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The Sunday Funnies

May 2, 2010

The Revolving Door

Monday will find us one week out from the start of the trial. 

As we gear up and adjust our schedules to staff the expected month plus long proceedings, we’ve had to make some changes in the line up.  The planned gavel-to-gavel coverage dictates this.

At this Wednesday’s, May 5 evidentiary hearing, we’ll know if we have an intern.  Someone reached out to us last week and we think we have our candidate.  If we find that he’s able to tolerate us for more than an hour or so at this week’s hearing, he’s hired.

This possible new hire will come at the expense of another longtime wmrw.com staffer.  Sent packing this week was editorial cartoonist Thomas Nasty, another victim of newsroom budget cuts. 

It’s with mixed emotions that we let Thomas go, but that didn’t stop us from rifling his desk drawers for one last contribution.

-posted by Craig with apologies to Bob Weber, Jr.

The Sunday Not-So Funny

May 2, 2010

Funeral For A Friend

We’ve come to learn from the Harry Jaffe’s Washingtonian piece that in addition to the hundred and hundreds of mourners at Robert’s funeral service was at least one member of the DC MPD. 

The turnout and outpouring that day should have been evidence enough for the detective to fully understand the magnitude of the loss, and if he was listening closely to the eulogies at all, he would have truly appreciated the impact Robert had in his too-short life.

One friend from William and Mary who attended that day as well, reached out to us some time ago to share what seemed to be another dynamic at the service.  We print the email in its entirety:

I did know both Joe and Robert well from WM days. 

I was very good friend with Robert, but only passing acquaintances with Joe and hadn’t spoken to him in a number of years (other than at the funeral).

Honestly, at the funeral, Joe came across as being nearly as much a victim as Kathy was. 

How horrible it was to have one of your good friends murdered in your own home.  I recall Joe having almost a reception line of well wishers giving him hugs and comforting him at the funeral. 

I shook hands with Joe after the funeral while everyone was filing out to go to the cemetery and felt as sorry for him as I did for myself at losing such a great friend. 

I don’t remember seeing Victor or Dylan at the funeral.  They could have been sitting beside Joe for all I know…

-posted by Craig and David

Uncharged Conduct II

May 1, 2010

Half the Story

In the clerk’s office this week was thirty pages of Defense Joint Response to Government Notice of Uncharged Conduct II and Some Other Stuff.  Nowhere to be found was the government’s notice that this filing responds to, so this doc will have to serve as a study guide.

Who's the mystery long shot pick in the Derby?

In the government’s first uncharged notice from March, AUSA Glenn Kirschner blasted the defendants with the long list of S&M toys gear, “evidence of dominance and degradation, enslavement and electro-torture… evidence of incapacitation” and plenty on defendant Joe Price’s brother, Michael.

Much of that, as they say, has been winnowed.  It now appears the government intends to introduce three categories of “purported” evidence:

Evidence Concerning Access to Restraints

Evidence of the Late Reporting [of the burglary] as Proof of Conspiracy

Evidence of the Nature of the Defendants’ Unique Relationship as Proof of the Conspiracy.

Dylan Ward counsel David Schertler unloads on Kirschner and tweaks his deputy, T. Patrick Martin as well, using the grand jury transcripts of his questioning of Ward and fellow defendant Victor Zaborsky.

Read more…

Can You Hear Me Now?

April 30, 2010

The Whispered Assertions the Jury Will Never Hear

It’s rare a topic in this case comes along that so finely meshes with your editor’s skill sets…other than the basic one.  And by that we mean living  in DC long enough – and having been employed on some side of the communications business – to detect excrement when it happens.  (And, hopefully, still have the chutzpah of Sen. Levin to call a “…shitty deal…” exactly what it is.)  But at many levels, this case has been a learning exercise.

Last Friday, Victor Zaborsky’s counsel Thomas Connolly informed the court the defense would not call for testimony from Dr. Al Yonovitz, Chair and Associate Professor for the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at the University of Montana.

Anything that slims the calendar may be a good thing for both sides.  And Dr. Yonovitz’ research – much based in Australia – demonstrates a sharp and admirable focus on improving treatment of the hearing impaired, especially among the aboriginal population.  Good work, Dr. Al.

But then we dug down into Dr. Yonovitz’s expected testimony, and questions popped up.  Questions as to the basis for his assertions – and the deeper questions they may have provoked that the defense may not have wanted.

Are you listening?   To be determined, after the jump.

Read more…

X-Ray Specs

April 29, 2010

Dr. Henry Lee Has A Vision

The involvement and expected testimony of celebrity forensics expert Dr. Henry Lee has long been a topic of discussion here.  First word of his work on behalf of the defendants surfaced at last November’s status hearing.

At the time, it wasn’t clear if he would become a permanent member of the team because of his extensive travel.  Managed by Joe Price Counsel Bernie Grimm, Lee ultimately signed on and as best we can figure for a hefty fee, upwards of $50,000 we were told, maybe higher.

His name next surfaced in a January letter Grimm sent to the government alerting them that Dr. Lee was going to be performing forensic tests on Item 16, the towel found in the guest room at 1509 Swann Street that was supposedly applied to Robert’s wounds by Price.

It appears Dr Lee’s testing is complete and the results are in.   While tens of thousands of defense dollars will be spent on expert witnesses who will testify on the many reasons blood was not found at the scene, Lee will take a different tack on the witness stand.

According to his testing, he actually found blood where few have seen much at all.  That towel.

Read more…

Do Dead Men Groan?

April 28, 2010

Does Defense’s Own Expert Contradict Defendants’ Statements?

In the government’s Omnibus Motion In Limine regarding Certain Designated Defense Experts, they focus on the testimony of Dr. Farzad Najam, a cardiac surgeon at George Washington University.

Dr. Farzad Najam, for the Defense... or Government?

Dr. Najam will testify that the stab wound to Mr. Wone’s heart could have caused “immediate incapacitation,” and would have caused a significant amount internal bleeding instead of an enormous amount of external bleeding.  (The prosecution aims to disallow Dr. Najam’s testimony as ‘outside scientific consensus’ – this debate will feature prominently at the May 5th hearing.)

This is crucial testimony for the defense as it supports the defendants’ contention they did not tamper with the crime scene by cleaning up a significant amount of blood – evidence the prosecution contends would have been found at the scene of a violent crime.

While Dr. Najam’s testimony supports one part of the defendants’ case, it also takes away another crucial element for the defendants.

What that is…after the jump.

Read more…

Deconstructing Harry

April 27, 2010

Now That The Embargo Has Been Lifted…

If you needed any more reason to go out and purchase the May edition of Washingtonian Magazine, this nugget that Harry Jaffe uncovered, is alone worth the cover price of $3.95.

In painstaking (and at times heartbreaking) detail, Harry traces the events of the days immediately following Robert’s murder, as the shock of the tragedy was starting to set in.  Our idea of that timeline has never been precisely clear, and Harry put the disparate pieces together.

Two days after the murder, on Friday, August 4, 2006, the housemates, now defendants, Joe Price, Dylan Ward and Victor Zaborsky paid what could best be characterized as a condolence call in Oakton.

In Harry’s telling of the events, Kathy Wone spent a half hour alone with them in the basement and at one point asked them, “What happened?”

“They told her that they had a glass of water with Robert and gone to sleep, that they heard grunts, that an intruder had come into their house.

They gave her no details of how her husband might have died.”

Kathy Wone was later interviewed at her home for an hour by MPD Detective Brian Waid the following day, Saturday.  With Kathy during that interview was Robert’s longtime friend and roommate Jason Torchinsky, an attorney and former federal prosecutor.

The next day, on Sunday evening, while Jason was writing his eulogy for the upcoming Tuesday funeral, his cell phone rang.  It was Joe Price calling.

Read more…

The Divine Miss M.

April 26, 2010
by

10 Questions for Sarah Morgan, Swann Street’s Fourth

As the lilacs fade and the calendar edges closer to May, the seeds from some of the unanswered questions we’ve planted over are beginning to sprout.   The garden needs to be weeded and tended.  Let’s all grab our spades.

Among the flowers that have failed to bloom is one called Sarah Morgan (Bellis perennis Morganis.)  As the rarely mentioned fourth member of the 1509 Swann Street family, she remains the most mysterious…and silent.

What we know about Sarah is eclipsed by what we don’t know…save for a suspicion that she may hold one or two keys to solving Robert’s murder.  Time is running out to ask questions and try to get them answered.

To jump start this effort, we offer 10 questions for Sarah, after the jump.

Oh…and your questions are welcome, also.

Read more…

That Dog Don’t Hunt

April 25, 2010

Muzzling the Cadaver Dogs

Although the odds of getting evidence and ‘testimony’ from the cadaver dogs who searched the murder scene were slim, it’s now official that none of their findings will make it into the trial.

The original affidavit said the dogs altered (to human blood or remains) at two spots at 1509; the patio drain and the dryer lint trap. 

Dogs, notorious liars, especially untrustworthy on the stand, were unlikely to be sworn in, but a week ago, the defense snapped back anyway, filing a Joint Motion In Limine to Exclude All Evidence of Cadaver Dog Searches and “Alerts.”  

At 30 pages, this doc goes into great detail, with precedent (Dyas v. United States, 376 A.2d. 827 (DC)) and defense experts’ opinions attached on why the government was barking up the wrong tree.

The documents, including Judge Lynn Leibovitz’ hand-written notations on the order follow after the jump.   A (not-so) shaggy dog story too.

  Read more…

Now Hiring

April 24, 2010
by

Inquire Within

We’re still trying to determine how long the trial is supposed to last.  It’s hard to be exact when predicting the length of a complex trial but in the coming days we’ll reach out to some principals to see what they are budgeting and expecting.  The best guess now is four to six weeks.

Spurning Victor Zaborsky defense counsel Thomas Connolly’s request for a one-week continuance, Judge Lynn Leibovitz appears hellbent to gavel this trial in on May 10.  That puts the date of the trial’s outcome somewhere towards late June. 

As we try to determine our staffing needs for the trial, we kicked around the idea of bringing on some extra arms and legs.   We laughed about needing an intern.  Now that thought doesn’t seem so crazy.  We’ve pretty much got the trial covered, but expect we’ll be needing the occasional assist.

To that end, we are now hiring.  Just posted on Craig’s List:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 -listed by Craig

Metaphysics and Truth

April 23, 2010

Housekeeping…and Keeping on Track for May 10

It was a full courtroom, and relatively upbeat defendants, that greeted Judge Lynn Leibovitz as she gaveled in Friday’s status hearing at 3pm sharp.   On the agenda?  “Housekeeping and setting dates…” said the Judge.

Victor Zaborsky and David Schertler

First up: the government’s objections to defense experts Dr. Smith, Dr. Englert, and top-biller Dr. Henry Lee.  However hthis was largely easy to wrap up: while Rachel Carlson Leiber and Pat Martin for the prosecution said they haven’t yet been given access to these three, defense attorneys Thomas Connolly and Bernie Grimm made clear they will make every effort to connect the witnesses to the prosecution – even resorting to Skype if needed.

But a secondary issue turned out to be less clear, and perhaps more than secondary.  The prosecution is seeking to bar testimony by Dr. Nijam, a cardiologist who intends to testify that a single knife stab to the heart could be enough to immobilize and kill Robert.  Martin says his testimony shouldn’t be allowed because it is too far outside basic scientific consensus.

“How does a cardiac surgeon not get to testify?” asked the Judge.  Because he’s wrong, replied Martin; at least in the specifics of this particular crime he claims.  Judge Leibovitz, signaling greater comfort with allowing expert testimony on both sides and allowing the jury to “…sort it out”, asked the government for more definitive materials to substantiate its opinion.

Next up, the defense’s objections to having testimony from Robert Spaulding and Doug Deedrick.  On Spaulding, objecting not to his qualifications or the science of blood spatter analysis, but his particular findings that the crime scene did not match the crime.  And on Deedrick, his recently announced experiments using knives, t-shirts, equine blood and a pork loin.  More on this in a moment.

And on xylene?  We’ve been hearing this week that the government may be backing off FBI toxicologist Roman Karas’ recent detection of xylene in Robert’s remaining blood samples, largely because there wasn’t enough of it.  (We also speculated, but failed to note for reasons of time in our previous post, whether the entire issue may have been a head-fake from the prosecution.  Our bad.)

Now we know: the government has stated it does not intend to introduce xylene at trial.  This, after being “…thrown off for 10 days on xylene…” said Connolly, who requested a one week continuance and a specific statement from the government, apparently along the lines of ‘we take it back, we didn’t mean it, and we’re sorry.”

Not gonna happen, on either request, was the Judge’s reply.

And to the meat of the hearing: setting a time for final argument and evidentiary hearing to clear up what statements, evidence, experts, and testimony will be allowed.

Read more…

Mucho Moultrie

April 23, 2010

Status Hearing Updates

3:45pm:  Adjournment.  Full house today.  NO continuance as of now.  Xylene is OUT.  May 5 evidentiary hearing is next order of business.  Full recap coming.

2:50pm: Price, Ward, Zaborsky here.  Defense team associates arrive. Schertler, Connolly too. Legal Times Mike Scarcella on site to cover.

2:45pm: Waiting outside the hearing room now.  Members of Wone family arrived.

1:05pm: Sources indicate xylene may not make it to trial. Levels and concentration were ‘insignificant.’ We may know for certain in a couple hours.

12:30pm:  All case watchers will be holding their breath today at today’s hearing, hoping no delays or continuance imperils the May 10 trial date.  Of course the last minute government testing of Robert’s blood is an issue here. 

Earlier this week the defense filed an extension for time to reply to the government’s motion that first alerted us to the xylene test results.

04/20/2010   Defendant’s Motion to Extend Time to File Response to Government’s Motion in Limine Filed: Attorney: CONNOLLY

Press Pass

April 23, 2010

Covering Today’s Status Hearing And The Trial

Back to room 310 in the Moultrie Courthouse today for another status hearing.  Judge Lynn Leibovitz gavels this one in at 3:00pm.  The room usually fills up so getting there early is a good idea.  Updates on the twitter and here.  Look for a post title that rhymes with ‘Moultrie.’   To be honest, I can’t think of many any.

We’ve gotten to know some really cool people since starting this project and today we’ll meet another, Leah Gurowitz, Public Information Officer for the DC Courts.  Well respected, she’s on speed dial for reporters across town; their court coverage contact.

It was through her office we submitted our request to either live blog or tweet the May 10 trial from the courtroom.  To our surprise, it was the first such request from a non-news organization.

A month-long trial means a lot of time at Judiciary Square.  We’ve got it covered with an elaborate scheme in which each of us calls in sick for the other, for a month straight.  Might work.  [Ed. note: no it won’t.  -Doug] The dog ate my PowerPoint?   It will be all  hands on deck.  Maybe we’ll hire an intern.

Intern application, loyalty oath, credit check and rumors after the jump.

Read more…

Wild About Harry

April 22, 2010

A Year In The Making

Joining Paul Duggan’s masterful two-part Washington Post series on Robert’s murder from last June, is another must-read for every case watcher’s bookshelf.

In the May issue of Washingtonian Magazine, veteran DC journalist Harry Jaffe has penned an opus on the case.  He chronicles the years since Robert’s murder, those caught up in its wake, the still-emerging magnitude of the loss, and most importantly, the resilience of the human spirit.

A sneak peek after the jump.

Read more…

Family Matters

April 21, 2010

New Bits – And Old Hits – In The Prosecution’s Playlist 

More paper filed in advance of this Friday’s status hearing means more late night reading.  On the nightstand currently: 

It’s enough to make one long for Herman Wouk. 

First, the statements.  Leaving the legal arguments regarding admissibility and the Confrontation Clause aside, the government leaves open the option of seeking to admit all of the videotaped statements by the defendants in their entirety.  As we’ve seen, there may be some there there

Further, Team Kirschner lays out other statements by Price, Zaborsky and Ward that “…implicate the Declarant only.”  Statements like “I heard a scream” (Price to EMS workers), “…there is a black guy who lives back there.” (Price to MPD officers on scene), that the three share a “polyamorous relationship” (Ward to Det. Gail Brown), etc.   Rounding out the hit parade are statements made by Zaborsky and Ward to the Grand Jury regarding Michael Price’s burglary of 1509 Swann Street. 

Next is Price’s (through his counsel Bernie Grimm) letter regarding exclusion of evidence.   The letter knocks FBI tests that “…determined that all of the so-called “semen” was that of Mr. Wone…” (emphasis theirs), lectures on the difference between semen and seminal fluid, and runs down the qualifications of Dr. Goslinoski…punctuating each of the arguments with the repeated assertion that “…there is no evidence that Mr. Wone was sexually assaulted.” (emphasis theirs.)  The assertive language (and aggressive use of bold and italic) are pure Grimm, and reads as if he has the upper hand. 

Xylene: The Paralytic Needle in a Haystack?

And of course, he may.  It was just in March at another status hearing that AUSA Glenn Kirschner admitted the government’s “…theory is evolving…” on sexual assault, further noting “…I don’t know that we’re actually going to get to the paralytic phase, to be honest.” 

 

Not exactly a declarative statement moving assault and paralytics off the table, but certainly suggesting their location somewhere near the back. 

So can the prosecution bring a strong case without assault and paralytics? 

A confident yes is the government’s reply in the “Omnibus Response to Defendants’ Motions In Limine.”  Did they find a paralytic agent in testing? 

Read more…

Fiber Optics

April 20, 2010

Government Conducting Additional Tests; Defense Seeks to Limit Results

In the most recent filing in the Robert Wone case, we learn that, as recently as March 24, 2010, the government has been conducting experiments to bolster their evidence of tampering and conspiring to obstruct at trial. The defense has filed to exclude the tests and its results from being entered at trial.

The government experiments focus on three different yet specific areas: the stab cuts found on the T-shirt Robert was wearing at the time of the murder, the blood smear found on the knife at the crime scene, and the type of fibers that should have been found on the knife.

The government simulated conditions with evidence found at the scene: a Wusthof boning knife, as well as a Wusthof utility knife, a white towel, and T-shirts, even one with a William & Mary logo.   To imitate a body, they chose a pork loin.  They chose equine blood to imitate human blood.

Three tests, two knives, one pork loin.  After the jump, discover what the government learned.

Read more…

Beyond Marriage

April 19, 2010

Does Price’s Fair-Weather Activism Demonstrate Hypocrisy, More?

In 2004, USA Today showered Joe Price and Victor Zaborsky and the lesbian couple to whom each of them donated sperm to conceive children with a splashy write-up about gay families during the run- up to the Bush Adminstration’s use of the gay marriage as a wedge issue during the Presidential election

Joe Price’s activist impulse to show his extended gay family “forging new territory” is particularly helpful to changing myths about gay and lesbian parenting.  

Portraits such as these are important to gaining full equal rights for LGBT families.  The fact that Joe Price was willing to step forward with an honest look into a happy multi-partnered family with children is more than laudable.

Two years after this, at the height of Joe Price’s gay activist profile in 2006, when he was General Counsel and Board Chair for Equality Virginia, but before the murder of Robert Wone, he had another opportunity to step forward in support of gay families.

statement was circulating by the Beyond Marriage coalition that advocated for legal recognition for alternative couples and multi-partnered family structures.  Among the different families described was this one:

Queer couple who decide to jointly create a child with another queer person or a couple, in two households.

Did Joe Price write this himself?  It is a perfectly on-point description of his USA Today family.  So it wouldn’t be a surprise for Joe Price to lend his name in support of this statement’s aims.

More than 500 individuals from GLBT, women’s, HIV/AIDS activism, at the federal, state and local levels, as well as regarded academics, artists, and educators signed their names.

Joe Price’s name was not among them. 

After the jump, a more surprising angle to Joe’s missing name.

Read more…

Media Advisory

April 18, 2010

Start The Presses

As a rule, we purposely don’t reveal much information regarding readership or statistics.  Honoring the anonymity and confidentiality of users has always been a chief concern, and that’s worked pretty well.  For the more outgoing readers, we owe a serious debt to those who’ve reached out to us and maintain ongoing channels and relationships.  Pen Pals.

Every now and again we’ll try to root out the lurkers and those gentle nudges have paid off handsomely in the past.  Lawyers, check.  Who else is out there?

You know who you are: The regular readers from The Associated Press, New York Times, Advance Publications and the Fox News Channel, among others.

That’s as far as we’ll go in outing you.

Please consider dropping us a line to talk about any coverage plans you or your outlet may have of the upcoming trial, now just three weeks away.

If there are no plans, we’d like to talk about that as well.

In the works and set to hit in the next week or so will be a lengthy feature on the case, perhaps the definitive story written so far; a truely amazing read.

Don’t let that dissuade you; none of us would ask anyone to chase another journalist’s story.  We just want to talk.

-posted by Craig