Entries in Defense (7)


James Holmes’ Defense Witnesses in Colorado Shooting to Testify on ‘Mental State’

Joshua Lott/Getty Images(AURORA, Colo.) -- A judge ruled Thursday that public defenders for accused Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes can call two unidentified witnesses at next week’s preliminary hearing to testify about the defendant’s “mental state.”

Arapahoe County, Colo., prosecutors had sought to keep the witnesses out of court, but Judge William Sylvester ruled that the now-25-year-old accused killer has a right to call the witnesses at a preliminary hearing.

The Jan. 7 preliminary hearing will essentially be a mini-trial in which prosecutors will present witness testimony and evidence to convince the judge that there is enough of a case against Holmes to proceed to a trial.

Witnesses to be called for the prosecution include the Aurora police lead detective, first responders, the Arapahoe County coroner and likely a computer forensic specialist, according to prosecution sources who declined to be identified, citing a gag order in the case.

A top priority, the prosecution sources say, will be showing that Holmes acted with premeditation when he allegedly murdered 12 people and wounded 58 on the night of July 20 during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.

Defense attorneys may pursue a legal strategy to show that Holmes was not in his right mind at the time of the shooting.

Holmes, who has not yet entered a plea, has been repeatedly described in court by his legal team as mentally ill. While a graduate student at the University of Colorado, he was in the care of a psychiatrist.

Prosecutors say they will also present photos, video and 911 calls during the hearing, which is expected to last all week.

It’s not clear what the two witnesses’ relationship is to the shooting, or to Holmes.

Prosecutors, Judge Sylvester’s order says, contend that “neither witness has personal knowledge of the events at the Century Aurora 16 Theater.”

Sylvester said the witnesses are non-expert “lay witnesses” who have so far chosen not to be interviewed by defense investigators but have been cooperating with law enforcement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Etan Patz Case: Why the DA Prosecuted Pedro Hernandez

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/GettyImages(NEW YORK) -- Towards the end of Pedro Hernandez' taped confession to kidnapping and killing six-year-old Etan Patz he can be seen kneeling and praying with the detectives who questioned him, ABC News has learned. At that moment, according to sources who have seen the video, there is the sense that everyone in the room has tears in their eyes. Certainly Hernandez appears to.

Is it textbook police work? Maybe not. Nor are the hugs exchanged by suspect and investigators. But is it a powerful, moving and, most importantly, convincing confession?

The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance clearly thinks so.

So do multiple persons familiar with the case interviewed by ABC News.

Following a grand jury indictment of Hernandez on kidnapping and second degree murder charges, the Manhattan D.A. will now go forward with a prosecution that will by all accounts be a difficult one. No physical evidence found to date links the suspect to the crime, a number of sources say, there are no witnesses, and the crime -- committed in 1979 -- has long been blamed on another man, although that man was never indicted.

Still, in a system of justice that has winners and losers, in a town like New York where sometimes it seems that all that matters is the zero sum game, the decision of prosecutors to go forward speaks to the law as they understand it, sources explain. The prosecutors have seen the psychiatric reports on the suspect, they have viewed and reviewed the confession, they are certain Hernandez is not crazy.

And if he is not crazy and he has confessed to police -- and he has in the past to family members and others -- that he killed Patz, the default position is not that his is a false confession, according to sources familiar with the case, but that it's true. In other words, it's the statement of a guilty man who, at age 51, wants to get a long-ago crime off his chest.

However formidable the burden of proof may be, then, this is a case that appears to be moving forward.

In that sense, the Hernandez case is the polar opposite of another legal firestorm that fell to Manhattan D.A. Vance -- the arrest of the prominent French politician and IMF director Dominique Strauss-Kahn on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel maid. Depending on jury composition, the presentation of circumstantial evidence, and the skill of the prosecutors, it is conceivable that the case could have been made to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that "DSK" committed the crime.

But in the end, when they examined all the factors they had before them, the prosecutors felt that despite what appeared to be a large body of evidence, they themselves were not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that DSK was guilty. So in an atmosphere charged with issues of class and race and the suggestion of preferential treatment for a member of the global elite, Vance and his prosecutors dropped the case.

In the current case, which no one pretends will be anything but an uphill battle, they will move forward.

Their courtroom strategy will be to draw the jury back time and again to Hernandez' own words.

But Harvey Fishbein, the attorney for Hernandez, will have a large arsenal of weapons with which to fight back.

"This case will take time and it will take money," Fishbein said after his client's 90-second court appearance Thursday. And, he added, "This case will not tell the world what happened to Etan Patz."

Fishbein, sources say, is virtually certain to try to cast reasonable doubt on Hernandez's guilt by calling as a witness the former federal prosecutor who identified Jose Ramos, a convicted sex offender, as Patz's likely killer. In effect he will put the ex-prosecutor, Stuart GraBois, and his prime suspect on trial.

Ramos was released from a Pennsylvania prison earlier this month after serving 27 years for molestation in an unrelated case, but was immediately rearrested for allegedly lying about where he planned to live after his release.

Fishbein will elicit all he can about Ramos's past admissions that he was "90 percent certain" he had Patz in his apartment the day he went missing. He may bring forth the testimony of jailhouse snitches incarcerated with Ramos, and he will ask, repeatedly, "Where is the evidence?"

"My client will plead not guilty," Fishbein said. And without suggesting his client's confession was false, he simply noted that it is a documented fact that people confess to crimes they have not committed.

Should the case make it all the way to trial, a knowledgeable insider said, one would probably bet against the prosecution.


Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Jerry Sandusky Lawyers Lean Toward Putting Him on Stand

Rob Carr/Getty ImagesUPDATE: Jerry Sandusky will not take the stand in his child sex abuse trial, ABC News has learned.

(BELLEFONTE, Pa.) -- Jerry Sandusky's lawyers are leaning toward putting him on the stand in his own defense Wednesday, though the final decision has not yet been made, sources tell ABC News.

Sandusky would be called as the final witness for the defense, which is expected to rest its case on Wednesday. He is expected to deny that he ever had any sexual intent in his "horseplay" with the eight men who say they were sexually abused by him.

Prosecutor Joseph McGettigan, who has aggressively cross-examined defense witnesses this week, will have the opportunity to question Sandusky if they decide to put him on the stand.

Sandusky is charged with 51 counts of child sex abuse and could face life in prison if convicted.

His testimony could be a final chance for the defense, led by attorney Joseph Amendola, to place a reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors. The case is expected to go to the jury of seven women and five men following closing arguments on Thursday.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Jerry Sandusky Defense Ignores Detailed Accusations

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(BELLEFONTE, Pa.) -- The withering allegations of sex abuse from eight accusers in the Jerry Sandusky trial were largely ignored Monday by Sandusky's legal team as the defense began telling their side of the story.

The defense's first day of testimony ended abruptly only an hour into the afternoon session as Judge John Cleland told the jury that "technical issues" with some of the witnesses would keep court adjourned until Tuesday morning. But he laid out a schedule that indicates Sandusky will offer few witnesses on his behalf.

Cleland would not explain what the problems with the witnesses were Monday, but said only that he expected the defense to rest Wednesday. He said the court would hear a rebuttal from the prosecution on Wednesday afternoon, and told the attorneys to be ready to give closing arguments on Thursday.

The judge informed the jury that they will be sequestered once they begin deliberations.

Sandusky, 68, is charged with 52 counts of molesting 10 boys. He could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the charges.

Sandusky's lawyers called four people to the stand and all were essentially character witnesses.

Former youth counselor Brett Witmer was called to the stand to counter some of the claims from the man known as Victim 4, who testified that Sandusky took a special interest in him, wrote him letters and made him sign contracts, stalked him from school begging the boy to talk to him, and sexually abused him.

Under questioning by defense attorney Joseph Amendola, Witmer said that he worked with Victim 4 at a youth group program the boy was in during elementary and middle school. He said that the boy told him Sandusky was a big part of his life, and he often saw the two interacting.

"Jerry certainly seemed to be an important part of (Victim 4's) life....He seemed like he had a genuine interest in making sure the kid was moving in the right direction," Witmer, now an elementary school teacher, testified.

He relayed an incident in which Sandusky showed up at the youth center to pick up Victim 4, and the boy did not show. Sandusky and the counselor chatted on the steps of the youth center.

"He said, 'You've got to understand when you're dealing with kids coming from difficult situations sometimes they're not going to want to meet with you, go with you, and other times they're going to want to do fun things and play. You just always have to be there for them,'" Witmer recalled. "Even as I do social work now I keep that in mind."

David Pasquinelli, a former board member for the Second Mile, the charity Sandusky helped create, said that for two years he and Sandusky would take fundraising trips together and got to know each other well.

"I saw a mutual admiration between Second Mile youth, both boys and girls, with Jerry. I saw a lot of goofing around. Jerry had a very unique way, and many of us were inspired by this, how he could relate to youth of all ages and really get to their level and communicate," Pasquinelli said.

In addition, two former Penn State coaches who worked with Sandusky, Richard Anderson and Booker Brooks, were called to testify about a locker room culture where showering with young boys was common. Sandusky is accused of using showers to molest young boys.

"Jerry had a great reputation. He had a wonderful reputation in the community, he was well thought of in every way," Anderson said.

Before the defense began its case, the prosecution presented one last emotional witness.

The mother of Victim 9 testified through tears that she felt responsible for pushing her son to spend time with the coach because "he was Jerry Sandusky. He was an important guy."

The woman said that she never asked her son, who testified last week that he was raped by Sandusky, what exactly happened to him in Sandusky's basement during the sleepovers he said he had every weekend for nearly four years.

On Thursday, Victim 9, who is now 18, said that he was repeatedly forced to perform oral sex on Sandusky and be sodomized by Sandusky in the coach's basement. The testimony followed seven other witnesses who said they were sexually abused by Sandusky.

The mother said that her son called her once from Sandusky's house asking her to pick him up immediately because he was feeling sick. In his testimony Thursday, Victim 9 said he called his mom for help once when Sandusky was sexually abusing him, but did not tell his mother the reason for the call.

Victim 9's mother testified that he suffered medical problems during ages 15, 16, and 17 when he had severe stomach problems and trouble going to the bathroom. She said he also never put his underwear into the laundry, always telling his mother that he had an accident and threw them out.

On Thursday, Amendola questioned Victim 9 about rectal bleeding and stains on his underwear. The boy said his mother never saw stains and that he "just dealt with it."

The trial resumed Monday with a surprising statement from Judge John Cleland saying he had doubts about the strength of the prosecution's case, but at this point in the trial is convinced that there is enough credible evidence that the charges should go to a jury. His comments were made while the jury was out of the courtroom.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Pentagon Strategy Calls for Leaner, But Still Dominant, Military

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon’s new military strategy unveiled Thursday will result in a “smaller and leaner” military force, but one that President Obama insists will maintain America’s military superiority around the world.

Though no Defense budget spending information was presented on Thursday, the new strategy provides hints at potential personnel cuts that will be announced in a few weeks.

Entitled “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” the new strategy lays out a vision for what the American military will look like by 2020.

The president made a rare appearance in the Pentagon briefing room to provide the first details of the military strategy review begun in early 2011 that was designed to guide the anticipated $450 billion in defense spending cuts slated to take place over the next decade.

“Our military will be leaner, but the world must know the United States is going to maintain our military superiority,”  Obama said.   

With the end of the U.S. involvement in Iraq and with significant troop reductions slated for Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the new strategy serves as a roadmap for where the military should prioritize its resources in the lean budget years to come.

“We will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region,” the eight page document states, reaffirming a point that Obama and other senior administration officials have emphasized recently.


The shift away from Iraq and Afghanistan also means there will be less of a need to maintain the increased number of Army soldiers and Marines required to conduct a counterinsurgency fight.  U.S. forces “will no longer be sized to conduct large-scale, prolonged stability operations” says the strategy.  That statement translates into smaller Army and Marine forces.

The Army and Marines were already planning to reduce their numbers beginning in 2015, but the strategy unveiled did not provide specific information whether they would be reduced beyond current planning.

However, a U.S. official confirms to ABC News that the Army will likely drop to 490,000 soldiers from its current end-strength of 570,000 -- a deeper cut than a planned cut of 520,000.  That force strength will still be 10,000 more soldiers than were in the Army the year before 9/11.

The Marines are currently at 202,000 and had already planned to reduce their number to 186,800, a figure that will still be more than 10,000 higher than the number of Marines who were serving prior to 9/11.

The Navy will retain its fleet of 11 aircraft carriers and won’t be reduced to 10 as some national security analysts had speculated.  Maintaining that number of carriers should make it easier for the Navy to continue to project U.S. power in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East where for the past few years the Navy has maintained a two carrier presence for much of the year.

Another main highlight of the strategy released on Thursday is that it does away with the Cold-War era requirement that the military be able to fight two wars simultaneously.

Seeking to ease any concerns that dropping the requirement could leave the U.S. vulnerable if it has to face multiple threats, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, ”We can confront more than one enemy at a time.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Slashing US Troop Numbers as Part of Defense Strategy 

Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama will join Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon on Thursday to announce the new defense strategy going forward.

Although troop numbers won't be announced Thursday, the UK Daily Mail is reporting Obama's cuts reduce the strength of the military by tens of thousands of troops.

Now that the war in Afghanistan is drawing down and U.S. troops have been pulled out of Iraq, the Pentagon needs to reassess where its money will go, especially since billions of dollars will be cut from the Department of Defense's budget.  That's where a new strategy comes in.

Obama will be the one to announce the changes.  He's going to the Pentagon "because he's personally led the development of the new defense strategy, working in close consultation with Secretary Panetta, Chairman Dempsey, and other senior civilian and military Department of Defense officials," says a senior U.S. official.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Whitey Bulger Back in Court for Ruling on His Defense

FBIUPDATE: The decision on whether taxpayers should pay for Whitey Bulger's defense was postponed Tuesday. Prosecutors dismissed one of the two indictments against Bulger so they can focus on what they believe is the stronger indictment that could put Bulger away for life.

(BOSTON) -- James "Whitey" Bulger, a suspected organized crime boss charged in connection with 19 murders, returns to a Boston courtroom Tuesday where a judge is expected to rule whether taxpayers have to pay for his defense.

Bulger, 81, asked for court-appointed counsel -- something prosecutors reject -- pointing out that he "financed a relatively comfortable lifestyle for himself and his [60-year-old] girlfriend," Catherine Greig, in Santa Monica, California in the years before his arrest.

Court records say Bulger bragged to the FBI that he visited Las Vegas "on numerous occasions" to play the slots, claiming he won more than he lost.  Associates have also said that Bulger has been hiding money for years.

Regardless of whether any of this is true, prosecutors argue that it doesn't matter.  They say Bulger has "every incentive to lie and stick taxpayers with the bill for his defense."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio