Dateline   |  October 12, 2013

'Burning Suspicion' part 9

The defense makes its case.

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

>>> brett seacat , unable to pay a lawyer to represent him, was lucky in one particular way. his court appointed defense attorneys just happened to be veterans of murder cases. the attorneys who opened. --

>> my grandmother used to love to put together jigsaw puzzles.

>> a man who understood the puzzle didn't always get put together the way the prosecution made it look.

>> there's a second side to this story. and that is that vashti seacat , depressed and confronted with either losing her career or staying in the marriage, decided instead to take her own life.

>> why would she do that? here came the bombshell.

>> vashti had confided in brett that she had rekindled a romantic relationship that she was having with one of the executives at cox communication.

>> vashti , claimed the defense , was having an affair with a cox vice president and the evening before vashti died brett gave her an ultimatum. stay in the marriage or he would expose her affair. that threat along with brett 's vow to take the children, said the defense , were the triggers that sent an already depressed woman over the edge .

>> she suffered from absolute depression. what can depression lead you to? among the various things that can go wrong, suicide is one.

>> under cross-examination by the attorney, the seacat therapist testified that vashti had a history of what she called depressive symptoms starting when her brother died in an accident when she was young.

>> major depressive disorder would be that occurring more than once for a longer period of time. possibly in a pattern.

>> and with regard to what you wrote down regarding mrs. seacat , were you describing an episode or a disorder?

>> i was describing that this was an episode, that there had been others prior.

>> a lot of folks think that if you were depressed a week ago but you ain't been depressed since, you are cured. now, i got the expert to say that isn't the way it works.

>> nor is it possible to anticipate if or when a depressed person might commit suicide , admitted the therapist, even when someone is making future plans, as vashti was. suicide is still possible, the defense argued. they're about to say it also wouldn't have been the first time for vashti . or at least brett was ready to claim she had attempted suicide before.

>> brett wanted to testify about the suicide attempts that vashti had made on herself. some while they were married, some before. judge said, well, show me the evidence of this. and we had looked and looked and looked and could not find --

>> high and low . couldn't find anything?

>> couldn't fiend hospital records that far back. that shouldn't surprise anybody. because hospitals don't keep records anymore.

>> even so, brett would not be allowed to make that claim in court. what about the post-it note found in vashti 's purse, the one that listed funeral expenses.

>> it could very well be that that is her figuring out what things cost and whether or not insurance is going to cover it. that's what i think it could be.

>> who knows?

>> who knows? nobody knows . prosecution doesn't know. i don't know.

>> but it has some significance, you think?

>> you certainly could portray it as being significant. you could also portray it as being a load of hog wash.

>> remember how the prosecution argued that vashti 's suicide note found in her journal was a forgery, probably committed by brett ? the defense had a handwriting expert of its own who concluded that vashti did, in fact, write the note, and brett asking for that overhead projector at work hours before vashti died, the attorney cross-examined brett 's co-worker, the one who helped him find it.

>> mr. seacat was not the least bit secretive when he asked you this question?

>> he was not.

>> he goes and asks someone to help him find an overhead projector ? takes him to where it is. he carries it down in full view of anybody who is possibly in that place, and he carries it back. that sounds like somebody who didn't have anything to hide.

>> and what about the state's point that no soot was found in vashti 's lungs? under cross-examination, the coroner allowed that it could be possible under the defense scenario that vashti lit a fire just before killing herself.

>> if someone lit a fire and shot themselves within seconds, would you expect to see soot in their lungs?

>> not necessarily, no.

>> as for the power point found in the seacat 's dining room table, the one that discussed homicide and suicide and fire investigations , meaningless said the defense .

>> what the prosecution would have you assume, right, is that this really, really smart cop was stupid enough to be looking at all of this stuff the night he tries to burn the house down? please. i certainly wouldn't try to hide evidence by setting a house four blocks from the fire department on fire. and praying, right, that they would not get there until the whole thing had burned to the ground. that's silly. it's just silly.

>> what's more, brett said, most of the power point printout had been in a tray in another room as scrap paper that the kbi must have moved those pape toers the table just to make it look suspicious. like they made brett 's use of an overhead projector suspicious and destroying computer hard drives and cell phones suspicious. ridiculous the defense said.

>> the state wanted you to believe he was trying to destroy evidence of a crime. what evidence did they try to destroy? they never said what evidence he tried to destroy. this guy is such a super criminal that where does he go to destroy that? he goes to the kansas law enforcement training center, which is full of, what, former cops. and he gets somebody to help him destroy those things. now, if he want today destroy those things, there are enumerable farm pond. if you wanted to get rid of that, you throw it into a farm pond and nobody will ever find it.

>> in fact, the state's whole investigation, was at best incompetent, maybe worse. brett and the attorney claimed that vashti 's car disappeared from the crime scene for three days even though the entire seacat yard was suppose today have been sealed off a crime scene . they showed the jury a series of photos taken from different vantage points which made it look like the car had been moved in the days after the fire. this neighbor lived right across the street from the seacat driveway.

>> when you first observed the driveway, was the volkswagen there?

>> no.

>>> it was not?

>> no.

>> do you remember seeing it in that driveway ever again?

>> three days later.

>> three days later. if i understand your testimonyu didn't see anybody bring it back?

>> no.

>> i think he was telling the truth. if i thought he was lying, i wouldn't have put him on. to me it implies that the investigation is faulty. how do you let somebody get into the crime scene and drive it away?

>> so service either gross incompetence or intentional.

>> my opinion it was both. if that happened, what other mistakes did they make? there's something about the investigation that stinks.

>> just smelled bad, said the attorney that it claimed he had gasoline on his pants when the defense expert says --

>> i would not make a determination it was gasoline.

>> worst of all, the he said the kansas bureau of investigation did not look for gunshot residue on his hands a test that would have revealed if he actually fired that gun that night.

>> if you've ever seen what that gun looks like, it comes out the side of the cylinder. that stuff goes somewhere. and on to your skin is where you would look for it. yet, they didn't look.

>> they didn't look.

>> he's a cop, they're a cop. brett seacat doesn't have much faith in the kbi.

>> the defense called brett t. seacat to the witness stand .

>> the star witness for the defense would be the last