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Vocapedia > USA > Law, Justice > Trial



John Evander Couey

enters the courtroom to listen to closing arguments

in his case at the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building

in Miami.


Photograph: Al Diaz

Pool via AP


Convicted sex offender

found guilty of murder, assault of Florida girl

USA Today

8 March 2007

couey_N.htm  - broken link































The Nanny Murder Trial

NYT    16 September 2015





The Nanny Murder Trial

Video    Retro Report    The New York Times    16 September 2015


In 1997,

a young British nanny charged with murder

brought shaken baby syndrome into the national spotlight,

and raised a scientific debate

that continues to shape child abuse cases today.






















The Anatomy of a Murder Case





















Ethan Crumbley answers yes

to charges against him from assistant prosecutor

during his pre-trial hearing

at Oakland County Courthouse on Monday in Pontiac, Mich.


Crumbley entered the guilty plea to 24 criminal charges

including terrorism causing death

and first-degree murder for the Oxford High School shooting.


Photograph: Clarence Tabb Jr.

Detroit News via AP


Ethan Crumbley has pleaded guilty to murdering 4 students at a Michigan school


October 24, 2022    11:10 AM ET

















 be presumed innocent until proven otherwise










pre-trial hearing >

plead guilty to terrorism and first-degree murder










pre-trial motions










in the gallery










USA > trial        UK / USA

































































tax evasion trial










rape trial










sexual assault trial










libel trial










trial > defamation claims










USA > defamation trial        UK










file a motion

to move the case elsewhere

because of extensive publicity








request a bench trial










go on trial










stand trial






stand trial on terrorism charges






be mentally incompetent

to stand trial






be on trial (...)

on a charge of involuntary manslaughter

in the death of N






at the trial of N








fair trial









USA > trials on TV        UK






USA > TV cameras in the courtroom >  televised cases        UK



















Alex Murdaugh swears to tell the truth

before taking the stand to testify in his trial for murder

at the Colleton County Courthouse in Walterboro, S.C.,

on Thursday, Feb. 23.


The disgraced former lawyer admitted

to lying about his alibi for the time

leading up to the shooting deaths of his wife and son.


Photograph: Joshua Boucher



Alex Murdaugh denies killing his wife and son

— but admits he lied about his alibi


Updated February 23, 2023    5:50 PM ET

















witness stand














swear to tell the truth










take the stand


























court hearings






opening statements






The Zimmerman Trial, Day by Day        2013


A synopsis

of the trial of George Zimmerman,

who was found not guilty

of second-degree murder

in the death of Trayvon Martin,

starting with the opening arguments.








civilian trial / civilian court / federal court






prosecuting terrorists in federal court






USA > Michael Jackson doctor / manslaughter trial        2011        UK / USA






















USA > Michael Jackson trial        2005        UK









corruption trial






jury trial






waive one's right to a jury trial






be tried for murder as an adult






Joseph P. Smith trial






Scott Peterson trial

story.php?storyId=4167697 - November 12, 2004





Enron trial








The suit was filed in May 1991,

and Exxon's liabilities were established at trial in 2001
























murder trial


























































homicide case










criminal case










criminal case > fraud








USA > fraudster > Bernard Madoff        UK















terror case > Jose Padilla










civil trial




kevin-spacey-anthony-rapp-trial.html - October 20, 2022










civil case / civil suit /  civil trial

O.J. Simpson civil trial        1994


Originally, O.J. Simpson

was best known

for his feats on the football field,

which earned him a Heisman Trophy

for his college athletic achievements

at the University of Southern California

and a stellar career

in the National Football League.


The Juice, as he was known,

later acted in movies

and became something of a pop icon

for television commercials

he made for the Hertz Corporation

showing him dashing through airports

on his way to rent a car.



Mr. Simpson is at least as well known

for his part in a criminal trial

that rocked a nation.


After leading police in a car chase

through Los Angeles area freeways,

watched on live television

by a transfixed national audience,

Mr. Simpson was arrested and charged

with murdering his ex-wife,

Nicole Brown Simpson,

and her friend Ronald Goldman

in 1994.


The trial,

which ignited a national debate

over race, fame and how both of them

corrupt the legal system,

resulted in Mr. Simpson's acquittal.


In 1997,

Mr. Simpson was found liable

for the deaths in a civil case

and ordered to pay

the Goldman family $38 million

and Ms. Simpson's family $24 million.


















Murder trial of O. J. Simpson > The Simpson trial timeline > 1994-1995














sex-trafficking trial


















wrongful death civil suit brought by N








courts and the judiciary










judge > media coverage


































be ordered to pay $30 million in damages





O.J. Simpson case


be acquitted of criminal charges

he murdered his ex-wife and her friend

but later found liable for their deaths in a civil suit

and ordered to pay $33.5 million















the case against N





employment discrimination case






USA > sex discrimination case        UK











pre-trial hearing





during a hearing




























in the courtroom’s front row






courtroom theatrics






court stenographers
























be cross-examined    (passive)










cross examination





















Scott Peterson trial






story.php?storyId=4227394 - December 14, 2004








opening statement
















opening arguments

























prosecutors > opening arguments










prosecutor > rebuttal argument










prosecutors > cross-examination










prosecution > rest its case / end its case



























closing arguments



























lawyer > closing argument





























reasonable doubt










"beyond a reasonable doubt"










degree of doubt










1943 > movies > Alfred Hitchcock's 'Shadow of a Doubt'

starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten
































































ask for a mistrial with prejudice










judge > declare a mistrial


























criminal retrial










avoid retrial

by pleading guilty to second-degree murder,

in exchange for one year's house arrest

and then probation






















civil case





child molestation case





child custody case





patent-infringement case















crowd of onlookers and reporters











Corpus of news articles


USA > Law, Justice > Trial




In Connecticut,

Gruesome Case

Set to Be Relived Again


September 19, 2011

The New York Times



NEW HAVEN — It began again on Monday, in a claustrophobic courtroom here, and in coming days there will be photographs of two girls killed in a fire, witnesses fighting back tears and testimony about the night and day a family endured horror.

It is the second trial in the 2007 home invasion in Cheshire, Conn., that ended with the killing of a mother and her two daughters and drew national attention as an archetype of nightmarish suburban crime.

The first, highly publicized, trial began a year ago last week. After a litany of gruesome testimony, it resulted in a death sentence for one of the attackers, Steven J. Hayes.

On Monday, prosecutors began their quest for a death sentence against the other middle-of-the-night intruder, Joshua Komisarjevsky, 31, a serial burglar and drug abuser once described by a judge as a “calculated, cold-blooded predator.”

Walter C. Bansley III, one of the defense lawyers, began his opening statement conceding many of the facts but blaming Mr. Hayes for turning the crime into a homicide. "Joshua Komisarjevsky never intended to kill anyone," he said.

Mr. Bansley described Mr. Hayes as deciding on his own to rape the mother of the family, to kill her and to burn the house down to kill the rest of the family. He said Mr. Komisarjevsky had cognitive difficulties and was unable to make quick decisions in stressful situations. "Not to be used as excuse," Mr. Bansley added. He quoted Mr. Komisarjevsky’s confession to the police in which he claimed he had told Mr. Hayes "no one is dying by my hand today."

Mr. Komisarjevsky sat quietly between his lawyers looking heavier and considerably older than the wiry young man arrested outside the Petit house on July 23, 2007.

A prosecutor, Michael Dearington, spoke for a few minutes, telling the jurors simply: "We choose to present the evidence and we know that you will follow it."

The crime provoked criticism of the legal system here because the two men charged were parolees who had met at a Connecticut halfway-house. The widespread revulsion at the crime is also widely believed to have stalled what had seemed to be a potent campaign to repeal the death penalty in Connecticut.

Despite the intense media attention that the trial of Mr. Hayes attracted, there is little sign that people here have grown weary of the case. Mr. Komisarjevsky has been cast by some, including his co-defendant, as the smarter and more manipulative of the two, so the new trial is expected to tell an even darker tale. “I am not the monster that Josh is,” Mr. Hayes once wrote.

Shortly after Judge Jon C. Blue of State Superior Court took the bench here on Monday, Jeremiah Donovan, the chief defense lawyer started on a provocative note, taking note on the record of the fact that many people in the "Petit posse" were wearing Petit foundation pins within feet of the jury box, which the defense has long argued is an unfair message in favor of the prosecution.

The defense lawyers for Mr. Komisarjevsky have signaled that they will wage a more aggressive defense that may include a searing portrait of the defendant’s life in an effort to avoid a verdict that could lead to a death sentence. They have described their client, who was raped as a child, as “a damaged human being” who did not intend to kill anyone when he burst into the Petit family home on Sorghum Mill Drive.

Mr. Komisarjevsky, like Mr. Hayes, does not contest that he played a role in the crime. Each offered to plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence. By now the stomach-turning details of what happened inside the Petit home are achingly familiar: The mother of the family, Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, was raped and strangled, and her 11- and 17-year old daughters died of smoke inhalation after the intruders tied them to their beds and set their house on fire.

The father of the family, Dr. William A. Petit Jr., was beaten with a baseball bat and tied up but escaped and survived. He testified at Mr. Hayes’s trial and is expected to take the stand again before a different jury here.

Mr. Komisarjevsky and Mr. Hayes have each blamed the other for turning what they said was a search for valuables in the home of a successful doctor into a twisted multiple murder.

Mr. Hayes’s lawyers argued during his trial last fall that it was Mr. Komisarjevsky who changed the nature of the crime when he sexually assaulted the 11-year-old, Michaela Petit. Mr. Hayes has claimed that Mr. Komisarjevsky directed him to “get rid of” Mrs. Hawke-Petit after Mr. Hayes had raped her.

But Mr. Komisarjevsky, in chilling prison journals that were read at Mr. Hayes’s trial, claimed that it was Mr. Hayes who changed the nature of the crime by strangling Mrs. Hawke-Petit. “He brought us both to a whole different level,” Mr. Komisarjevsky wrote.

Mr. Komisarjevsky’s prison writings may play an important role in the new trial as well. Though they may well be cited by both sides, all of the lawyers are likely to concede that they are bleak.

Mr. Komisarjevsky wrote that he considered killing Mr. Hayes. He gratuitously attacked the surviving victim, Dr. Petit, as a “coward.” He went to extraordinary effort, bringing up his own history of as a victim of abuse, to assert that he did not rape the 11-year old girl, but merely sexually assaulted her.

“I know what rape is, no one need explain it to me,” he wrote. He added that “enduring month upon month of merciless abuse at the age of 5 and 6 have gained me an insight of complete clarity.”

Mr. Komisarjevsky faces 17 counts, including kidnapping, burglary, arson, assault and capital murder. If he is convicted, a second phase of the trial would be held before the same jury to determine whether he would be sentenced to death.

In Connecticut, Gruesome Case Set to Be Relived Again,






Casey Anthony

Not Guilty in Slaying of Daughter


July 5, 2011

The New York Times



ORLANDO, Fla. — Casey Anthony, the young mother whose seeming heartlessness at the disappearance of her daughter transfixed America for three years, was found not guilty on Tuesday of killing the girl, Caylee Marie.

After nearly six weeks of testimony, a jury of seven women and five men rejected the prosecution’s contention that Ms. Anthony had murdered Caylee, 2, by dosing her with chloroform, suffocating her with duct tape and dumping her body in a wooded area. They did, however, find her guilty of lesser charges of providing false information to law enforcement officers.

In a sign that jurors had little difficulty reaching a verdict, the jury did not ask to review any evidence and reached a decision in fewer than 11 hours. Jurors, who were imported from the Clearwater area and had been sequestered for six weeks, declined to talk with reporters and returned home to Pinellas County.

When the verdict was read, Ms. Anthony, 25, who faced a possible death sentence, cried quietly, the relief made plain on her face. After the jury left the courtroom, she broke down and sobbed, hugging her lawyer, Jose Baez, tightly. She has spent about two and a half years in jail awaiting trial. She is expected to be released soon because she is not likely to serve any more time for misdemeanors. Ms. Anthony was also found not guilty of aggravated child abuse.

Her parents, George and Cindy, who lost a granddaughter and then listened in court as Mr. Baez blamed the family for Caylee’s death, sat stone-faced after the verdict was read. Prosecutors, who had entered the courthouse with broad smiles and to cheers, sat stunned.

The defense had argued from the start that Caylee drowned accidentally in the family swimming pool and that the death was concealed by a panicked George Anthony and Casey Anthony.

It was unclear if that version of Caylee’s death swayed jurors. But the circumstantial nature of the prosecution’s case seemed to be insurmountable. There was no direct evidence tying Ms. Anthony to the death of her daughter. Forensic evidence was tenuous, and no witnesses ever connected her to Caylee’s death. Investigators found no traces of Ms. Anthony’s DNA or irrefutable signs of chloroform or decomposition inside the trunk of Ms. Anthony’s car, where prosecutors said she stashed Caylee before disposing of her body. The prosecution was also hurt by the fact that nobody knows exactly when or how Caylee died; her body was too badly decomposed to pinpoint cause of death. And it permitted Mr. Baez, Ms. Anthony’s lawyer, to create a reasonable doubt in jurors’ minds — despite the prosecution’s relentless portrayal of her as a callous liar who sought to kill Caylee so she could lead a carefree life of boyfriends and bars.

“The best feeling I have today is I know I can go home and my daughter will ask me, ‘What did you do today?’ and I can say, ‘I saved a life,’ ” Mr. Baez said at a news conference.

Mr. Baez also denounced the death penalty, saying Ms. Anthony’s acquittal is an example of why “we all need to stop and look and think twice about a country that decides to kill its own citizens.”

This case was widely reported in real time through Twitter and cable television, and outrage over the verdict came swiftly as did criticism of the news media. But the public was equally captivated by the trial, with some people flying in to grab a hard-to-get seat in the courtroom.

Cheney Mason, Mr. Baez’s co-counsel, sharply criticized reporters and pundits for “media assassination” in maligning Ms. Anthony and sprinting to an assumption of guilt.

“I can tell you that my colleagues coast to coast and border to border have condemned this whole process of lawyers getting on television to talk about cases they don’t know a damn thing about,” Mr. Mason said.

Outside, Lawson Lamar, the state attorney for the Ninth Judicial Court, praised prosecutors for their meticulous work but added that it was a tough trial because it was a “dry bones case,” a reference to Caylee’s decomposed state, with “no smoking gun.”

Caylee was last seen June 16, 2008. Her remains were found Dec. 11 in a wooded lot near the Anthony home. Ms. Anthony failed to report Caylee missing for 31 days and created a tangle of lies, including that a baby sitter kidnapped Caylee, to cover up the absence.

The defense conceded Ms. Anthony’s lies, but said they happened for one reason: she had been sexually abused by her father and had been coached to lie her whole life.

Prosecutors argued all along that Ms. Anthony killed her child so she could carouse with her boyfriend, go clubbing and live the “bella vita” — beautiful life — as her tattoo, done after Caylee’s disappearance, proclaimed. They used jailhouse recordings of Ms. Anthony and photographs of her reveling with friends to show she was clearly not grieving.

One prosecutor, Jeff Ashton, called it “absurd” that Mr. Anthony, a former homicide detective, would find Caylee dead in the swimming pool and, rather than call 911, cover up the drowning, wrap dead Caylee’s face with duct tape and dump her body.

“It is a trip down a rabbit hole into a bizarre world where men who love their granddaughters find them drowned and do nothing,” Mr. Ashton said.

Mr. Anthony, who had testified tearfully during the trial, denied abusing his daughter and finding Caylee in the swimming pool.

Prosecutors failed to offer evidence or testimony that showed Ms. Anthony was actually a bad or negligent mother.

From the start of the trial, Mr. Baez, who began his law career in 2005 and three years later landed Ms. Anthony as a client, was often pilloried for his risky opening argument — the drowning and sexual abuse theories — and his failure to bolster that defense during the trial.

Mr. Baez delved lightly into the idea that Caylee drowned and said nothing more about the sexual abuse after the first day of the trial. Judge Belvin Perry Jr., the presiding judge who also heads the Ninth Circuit Court, barred Mr. Baez from mentioning the abuse accusation during closing statements because there was no evidence to support his claim.

Yet Mr. Baez successfully hammered away at the nearly 400 pieces of evidence that were recovered, including Ms. Anthony’s car. He also accused prosecutors of relying on faulty science to bolster their case and labeled the state’s work “fraud.”

As the trial continued, Mr. Baez cast Mr. Anthony as the villain who covered up the drowning and allowed Ms. Anthony to take the blame. And he detailed what he viewed as the Anthony family’s dysfunctional behavior.

The sheriff’s office also faced criticism for failing to find Caylee’s remains in August 2008, when a meter reader, Roy Kronk, reported a suspicious item for three consecutive days. On the third day, deputies met the reader at the crime scene, where he pointed to the area from a distance. Mr. Kronk testified that deputies found nothing and were dismissive. Caylee’s body decomposed over six months.

In closing statements, Mr. Baez reminded jurors that the burden of proof rested entirely with prosecutors and pleaded that they keep their emotions in check during deliberations.

“This case should not be decided for or against anyone because you feel sorry for anyone or are angry at anyone,” Mr. Baez told the jury.

Casey Anthony Not Guilty in Slaying of Daughter,






Defense, Treading Carefully,

Questions Accuser in Trial

of 2 Officers


April 15, 2011
The New York Times


She had been on the witness stand for some eight hours spanning two days, recounting gruesome, emotional details of an evening in which she said a police officer raped her, when a moment of levity interrupted.

The defense lawyer questioning her, Joseph Tacopina, was asking her on Friday if she had “falsely” accused his client, Officer Kenneth Moreno, of contacting her mother and brother.

The prosecution objected, and the judge suggested that “mistakenly” might be a better characterization. The woman, staring pointedly at Mr. Tacopina, told him with the aplomb of a seasoned jurist, “Sorry, rephrase.”

Laughter broke out through the courtroom, and the woman cracked her first discernible smile from the witness box.

Friday was the first full day of the much anticipated cross-examination of the prosecution’s star witness — the 29-year-old accuser — in the rape trial of Officer Moreno and his partner, Officer Franklin Mata.

Typically, the cross-examination of the central witness in a prosecution is an opportunity for defense lawyers to smear the witness’s credibility, ruffle the witness and be combative. It is often a time for courtroom theatrics.

But not on Friday. The woman remained calm and confident, flexed her intellect and even went on the attack in a few instances.

Mr. Tacopina, for his part, appeared to make a strategic decision to be gentle — the notion being that hostility toward a sympathetic figure might not play well with the jury. When he began his questioning on Thursday, Mr. Tacopina even told the woman to let him know if she needed a break at any time.

Edward Mandery, the lawyer representing Officer Mata, said the same thing when he began his cross-examination late Friday afternoon. Mr. Mandery will resume his questioning on Monday.

Despite their approach, the defense lawyers were still aggressive in trying to portray the woman, who has testified to having been very drunk the night she said she was raped, as someone who could not remember details of what happened and who had an ulterior motive. She has a $57 million lawsuit pending against the city and the officers.

Mr. Tacopina read from e-mail and Facebook messages the woman exchanged with friends in the days after the officers escorted her up to her fifth-floor apartment in December 2008 and she says she was raped, pointing out minor inconsistencies between what she said then and what she was saying now.

Of an e-mail to her roommate, who was in London, the woman testified that she wrote that she was “O.K.” and that the episode was not “violent or aggressive.”

She also testified that she had told a nurse at the hospital she went to that she was not physically hurt. But, she explained, she thought the nurse meant from an act like being punched. And she said she had tried to play down the episode to her roommate so as not to worry her.

“When something like this happens to you, the shock is so surreal,” she said, her lips quivering in her most visibly emotional moment of the day.

“When you are just trying to figure out what you need to do afterwards,” she added, “you tell people you’re O.K., even though you’re not, because you’re trying to get through it.”

Mr. Tacopina got the woman to concede that she had told hospital staff members that she believed the assault was between midnight and 1 a.m., even though she testified during the trial that she had no recollection of time.

Officer Moreno and Officer Mata had been sent to the woman’s East Village address after a cabdriver reported she was too drunk to get out of the taxi.

The woman acknowledged on Friday that in a surveillance video of her walking into her apartment building with the officers, it appeared that she was moving her lips, perhaps bolstering the defense argument that she was coherent enough to have a conversation with them. (Mr. Tacopina has said Officer Moreno was counseling the woman that night about her drinking.)

Mr. Tacopina tried to show that the woman was less certain about what happened that night than she had let on in court. He introduced several statements she supposedly made to friends, memorialized in e-mails or investigators’ notes.

In one of the statements, the woman supposedly told a friend that “I think I was just raped” and that she was “pretty sure it was by a cop.”

But the woman insisted she had never expressed uncertainty about what had happened that night.

“I never said I believe I was raped,” she testified. “I knew I was raped.”

She added that several of those statements were notes written by an investigator, not her.

“Honestly,” she said, “everybody was so shocked that it was the cops, it seemed unbelievable.”

Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.

Defense, Treading Carefully, Questions Accuser in Trial of 2 Officers,
    NYT, 15.4.2011,






Defendant Ignited Fire,

Cheshire Prosecutor Tells Jury


October 1, 2010
The New York Times


NEW HAVEN — A prosecutor at the trial of one of the two men accused of invading a home and murdering a woman and her two daughters contended on Friday for the first time that it was the defendant, Steven J. Hayes, who ignited the fire that killed the girls.

In his closing argument, the prosecutor, Michael Dearington, reminded jurors of testimony that Mr. Hayes ran from the house following the other suspect, Joshua Komisarjevsky.

“The last one out is the one who lights the fire,” Mr. Dearington said.

In a courtroom darkened so jurors could see slides of the victims and their home in Cheshire, Conn., which was ruined by an arson fire after a home invasion, rape and murder in 2007, Mr. Dearington repeatedly emphasized that no matter how much of a role Mr. Komisarjevsky had in the crime, Mr. Hayes played a crucial role and personally committed many of the acts involved.

Mr. Komisarjevsky has been a central focus of Mr. Hayes’s trial, though he has not been in the courtroom.

The two men face the possibility of the death penalty. Mr. Komisarjevsky is to be tried later.

Mr. Dearington, speaking unemotionally but somberly, reminded jurors that soon after his arrest Mr. Hayes told an officer that “things got out of control.”

“It wasn’t ‘things,’ ” he continued. “It was two people acting together.”

Mr. Dearington also reminded the jurors that Mr. Hayes admitted to having had sex with and then killing the mother of the family, Jennifer Hawke-Petit.

“Hayes had sex — having sex is not the right term — brutally raped” her, the prosecutor said.

In his summation, Mr. Hayes’s lawyer, Thomas J. Ullmann, offered a defense that seemed geared toward saving his client from the death penalty, but not establishing his innocence, while putting the blame on Mr. Komisarjevsky.

Mr. Ullmann conceded many of the charges against his client, including those that he raped and killed Ms. Hawke-Petit.

Speaking softly and occasionally shaking his head at the acts his client committed, he also said Mr. Hayes had committed arson, burglary and larceny.

And Mr. Ullmann conceded that Mr. Hayes took part in the kidnapping of all four members of the family, including the two girls, Michaela, 11, and Hayley, 17, who died from smoke inhalation, and their father, Dr. William A. Petit Jr., who was beaten but survived.

But Mr. Ullmann said that Mr. Komisarjevsky was the one controlling events; he portrayed Mr. Hayes as someone who never could have committed the crimes.

He said Mr. Hayes had not known that Mr. Komisarjevsky would change what he said had been their plan: break in, tie up the family, take money and get out.

Instead, Mr. Ullmann argued, Mr. Komisarjevsky changed the plan first by beating Dr. Petit and then by raping Michaela.

“The psychopath in this case is Joshua Komisarjevsky, not Steven Hayes,” Mr. Ullmann said.

“He should pay the price for what he did,” Mr. Ullmann argued about his client, “but not for what he did not do.”

Connecticut law generally requires what lawyers call “death plus” for a crime to warrant capital punishment.

As a result, Mr. Hayes could be sentenced to life in prison for killing Ms. Hawke-Petit, but committing a murder during the course of the rape would be a capital offense.

Mr. Ullmann argued that the rape of Ms. Hawke-Petit that Mr. Hayes confessed to might have been separate from his later strangulation of her.

Killing Michaela would make Mr. Hayes eligible for the death penalty because it is a capital offense under Connecticut law to kill a person who is younger than 16.

Mr. Ullmann devoted a good deal of his remarks to arguing that Mr. Komisarjevsky had a motive to kill the child: to cover up his sexual assault.

The 12 jurors and 2 remaining alternates were attentive to both arguments. In keeping with the reserved tone of the lawyers, they appeared unemotional.

A few of them nodded as lawyers for both sides pieced together narratives from what has often been disjointed, emotional testimony during the three-week trial.

Deliberations are to begin on Monday after the judge, Jon C. Blue of State Superior Court, gives the jurors legal instructions.

If Mr. Hayes is convicted of capital offenses, the same jury will hear a separate penalty phase of the trial.

The lawyers for both sides acknowledged the wrenching nature of the case.

Mr. Dearington displayed a family photograph of Ms. Hawke-Petit and her daughters for the jury on a large screen. But he referred to other photographs in evidence, like those of burned bodies.

He thanked the jurors for enduring “what has been indescribable evidence.”

Mr. Ullmann said the “the tragedy of this incident has affected us deeply — all of us.”

When he claimed that Mr. Hayes had killed Ms. Hawke-Petit “at the behest of” Mr. Komisarjevsky, Mr. Hayes, who was slumping at the defense table, did not stir.

In the end, Mr. Dearington argued, it did not really matter precisely which intruder took which action. Both were responsible, he said.

And, he said, both men had a problem because of the series of crimes they had committed.

“The solution was to destroy the house,” the prosecutor said to the jurors, “and, you may find, the people in it.”

Defendant Ignited Fire, Cheshire Prosecutor Tells Jury,
NYT, 1.10.2010,






Mistrial Declared

in Spector Murder Case


September 27, 2007
The New York Times


LOS ANGELES, Sept. 26 — The murder trial of the music producer Phil Spector ended on Wednesday in a mistrial after the jury, leaning heavily to convict him, could not reach a unanimous verdict.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office said it planned to retry the case.

Mr. Spector, 67, charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Lana Clarkson in his home in 2003, stared blankly forward as Judge Larry Paul Fidler of Superior Court ended the proceedings after the jury foreman had reported a 10-2 deadlock.

The impasse occurred after an earlier deadlock of 7-5 that jurors later said also tilted toward conviction. That impasse led the judge to take the unusual step of sending the jurors back to deliberate with new instructions, angering the defense.

Three jurors, speaking to reporters afterward, said the two holdouts gave credence to a defense assertion that the death of Ms. Clarkson, 40, a struggling actress, might have been a suicide rather than a murder.

The three jurors said the jury had also been troubled by the lack of large amounts of blood on Mr. Spector and the poor English of a witness, Mr. Spector’s driver, who said he had heard Mr. Spector say, “I think I killed somebody.”

Judge Fidler retained orders for silence, preventing lawyers and others in the case from speaking publicly. He set a hearing for Oct. 3.

Mr. Spector, the mastermind behind hits like “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Be My Baby,” escorted by his wife, lawyers and bodyguards, left through an adjacent courtroom without saying a word, free on bail.

He joins Michael Jackson, O. J. Simpson and Robert Blake among celebrities whom Southern California prosecutors have failed to convict in high-profile criminal cases.

Alan Jackson, a lead prosecutor in the case, sat glumly in a courthouse hallway as a spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office reiterated the judge’s order barring him from speaking.

“We’re disappointed the jury was unable to reach a verdict in this case, and we will immediately begin preparations for a retrial,” the spokeswoman, Sandi Gibbons, said later at a news conference. She declined to comment further.

Mr. Spector was accused of killing Ms. Clarkson, whom he had met at a nightclub hours before she was found dead from a gunshot wound to her mouth in the foyer of Mr. Spector’s house in a Los Angeles suburb.

Prosecutors said Mr. Spector shot Ms. Clarkson in an alcohol-fueled rage after she had resisted his advances. They presented testimony from five other women who described similar threats by Mr. Spector.

The prosectors failed to present forensic evidence that placed the gun in Mr. Spector’s hand and relied instead on a spray of blood on his clothes.

The defense, portraying Ms. Clarkson as despondent over her career and finances, presented experts and scientific evidence to buttress their assertion that she had shot herself, intentionally or not. They said the pattern of blood indicated that Mr. Spector was too far away to have pulled the trigger.

One juror who declined to give his name said he voted to convict, because given “the totality of the evidence, what was the most plausible reason she could have died.”

Another juror suggested that a psychological profile of Ms. Clarkson by prosecutors might have indicated whether she had been suicidal.

The jury foreman said some jurors were troubled with the statement from Mr. Spector’s driver, Adriano De Souza, a Brazilian immigrant, who admitted having problems with English.

The case was remarkable for the virtual second chance the judge gave prosecutors after the jury reported a deadlock on Sept. 10, having deliberated for seven days.

Judge Fidler removed an instruction that they considered confusing, ruling that it misstated the law on second-degree murder, and read them new instructions that, to the fury of the defense, included a few situations in which Mr. Spector could have killed Ms. Clarkson.

Jean Rosenbluth, a former federal prosecutor and University of Southern California law professor who monitored the case, said there was little more prosecutors could have done.

Professor Rosenbluth said she doubted that jurors were impressed by Mr. Spector’s celebrity, as he was a behind-the-scenes figure and his fame had faded from the 1960s and early ’70s.

She suggested that the defense had succeeded in creating doubt about the prosecution case with expert witnesses and said prosecutors had erred in not pushing hard for the jury to consider a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.

“A lot people may say this is just like the other cases, but he was not acquitted,” Professor Rosenbluth said. “He was almost convicted. I think this says much more about money than celebrity and the resources money can buy when you are on trial.”

It was the first televised Los Angeles celebrity trial since the Simpson case in 1995, but it did not attract the following or frenzied coverage of that or other cases.

Mr. Spector has not been behind a hit in decades. He is best known in music circles for his Wall of Sound technique, marrying lush orchestral arrangements to guitars and other staples of pop music. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he collaborated with top rock stars, including the Beatles.

    Mistrial Declared in Spector Murder Case, NYT, 27.9.2007,






Boy to Stand Trial

for Killing Principal


July 26, 2007
Filed at 3:24 a.m. ET
The New York Times


BARABOO, Wis. -- Nearly a year after a 16-year-old shot and killed his principal, jurors will be asked to decide if he was a bullied, immature child or a murderer bent on revenge.

Eric Hainstock is charged with first-degree murder and is being tried as an adult in the shooting death of Weston Schools Principal John Klang. If convicted, he could face life in prison. Hainstock's trial was to begin Thursday.

According to a criminal complaint, Hainstock told detectives he took guns to Weston the morning of Sept. 29 because he was upset that Klang and other school officials had done nothing to stop fellow students from teasing him. He told investigators he wanted to make people listen to him.

But Klang rushed him in a school hallway and tackled him. Hainstock told detectives he shot the principal three times during the struggle. A wounded Klang managed to take the gun from Hainstock.

Sauk County District Attorney Pat Barrett has portrayed Hainstock as a selfish liar who reacts violently whenever adults tell him what to do. He is expected to introduce evidence at the trial that in the two weeks leading up to the shooting, Hainstock threw a stapler at a teacher and a book at a student, saying ''I am going to laugh when everyone in this school gets hurt.''

Hainstock's attorneys, public defenders Rhoda Ricciardi and Jon Helland, have said Hainstock was bullied and that teachers looked the other way.

    Boy to Stand Trial for Killing Principal, NYT, 26.7.2007,






Insanity vs. Malice

as Motives of Rampage


February 23, 2007
The New York Times


When Steven Johnson, an unemployed barber who has AIDS, stormed an East Village bar in 2002 armed with a samurai sword, three pistols and kerosene, by most accounts he was propelled by one thought: He would die in a fusillade of police bullets, and his family would then be able to sell his prophetic words and use the proceeds to start a new life.

Only it did not happen that way. He did not die. He did not kill anyone. His family did not sell his story. And now he is on trial — for a second time — on charges of hate crimes, assault and the attempted murder of a police officer. As for the fame he sought, that seems nonexistent as well: aside from an initial burst of attention, his trial has taken place in an all but empty courtroom.

In the early hours of June 16, 2002, Mr. Johnson took the subway from his housing project in Brooklyn to the East Village, looking for “happy people” and seeking to avenge the oppression of black people like him, according to a statement he later gave to the police.

He shot and wounded three people and sprayed several patrons with kerosene at Bar Veloce on Second Avenue, threatening to set them on fire. He was eventually tackled by two women in the bar, then shot and wounded by the police.

To the prosecution, this is a case of attempted “suicide by cop” by a man with a record of weapons and drug arrests going back two decades. He may have been antisocial, the prosecutor said, but he was not mentally ill; he rationally, calculatingly, set out to harm others and gain fame for himself and fortune for his family.

To the defense, these were the acts of a madman, who is so delusional that he cannot be held legally responsible for what he did.

Prosecutors have given the jury a copy of a long suicide note that Mr. Johnson left behind for his 10-year-old son, telling him, “Trust me, you will be famest and a star just cause of me, and cause I follow Gods word.”

During the closing argument yesterday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the prosecutor, Peter Hinckley, played a tape of Mr. Johnson giving himself a kind of pep talk as he prepared to take his journey to the East Village.

Mr. Johnson could be heard talking in a slow, quiet, hypnotic voice, telling himself that he had God on his side, and urging himself on by saying, “Pull your guns on these crackers, son.” In the background, the incongruous sound of a child’s happy, playful voice was heard as Mr. Johnson carried on his monologue.

Mr. Johnson’s lawyer, Michelle Gelernt, of the Legal Aid Society, told the jury in her closing argument that Mr. Johnson’s words in the suicide note and on the tape were clear evidence that he was delusional.

“Somehow, his taking those white people hostage and burning them alive and having police kill him would cause a revolution,” she said, while anybody in his right mind, she argued, would expect no such thing.

But to Mr. Hinckley, the prosecutor, Mr. Johnson’s words were evidence not of mental illness but of a widespread phenomenon familiar to anyone who watches “American Idol” on television.

Mr. Johnson was simply media-crazed, and determined to get his 15 minutes of fame, the prosecutor said.

“The defendant didn’t have any command hallucinations,” or orders from God telling him to kill white people, Mr. Hinckley said. Rather, “he knew he would create media attention” by shooting up a bar, and he wanted his family to profit from his 15 minutes of “notoriety.”

Mr. Hinckley rattled off a long list of other people he said were similarly obsessed by fame, perhaps criminal in some cases but not insane. The list included Mel Gibson, Osama bin Laden, Timothy McVeigh, abortion clinic bombers, Palestinian and Iraqi suicide bombers, members of the Aryan Nations, and any number of amateur singers competing on “American Idol.”

“They are clearly grandiose and have strongly and passionately held beliefs,” he said, but they were not delusional in the clinical sense.

Mr. Hinckley was scheduled to end his closing argument today, before the case goes to a jury for the second time. Mr. Johnson’s first trial ended in a mistrial in November 2004, when the jury deadlocked after two and a half weeks of deliberations.

Yesterday, Ms. Gelernt said Mr. Johnson, who is 39, had told a psychologist that he had a “sixth sense” and that he believed that people were “scheming on him.” She urged the jury to interpret that sixth sense as something spiritual, a connection to God, while the prosecution’s psychiatric expert dismissed the phrase as a synonym for “street sense.”

Ms. Gelernt described part of Mr. Johnson’s past that could have been a chapter from “The Fortress of Solitude,” the acclaimed novel about a black boy and a white boy growing up in Brooklyn who fancy themselves superheroes. She said that Mr. Johnson’s mother had taught him to sew when he was a teenager, and that he sewed costumes of Spider-Man and Superman for himself. It was not clear, she said, whether he actually wore those costumes on the street, but certainly he had fantasized about being a superhero.

She quoted Mr. Johnson, who is black, telling psychologists, “There’s no war in the ghetto, but there’s a war in my mind,” and that he was “throwing rocks of words” as a way of educating people to the oppression of black people by white people.

Mr. Hinckley, however, argued that if Mr. Johnson was trying to get revenge on white people, he would not have been cooperative with the white staff at the hospital and jail where he was held, or with his white defense lawyers.

He said that while Mr. Johnson had a history of what he called “conduct disorders,” like fighting with other children and breaking things in childhood, he had not been hospitalized for psychiatric problems as an adult.

Mr. Johnson’s actions were criminal and antisocial, he said, but not driven by mental illness. They were, he said, “the actions of a sane, manipulative man, fully aware of what he did.”

    Insanity vs. Malice as Motives of Rampage, NYT, 23.2.2007,






At the Bar;

Where certitude often turns fickle:

Determining what degree of doubt

is reasonable.


January 27, 1995
The New York Times
By Neil A. Lewis


Correction Appended


Sometime this spring, after all the DNA experts have testified, after all the photos of Nicole Brown Simpson's bruises have been pored over, after all the witnesses have testified to when and where they saw the white Bronco, Judge Lance A. Ito will turn to jurors and tell them to decide the guilt or innocence of O. J. Simpson.

The judge will tell them that the standard upon which they must make their decision is whether the state has proved its case "beyond a reasonable doubt."

It sounds simple enough. But how best to explain the concept of "reasonable doubt" to juries has vexed judges, legal scholars and appeals courts for more than two centuries.

The concept of reasonable doubt is the barely-hidden debate lodged within the opening statements of the two sides this week in the Simpson trial. It is what Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., the defense lawyer, was aiming at when he offered jurors an alternative explanation of the slayings and when he asserted that Mrs. Simpson had blood of unexplained origin under her fingernails.

Mr. Cochran's purpose is to have one or more jurors say in the jury room something like this: "Well, maybe he did it, but what about that blood under the fingernails? I mean, who knows? Isn't that a reasonable doubt?"

Marcia Clark, a prosecutor, wants the jury room discussion to sound more like this: "Come on, given the trail of blood and the other evidence, it's unreasonable to think that O.J. didn't do it."

The notion of "beyond a reasonable doubt," the standard in American criminal trials, dates to the 18th century. When British troops arrived in Boston in 1770 to quell disturbances, they fired on a crowd killing five people.

In the trials following the Boston Massacre, historians report that the judge told the jurors that "if upon the whole, ye are in any reasonable doubt of their guilt, ye must then, agreeable to the rule of law, declare them innocent."

John Adams defended the nine British soldiers and won acquittals for all but two, who were convicted of manslaughter; they were branded on their thumbs as a punishment.

The reasonable-doubt standard is supposed to be higher than two others in American law: a "preponderance of the evidence" used in most civil trials and "clear and convincing evidence" used in extraordinary civil cases like loss of citizenship, civil commitment and taking custody of children.

For most of American history, jurors have been told to equate guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with "moral certainty," a phrase from an 1850 decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, written by its Chief Justice, Lemuel Shaw.

Justice Shaw in Commonwealth v. Webster defined reasonable doubt as a mental state in which jurors "cannot say they feel an abiding conviction, to a moral certainty, of the truth of the charge."

Many states, including California, relied on the moral-certainty component of the instructions until March of last year when the Supreme Court said the language had outlived its usefulness. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor got to the heart of the matter when she measured the words used in the instructions to juries by referring to a set of modern dictionaries.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a separate opinion, strongly recommended that states consider a model jury instruction suggested in 1987 by the Federal Judicial Center, a research arm of the Federal judiciary.

The key sentence of the recommended instructions is as simple as can be. It reads: "Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is proof that leaves you firmly convinced of the defendant's guilt." Justice Ginsburg said such a definition would be succinct and comprehensible to juries.

But perhaps nothing is as succinct as the instructions used in France. The French, who rely on a panel of lay people and judges, ask them to consider this simple question: "Are you thoroughly convinced?"

Jon O. Newman, the chief judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, in a November 1993 article in the New York University Law Review, wrote that a curious feature of a judge's instructions about "reasonable doubt" is that trial courts are reluctant to explain it to juries.

"I find it unsettling that we are using a formulation that we believe will become less clear the more we explain it," he said.

All of which suggests that this part of the law is far from an exact science and more akin to alchemy.






Correction: January 30, 1995,

Monday The At the Bar column on Friday

misstated the year of the Boston Massacre

in some editions.

It was 1770, not 1768.

    At the Bar; Where certitude often turns fickle:
    Determining what degree of doubt is reasonable., NYT, 27.1.1995,






The Nation:

O. J. Simpson and Susan Smith;

Two Crimes, Two Punishments


January 22, 1995

The New York Times



ATLANTA— ON different sides of the country, in different worlds of power and influence, Susan V. Smith and O. J. Simpson are accused of murder by unspeakable means. The difference is in the price the criminal-justice system will exact if they are convicted, in a nation where the application of the death penalty is inconsistent.

In Union, S.C., prosecutors say Mrs. Smith, 23, a woman once unknown outside the little mill town where she was born, drowned her two young sons in a dark lake and lied to the outside world for nine days in October, claiming a young black man stole her babies as she stood screaming at the side of the road. She made about $17,000 a year, worked as a secretary in a textile mill and drove a Mazda. Prosecutors want her to die in the electric chair.

In Los Angeles, prosecutors say the famous Mr. Simpson, who once ran untouched through N.F.L. defenses and television rent-a-car commercials, stalked and viciously cut and stabbed to death his former wife and her companion. He had assets of about $10 million, in mansions, beachfront condos and Ferraris. Mr. Simpson, whose trial begins tomorrow, does not face California's death penalty.

At first glance, or sniff, it smells. Why is a rich and famous person spared the ultimate penalty, yet it looms over a relatively poor, obscure one?

Somewhat surprisingly, respected legal experts on either side of the capital punishment debate say that while money is often an issue, it was not the driving influence in the prosecutorial decisions in how to proceed against Mr. Simpson and Ms. Smith.


The 'Mirror Theory'

This time, they say, the key factor is what prosecutors see in the faces of their communities, what law professors and lawyers call "the mirror theory."

"The life-and-death decision is made on trivial grounds, and tends to reflect the community's prejudices," said Franklin Zimring, director of the Earl Warren Legal Institute at the University of California at Berkeley.

In the past, the mirror has borne a predictable image. People on death row are still disproportionately poor and black. But this time the black defendant is wealthy and famous, and it is the white female defendant who is on trial for her life -- a rare prospect for execution, since only one woman has been put to death since the Supreme Court allowed executions to resume in 1976.

To make a death-penalty case forcefully, prosecutors still have to pursue a strategy not entirely unlike those of race-baiting prosecutors in the past. They have to transform a client from one of "us," a member of the human community, to one of "them," the predators who would destroy it.

That is hard to do with a football hero, and much easier with a mill worker accused of drowning her babies, even if she was an honors student voted "most friendly" in high school, said lawyers who specialize in death penalty cases.

"Simpson is like a member of the family, so much a part of American life," said Stephen Bright, an Atlanta attorney and expert on capital murder trials. "As a result, it is much more like having a friend or family member accused of a crime. Susan Smith is defined publicly only by the crime."

There are other factors, said Mr. Bright, not the least of which is geography. South Carolina, which leads the nation in incarcerations per capita, has a reputation as a law-and-order state. When Mrs. Smith was formally charged, a bloodthirsty crowd outside the courthouse screamed its outrage, saying she should be locked in a car and drowned in the same lake where her children, 3-year-old Michael and 14-month-old Alex, died.

"This is an opportunity for national publicity," said Mr. Bright, "to exploit the death penalty politically."

Even though capital punishment statistically appears to be no real deterrent to crime, and even though it has wrecked county budgets -- some counties have had to raise taxes to finance capital murder trials, which are more expensive that other criminal trials -- the embrace of the death penalty is driven by "the passion of the moment," said Mr. Bright.

The prosecutor, Thomas Pope, said last week he decided to seek the death penalty after hearing the views of hundreds of people, including the family of Mrs. Smith and her estranged husband, David.

Not everyone in Union County clamored for retribution in kind. Sheriff Howard Wells took a political risk when he said it would be better to spare his county the media spotlight and expense, emotional and financial, of a capital trial.

"What the Los Angeles prosecutor did was, on balance, braver than what the South Carolina prosecutor did," said Mr. Zimring.

But politics was also a driving force in the Simpson case. Los Angeles County prosecutors knew that putting a national hero on trial for his life might alienate the public and the jury that is drawn from it. The Los Angeles County Prosecutor, Gil Garcetti, "engaged in damage control," said Mr. Bright, explaining that if Mr. Garcetti had pushed for the death penalty, he might have guaranteed an acquittal.

Choosing not to seek the death penalty against Mr. Simpson, however, was not a departure from the norm in Los Angeles County. His case -- loosely defined as "domestic," involving a defendant with no felony convictions -- did not fit the profile for successfully prosecuted capital crime in California.

The decision was made by a prosecutors' screening committee that looked at all aspects of the case. Some prosecutors also discussed the matter with black leaders in Los Angeles. Mr. Garcetti's office issued a short statement acknowledging the concerns of the community, but said the decision not to seek the death penalty came "independent of those concerns." Mr. Simpson instead faces life in prison if convicted.


The Family of 'Us'

In the South Carolina case, Mrs. Smith said she was distraught over personal problems and close to suicide, and planned to die with her children. Somewhere, somehow, she supposedly changed her mind, but not soon enough to save her children.

But many in Union believe she killed her children because a man she had been dating said he was not ready for "a ready-made family."

It is her attorney's job to humanize her, to bring her back into the family of "us," and in that she has an expert in David Bruck, one of the nation's most respected defense attorneys in capital cases.

"It's very frustrating that I can't tell her story now," said Mr. Bruck, who will wait for the trial. "If I could, the public would take a different view."

Ernest van den Haag, a retired professor of law and public policy at Fordham University, believes in the death penalty and says both crimes are brutal enough to warrant it. But he does not believe Mr. Simpson, because of who he is, was ever in any real danger of getting the death penalty. And he thinks it is a tactical mistake to seek the death penalty in the Smith case, as it would have been in the Simpson case. "Public opinion is against Mrs. Smith now," he said, "but it will shift in her favor."

Mr. van den Haag added that the death penalty, like any form of punishment, is never exact. "It's a lottery," he said.


Photos: O. J. Simpson does not face execution.

(Reuters); Susan V. Smith does. (Associated Press)

The Nation: O. J. Simpson and Susan Smith; Two Crimes, Two Punishments,










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