Wednesday, June 22, 2005

June 20th Court Watch

Court began Monday morning with the defense lawyers and the ADA discussing (out of the presence of the jury) which photographs would be admitted into evidence. Jose Merel's attorney Mr. Dubois wanted 6 photos; Cazares' attorney Serra wanted only one :"They (the photos) are too gruesome...will be prejudicial and have no probative value."

The photos are what they are, and they reflect the brutality of the crime--the savage beating and murder of a 17 year old. Dubois entertained a motion to sever--meaning that he might want seperate trial for his client Merel.

Ultimately, the judge ruled that most of the photos would be admitted. The jury came into court at 9:45 AM.

The medical examiner Dr. Sharon Van Meter took the stand. She has been a doctor of pathology for over 30 years, and as a member of the Western Medical Group, provides medical services to the Alameda County Coroner's office. Van Meter examined the body, and determined the cause of death to be "asphyxia (from strangulation) in association with blunt force trauma to the head." The victim was alive at the time of strangulation, and she may or may not have been conscious. The trauma alone could have been fatal.

Serra: "What instrument caused the trauma/lacerations? Could it have been a can?"
Van Meter:"Yes."
Serra: "Fry pan?"
Van Meter: "Yes."
Serra: "A shovel?"
Van Meter: "Yes."
Serra: "A weight?"
Van Meter: "Yes."
Serra: "You can't tell us exactly (what caused the trauma)?"
Van Meter: "No I can't."

Dubois, in his opening statement, described Merel's assault as "glancing" blows. But, Van Meter testified that there was no evidence of "scraping," so "glancing" blows would seem unlikely.

One of the distinct characteristics that define a hate crime is the over-kill factor--the extreme violence that perpetrators use. Van Meter testified that there were indeed a number of post-mortem lesions over Gwen's body: "Yes...a (large) number of areas--over the back, abdomen, knees, left-forward chest, right forearm and thigh and knee, back of left forearm..."

In other words, they were still beating the life out of her, after she was already dead.

Van Meter testified that nearly 4 feet of rope was used--that there were "numerous lengths of rope" used and that the free ends were knotted. Her wrists were bound multiple times; the rope extended down the side of her body, around her ankles, too, and her chest. Jaron Nabors testified she had been "knocked out" and was unconscious, and that Magidson asked him for his knife to cut the rope. But why all the rope, the intricacies of cutting the pieces of rope, and tying the pieces in such an elaborate way? Did Magidson have some weird rope fetish, some sociopathic fantasy involving rope/restriction--what? Gwen's predicament certainly presented a perfect opportunity to for him to act this out, were Magidson so inclined. It 's very disturbing.

Mr. Serra in his cross examination of Van Meter asked her to detail the toxicology report on Gwen's blood alcohol content and drugs found in her system. Although it is an allowable line of questioning, it feels like he is again blaming the victim for her cirmumstances and impunes her character. Gwen Araujo is not on trial for her own murder, so such questions should be irrelevant.

Next on the stand--the investigator from the DA's office who read Cazares' testimony from the last trial, then a sergeant/detective who interviewed Cazares a couple of weeks after the murder, and the videotape of that interview. But this courtwatch participant has a had a long day--I will update soon.

Court watch continues this Monday June 27th at the Hayward Hall of Justice, 24404 Amador Street, Hayward in Courtrroom 510, 2nd Floor. Please try and come to court and support Gwen's family when you can--thanks.

--Connie Champagne


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:41 AM  
Anonymous Adrianna said...

Thank you so much for chronicling this. I've added it to my bookmarks and will check nup often.

Thank you!

4:14 PM  
Blogger Gwen said...

'n' here I thought you were a-gonna mention Me, Connie. ;-)

Gwen Smith

9:24 AM  
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