Dateline   |  January 24, 2014

'In the Dead of Night' part 6

The defense theorizes that Lee committed suicide, but will the jury agree?

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

>> narrator: rob fischer 's attorney has stood up for a long parade of clients over the years, many of them guilty as sin. but this case? this was guilty, said mr. kates .

>> innocent people are the hardest to represent. i don't sleep at night representing innocent people because losing is not an option.

>> narrator: here's how he put the question to the jury.

>> ladies and gentlemen , this case ask all about who's finger was on the gun the night that lee radder died. you know, rob didn't have any motive to shoot lee and olllee certainly had some reason to commit suicide .

>> narrator: wait, he did have some reason to commit suicide ? yes, said rob's attorney, this time lee's life was spinning out of control.

>> there's no money coming in. and lee doesn't know what he's going to do.

>> narrator: lee's friends had no idea how bad it was, said kates . 15,000 to the irs, another 25,000 still owed to a former employer.

>> no doubt that we, you know, had some financial troubles ahead of us.

>> narrator: belinda was a state witness, but she told the jury that lee, with his $100,000 life insurance policy would joke aloud he was worth more to her dead than alive.

>> he would say that numerous times over his life.

>> narrator: then that night, december 30th . do you remember lee got an e-mail just after dinner, excused himself from the table to call his business partner ? that partner admitted that when lee called him after getting that e-mail, he was not happy.

>> how was he acting?

>> he was kind of upset.

>> narrator: good reason. this man is from the company igt, with which lee was hoping to make that multimillion dollar deal . and he testified, there never was a deal.

>> you told him no?

>> yes, i need someone who has distribution centers worldwide. it doesn't help igt at all to enter into that business, so he was told no, that was not going to happen.

>> narrator: what's more, he said, any future deals would be small, in the tens of thousands, not in the millions.

>> there wasn't murder, ladies and gentlemen , this was a trage tragedy. lee radder's worth more dead than alive. and he knew it. for some reason he couldn't bring himself to tell his friend and his partner that this business deal wasn't coming.

>> narrator: no, their theory was that was suicide, not murder. during that night at the kitchen table, rob passed out and lee kept right on drinking. and drunk and discouraged, he went and found rob's gun, he pulled the trigger and when rob awoke to the sound of a gun shot, he was totally confused. he assumed he must have been in bed, when in reality, he was probably at the kitchen table with lee, or close by.

>> imagine you're still drunk, there's somebody laying on the floor with a puddle of blood with a gun in their hand, you're in your pajamas, you're in the hall facing away from the bedroom. wouldn't your first thought be geez, i must have been been in dead.

>> in my opinion, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, he was in a blackout, he was confused, he was not oriented to time. he made some what might be unusual or confusing requests to the police officers .

>> narrator: at the time of the 911 call, rob's blood was three times over the legal limit, which certainly explained not recognizing lee, said the expert. as for the big deal the state made about rob washing his hands when the officer told him not to.

>> have you ever told a drunk friend to do something? it's kind of like herding cats .

>> i know, but he's a lawyer and an ex-cop.

>> right, he's an extremely drunk lawyer and ex-cop.

>> narrator: but what about that blood ed. the state's expert told the jury t law of gravity dictated the gung should have dropped out of lee's hand as soon as he fired a bullet into his head. but the defense's medical expert produced statistics saying that the gun actually stays in the hand of someone who --

>> the state's blood spatter expert was certain the body had been moved, the state called their own blood spatter expert who told the --

>> finally said defense attorney kates , the case came down to one crucial question, whose finger was on the trigger. kates put the question to the state's crime analyst.

>> you at least said you couldn't exclude mr. radder, correct?

>> that's correct.

>> and that's because there were portions of this print that matched portions of mr. radder's prints?

>> there was, yes.

>> narrator: and the one person whose prints did not match was rob fischer . conclusion --

>> his fingerprints weren't on the gun, his dna wasn't on the gun. and lee's was, they didn't find any fingerprints that matched rob fischer anywhere on the gund.

>> what does that say to you?

>> lee was the last one to handle the gun.

>> narrator: after several weeks of testimony, the case went to the jury. both sides expected a quick verdict. so it was something of a surprise when the jury stayed out for a whole day and then two, and then three.

>> i want the world to know that my brother did not commit suicide and that it was a travesty for someone to say that he did.

>> have you reached a verdict?

>> we have, ma'am.

>> we find the defendant as to count one, second-degree murder, guilty.

>> and just like that, rob fischer was facing ten to 25 years in prison. his lawyer has filed a motion for a new trial.

>> i was in shock. i was shocked. i really was. i truly believe my client to be innocent.

>> lee radder's family sat in the courtroom quietly sobbing.

>> i don't want to think about him, i want to think about my son and justice for my son. i would do anything to bring him back.

>> narrator: and belinda ? belinda 's heart breaks, she says, for her stepdad rob.

>> it's a double tragedy. all the way around.

>> narrator: but mostly, it's lee she thinks about. ollie a lee and the children growing up now without him.

>> the hardest part is knowing that they won't have anybody to walk them down the aisle, he won't be there to see that. i feel pain for myself, but my biggest source of pain is for them.

>> narrator: and as for what happened in the early hours of december 30th , 2010 , maybe someone knows. and maybe not.

>> reporter: that's all for this edition of "dateline." i'm lester holt ,