Evidence 101

EVIDENCE 101...Wherever you go, there you are...

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Duck, Duck, Goose

"Detective, how much time does it take to get from the police station to the Kenwood address where the homicide occurred?"

It amazes me when a defense attorney asked for measurements, distances, amounts. It's their way of making a detective look incompetent. The jury really doesn't care. Unless you are talking about drugs and money. This time we were talking about a domestic case that ended at the police department. I thought about it and looked at the defense attorney. I answered with "4 minutes," adding the disclaimer if the driver obeyed all traffic signals and speed limits. 

The defense attorney held up some papers and dropped them down suddenly after my answer, nodded his head and looked at me, "That is exactly what Mapquest says." 

Now did I know I was going to be asked that question? No. Did I look it up in Mapquest previously? No. 

I had lived, breathed, ate, drank, and slept this case in the weeks prior to the preliminary hearing. When I was asked the questions, I put myself back in the time and place, imagining myself driving my detective car to and from the police station to the homicide scene as I had done many times before. That's how I answered questions like that or others involving place and time. 

Then, my internal thought was...if you were a pissed Irish dude and just saw your wife with another man, disregarded traffic signals, and drove erratically, it would be much faster.

The defense attorney and I had a mutual respect for each other most times. However, over the years I had learned to be on my A -game with him as he tried to slip little things in to make cops look bad or make us mad. He shook my hand afterward as you do in a golf match and told me I did well. He asked me how I knew the times and distances so perfect. I just smiled. Never give your opponent too much strategy...keep them guessing.

In fact, the suspect's erratic driving and time traveled to the police station could be estimated by the dispatch calls. However, the prosecutor added that in. I didn't testify to that information. 

The following is one of the articles from the preliminary hearing. Josh is a great reporter and a good person. He and Susan Burk were two upstanding reporters in my neck of the woods. Burk was obviously my favorite and featured in The Boogie Man Is My Friend: The Rookies. She, too, thinks highly of Joshua Wolfson. I do miss my morning meetings with the press. They treated me well as a detective and I never got bad press. I am sure that is because I gave them respect and interviews when allowed.  

April 13, 2007 12:00 am  •  
Before he was killed, Mark Fisher managed to fire one shot at the man who had just blasted into his Casper home, a detective testified Thursday.
Police found a shotgun with one spent casing on Fisher's body when they discovered him in his North Kenwood Street home on April 1. He had been fatally shot in the chest and head.
The man accused of killing him, 42-year-old Casper resident Edward Taylor, should be tried for first-degree murder in connection with Fisher's death, a judge ruled Thursday, at the conclusion of Taylor's preliminary hearing in Natrona County Circuit Court.
Fisher, 48, fired at Taylor in self defense, Casper police detective Kathryn Davison testified at the hearing. The locked doors to Fisher's home had been blasted open and officers found spent shotgun casings nearby.
Taylor suffered minor wounds in the gun exchange with Fisher, according to a police affidavit. The suspect wore a bandage over his right eye during the court hearing.
Shortly before the killing, Taylor assaulted and threatened to kill his wife after seeing her leave Fisher's home, Davison said. Edward and Beth Taylor had begun the divorce process a few weeks before the shooting.
Beth Taylor told Davison that on April 1, she had been watching NASCAR with friends at Fisher's home, the detective testified. When she left, she saw her husband sitting in his pickup truck across the street.
He walked up to her vehicle, slammed her head into the window and said he would kill her, Davison said.
Beth Taylor drove to the downtown Casper police station, arriving shortly before 6:25 p.m. Her husband followed her, and when she arrived, he pointed a .45-caliber pistol at her forehead, the detective testified. Beth Taylor pleaded for her life and her husband put down the gun.
"I'm going to kill somebody," he told his wife before leaving, Davison said.
Beth Taylor went into the police station and called Fisher to tell him what happened. Fisher told her that he had seen Taylor drive by his home that afternoon. Inside the station, she spoke with a police dispatcher at about 6:25 p.m.
Two minutes later, police received a 911 call from Fisher's home. Noises that sounded like gunshots could be heard before the phone disconnected, Davison said.
"Arriving officers saw two large gunshot holes in the front door to Fisher's home - a shop building that he also lived in. Fisher's body was found about 25 to 30 feet from the front entry, Davison said.
Police believe Fisher was shot first in the chest, damaging his lungs and heart, and then in the face while he was lying down. Both shots would cause fatal injuries, Davison said.
A woman who runs a nearby business saw a man leave Fisher's home with shotgun on his right shoulder and drive off in a Ford pickup. Taylor drives a Ford F-250 truck.
His truck was later found at the home of a rancher who lives in northern Natrona County. On the passenger seat, police found a 12-gauge shotgun with ammunition that matched spent shell casings found at the scene of the shooting, Davison said.
A friend of Taylor's who lived at the ranch told police that Taylor had showed up at his home the night of the shooting with blood on his face and asked for a beer, the detective testified.
The friend said Taylor told him he blasted open the locked door of Fisher's home, was fired upon, then shot Fisher.
Taylor surrendered to Johnson County Sheriff's deputies in Kaycee the night of the shooting. As he was being transported back to Casper, Taylor talked about committing a homicide on April Fool's Day and shooting a man in the face, Davison said.
Under cross examination by Taylor's attorney, Natrona County public defender Rob Oldham, Davison said Fisher and Beth Taylor had recently started a relationship, and had been intimate once on March 1. Beth and Edward Taylor's divorce papers had been filed in mid-March, she testified.
The Taylors were married twice and divorced the first time after Beth Taylor left her husband for another man, Davison confirmed.
Oldham asked Davison whether she knew who shot first in the encounter. The detective testified she didn't know if the sequence of shots had been determined yet, but after additional questioning, said she didn't think Fisher could have gotten off a round after being shot in the chest.

I did know the victim could not have gotten a shot off after he was shot in the chest. I did know the sequence of the shots at that time based upon my opinion and the evidence. It wasn't my place to testify to that. It was the crime lab's. I deflected the defense's tactics to try to trap me into a solid answer by being vague, but truthful. 

It was one of the most gruesome homicide scenes we had seen in awhile. In fact, officers arrived when the mist of blood was still in the air. 

Later in 2007, I would testify in the homicide trial. It was a circus, to say the least, at times. My last testimony was as a rebuttal witness. 

The defendant got on the stand. The defense tried to paint their client as a different person than the hot-headed cowboy we all absorbed from our investigation. He testified to the phone messages he left behind at Beth's house how he was remorseful and apologetic, crying about the homicide. Only he was lying. I had been on the search warrant and like any good detective, I am going to push the answering machine button (data included on the search warrant-duh) and listen to the messages. Luckily it was an old-fashioned one, and not voice mail.  However, I made Beth play me her cell messages as well. We had taken her phone right away when she sought safety and refuge at the police station after being chased there by the suspect. 

The house had been sealed so that it wasn't tampered with prior to our entry. Now...did I put in a report that I listened to the messages? No, because none of them were significant to the murder case. Did I put in a report that I checked every drawer or every tub in the house? No. That is a given. We only record evidentuary value. Good thing I have somewhat of a photographic memory. It came in handy months later in this trial. 

I whispered to the prosecutor during Taylor's testimony that he was lying. He asked me how I knew. I told him because I listened to the answering machine, Beth's cell phone messages, and voice mail options were not used at the residence. He called me to the stand.

I testified to the two messages, the exact words left, and who they were from.

The defense attorney was pissed. He bolted up from his chair and crossed me. 

"Detective Davison, why isn't this information in your reports, or your affidavit?"

I matter of factly stated law enforcement officers do not routinely write everything down such as each drawer they find nothing in, or empty rooms, clean vehicles, or messages left on the answering machine which are not evidence. The messages were from her daughter and one from the Natrona County Detention Center from a (person's name withheld for privacy here) who called collect and left a broken message before the automated system cut him off,  wanting Beth to get him out of jail. No messages were left from Ed Taylor. I did tell him the answering machine tape was in evidence and he could have listened to it himself. I testified that while trying to find Mr. Taylor, that the cell messages and answering machine messages were, in fact, a curiosity to me, because I wanted to know if he told her where he was, left a confession, or felt remorseful. I stated, Mr. Taylor, indeed...did not. Why? Because he wasn't remorseful. He was angry and took a life senselessly. 

You can imagine how mad the defense was. They told me later they felt I "played dirty." This made me smile and I felt it was ridiculous. I just played cop. 


GunDiva said...

I wuff you.

I'm glad you helped nail the bastard, because you know how I feel about abusers.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

You're so good. I would trust you much more than Mapquest. I'm surprised it was accurate in this case.


Ms. A said...

I'd hate for someone to count on my memory, I don't seem to have one anymore. Good thing yours is intact.

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Any chance Taylor's head wound was from a ricochet as he shot the lock our of the door?

Bob G. said...

Momma Fargo:
Detectives are there to look FOR evidence related to the crime scene...and NOT the lack of evidence everywhere else.
Handled it like the pro you are, dear!
(mist of blood in the air)...kinda gets in the nsotrils and taste buds.

Excellent recounting of this case.

Roll safe out there.

Mad Woman behind the Blog said...

Wow. Your mind, your ability to collect and manage all of this data, your ability to recall it all flabergasts me.


Miss ya Momma

Momma Fargo said...

Hey, Mad Woman,

Where did you go? I have missed you as well. Did you change blogs?