The Re-Victimization of Innocents: Criminal Justice Run Amok!

Murder Victim Andi Brewer

Murder Victim Andi Brewer

Karl Roberts was 35-years-old on May 15, 1999 when he kidnapped, raped and murdered his 12-year-old niece Andi Brewer. His defense was based on a head injury he suffered when he was 12-years-old and lost 15% of his brain, including a portion tied to the ability to understand consequences for one’s actions. The Prosecutor said he knew right from wrong. The jury sided with the prosecution and convicted Roberts of capital murder.

 

During the sentencing phase of his 2000 trial Roberts declared that, “I want to die.” The judge agreed and sentenced him to death. After the trial he waived his rights to appeal. On May 22, 2003 an automatic appeal resulted in the Arkansas Supreme Court upholding the death sentence by a 6-1 decision.

 

Hours before he was to be executed in January 2004, Roberts changed his mind and authorized his attorneys to appeal his conviction. A judge later issued a stay of execution. His attorneys argued that “no relevant or contemporaneous mental evaluation” was conducted when Roberts waived his right to appeal, therefore his appeal was invalid. On Valentine’s Day 2013, Andi’s mother sat through yet another hearing on the merits of Roberts’ latest claim.

 

Perhaps you can imagine the anger that shattered her heart when the Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously agreed with her daughter’s cold blooded killer and reopened the case. I can, because Rebecca DeMauro has been my friend since shortly after her daughter was murdered. She is correctly apoplectic about the fact that the state criminal justice system has allowed Roberts and his defense team to re-victimize her family as they dredge up the horrific and painful memories of little Andi’s tragedy over and over and over.

Murder Victim Travis Alexander

Murder Victim Travis Alexander

Jodi Arias is on trial in Maricopa County, Arizona for the brutal June 4, 2008 murder of ex-boyfriend Travis Alexander. Her story has changed several times. Initially, she told investigators that she knew nothing about the crime. When confronted with evidence to the contrary she said that she was there, but intruders had broken into Travis’ condo and committed the horrific murder. By the time her trial began Arias’ story had changed yet again. Now, she is claiming self-defense.

 

In a scheme obviously concocted by Jodi and her able bodied defense team, Arias has spent more than 8-days on the witness stand thoroughly and in great detail assassinating the character of her murder victim. Despite absolutely no evidence to back up her claims she has accused Alexander of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Tragically, he is not able to defend himself because he is dead: he was shot in the face; stabbed 27-times; and nearly decapitated when his throat was slit from side to side.

 

Travis Alexander’s family and friends pack the court every day. Many have come from California at their own expense to represent their beloved Trevor in the courtroom. They listen with disgust and anger as Jodi’s lawyers lead her through the sewer of her memories…or is it her cold calculation? Unfortunately, Travis’ family cannot respond: they cannot defend Travis’ memory. All they can do is sit stoically, avoid eye contact with the jury, and choke back the screams of outrage that must remain stuck at the back of their throats. If they act out in any capacity they might provide grounds for a mistrial, and then they will have to sit through it all over again: the lies, the accusations, and the character assassination!

Altar Boys

Altar Boys

Shana Rowan is the Executive Director of USA FAIR, a non-profit organization she founded that is dedicated to defending the indefensible: registered sex offenders. According to her official biography, Shana’s passion for registered sex offenders is personal and very close to her heart. She is engaged to marry a registered sex offender named Geoff. His support gave Shana the strength she needed to leave a long-term abusive relationship. Now his past is making it impossible for them to move on with their lives.

 

In her biography Ms. Rowan recounts his criminal behavior and portrays her fiancé as the true victim and she totally dismisses the very young half-sister that he serially abused. She argues that she and Geoff are victims of bad policy, and that sex offender registration and community notification laws (Megan’s Law) punish hundreds of thousands for crimes that a very small percentage of people might commit. She forgets that each and every person on the sex offender registration list has been convicted of, not committed as there is a vast distinction, at least one sex crime, almost always against a child or a woman.

 

Citing studies that demonstrate that sex offenders have a very low recidivism rate Ms. Rowan ignores the best known study of all: the long running Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal. For years, decades or perhaps centuries, high level Church leaders were aware that pedophile priests lurked in dioceses all over the world abusing young children. It was standard practice that pedophile priests, when found out, would be routinely shuffled between parishes and allowed to have continued, unsupervised access to children who they continued to serially rape. After years of investigation the Catholic Priest scandal exploded around the globe. The most significant finding is that cases worldwide reflect patterns of long-term abuse and the covering up and protecting of sex offenders. Given the opportunity, preferential sex offenders will continue to abuse children under the cloak of anonymity.

 

Megan’s Law is about denying perverts the cloak of anonymity. Each and every young victim, including Geoff’s victim, require years and years of psychological, emotional, and spiritual counseling. Many are hard pressed to put their lives back together, and all endure shame and guilt. Sex offender laws are not about punishing misunderstood men for youthful discretions, they are about protecting children and women from a known threat. Megan’s Law puts a public face on heinous crimes that for most of our history have been America’s dirty little secret.

 

Each of these three specific situations was enabled by institutions designed to protect and/or nurture the public. Victims and their families are being re-victimized in acceptable, status-quo ways. In one case, the Arkansas State Supreme Court has sided with an admitted baby rapist/killer and his American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) led legal team. Jodi Arias and her defense team decided that her road to redemption is to completely vilify the man she brutally murdered, despite evidence to the contrary. Finally, Shana Rowan cites the ACLU and other so-called social justice organizations as justification for her misguided bloviating.

 

 

Michelle Le Murder Trial: Nowhere to Hide

Another juror has been dismissed in the Michelle Le murder trial. There are now six men and six women sitting in judgment of murder suspect Giselle Esteban. There are also two alternate jurors just in case. Eight times a day, at the beginning of the session, during breaks and at the end of the day, the defendant stands up and faces the jury as they pass within inches of her every time that they enter and leave the courtroom.

 

In the beginning some of the jurors glanced in her direction. In a few cases they would make eye contact with the defendant or even nod in her direction. However, as the evidence mounts against her, I detect a perceptible change in jury demeanor. Now they avoid the defendants gaze as they grimly pursue the task of passing judgment. I understand their hesitance. After all, who wants to stare into the vacant eyes of an empty soul?

 

All four of the witnesses who testified today are employees of the Hayward Police Department. Another Inspector, a crime analyst, and a crime scene evidence collection expert all testified to the methodology behind the evidence, the chain of custody, and the linkage between individual elements. By the time they were done we knew where and when Michelle died, whose vehicle was used to dispose of her body, and the route that was travelled by that vehicle. We knew that the defendant was obsessive and jealous beyond reason. As the details of an ill-conceived murder plot were laid out for all to see, we finally understood that as surely as the sun rises in the morning and sets at night, that time was rapidly running out for Michelle Le.

 

As the evidence mounts against her Giselle Esteban’s emotional state in the months leading up to Michelle’s murder is becoming clear. She believed that everything wrong with her life could be attributed to Michelle. If Michelle was out of the picture then Scott (Marasigan) would love her, they would be a family and raise their daughter together, they would vacation in Cancun, and drape tinsel on their Christmas tree every year.

 

The only problem with that fantasy scenario is that Giselle Esteban is obsessive beyond reason. She was/is a stalker whose mind was muddled by dark visions that had no basis in reality. We know this because her trail of breadcrumbs is documented in photographs, text messages, video and audio recordings, cell phone records, cell tower analysis, and an inept effort to distort the truth in interviews and commentary.

 

It’s not a coincidence that often times the only person sitting on her side of the courtroom is her father, who sits quietly as the truth about his bad seed is revealed in excruciating detail.

Michelle Le Murder Trial: No Laughing Matter

Witnessing a trial from a courtroom gallery is very different from watching a trial on television or in the movies. There is no DVR, so you don’t get the benefit of playback. You experience moments of numbing boredom, and particularly after lunch it can be a struggle to simply stay awake. It can be difficult to hear questions and answers if you are sitting in the gallery.

 

The prosecutors and the defense attorney are no more than a few yards away, but neither is miked, and they are addressing their attention, commentary and questions toward the witness, jury and judge. Therefore, you don’t see or hear everything. If a tape recording is being played and introduced into evidence, as it was during this afternoon’s session of the Michelle Le murder trial, the judge, jury and witness all read from transcripts, but those of us in the gallery only hear the white noise of a cheap audio recording interspersed with semi-intelligible dialogue. So, any opinions arrived at or judgments made depend upon other types of impressions.

 

I arrived in court late today, during the testimony of Lead Investigator, Hayward PD Inspector Fraser Ritchie. Prosecutor Butch Ford and Inspector Ritchie were setting the stage for the initial interview the Inspector conducted with defendant Giselle Esteban just before midnight on May 28, 2011 the day after Michelle Le disappeared. After transcripts were distributed Mr. Ford pushed the play button.

 

Due to the challenging acoustics of the courtroom the words on the recording were largely garbled. However, the tone of the conversation chimed through as clear as a bell. Ms. Esteban was conversational and nonchalant in her responses to Inspector Ritchie’s questions. Her voice was atonal, flat and emotionless: broken by occasional bursts of inappropriate laughter.

 

Taken out of context Giselle Esteban’s laughter is simply an unmelodious expression of mirth. However, in the context of a murder trial in which both sides acknowledge that the defendant killed Michelle Le, her laughter is a chilling indictment of an empty soul: void of empathy, sorrow, or remorse. Her evil cackle provides a rare window into the festering cesspool of lies, resentment and pure evil that is the mind of Giselle Esteban.

 

Amazingly, she not only placed herself at the scene of the crime on the evening that Michelle disappeared, she admitted that the two of them had a conversation, making her the last person known to see Michelle alive. Although she is not a card carrying member of Kaiser, she supposedly went to the hospital to inquire about pre-natal care. That doesn’t even make sense.

 

As the tape played, the defendant sat at the defense table staring straight ahead. This woman must have ice water coursing through her veins. Maybe that’s why they call it cold blooded murder. Occasionally, she would grab a pen and write furiously on the legal pad in front of her. As the damning conversation reverberated through the courtroom I could only wonder what she was writing. When Inspector Ritchie said, “If she’s dead all fingers are pointed in your direction,” did Giselle scribble “Awkward”? After the Inspector told her that other witnesses in the investigation had told police that she and Le had a tumultuous relationship, did Giselle write “Wait until I get my hands on those bastards”!

 

After the tape concluded Inspector Ritchie described the state of Michelle’s car when it was located the day after she disappeared. I have tried not to think about the crime as the trial approached, but it all became too clear to ignore. There was blood everywhere. I believe that Giselle laid in wait for Michelle Le in the Kaiser Hospital parking structure on Friday evening May 27, 2011. At around 7:00 p.m. Michelle visited her car, was attacked from behind, and stabbed to death by Giselle Esteban.

 

I don’t see what’s so God damned funny.

 

 

 

Michelle Le Murder Trial: Courtroom Porn

Murder Victim Michelle Le

It wasn’t about the words or ideas expressed. We are all familiar with batteries, balloons, heat, humidity and lust. It wasn’t even about the emotions expressed as they are universal and common. Instead, it was the impersonal recitation of private expression.

 

Accused killer Giselle Esteban

The prosecutor and defense attorneys use very different interrogation techniques. To date, so much of this trial turns on text message transcripts. More than 300 pages of text messages were downloaded from Scott Marasigan’s iPhone alone.

 

Prosecutor Butch Ford is introducing selected content of these text messages as evidence in the case against defendant Giselle Esteban. Typically, Mr. Ford provides a transcript of the text messages to Mr. Marasigan and other relevant parties including the defense and judge. He then asks the witness to read back various portions of the transcript. As tedious as this process is, it has created a clear roadmap through the venomous mind of the defendant. We know that she despised and obsessed over the victim Michelle Le. We are also learning that her jealous obsession was based in paranoia and not reality. Although the trial has only just begun it is a strategy that makes sense as the case for first degree murder is constructed brick by brick by brick.

 

Scott Marasigan

The defense attorney Andrea Auer has also selected portions of Mr. Marasigan’s text log to prove that her client didn’t commit cold blooded murder, but was instead driven to kill Michelle Le “out of extraordinary provocation and the heat of passion.” Ms. Auer also provided the witness and other relevant parties with a copy of the transcript. But her focus was not about Giselle’s hatred of Michelle Le. Instead she centered her attention on Internet sex.

 

Unless one is producing pornography, the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter, for public consumption, it is usually experienced alone or with a trusted partner. Rarely, is it shared with a room full of people. But that is exactly what happened during the cross examination of Scott Marasigan, the man who completes the triangle of twisted passion that resulted in the tragic death of Michelle Le.

 

The youthful passion that drives the world can manifest itself in many ways. It can produce the glory of a Paul McCartney love song, or the tragedy of murder. This trial is about youthful passion run amok. The victim was only 26, the killer is 27, and she met Scott Marasigan when they were both college freshmen.

 

Instead of having Mr. Marasigan read portions of the transcript, the defense attorney chose to have the witness verbally acknowledge the transcript as she read them aloud to the jury. This disconnect between the lustful passions of youth and the words dispassionately reverberating throughout the courtroom was awkward and uncomfortable and seemed to indicate that people separated by distance wanted to have sex with each other. I don’t know what that has to do with the murder of Michelle Le.

 

Michelle Le Murder Trial: Day 1

Accused killer Giselle Esteban

I spent the nineteenth anniversary of Polly’s kidnapping and murder in court. Today began the trial of Michelle Le’s accused killer Giselle Esteban. If opening statements were indicative of how this trial will be handled, and in my experience they usually are, then this is one killer who will never again walk in the grass, smell the roses, or vacation on a beach. Instead, she will rot in a physical hell that matches the sick, twisted fantasies that dominate her life and ruin the lives of those who find themselves drawn into her sphere.

 

The prosecution was unambiguous. Giselle considered her crime for a long time. She planned to kill Michelle, and she telegraphed that information to others.

 

There is no privacy in 21st Century America. The prosecutor can document events leading up to Michelle’s murder. He has phone a variety of phone records including text message logs, which paint a portrait of a monster. There is an extensive record of phone calls that calculate her obsession with a woman who meant Giselle no harm and never threatened her. Cell tower pings track Giselle’s movements as she stalks Michelle, her work place, her friends and associates. There are pictures and video of Giselle invading Michelle’s space in harrowing and intimate ways. There is the trail of breadcrumbs that ultimately led to Michelle’s remains, days after Giselle was charged with her murder. All in all, a portrait of a twisted woman with hate in her heart and vengeance on her brain is painted in bold brushstrokes, so that all can see her madness, her evil intent.

Murder Victim Michelle Le

The defense paints a different picture altogether. But even their pastel portrait is streaked in crimson red: the crimson red of Michelle’s blood. They say that it wasn’t a premeditated crime. That instead it was a crime of passion caused by victim whose loose morals invited scrutiny and ultimately retribution. Despite a potential mountain of evidence the defense claims that Giselle is being portrayed as something that she is not. She is not a monster, instead she is a woman scorned. A woman who watched her family crumble beneath her as a philandering boyfriend betrayed her trust and their family.

Scott Marasigan the Man in the Middle

But opening arguments are but a preview of things to come. Scott Marasigan, the lover scorned for crimes perceived but never committed, was the first witness. He spent the afternoon reading from text message transcripts and Giselle’s jealous obsession and twisted logic manifested itself before our eyes. The transcripts were vile, slanderous, profanity riddled sound bites designed to belittle, injure, and torment. Several times a day Giselle would stab Scott with her invective. Three hundred pages of insults that repeated the same words time and again: whore, slut, bitch.

Brother Michael Le & Cousin Krystine Dinh

It was enough to make seasoned reporters gasp in horror. Unfortunately, it was also enough to make Michelle’s brother Michael and cousin Krystine leave the courtroom shaken and in sobs. And today was only the beginning.