Dateline | January 25, 2013
woman in a fake beard, a really thin guy.
>> when the comic book murder volume 2 continues.
>>> michael george had been married to his second wife renee for almost 20 years. through thick and thin, they still seemed very much in love.
>> this case will show you --
>> but at his 2011 trial the defense acknowledged right up front that during his first marriage michael would never have won an award for husband of the year.
>> this is not a matter of suspicion, innuendo, discussed with the person for having affairs. this is a matter of evidence.
>> so lead defense attorney carl marlinga reminded jurors the defendant was on trial of murder.
>> an adulterer is a person that does evil things but that does not necessarily make him a murderer.
>> the victim's shoe could be seen.
>> as for any hard evidence that michael george killed his wife in cold blood , the defense maintained it just didn't exist.
>> and you have no weapon, no witnesses.
>> no forensics.
>> nothing. nada that ties him to the crime.
>> the jury, your honor, the people rest.
>> just as in the first trial came that moment when the prosecution rested and the defense filed a motion saying, your honor, they haven't proved their case.
>> there is no physical evidence which links michael george to the crime.
>> but this time there was no five-hour retreat to chambers for the judge to think about it. her ruling came in seconds.
>> the court is finding that the prosecution has presented substantial evidence. the defendant teared up. there was enough evidence, the judge declared, to go forward.
>> the conclusion, gentlemen, is that the motion is denied. so with that setback, not unexpected, the defense began its three-pronged line of attack. that the original police work was inept, that there was evidence, some of it new, this someone else committed the murder and thirdly, that michael george had a strong alibi.
>> we decided that our strongest evidence was the alibi, and that would normally be sufficient to win, but knowing that we are dealing with michael 's history and the affairs that could make him an unlikable character, joe and i realized that we really almost had to prove innocence.
>> michael george told police that he'd left the store with his daughters a little after 4:00 p.m . that friday. they went to his mother janet 's house about 30 minutes away. he said he was asleep on his mother 's couch when, tragically, his wife was shot. janet george , the mother had testified in the first trial and backed up her son's asleep on the couch story.
>> on the couch.
>> defense attorneys altered their strategy for trial number two.
>> ma'am, do you swear that you will read word for word everything that's in that transcript?
>> mom didn't testify in person this time around. the defense had a stand-in lead janet george 's 2008 testimony into the record, in a time that michael arrived after 5:00 p.m . that day. he said he was tired while she took her granddaughters to a nearby playground.
>> when you got back. did you observe michael at all?
>> where was he?
>> he was on the couch sleeping.
>> if they believed the story, michael george couldn't possibly have been at his shop at 5:30 answering the phone. that's when the star prosecution witness mike renaud said he talked to him.
>> janet george was the alibi. why didn't you put her on the stand?
>> tough call. we agonized about it. the problem with janet george is that she loves her son, but she's a wild card . her -- her memory is fading.
>> the lawyers were confident about their decision not to call the mother because they had a strong witness to substantiate parts of her story.
>> okay. peggy was janet george 's next-door neighbor. on that friday the 13th, like most days, peggy said she got home from her job between 5:45 and 6:00.
>> as you got close to your house did you see anybody?
>> i actually saw janet and the two girls in the school playground at the end of our street.
>> when you saw them there, what, if anything, did they do?
>> we just waved.
>> as you pulled into your house what, if anything, did you see in front of janet 's house?
>> there was a van parked in front of the house.
>> okay. did you recognize whose van it was?
>> i assumed it was one of michael 's vans, yes.
>> in the prosecution's theory of the timeline, was there a missing link of logistics. how did michael get from his mother 's place and back to the store in time to kill barbara?
>> the neighbor's sighting of his van outside his mom's could plant the seed of reasonable doubt .
>> she has no dog in the fight. she's not a close, close bosom buddy or lifelong personal friend of janet and michael 's. she's a neighbor. why wouldn't you believe her?
>> when you take the combined testimony of janet george and peggy you have solid evidence that he was at some place else.
>> and that neighbor was a person the defense team had found on its own. the police had never knocked on doors to corroborate michael 's alibi of being at his mother 's, evidence in itself, the defense argued of shoddy police work. even the former police lieutenant admitted on cross-examination that aspect of the investigation could have been better.
>> if you were the officer in charge of this case, would you have conducted a canvass of his mother 's neighborhood to see if people could have placed him there at or about the time of the homicide?
>> yes, sir.
>> that police work was the defense theory. for instance, the police never tested michael george for gunshot residue the night of the murder.
>> in the rear entry door.
>> and also failed to dust the pros duecutio prosecution's critical back door for possible fingerprint.
>> if the bad guy touched the handle to get out that way, he would have left some prints, but we'll never know that because the police didn't dust that.
>> there were some plastic storage bins.
>> and police photos inside the comic storeroom where barbara was found was clutter blocking the back door. how could michael george have gotten in or out with all of that.
>> does that look like the room.
>> the former detective did not know how to read that junk apparently in the way.
>> was that leaning up against the door?
>> i can't tell the perspective. it's hard to tell.
>> the defense felt it had raised enough reasonable doubt to secure a not guilty verdict and even though they in no way had to the lawyers wanted to offer the jury other possible murder suspects considered in a scenario of a robbery gone bad.
>> the defense calls mr. thomas clinton.
>> the defense put on a witness about being with two friends outside a comic bookshop in flint, michigan, some 50 miles away from michael george 's shop. a sinister-looking guy was peddling hot comics.
>> a man approached us in the parking lot and asked us to take a look at old comics that he wanted to sell.
>> this new defense witness said he came forward after watching the first comic bookcase on "dateline." he testified that the then teenagers didn't trust the seller and didn't buy anything from him.
>> the vibe the gentleman was giving us told us no way.
>> the witness said that encounter took place july 14, 1990 , significantly, the day after barbara george 's murder, but his friends, called by the prosecution contradicted him and said it actually happened weeks earlier.
>> we were walking towards the building.
>> the defense wasn't out of alternative suspects. one of the store customers who had initially come upon barbara george , thomas ward recounted seeing a suspicious man lurking about when he got to comics world a little after 6:00 p.m .
>> it appeared that this individual was looking, trying to gaze into the store quite focused, in a quite focused fashion.
>> warren said he remembered the man because of his distinctive hat. he had a greek fisherman's cap, black cap .
>> a cap like this.
>> let me show you defense exhibit 105.
>> and still another new witness testified that in 1990 she briefly dated a guy who wore a short-brimmed hat like that. a guy who carried a gun and was up to no good and was up to no good with the comic book stores.
>> i realized that he was stealing these comic books .
>> these were all possible suspects the defense claimed, but on the top of the list of curiosities was someone who became known as the bearded lady . witness joe gray , a friend of the george 's came to the store before 6:00 to drop off supplies for michael 's birthday party . gray was with a friend who had gotten a gander of something strange.
>> he said it looked like a woman in a fake beard, a really thin guy with womanly hips or something.
>> gray and his friend were so concerned about this weird bearded lady out front they warned barbara george to be on the lookout. it didn't feel right.
>> why would somebody wearing a fake beard? maybe someone would come to the party as a joke or maybe they were trying to rob the place. it was joe gray 's friend who helped police make the sketch of the so-called bearded lady .
>> i believe the person with the fake beard and mustache is the killer.
>> that's your solution of this?
>> it's a fake beard and mustache on a july day with no products and no halloween parties and this is just too suspicious in these circumstances, that person is the killer.
>> what would 12 fresh jurors believe this time? the comic book murder case volume 2 had one final chapter left.
>>> coming up --