Dateline   |  May 17, 2013

'Shattered', Part 5

Amber Hilberling's defense includes a bold assertion; the guilty party in Josh Hilberling's death is not his widow, but the poor-quality window he accidentally crashed through.   But the testimony that keeps the courtroom riveted comes when Amber herself takes the stand.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> amber hilberling had been called a lot of things in tulsa, spoiled, vain and by the state of oklahoma , murderer. but her attorneys, jason corns and april cyber thought it was time to tell the truth about amber as they saw it.

>> she was a victim before this accident. she's been a victim of the circus at tha this case has become. she's been through hell.

>> her lawyer said her hell began the moment josh went through the window because she had no intention of causing his death. after all, the state's own witnesses describe amber at distraught and inconsolable.

>> every first responder on the scene, they all testified unanimously, that amber appeared shocked, surprised, said she couldn't believe it happened. she never meant for it to happen. it was an accident.

>> some people find it hard to believe, a woman 5'5", seven months pregnant could push josh who is 6'4", right nowth out the window. wouldn't he be able to stop that?

>> well, there was a push and a trip. he lost his balance falling backwards. what happened next is a blur.

>> the defense argued that the state couldn't prove otherwise. they said just because josh's body was found face down, that didn't mean he had gone out the window the same way, as if pushed from behind. the problem, they said, was the prosecutor's application of the law. the law of physics.

>> the medical examiner testified that based on his observations of the injury, there's no way he could tell with any degree of scientific reliability which way he came out of the window.

>> do you think it's possible to change positions many times as you're falling from 25th floor ?

>> absolutely.

>> it was also possible the defense argued, that the witnesses who saw josh falling face forward were imagining things, especially the witness who was taking a smoke break on the street 25 stories below.

>> the idea that this man, while out smoking a cigarette could have been zeroed in on that one of 400-some windows and can testify two years later about this man's body position as he went through that window, that's preposterous.

>> equally absurd to the defense , that testimony from amber 's former cell mates who described amber talking callously about her husband's death.

>> one of the jailhouse snitches testified that amber said in jail, i killed the bastard. any truth to that?

>> no. in fact, amber 's reaction was priceless when that testimony came out. she looked at me and she said bastard. what am i 40? that's an old person's word.

>> he said putting them on the stand was a desperate ploy and he predicted it would backfire.

>> i had more respect for the jury that we seated to think they could believe the two jailhouse informants. i think they were just a joke.

>> the real culprit here said the defense wasn't amber at all, but the cheap windows she accidentally push josh against. the lawyer said the glass may have met city codes but that didn't mean it belonged in a high-rise.

>> i want the jury to realize that that glass is not safe.

>> they called to the stand an expert who has been testing and installing glass in buildings for 30 years. he told the court that the glass in the university club towers' windows should have been replaced years ago.

>> it's for picture frames, not for windows. i've never used that on any of my projects.

>> and the only thing filmsier than that glass was the prosecution's claim that amber was an abusive wife. amber 's mother found that argument particularly galling.

>> i disagree that amber was the abuser. did she fight back sometimes? oh, yeah. was she perfect? i don't know that. no one was up there with them.

>> the only two who knew what happened were amber and josh.

>> josh didn't have to defend himself. i mean, i was a good wife.

>> in that same soft voice, amber hilberling took the stand to defend herself. she recounted a marriage that began passionately but soon became troubled. she blamed that trouble on josh, who she said was abusive.

>> did you ever fear for your life in the relationship?

>> i mean, i definitely was scared sometimes.

>> on the last day of josh's life, amber said she decided finally to stand up for herself. she told the court she made josh pack his bags. that's what started the fight and that's when amber said months of abuse at the hand of her husband led to one final confrontation which he started.

>> out of frustration, he reaches out and grabs my shoulders.

>> the defense produced this photo to show that josh's grip had left red marks on amber 's shoulders. fearing for herself and her unborn baby , amber said she reacted with a mother's protective instinct.

>> i reached up and pushed against his chest. i remember him falling backwards and i mean, i didn't even hear anything.

>> but that claim of self- defense was at odds with her next door neighbor's testimony.

>> he said he heard amber yelling and the stomping of feet as if someone had been rushing toward josh just before that crash.

>> so there are two very different stories.

>> i can't give account to the other guy or whoever testified saying that. but the running, there was no running.

>> was there stomping toward the window at any point?

>> i mean, there was ojosh tripping backwards that maybe could have been heard like that.

>> but if it did happen that way, why didn't amber mention it moments after josh died? why was she suddenly claiming self- defense ?

>> was that a story you made up to try and get off?

>> no. no, not at all. why i didn't mention it in the interrogation room, i don't know. i remember very, very little of anything in that tape.

>> she even addressed that protection order the state tried to use against her. she said the idea for filing that was a ruse she and josh worked up together.

>> why did he take a protection order out against you?

>> that was for josh's parents, of him trying to convince them that he was going to divorce me so they wouldn't take his trust fund from him.

>> did you intentionally push josh out that window?

>> no. i would never do something like that to someone. ever. i mean, i've never even been in a fight ever in my life.

>> as she testified from the witness stand , amber 's words were being measured and weighed very carefully. had she made the case for freedom or talked her way into prison?