Tuesday, July 19, 2005

July 14th Court Watch Update (Vanissar Tarakali)

Courtwatch: July 14, 2005

Today was about physical evidence.

Four witnesses were called today. The first was a forensic scientist with "Forensic Analytical" (I didn't get her name). She was established by the court as an expert in DNA and Serology. She testified last year for the prosecution. The focus was on one of several weights taken from the Merel residence living room that she examined. She found what was probably a spot of blood, about 1/16th of an inch. It was probably blood (she was not 100% certain because the weight was too dark for her to see the true color of the spot, but the speedy reaction to the test she gave it strongly suggests it was blood), but she was never asked to analyze the DNA of this "blood," although she believes there was enough of it to do so. [As an observer, I wonder why she was not asked to?] Sera's cross-examination seemed designed to ridicule and discredit the witness, but to me she still came across as a credible, cautious witness.

The second witness was police detective Patrick Williams, who was present for the early portion of the October 18th 2002 autopsy of Gwen Araujo's body. He took pictures and observed. The condition of Gwen's body was described: her wrists knotted together with rope, rope around her ankles, rope around her knees, thighs, waist and neck. There were 1-2 loops of rope around her neck, and around 10 loops around her knees. There was a gag in her mouth and around her neck which was made out of a hairtie ("scrunchie") and something else.

[Here I remember Nicole Brown testifying that she saw Lida sitting on the couch with a gag made from a scrunchie in her mouth and around her neck.]

During Detective Williams testimony, pieces of the rope were displayed and the scrunchie was passed around. The rope around Gwen's body was very, very long.

[Court is hard. As they so casually pass around and display evidence, I am getting a picture of Gwen sitting on the couch, gagged. I wonder, "what was she feeling? Did she know they were going to kill her?" My feeling is, yes, she knew. I feel such grief and horror, and it seems really wrong that neither I nor Gwen's family (who must feel what I am feeling a thousandfold) can express feelings here in this courtroom. I wonder what it is like for the defendants to be faced with the rope they bound this vivacious young woman with. What are they feeling?]

One of the family members leaves the room, tears streaming down her face.

The autopsy photographs are circulated. Williams points to the blood stain on the part of the rope that was on Gwen's neck. Her head was "pretty bloody."

[Seeing the photos of the rope around Gwen's ankles, wrists, etc is really horrifying. How can the family bear to look?]

The bag with Gwen's clothes and a flannel sheet that she was wrapped in is produced. The sheet is taken out in a lump, and displayed. Then the defense lawyer changes his mind and it is put back.

The comforter Gwen was wrapped and buried in is taken out of the bag. There are bloodstains on the comforter, but the defense lawyer challenges detective Williams' assertion that they are bloodstains, because he does not have "scientific proof." The defense lawyer's tone and manner toward the witness is smart-ass, flippant. [This creates a flip, casual feeling in the courtroom which seems really disrespectful to the dead.]

A carpet sample the FBI cut from the Merel livingroom with blood on the underside is displayed.

Some tension and rivalry evident between Jose and Michael's lawyers.

There is discussion about the weights in the Merel livingroom having been moved around.

Next, the hole in the wallboard found behind a wicker shelf and cut out of the wall is passed around and discussed.

Jose's lawyer questions the witness in a very mocking, condescending, smart-ass way. Trying to put him on the defensive. The focus of this seems to be on Detective Williams not remembering seeing one end of the rope around Gwen's knees/thighs.

The next witness is Paul Merel Sr., Jose's father, and the leaseholder of the Merel house back in October 2002. He is also questioned about the hole in the wallboard, which Jaron Nabors had said was caused by Michael thrusting his knee into Gwen's head, and her head flying back into the wall. There is questioning about the typical location of the wicker shelf, which was blocking the hole from view when the house was first investigated after the murder. Merel Sr. says the hole was not there to his knowledge before October 2002. Merel Sr. was surprised that the hole had not been noticed at the time the carpet was cut.

The next witness was Kathleen Boyovich (sp?) the inspector with the D. A.'s office. She answered questions about 9 cell phone call reports she subpoenaed from the cell phone company, which tracked Jason's and Mike's cell phone activity as they drove. One or both of them had used their cell phones on October 4th, 2002 from 3 AM to 11:46 AM on a trip from Newark to the Livermore and then back again. This established that Mike and Jason were definitely up in the area of Gwen's grave.

Witness also testified she looked at the Merel house before the preliminary hearing and did not see the hole in the wallboard, because the wicker shelf, piled with stuff, was barricading the area.

After the prelim, she returned to the house, moved the wicker thing, and found the hole.

Kathleen Boyovich's cross-examination continues Monday, July 18, 2005.

-as observed by Vanissar Tarakali

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