Dateline   |  April 07, 2014

The Girl With The Blue Mustang, Part 10

Would Raymond Jennings go free? That was just the question the prosecutors were asking.

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

>>> i really did ask myself some real hard questions about whether i'd made a mistake.

>> reporter: twice the prosecutor michael blake had taken the case to a jury. twice he had failed to persuade them all that raymond jennings murdered michelle o'keefe. was he wrong to try it in the first place? did he really think he'd get yet another chance at a rare third trial?

>> michael blake and i were sitting in his office afterwards and he said, do you have the energy to do this again? and i said, well, do you?

>> reporter: there was little forensic evidence , nothing at least that would help them. the whole thing had become ridiculously complicated. had filled up thousands of pages, so now what? forget it? well, in fact, it wasn't their decision. a judge would have to decide whether or not there would be a third trial. the detective and the prosecutor assembled to hear the decision.

>> i will not dismiss the case, so if the people request it, there will be a third trial. it will undoubtedly be the final trial so everyone should plan accordingly.

>> reporter: the final trial, meaning if this jury were to hang, raymond lee jennings would walk.

>> there was some pressure because you know whatever happens , whatever the outcome is, it's over. it's the end.

>> reporter: but that wasn't the judge's only decision. the other? trial number three would be moved out of l.a. but this time for the third and possibly last trial, the case would be heard here in the antelope valley , the home of michelle o'keefe and raymond lee jennings . it had been ten years since that cold night in february 2000 but people around here still remembered the story. and prosecutor blake went back to basics, how could he cut through the clutter and get to that jury?

>> i went back to the drawing board . we had restructured the case. the presentation of the case. i started thinking from the point of view of the jurors, what questions would they want answered? and that's where i came up with four questions.

>> reporter: trial three, four questions, last chance.

>> where was the mustang through all these events? where was michelle ? where was the gun? and where was raymond jennings ? you put the answer to those four questions together and this man is guilty of michelle o'keefe's murder.

>> reporter: blake hammered home the time line , told the jury how michelle arrived in the parking lot at 9:23 then at 9:25 moved her car to a second space, told them how jennings on foot patrol must have seen her, must have confronted her, something went wrong. he produced a gun and shortly after 9:30 michelle o'keefe was dead.

>> he took that girl's life to preserve his own after making a grave mistake with her. that's what the evidence will show.

>> reporter: and according to the prosecutor, it was no coincidence that virtually all those details jennings provided about the crime were accurate.

>> he's remembering where he was. he's remembering the positions of the car. he knows the angles of the bullets took as they passed through michelle o'keefe. he knows all this stuff because he is the shooter.

>> reporter: or maybe not. jennings said the defense had figured out what the cops could not and was merely trying to help.

>> by making this case complex and overlaying things that mr. jennings has said, then we have what situation? complex case that cops can't really figure out, but mr. jennings has been able to. everything. it's going to be analyzed in a way that suits the prosecution that wants to convict mr. jennings .

>> reporter: and insisted the defense with absolutely no physical evidence connecting him to the crime. but the prosecution countered with former fbi profiler mark safarik who had a theory about why there was no evidence found on jennings ' uniform that might link him to michelle 's murder.

>> this interaction between them is very quick and that it's a minimal contact interaction. there is a sexual assault piece then escalates into homicide. it's a minimal interaction so i'm not -- i wouldn't expect that there would be any trace evidence between them.

>> reporter: but there was something on michelle , and it might be important for the defense. under one of michelle 's fingernails investigators found a tiny speck of blood that was mixed with dna from someone else .

>> one blood donor is miss o'keefe, one donor being an unknown male, not mr. jennings .

>> reporter: not mr. jennings , so was it the killer? in each trial as now the prosecution claimed that dna was irrelevant. michelle could have picked it up anywhere. maybe in the crowded studio by just touching someone during that taping with kid rock . still, it was just the sort of thing that could hang a jury for the third time. so same arguments, same long complicated trial like " groundhog day " but for this. they were in the antelope valley now, right down the road from the park & ride . and so on a cold november night, the judge moved her courtroom to the scene of the crime . would this help the jury see what happened? detective longshore acted as a sort of tour guide.

>> this is where that was and mr. jennings had testified about the route he took. that type of thing. it was pretty intense.

>> reporter: so it was. as was one more question pregnant in the air as the trial wound down. would he take the stand and talk to the jury?

>> okay, so he's exercising his right to remain silent.

>> yes.

>> that is a voluntary decision on your part, sir?

>> reporter: he certainly seemed to want to talk.

>> mr. jennings .

>> could we take just a couple-minute break?

>> tactically there is a big downside to putting your client on but it's mr. jennings ' choice. he's the only one --

>> you wish to exercise your right to remain silent.

>> yes, your honor.

>> is that a knowing understanding voluntary decision on your part?

>> yes.

>> no one has pressured you in any way?

>> no.

>> reporter: so now the man would perhaps already talked too much remained quiet and let his lawyer do the talking.

>> i know you will do the right thing. mr. jennings is innocent of this offense. mr. jennings needs to go home.

>> raymond jennings , i don't think he meant for this to happen. i think he panicked but he left the scene a murderer. follow the law, follow your conscience and tell him that you know he's guilty. thank you.

>> reporter: the lawyers had their say, of course, always do. before 12 sometimes befuddled citizens went off to a room to argue and the o'keefes once again left the building, two hung juries, two strikes against them, three and they'd be out.

>> michelle deserves justice. she went into that parking lot , you know, a beautiful 18-year-old girl and then left murdered. she needs to have justice.