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Entries in Evidence (12)

Thursday
Jul192012

George Zimmerman Prosecution May Use TV Interview as Evidence

Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- George Zimmerman's television interview in which he said he had few regrets about the night he killed teenager Trayvon Martin has been entered as possible evidence in his upcoming murder trial.

In a wide ranging interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, Zimmerman, appearing articulate and calm, said he neither regretted carrying a gun that night nor pursuing the 17-year-old Martin.

"I feel that it was all God's plan," he told Hannity. When asked if there was "anything you might do differently," Zimmerman responded, "No Sir."

Thursday morning the prosecution entered the tape of the interview into discovery and could attempt to admit it as evidence in Zimmerman's trial on charges of second degree murder.

Zimmerman, 28, has maintained that he shot Martin in self-defense after Martin attacked him in Sanford, Fla., on the night of Feb. 26.

Towards the end of the interview, following commercial break, Zimmerman pivoted towards the camera and addressed it directly, saying he misunderstood Hannity's earlier question about whether he had any regrets that night.

"I do wish that there was something, anything I could have done that would have put me in the position that I wouldn't have to take his life," he said.

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Granting the interview will likely haunt Zimmerman, veteran legal analyst and defense attorney Mark Eiglarsh told ABC News. "He has impeached himself publicly, this is going to be a huge problem for him …  and the prosecutors must be extremely pleased. ... He was making inconsistent statements that they can use in a trial against him."

And some are now questioning whether Zimmerman has begun disregarding his attorney's advice.

After his interview with Hannity Thursday, Zimmerman abruptly cancelled an interview with ABC News' Barbara Walters, which his attorney Mark O'Mara had set up.

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Walters said on The View Thursday that she arrived to do the interview Wednesday and found a "stubborn" Zimmerman dressed in a T-shirt and demanding certain conditions from her that she was unwilling to agree to. Walters would not specify what Zimmerman asked for in exchange for the interview, but said that she would never agree to it.

She noted that Zimmerman's attorney had promised her an interview earlier in the week and said Thursday that O'Mara "wanted him to do the interview."

Walters said that it was Zimmerman who reneged on the promise after she flew down to Orlando for the appointment. She said that Zimmerman told her during their conversations that he was in "desperate" need of money, as he had apparently already spent the bulk of the more than $200,000 raised through donations since April.

Minutes after Walters' discussion of Zimmerman on The View, Zimmerman made a surprise phone call to the studio and asked to be put on the air via phone. Walters declined Zimmerman's request and said on air, "Mr. Zimmerman, if you could not do the interview yesterday, I don't think we should do a quick one today. In the future if you feel differently, we will consider it."

Zimmerman also decided to reactivate his fundraising website, TheRealGeorgeZimmerman.com in order to raise more money. He created the website in April without telling his attorneys at the time, but later took it down after hiring O'Mara as his lawyer.

A representative for O'Mara said that the attorney had acquiesced to Zimmerman's request to re-launch the website over which Zimmerman would be granted editorial control. It would be primarily used to solicit donations.

Zimmerman has been described as "erratic" and difficult by his former attorneys, who quit after saying that Zimmerman would not listen to their advice.

Attorneys Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig said in April that they were withdrawing from the case because they had lost contact with Zimmerman, who refused to answer their calls, texts and emails. Sonner said that Zimmerman had independently been talking to Hannity and calling the Florida State Attorney Angela Corey against his advice.

Zimmerman turned himself into authorities shortly after his attorneys quit, and was subsequently charged. He is now represented by O'Mara.

O'Mara did not return calls for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Thursday
May242012

Death Row Woman Could Get New Trial Over 'Dropped Baby' Evidence

(TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas) -- A Texas woman who was convicted of killing a 3-month-old baby but claimed she merely dropped him could be released from her cell on death row and receive a new trial.

Texas Judge Jon Wisser has submitted a formal recommendation to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to toss the conviction of Cathy Lee Henderson for the murder of 3-month-old boy in 1994.

Henderson, now 55, was found guilty of killing her infant neighbor, Brandon Baugh, while she babysat, and then burying the body in a wine cooler box 60 miles from the home and fleeing the state. Henderson maintained throughout her trial that she accidentally dropped the boy on her concrete floor, from four-and-a-half feet in the air, while swinging him around to try and calm him.

Dr. Roberto Bayardo, the Travis County, Texas, medical examiner, refuted that claim, saying that the injuries sustained by the baby would not have been possible from that height.

"The infant would have had to fall from the height higher than a two-story building," he concluded, and ruled the death a homicide, according to brief filed in the Criminal Appeals Court by Wisser.

But new research suggests that Bayardo's conclusion may not be accurate, and Bayardo testified at a 2007 hearing that he would not have ruled the same way if he had details on the new research at the time of the trial.

"I think if you took away Dr. Bayardo's testimony at the first trial that the jurors would not have convicted Ms. Henderson," Wisser told ABC News affiliate KVUE.

"I believe it was very difficult for the jurors to separate the death of the infant from Ms. Henderson's subsequent behavior," said Wisser.

Henderson came within two days of her death sentence in 2007 before receiving a last-minute reprieve based on the new scientific evidence and Bayardo's change of opinion. In the intervening years, Wisser has toiled over whether Henderson's verdict should be tossed, he told KVUE.

"In the 16-17 years (since), things have changed," Wisser said. "We have more scientific proof and evidence that I thought a jury should have the opportunity to consider."

Wisser's recommendation will land on the desks of the nine Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judges, who will issue a ruling sometime in the "next few months," according to the court.

The judges will either deny Wisser's recommendation or set a date for a hearing on the matter, in which prosecutors and defense attorneys could argue for a new trial. The court can either release Henderson from prison immediately while the two sides prepare for the hearing, or continue holding her in jail until a final decision is reached.

Eryn Baugh, the father of the infant that was killed, is dismayed at the development, according to KVUE.

"It is extremely difficult," Baugh told the station. "We came within two days of having this over with and having her executed and getting on with our lives. Now we are back in a courtroom and hearing what is basically a bunch of junk science that is basically going on over the death of my son."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
May142012

Trayvon Martin Killing: George Zimmerman's Lawyer Gets Prosecution Evidence

ABC News(ORLANDO) -- George Zimmerman's attorney said Monday he received a trove of 67 CDs as part of discovery in the neighborhood watchman's second-degree murder trial in the killing of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.

The discovery, reported on a website set up by Zimmerman attorney Mark O'Mara, is part of the requisite information the state attorney must share with Zimmerman's defense team.

It also includes never-before-seen witness statements, 911 calls, non-emergency calls, photos, video and medical records.

Zimmerman is also the subject of an FBI investigation into a possible hate crime committed against 17-year-old Martin.

Just before the discovery's release, the state issued a preview of the witnesses it would call to the stand once the trial gets underway, which is not likely to happen until next year, sources tell ABC News.

The state also provided video of Martin in the 7-Eleven convenience store the night of the shooting and of him walking around the Sanford, Fla., development where he was killed, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The thousands of pages of documents will be used by both the defense and prosecutors as they map out their legal arguments. But the defense and prosecutors may soon petition the court to block the documents from being released publicly, as is standard protocol under Florida law. This move would then trigger a threatened lawsuit by several major media organizations.

Discovery in the case coincided with reports that gun range targets depicting what a distributor said was the likeness of Trayvon Martin sold out in 48 hours.

The description of the product says:

"Everyone knows the story of Zimmerman and Martin. Obviously we support Zimmerman and believe he is innocent and that he shot a thug. Each target is printed on thick, high quality poster paper with matte finish! The dimensions are 12"x18" (The same as the Darkotic Zombie Targets) This is a Ten Pack of Targets."

The faceless figure in the hoodie has a target on his chest and Skittles and iced tea in his pocket. Police said Martin was found with those items the night he was shot.

According to Orlando's WKMG-TV, the distributor behind the targets said he hoped to profit off of George Zimmerman, but once scores of news outlets began reporting the targets' existence he discontinued their sale.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Apr272012

Brittany Killgore Sent Text Message 'Help' Before Her Murder

ABC(SAN DIEGO) -- Blood and a weapon police believe was used to kill Brittany Killgore were found in the car of a suspect in the marine wife's murder, prosecutors said.

At a plea hearing Thursday, Staff Sgt. Louis Ray Perez, 45, pleaded not guilty to a first degree murder charge in the slaying of the 22-year-old who lived in Fallbrook, Calif. Perez was in jail on an unrelated charge of possession of an AR-15 assault rifle at the time of his arrest for murder.

Chilling details of the crime emerged at Perez' hearing: Killgore sent a text message to a friend the night she disappeared that said "help," Deputy District Attorney Patrick Espinoza said.

Killgore, 22, of Fallbrook, Calif., disappeared April 13, after telling friends she was going out in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. Her body was found four days later, dumped near Lake Skinner in Riverside County, Calif.

The San Diego County District Attorney's office has not released the manner in which Killgore was killed. They also have not said what type of weapon police believe was used to kill her.

Twenty-five-year-old Jessica Lopez, who once lived with Perez, has also been charged with first degree murder in Killgore's death. She entered a not guilty plea in court April 19, and is held on $3 million bail, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said.

Key to the case was an apparent suicide note found in Lopez's hotel room at the time of her arrest that detailed Killgore's fate and the location of her body, prosecutors said.

The content of that note has been kept under seal, per judge Kimberlee Lagotta's order, ABC News' San Diego affiliate reported.

Authorities have not commented on the connection between Killgore, Lopez and Perez. Police said they believed Perez was the last person to see Killgore and he became a person of interest shortly after Killgore was reported missing.

Killgore filed for a divorce from her husband, Cory Killgore, also 22, just days before she disappeared. Cory Killgore returned from Afghanistan last week following the news of his wife's disappearance.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan312012

Pennsylvania Councilman Charged in Lover's 1979 Death

Comstock/Thinkstock(BEAVER COUNTY, Pa.) -- A Pennsylvania councilman has been arrested and charged with strangling his young lover in a cold case that has haunted investigators for more than three decades.

Bridgewater Councilman Gregory Scott Hopkins, 65, was arrested Sunday in connection with the 1979 death of Catherine Janet Walsh, then 23, in Beaver County, Pa. about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Investigators said they were able to use DNA technology, which was unvailable at the time of the crime, to link Hopkins to evidence from the scene.

Walsh's father, Peter Joseph Caltury Sr., went to his daughter's house on Sept. 1, 1979 when he was unable to reach her. He discovered "Ms. Walsh's dead body lying face down on her bed with her hands bound with a white rope behind her back and a light blue bandana ligature tied around her neck," according to a criminal complaint.

Caltury immediately called police, who came and collected evidence that included the bed sheets, a light-blue nightgown, the white rope and the blue bandana. An autopsy determined her cause of death to be strangulation and the death was ruled a homicide.

Authorities interrogated Hopkins the same day.

"Mr. Hopkins told police that he was involved in a consensual sexual relationship with Ms. Walsh," according to the criminal complaint. "However, he went on to explain that this relationship did not involve any sexual contact with Ms. Walsh at her residence for about one month prior to her death."

Investigators from multiple agencies toiled over the case for years, but were never able to identify a suspect or motive.

Then, in 2010, persistent investigators resubmitted the evidence to a crime lab for forensic analysis. Hopkins' DNA was identified on Walsh's bed sheets, nightgown and the rope binding from the crime scene.

"This was a generational case and what I mean to define that is that generations, literally, of investigators worked on this case for the sum of 30 years that led to the filing of charges [Sunday] and the arrest of Mr. Hopkins," Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said at a news conference Monday.

"The road has finally come to an end," he said. "A promise was kept to Pete [the father] and his family and a secret now is revealed."

Walsh's elderly father and brother were on-hand for the announcement.

"Because of your dedication, professionalism and your relentless pursuit of justice, today has brought a measure of comfort, relief and satisfaction to our family," Walsh's brother, Francesco Caltieri, 52, said at the news conference.

A woman answered the phone at Hopkins' home, but hung up abruptly.

Hopkins' attorney maintains his client's innocence and says Hopkins' good-standing in the community does not line up with the accusations made against the building contractor.

"This gentleman has lived his entire life in Beaver County," Hopkins' attorney James Ross told ABC News. "For 32 years, he has operated a reputable business, he's a member of a bureau council and has had no involvement with the criminal justice system."

Ross says Hopkins is a well-liked community member, who is married with children and step-children.

"Mr. Hopkins' character traits and background do not lend itself to this type of crime. We intend to fully investigate the matter and defend him," Ross said.

Hopkins is being held in the Beaver County Jail without bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Dec072011

Police Reportedly Find ‘People’s Court’ Missing Mom’s Cellphone

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Police have reportedly found a cellphone belonging to Michelle Parker, the Florida mother who went missing the day her dispute with her ex-fiance aired on The People’s Court.

Matt Morgan, an attorney for Parker’s family, disclosed the discovery to WFTV, ABC News’ affiliate in Orlando, Fla.

Few details about Wednesday’s reported discovery of the phone were immediately available.

Parker, 33, has been missing since Nov. 17, the day she and her fiance, Dale Smith, 40, were seen on The People’s Court airing their dispute over a $5,000 engagement ring.

Police have called Smith a prime suspect in Parker’s disappearance, though a court awarded him custody of the twins the former couple had together.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep272011

Petit Home Invasion Evidence Shows Gas Led to Girls' Beds

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW HAVEN, Conn.) -- Remnants of the torn and scorched shorts and shirt that 11-year-old Michaela Petit was wearing when she died were shown to a Connecticut jury Tuesday as prosecutors detailed how gasoline poured in the house was meant to lead an arson fire right to her bed.

The grim testimony and pictures were presented in the triple murder trial of Joshua Komisarjevsky.

The evidence of arson was discovered in the aftermath of the rape and strangulation of Jennifer Hawke-Petit, 48, and her daughters, Michaela and her older sister, 17-year-old Hayley.

Their bodies were found in the charred remains of the Petits' suburban home in Cheshire, Conn., July 23, 2007. Komisarjevsky, 31, could be ordered executed if convicted. His accomplice, Steven Hayes, was found guilty last year and sentenced to death. Hayes is currently on Connecticut's death row.

Gabianelli testified that specially trained dogs were brought to the scene in the three days after the murders as police and fire officials combed the house for evidence. The dogs identified the use of an accelerant throughout the house. Gasoline was identified on the stairs leading up the second floor, in the second-floor hallway, and in the bedrooms of both girls, who were left tied to their beds, Gabianellli said.

Photographs of the girl's bedrooms flashed on the screen showing heavy fire damage and charred mattresses. Gabianelli also testified that nylon pantyhose was still lashed to the posts on Hayley Petit's bed. "A portion of nylon that was consistent with pantyhose was found," she said.

The nylons had been used to tie Hayley Petit to her bed, according to testimony in Hayes' trial. Rope restraints were discovered on Michaela Petit's bed.

Gabianelli said that the scissors used to cut Michaela's clothing off her body were found on the floor of her bedroom. "We seized a cotton bra…and it was obvious from looking at the straps that the straps had been cut," the investigator said.

In his audiotaped confession Komisarjevsky, 31, said he used scissors to cut off her top and shorts before he molested the girl. Michaela Petit's body was found still tied to her bed. She had succumbed to smoke inhalation.

Hayley Petit's body was found at the top of the stairs just outside of her bedroom. Gabianelli identified an article of clothing found at the scene that belonged to the teenager. "The plaid shorts that Hayley Petit was wearing had melted into the carpet itself," said Gabianelli.

Although both rooms sustained heavy damage in the fire, there were still heart-wrenching flashes that identified them as girl's bedrooms. Some purple carpeting amidst the burned furniture can be seen in one area and a pink bag is hanging from a bed post. Colorful postcards were attached to one wall in Hayley Petit's bedroom.

There was also significant evidence that Komisarjevsky and Hayes had ransacked the house looking for money and jewelry, said Gabianelli. Drawers in the master bedroom were torn out and clothing was strewn about the floor. "They looked like they had been gone through," said Gabianelli.

Komisarjevsky's lawyers, in an attempt to save him from the death penalty, are trying to show that it was Hayes -- not Komisarjevsky -- who poured the gasoline and started the fire.

Komisarjevsky appears to be taking an active role in his defense. He is alert and often talks to his lawyers. When photographs are posted to the giant video screen next to his head, he seems to stare at them intently.

During a recent break, Komisarjevsky seemed relaxed, almost jovial after he walked out of one room and offered a smile to a court clerk.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug122011

Breeann Rodriquez's Training Wheels Found in Brush

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(SENATH, Mo.) -- The father of a missing 3-year-old girl who disappeared while riding her pink bicycle said that training wheels found in heavy brush two miles from their home belong to his daughter.

Breeann Rodriguez, 3, was last seen five days ago riding her bike in her Senath, Mo., neighborhood with her 5-year-old brother when she vanished.

Breeann's father, Edgar Rodriguez, told Nancy Grace on HLN that he and his wife were told by investigators that they failed a lie detector test.

"I don't know, honestly, honestly. When my wife went in there first to do the polygraph and she failed it, I mean, of course as a father when someone tells you they failed a polygraph, it automatically raises doubt," he told Grace.

"I don't believe we really did fail it. It may be some kind of tool they use to squeeze every bit of information out of us...I don't really know. But they said we did fail it," Rodriguez said.

FBI spokeswoman Rebecca Wu declined to comment on the results of the Rodriguez's polygraph tests.

The two small bicycle training wheels were found Thursday in an area of "heavy brush" located approximately two miles southeast of Breeann's home which the FBI said may have come from the tot's bicycle.

The girl's father, however, identified the wheels as belonging to his daughter because he had adjusted the wheels for Breeann's 2-foot-4 height, the FBI said.

The rest of the bike has not been found, police said.

Breeann was riding her pink bike with her brother. Her brother ran inside to get a drink, and when he returned his sister had disappeared.

Senath is a tiny hamlet in the southeast corner of the state with a population of less than 1,600 people and a non-existent crime rate.

Billboards with Breeann's picture recently went up in Missouri and Arkansas with an announcement of a $45,000 reward -- $25,000 from the FBI and $20,000 from the Senath Marshal's office -- for the arrest and prosecution of whoever is responsible.

One of the many early leads in the case included the investigation of two vans which had been seen in the area prior to Breeann's disappearance. The driver of one of the vehicles had been brought in for questioning by Senath police, but has since been released.

Breeann was last seen wearing a pink top and a pair of pink and purple pants. Police are asking anyone with information to call 866-371-TIPS.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
May062011

Osama Bin Laden: Officials to Release More Info on DNA Match, Intel

AFP/Getty ImagesUPDATE: A U.S. official tells ABC news that plans have changed, and that the information will not be released Friday, as was previously planned. The source notes that the information is still expected to be released, possibly over the weekend or early next week.

(WASHINGTON) -- The public will learn more Friday about the way officials identified the corpse of Osama bin Laden, as well as other information gleaned from the trove of data taken from the compound, ABC News has learned.

After Navy SEALs took photographs of bin Laden, CIA officials used facial recognition analysis to confirm that the man SEALs shot was in fact bin Laden. DNA samples matched those of bin Laden's relatives with 99.9 percent certainty.

President Obama decided against releasing photographs of bin Laden, fearing their graphic and gruesome nature could be inflammatory and put Americans at risk.

The government will also release more information from the computers seized in the raid on bin Laden's compound. On Thursday, ABC News reported on evidence of discussions about targeting U.S. rail lines and a possible attack marking the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
May032011

Osama Bin Laden Evidence Trove: US Hopes to Follow Money Trail

AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S agents charged with disrupting and dismantling al Qaeda are hoping Sunday's harrowing raid of Osama bin Laden's Pakistani compound yields valuable financial clues that could help them expose the underpinnings of the entire organization, including the identities of the major donors who have bankrolled the terror network.

American authorities are ready to follow the money, experts say, hoping detailed ledgers and financial records were scooped up during the raid in which bin Laden was killed. They say any wealthy financiers whose donations helped support the bin Laden terror network now have reason to be nervous.

"Al Qaeda has traditionally been funded by deep-pocket donors," said Stuart Levy, who served as the Treasury Department's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence and is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "If people have been giving money, and they don't know yet whether their name is being identified in this intelligence, or that their name might be on a list of potential donors, they might have real reason to worry."

Top counterterror officials said the Navy SEALs who conducted the raid on bin Laden's fortified lair did not leave empty handed. But they have not disclosed what exactly they carried away along with bin Laden's corpse.

John Brennan, the president's chief counterterrorism advisor, told reporters the military team "took advantage of their time there to make sure that we were able to acquire whatever material we thought was appropriate."

He wouldn't describe in detail what they found, but said the quantity of the material was not as encouraging as its quality. A special CIA team has been designated to go through it.

"We feel as though this is a very important time to continue to prosecute this effort against al-Qaida, take advantage of the success of yesterday and to continue to work to break the back of al-Qaida," Brennan said.

Levy noted that in Iraq, detailed financial books were discovered in 2007 that provided a roadmap for al Qaeda in Iraq's financial structure. In 2010, a drone strike by U.S. forces took out the man believed to be al Qaeda's chief financial officer, Saeed al-Masri. Little is known about the bookkeeping that occurred after that.

"Others replaced him, but we don't know that they exerted the same control," Levy said.

Whether bin Laden took over that work himself, or kept those records with him remains unclear. But if he did, Levy said, those records could do lasting damage to the entire al Qaeda network.

Investigators are relishing the chance to put their hands on actual records that will enable them to dissect bin Laden's operations, said John Nagl, a counter-terrorism expert who serves as president of the Center for New American Studies. His ability to operate in the world without leaving a trace of himself is what helped him evade capture for more than a decade.

"He did a very good job in hiding himself from the outside world," Nagl said. "He cut himself off from all electronic emissions."

But for his use of couriers whom the CIA was eventually able to track, he may never have been found, Nagl said. "The ability to track his curriers, to find someone he trusted, then to follow that person all the way back to the rats nest was absolutely essential in this," he said.

Regardless of what records have been uncovered in the raid, bin Laden's death will in some respects cripple al Qaeda's ability to raise money – and not just because bin Laden served as an inspirational leader to his followers, Levy said. The network's infamous leader served as a stabile presence for donors who wanted to support the al Qaeda mission. Now, those soliciting donations will have no way to prove to potential donors that they really represent the terror movement.

"That could really create chaos for their fundraising," Levy said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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