on what he calls “the Mercedes meeting.” This is after the defendants had been interviewed at the VCB, and immediately afterwards when Price and Zaborsky gathered in the Mercedes owned by Scott Hixson.
Kirschner describes Price as now being in his a comfort zone, that being a Mercedes owned by Hixon, who was a “neighbor and paramour” and he changed his story on the knife — from removing it to pulling it out of his chest.
Kirschner then showed clips from the video taped confessions and contrasted what Victor said about the knife before the “the Mercedes meeting” and afterwards. Before the Mercedes meeting, he described in detail the knife and Robert’s body position. Detective Gail Brown drew out Victor’s observations, and VZ confirmed. That describition changed after the “the Mercedes meeting” with Victor now being confused about not seeing the knife, and how the body was positioned. This Glenn Kirschner said was evidence of the conspiracy and obstruction. — David
1pm Update – Shouts and Murmurs
Time is clearly relative in a courtroom. Kirshner’s :10 minutes turned into :45.
Kirschner again began strong, to show how evidence points to specific findings of fact as to their guilt.
The burglary was introduced to show state of mind “…of how the three respond when a member of the family commits a felony. They circle the wagons, and use law enforcement selectively for their own purposes,” he stated. “It informs the court how the defendants conduct themselves…they minimize, try to protect, and exonerate.”
Regarding Price, “a decision had to be made. Either sacrifice the responsible party, or protect a family member, and they jumped on the conspiratorial train.” Later, “Maybe Zaborsky joined kicking and screaming, but there was a certain naiveté and willingness to jump on the conspiracy bandwagon because he wasn’t going to break the Joe Price bond.”
“Without holding together, there was mutual destruction for everyone,” he said. Kirchner said the evidence was clear: Victor had a deep, abiding love for Joe, and would protect him, and Joe had a very deep and abiding love “…and an all-consuming relationship…” with Dylan. Dylan’s loyalties? “Unclear,” said Kirschner.
At this point, Leibovitz turned from conspiracy to obstruction, engaging in a vigorous colloquy with Kirschner. Throughout the morning, Judge Leibovitz seemed intent on pulling from the prosecution the strongest, and clearest, possible narrative. Speculating here, this may be a sign of a finder of fact asking the prosecution to build the strongest case of guilt so the finder of fact doesn’t have to.
“When did the conspiracy begin that night?” she asked. “What the evidence of agreement?” “When did each of them join, and don’t I have to find evidence of some conversation?” Kirshcner seemed to hit his stride when hitting upon the 9-1-1 call. Victor’s comment that “…we heard…” was proof of collusion at least, and conspiracy at worst.
Eyebrows raised in the courtroom when she asked “…wouldn’t I have to find that Dylan Ward was the killer if he entered the conspiracy?” “Likely, though it may be that Ward was the killer…” he said, Ward showed proof of having entered the conspiracy by asking if the back door was unlocked, and by shutting down when shot glares by Joe on the couch.
This, by the way, wasn’t the first mention of killers today. Earlier in the morning, under questioning by Leibovitz, Kirshcner all but said that one of the three of them had to be the killer. The judge later picked this up, on discussion of what Kirschner called the “33 1/3 problem”, saying in effect, ‘You have three people in a house, four at most with Michael Price, and no evidence of an intruder.’ Ergo: one of them has to have done it.
Leibovitz returned to a theoretical posed last week with Rachel Carlson Lieber: the loving mom and two sons. The mom finds a dead body, the sons profess ignorance and posit an intruder, the mom can’t believe one of her treasured sons did the deed, and so comes to believe their innocence.
“Is she lying?…does any omission of fact make her guilty of obstruction?” she asked. Unspoken but clear to all was who was being referenced as the loving mom. Hint: it’s not Joe, and it isn’t Dylan.
Legal beagles will make note of discussion of the McBride (sp?) case as possible precedent, Rule 1805 and its applicability, and whether ‘nexus’ is required. These observers heard a judge that may be looking at two defendants in one light, and the third in a different one.
Much more to come, but two room observations. At the beginning this morning, when Kirschner was laying with strong language the brutality of the crime and the involvement of the defendants, Diane Ward – with Needham at her side – burst into tears. The tears continued, though Dylan remained stoic (or emotionless) throughout, as usual.
“Am I done?” asked Kirschner at 12:30? Laughter, and an affirmative from the bench, followed by Judge Liebovitz reminder that she will limit the defense closings to an hour each. “Of course you will,” angrily said Victor’s mother, loud enough for all to hear.
After a brief, but forceful disagreement from Judge Leibovitz to a request from Robert Spagnoletti – “We’re going to have closing statements now,” she emphasized – AUSA Glenn Kirschner has held the courtroom for an hour of closing statements.
It hasn’t always gone so smoothly. “The defendants covered up the true circumstances of Robert’s murder…they’ve successfully prevented this murder from being solved,” he began. “They all actively participated..and they should all be held accountable….they lied, misdirected,orchestrated, tampered…”
One fact leapt out “…screams out…” for the prosecution: the defendants not checking on Ward in the moment’s after finding Robert.
However what began as a strong closing turned more into what resembled oral argument before the Supreme Court. Leibovitz has increasingly interrupted Kirschner’s recitation of evidence, repeatedly pleading for specific facts and inferences she – as the fact finder – must make to find guilt.
Kirschner gets :10 more minutes, no more. He better offer what Leibovitz is asking for if he wants to finish strong.
The line mob of spectators waiting to get inside room 310 is already long. A court official tells the crowd that the seats are already spoken for – reserved for family members, press, and legal teams. Room 100 is set up for the overflow and an audio feed will be in there. TV trucks are outside for live shots and reporters are filing in.
We still expect a 10:00am start.
8:00am Update: The Last Day Edition
There is only one item of business on today’s calendar. “Closing arguments will begin in ctrm 310 tomorrow at 10am” came the succinct email from the DC Courts’ Public Information Officer, Leah Gurowitz, confirming what we already knew.
This trial has ended. 40-some witnesses testified, under direct and cross. Hundreds of pieces of evidence and thousands of documents were admitted for review. Theories were floated and shot at. Questions – on both sides – linger.
So it comes to this: one hour for the government to sum up their case, three hours (one for each defendant) to rebut and defend, and one half-hour for super-closing rebuttal from the government.
And then by close of business today, it’s in Judge Leibovitz’s hands.
…Except It’s Not The Last Day
We will remain on high alert from now until we get word that Judge Leibovitz has reached a decision.
We expect to get a a two-hour heads up ahead of the ruling, nothing more. We’ll bring you immediate coverage of the ruling, and the response.
And of course, the story doesn’t end there.