Guests: Davidson Goldin, Dr. Michael Baden, Larry Kobilinsky, Clint Van Zandt, Jonna Spilbor, B.J. Bernstein, Henry Lee, Paul Pfingst, Tammy Dobbs
SUSAN FILAN, GUEST HOST: Coming up, New York police investigating Imette St. Guillen’s murder link fibers from a carpet in the bouncer’s home to the tape found on her face.
Here’s the man who police are now officially calling a person of interest in the sexual assault and murder of Imette St. Guillen. He appeared in a Queen’s courtroom today and was then taken to a precinct house where he was put in a lineup. At the same time police have linked fibers from Darryl Littlejohn’s home with those found on Imette’s St. Guillen’s bound and battered body and tape on her face.
Hi everyone. I’m Susan Filan. Dan is off today.
First up on the docket, the investigation into Imette St. Guillen’s murder. Joining me now “New York Sun” columnist Davidson Goldin.
DAVIDSON GOLDIN, “NEW YORK SUN” COLUMNIST: Hi, Susan.
FILAN: Davidson, hi. Thanks for being with us. Bring us up to date.
What’s the latest in this case?
GOLDIN: The latest in this case is as we know this morning; Darryl Littlejohn was hauled before a judge who ordered that he appear in a lineup to try to determine whether he is linked not only possibly to the murder of Imette St. Guillen but also to three rapes, too, here in New York City and one on Long Island. We’re now told that the person in Queens, New York, who thought that perhaps Mr. Littlejohn had been the person who raped her, in fact, could not identify Mr. Littlejohn in the lineup, so he is on his way at this hour, if not already back at Rikers Island, he is on his way to Rikers Island where he is being held on this parole violation. At this point, Susan, our sense is that police feel they have enough to charge him with and if this were the typical “Law and Order” episode, he would have been charged already. However...
FILAN: Now when you say enough to charge him with, Davidson, are you talking about the rape and murder of Imette St. Guillen?
GOLDIN: Yes, to be clear on that, the murder of Imette St. Guillen, the police seem to feel, he’s certainly their only suspect, that they could have charged him already in that case. But as you know, he’s in jail indefinitely on this parole violation because he had a 9:00 curfew and he was clearly violating that...
FILAN: Right. They can hold him 90 days on that, so they do have time.
GOLDIN: Right. So they’re in no great rush. And what seems to be the case is that before charging him with that murder, police want to have a slam dunk if they can, as much evidence as they can get. And so far, these tests they’re doing, the DNA and other forensic tests are coming back mixed. Some tests seem to indicate that there is a link between Mr. Littlejohn’s home and the blanket in which Imette was wrapped. On the other hand, other tests involving skin under her fingernails, not so conclusive. So they’re not going back, they’re running more complicated tests and as you pointed out, they’ve got 90 days, they’re taking their time.
FILAN: And are you hearing anything about timeframe on that, Davidson, in terms of getting test results back?
GOLDIN: The only sense I have on the timeframe is it’s taking longer than people would have expected, but what I’ve also been told when pressing people on that is they point out because they have this 90-day window, certainly at least 15 days before he’s got to have an administrative hearing, they have the time to not rush things...
GOLDIN: ...to not use preliminary results...
FILAN: Davidson, tell us about the Dorrian’s link to this case as well. I think that’s grabbing people’s attention because as people are finding out, the Dorrians also owned a bar where 20 years ago, the preppie murder occurred. Talk to us about that if you would.
GOLDIN: Well there are two sides to that. It’s generally I think considered, Susan, to be a coincidence that 20 years ago Robert Chambers met Jennifer Levin and wound up killing her in Central Park after a night of drinking at Dorrian’s on the Upper East Side of Manhattan on 84th Street and 2nd Avenue.
The Dorrian family also owns way downtown, miles away in the trendy SoHo neighborhood, this relatively new bar, The Falls, where Imette was last seen and was last seen walking out apparently with the suspect, Darryl Littlejohn. The issue, though, in this case is what one of the relatives of the Dorrian family, the brother of the owner, this guy Daniel Dorrian, who was tending bar that last night, he initially told cops apparently that Imette left alone and then a few days later after some pressure from cops, he said well it wasn’t quite that she left alone. I had a problem with getting her to leave. I asked Darryl Littlejohn, the bouncer, to walk her out. There was some sort of commotion and the two of them were never seen again.
FILAN: So he lied to police. Davidson, stick around.
Joining me now former chief medical examiner from New York City, Dr.
DR. MICHAEL BADEN, FORMER NYC CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: Hi, Susan.
FILAN: ... forensics and DNA expert Larry Kobilinsky who is also a professor at John Jay College of criminal justice where Imette was a student, former FBI profiler and MSNBC analyst Clint Van Zandt, and criminal defense attorney Jonna Spilbor.
Let’s start with the forensics. According to newspaper reports, the carpet fibers on the tape found on Imette’s face match those from Darryl Littlejohn’s Queens apartment. The same brand of tape used to cover Imette’s face was found inside Littlejohn’s apartment.
Semen results were among the inconclusive findings from several DNA and forensic tests and DNA recovered from underneath St. Guillen’s fingernails did not match Littlejohn’s and could have belonged to a woman, so two for and two against this guy as a suspect.
Larry Kobilinsky, could you talk us through this?
LARRY KOBILINSKY, FORENSICS AND DNA EXPERT: Sure.
FILAN: What do you make of it?
KOBILINSKY: Well first of all, the fiber evidence is very important. And I do believe they have enough to charge him. But it really depends on how unique the fibers are. If this is the kind of carpet that is commonly found in Queens or anyplace else, then the evidence is not as probative as we would like it to be.
Let me say this about the DNA evidence. The most critical piece is the tissue under the fingernails. I am not surprised at all that the profile that they got comes from a female. It most likely is from the victim and it’s very seldom that you end up getting a profile from the perpetrator.
And the reason that the results are inconclusive is either there is an insufficient amount of DNA under the nails from the perpetrator or it’s degraded. I suspect they will now do what is called YSTR testing, which exclusively looks at the male and they will do something called Low Copy Number DNA. This will take another few days—and then we will determine if there is a match or not.
FILAN: Now when you say we’ll determine if there’s a match or not, are you saying that we’re going to determine whether there’s enough DNA to link it to Darryl Littlejohn or are we going to—just talk us through that a little bit.
KOBILINSKY: Susan, it’s very simple because this Low Copy Number procedure requires very few cells, in fact six or seven cells is enough to get results. And although there are some questions about the reliability of the testing, I believe that the validation studies are quite good. And if they have a profile, they will be able to check that against the state’s database.
We know that Mr. Littlejohn is a felon. His profile is on the database, so it’s a matter of one day of simply sending the digital information and determining if there is a match. If there is not a match it doesn’t exclude Mr. Littlejohn. There may very well have been another perpetrator here. So, the DNA is very important, but it will not set him free.
FILAN: Fair enough. So if we don’t get this match as we might on a “CSI” episode, it’s certainly not game-over for this investigation?
KOBILINSKY: Absolutely right.
FILAN: Clint Van Zandt, what do you make of this?
CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: Well one thing, Susan, as you know and Larry and all of us on your panel right now, there is no such thing as a slam-dunk. The only people—you know the media likes to use that term. But if you’re a prosecutor or defense attorney and investigator, you know that there are no slam-dunks.
All of us were sitting here saying let this no good son of a gun, whoever he is, the assailant, let his skin cells be under her nails and let’s get a match and let’s move on with this. You know we would have liked to have given each other a high five and said, we got him, book him Dano, but there are other things, too.
As Larry is talking about the fiber, we know that carpet in his house was a red carpet. We have the red fibers that are now attached to the tape that was put on her face. We know the tape has been matched up. Similar, type of tape have come out of his apartment. So they’re building a very good, not only circumstantial case, you know you’re aware of this one witness that’s outside that people were talking about, so we’re building a circumstantial case, now they have to build that forensic case to back it up because dog gone it, Susan, people want to see forensics in court.
Too many episodes of “CSI”, everybody believes in it. We want that to be there. We want that proof beyond a reasonable doubt to be something forensic.
FILAN: But we don’t need get it in every case and we don’t necessarily need it in every case. Dr. Baden, they call you the “detective of death”. Talk us through this, would you please?
BADEN: Susan, I think you’re right. Ninety percent of murders are solved without DNA, but this is the type of murder, rape/homicide murder where DNA can be important, but they have lots of other evidence. The most important thing is the initial police work. Finding that—the suspect is the last person to be with the victim, motive, means, opportunity, checking alibis, and they’ve got, as Davidson said right at the beginning, probably plenty of evidence to charge him with and the only reason they’re not charging him yet is because they don’t have to.
They have him in custody. They’re trying to build up the forensic material. Fingernails often have proven in the past to be very unreliable place to get good solid DNA from a perpetrator because there are so many other things that get under fingernails. But they’ve got hairs. They’ve got the tape that they match up, as you point out. They have a wire to match up. They have a cell phone, where he was.
FILAN: So there’s certainly plenty for police to work with in this case.
FILAN: Take a listen to Littlejohn’s lawyer outside court today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN O’DONNELL, DARRYL LITTLEJOHN’S ATTORNEY: He hasn’t been charged in anything yet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
O’DONNELL: Unfortunately it’s going to be very difficult for him to get a fair trial, never mind in the city, in the state with all the publicity and the police leaks. (INAUDIBLE) He’s very confused. Of course he’s upset. He knows that his face has been published everywhere across the country. Just a scapegoat, the police department never should have leaked any of this information.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FILAN: Jonna, criminal defense attorney joins us. What are your sentiments on that?
JONNA SPILBOR, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: I concur with his attorney. And let’s not forget, I think that attorney is right now representing him on an unrelated charge, perhaps investigating some other rapes. And what I was most concerned about today, Susan, was I didn’t think this man could get a fair lineup because his face has been plastered all over the news and any sort of lineup would be tainted and as we found out, he was not fingered in the lineup, so that was very interesting to me.
FILAN: Well does that mean he didn’t get a fair lineup or it was a fair lineup?
SPILBOR: No, that means he did get a fair lineup...
FILAN: So maybe the concerns that this guy can’t get a fair trial have just gone out the window...
FILAN: ...because it sounds like people are fair.
SPILBOR: I think—I’m not big on saying that anybody can’t get a fair trial on this planet. We live in a media age. We have to sit 12 people down and make sure they can give him a fair trial, and we are so far away from trial at this point, we really needn’t concern ourselves yet.
FILAN: So you think it’s kind of a lynch mob mentality out there against poor Darryl Littlejohn?
SPILBOR: I think it is because this crime is so heinous. We want to solve it. The community wants to solve it. And we now—we think we have one guy in custody and it might be him, so the police and the rest of us are kind of glomming onto that.
FILAN: Clint, it’s pretty outrageous that we want to solve this heinous murder, isn’t it?
VAN ZANDT: Yes, I think it’s really terrible. I think we ought to cut this guy out, maybe give him a scholarship to college, and maybe send him to John Jay and...
FILAN: How about an apology and a check?
VAN ZANDT: ...let him go on with his life.
VAN ZANDT: Yes. You know the one thing here—the challenge is in dealing with this guy is that there is a potential he did other crimes because he wasn’t picked out in an eyewitness, that says—of course the eyewitness said you out of five, six other people, I can’t pick you out. But as we know, these terrible rapes that are alleged, too, this is someone who grabbed these victims; they wrapped a towel around their head...
FILAN: Do you think she couldn’t pick him out because maybe he grabbed her, handcuffed her, threw her in the back of a van and put a blanket over her head?
VAN ZANDT: Yes, you know is there any similarities here that law enforcement ought to consider or should we say justice is blind and deaf but does it have to be stupid? I don’t think so.
FILAN: Larry Kobilinsky, Clint Van Zandt, Davidson Goldin, thanks so much.
Dr. Baden and Jonna Spilbor, stay with us.
Coming up, closing arguments in the trial of a millionaire accused of hiring a hit man to kill his socialite wife. Prosecutors say the gunman showed up with a box of pink roses and then shot her. But the alleged hit man took the stand and said he didn’t do it! Is the prosecution’s case in trouble?
And Susan Polk on trial for killing her husband, she fired all her lawyers and she’s representing herself in court. One of her sons is testifying against her. Now she’s cross-examining him, yes, that’s right, mother against son in court, very emotional testimony.
Your e-mails, send them to email@example.com. Remember to include your name and where you’re writing from. We respond at the end of the show.
FILAN: His future soon to be in the jury’s hands, an Atlanta millionaire, James Sullivan, on trial for murder for hiring a hit man to kill his wife Lita Sullivan 19 years ago. He’s hoping those hands don’t carry him to prison. The prosecution is arguing Sullivan paid $25,000 to have his wife killed so he could avoid a divorce settlement that could have reached $1 million. The defense says there isn’t enough evidence to prove Sullivan was involved and is banking on the prosecution star witness, the alleged hit man who once admitted to killing Lita Sullivan and agreed to testify against James Sullivan changing his story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PHILLIP ANTHONY HARWOOD, ALLEGED HITMAN: The agreement was to take care of her. That was what was spoken to me and as far as participating; my intention was never to participate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean when you say take care of her?
HARWOOD: Well, you know that can be looked at a lot of different ways. Take care of her—you know, but I assumed and I don’t like to assume anything but I assume that he meant to kill her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But why did you tell Mr. Sullivan, I did not kill your wife? Why did you tell him that?
HARWOOD: Because I didn’t kill her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tell me, do you see the person that you saw in that restaurant back in 1987?
BELINDA TRAHAN, ALLEGED HITMAN’S FORMER GIRLFRIEND: I do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please point him out.
TRAHAN: Right there.
CLINT RUCKER, FULTON, CTY., GA ASST. DISTRICT ATTORNEY: If you keep your minds focused on the facts and the evidence in this case, you will be able to answer the questions about where and when and what and how and in particular, who is responsible for this brutal murder or hit or assassination.
Even though he did not pull the trigger himself, even though he was lying in the bed with his feet propped up probably drinking some coffee, reading the newspaper, waiting to get that call from Tony Harwood, he is still guilty just like he pulled the trigger himself.
DON SAMUEL, SULLIVAN’S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: In the history of American jurisprudence, as far as I know, nobody has ever stood up, looked around the courtroom and went there he is. It’s just drama. I don’t know that it’s ever happened before that the prosecution calls its star witness and then obliterates him to the point that the defense is like there’s nothing left to say. You stole our scripts or as actors say, you stepped on my lines.
He did it all. There was just nothing left to ask him. As Ms. Ross said in her opening statement and as Welcome Harris, the chief detective told you, as FBI agent Kingston told you, we didn’t have evidence in 1998 until we found Tony Harwood. We didn’t have enough. If you don’t have enough, and you add zero, you don’t have enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FILAN: Joining me now, former Georgia prosecutor B.J. Bernstein and back with us, criminal defense attorney Jonna Spilbor. B.J., oh-oh, the prosecution’s star witness changes his story. So how do you recover from this? I mean do they have a problem? Are we in big trouble here as prosecutors?
B.J. BERNSTEIN, FORMER GEORGIA PROSECUTOR: Well you know certainly it’s not the ideal situation and this would give any prosecutor an ulcer, obviously, but what they’re going to have to do and what they did do is try to tie back in with the little facts in the case that are known independent of Tony Harwood. The phone calls to the house, the conversations that they can document independently of Harwood, plus, again, you got to go back to the fact of why would you plead guilty to killing someone originally back in ‘98 unless you had done it.
The fact that he’s had time, a lot of time to simmer in prison and try to figure out a clever way out of it, that’s what happens in cases. That’s not necessarily enough to defeat it. It makes it tough, but not necessarily sink it for the prosecution.
FILAN: So do you think the defense argument that if you’ve got nothing and then you add nothing to nothing, you end up with nothing is going to hold up in this case or do you think these other things that they’re going to try to argue might actually carry the day?
BERNSTEIN: Well I think they gave—I think trying—you know, it’s always dangerous to equate things to numbers when you’re dealing with a jury and the concepts of beyond a reasonable doubt and to say that he brought nothing to the case is a very strong statement as opposed to the reality. Again, he pled guilty initially for you know killing Lita Sullivan and during that plea you know it was clearly connected to Sullivan...
FILAN: Is this manna from heaven? I mean is this like a defense lawyer’s dream come true?
FILAN: But it’s a snitch witness to begin with, so you would have had...
FILAN... a field day either way.
SPILBOR: It’s the cherry on top of the sundae. You know testimony is only as good as its source and this poor prosecution, they have their star witness totally recanted and their second best witness is a drama queen, so the jury is not going to be able to really hang their hats on what these people have said and the defense attorney summed it up in his summation beautifully. He said, you do not have to solve this crime. You simply have to determine whether the prosecution has met his burden and he hasn’t.
FILAN: But how do you get around the guy pleading guilty, yes, I killed her and then coming in and recanting. I mean that’s the oldest trick in the book. He’s sitting in the can now, it’s not so fun, and now he wants people to believe that he didn’t do it. You really think people are going to buy that?
SPILBOR: Well they—are they going to believe what he said then?
Are they going to believe what he said now?
FILAN: But which is more likely...
SPILBOR... doesn’t matter.
FILAN... I killed her and I’m going to jail for it or I didn’t because I’m in jail for it.
SPILBOR: The point is they’re not going to be able to answer that one way or the other and if they can’t, it’s an acquittal for this guy.
FILAN: You know, Jonna, the defense didn’t even cross-examine...
SPILBOR: I know.
FILAN... this alleged hit man. Do you like that? That they didn’t dignify it with a response or do you think that might have been a strategic overreach?
SPILBOR: No, no, no. You know as a former prosecutor, I know as a defense attorney that is the largest insult you could give to a prosecutor. When they put up their star witness and you don’t have any questions on cross-examination, that’s like saying in your face, you didn’t do your job and I would be...
SPILBOR... very intimidated as a prosecutor right now.
FILAN: B.J., are you scared? Are you worried if that were you?
BERNSTEIN: Well you know, when you’re a prosecutor and they don’t ask questions, I’ll give it to Jonna, that’s definitely the defense saying in your face.
FILAN: And B.J...
BERNSTEIN: Of course they may have missed some opportunities.
FILAN: The prosecution took days to present its case and the defense just hours. Is that another scare tactic or does that get you nervous, too?
BERNSTEIN: No. Because you know that’s fairly typical. You know usually—because remember the state carries the burden of proof, so their case is going to be lengthy or to talk about the case from beginning to end. The defense is trying to poke holes.
And one thing that’s important to realize here are Sullivan’s own actions after the death of his wife, his leaving the United States and going to Latin America and then he ends up in Thailand. Those are things that don’t bode well for Sullivan.
FILAN: So, it’s not how many witnesses you put on, it’s the quality of witnesses. B.J. Bernstein, thanks so much. Jonna, stick around.
Coming up, a housewife on trial for killing her husband. She fired her lawyer and she’s representing herself. Now she’s cross-examining her own son on the stand.
And a sister suspicious of her brother’s death convinces authorities to reopen the case and arrest his wife for murder. Dr. Baden did an autopsy on the body and helped crack the case. He’ll be back to tell us all about it.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again. Our search today is in Nevada.
Please help authorities locate Robert Butcher. He’s 49, five-ten and weighs 130 pounds. He’s accused of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old boy and has not registered his name with the state. If you have any information on his whereabouts, please call the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation. Their Fugitive Unit is at 775-684-2644. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN POLK, ACCUSED OF MURDERING HER HUSBAND: He smeared the pepper spray into my face. What I saw through the blur and the burning was him stabbing at me and I saw the knife go into my pants. And so I thought, he stabbed me. I thought he’s going to kill me. I’m going to die here unless I do something right now. And I just kicked him as hard as I could with the heel of my foot in his groin and at the same time I went for his hand and his hand loosened just as I kicked him and I just grabbed the knife out of his hand and I said, stop, I have the knife.
And he didn’t stop. He just came over me, grabbing at the knife, punched me in the face and I stabbed him in the side and he’s trying to grab it out of my hand, and so I squeezed my hand as tight as I could and I stabbed him again. I think I stabbed him five times. At one point, I waved it back and forth like this and I said, get off, get off, get off, get off. And he stood up and it was over.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said something?
POLK: He said, oh, my God, I think I’m dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FILAN: Susan Polk on trial for murdering her husband Felix Polk. She claims it was self-defense. She’s fired all her lawyers and she chooses to represent herself in court. This is making for some very bizarre cross-examinations. Yesterday she had to question her own son who believes she murdered his father. But it was more like listening in on a family therapy session than actual courtroom testimony as the two tried to paint very different pictures about their dysfunctional family.
Polk asked her son—quote—“Why did your father tell you I was delusional? Gabriel Polk answered because you were acting that way. I didn’t need his evidence. I saw you delusions myself.
Joining me now “San Francisco Chronicle” reporter Henry Lee who was in the courtroom yesterday, former San Diego County District Attorney Paul Pfingst, who is also an MSNBC analyst, and back with us in the studio defense attorney Jonna Spilbor. Henry, we heard it was standing room only. Riveting testimony yesterday. Tell us, what was it like in that courtroom?
HENRY LEE, “SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE” REPORTER: That’s right, Susan, extraordinary spectacle. Mother cross-examining her own son who was 15 at the time he found his father’s body. Now 19. Indeed just like a dysfunctional family, question and answer. At times he was questioning his mom like what do you mean, mom? The judge said it’s up to Susan to do the questioning. Very, very bizarre indeed.
FILAN: How did she come across to you?
LEE: She came across as someone who is trying to relive the hay day, the—going down memory lane, the happier times, asking her son to recall details, some of them mundane, of his childhood before the homicide. A lot of the times he couldn’t remember exactly what she was trying to get at. At one point he said I don’t know, how old was I?
FILAN: And did it seem like she was off track to you or did it seem like she was actually accomplishing something in her defense?
LEE: Well give her some credit. She did try to pick at some points raised by the D.A. in his opening statement, but other than that it seemed a little plotting, seemed a little off balance at times.
FILAN: And Paul, does she get convicted just for being so heartless as to cross-examine her own son? I mean as a prosecutor are you just sitting back loving it because she’s leading herself essentially to a guilty conviction?
PAUL PFINGST, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: Well, generally it’s counterproductive and it doesn’t help with the jury. The jury sees someone who is making poor judgment decisions. And you start questioning what other poor judgment (INAUDIBLE) made like committing murder.
So this is clearly counterproductive. The trick of the prosecutor is to not look like you’re exploiting it, like you’re taking advantage of someone defending themselves. So you have to pull yourself back a little bit and not jump in and run a train right through it. And generally that’s pretty easy for prosecutors to do, but she’s clearly, this type of decision does not help her.
FILAN: And what do you think about the fact that the jury is really going to get a darn good look at what kind of woman she is by standing up there crossing her own son? I mean obviously you’re going to pull back a little bit so you don’t take advantage, but you don’t want to sort of have them feel sorry for her either, do you?
PFINGST: No, and if you saw that happening, you might jump in a little bit more, but we don’t seem to see that happening. And generally what happens when a witness or a defendant represents herself or himself, they ask questions that actually make them guilty. They say did you see—actually see me do this and the person goes, yes.
And did you see me from seven feet away? Oh, I was actually about 10 feet away. And the witness’ testimony becomes all the more credible and they become more believable and what happens is the decision to represent yourself enforces the credibility of the witness rather than takes away from it, so that’s why I have never seen a case where a defendant represented himself succeed.
FILAN: Jonna, now if you’re this person’s defense lawyer and they dump you to pursue this defense and you see this going on in the courtroom, does it make your skin crawl? How would you handle this if let’s say you were her stand-by counsel?
SPILBOR: Yes, there’s nothing—first I’d be watching through my fingers because this is a train wreck that I just don’t want to really look at. You know, as a mother cross-examining her son, my mother was a pretty ruthless cross-examiner. She never stopped foot in law school. But I think in this case Susan Polk might garner some sympathy with the jury because she does come across...
FILAN: How is she going to come across cross-examining her own son?
SPILBOR: Because this is such a freak show. She’s talking about family dynamics and I might feel sorry for her having to interact with her son on the stand about her dead husband. This is a sad, sad case.
FILAN: Dead husband, how did it come to be the dead husband?
FILAN: Let’s not forget that...
FILAN: You don’t kill your parents and then say feel sorry for me I’m an orphan.
SPILBOR: That’s true and if you listen to her, it was self-defense, which incidentally I don’t believe. This is a battered woman syndrome or at least a take-off, an offshoot of that.
FILAN: Maybe she’s the batterer after this cross-examination of her own son. Henry Lee, Paul Pfingst, and Jonna Spilbor, thanks very much for being with us.
Coming up, how a sister’s suspicion about her brother’s death leads authorities to reopen the case and arrest his wife for murder. Dr. Baden helped solve the case. He joins us next with the details.
And later, why Dan’s got it all wrong in the Debra Lafave case. The Florida teacher who had sex with one of her students. I say forget the double standard. This woman should be in prison just like a man would be.
FILAN: Coming up, a sister suspicious about the way her brother died begged with Dr. Baden to help solve the case. He found it was murder and they join us after the break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG MILES, MISSISSIPPI ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL: There seemed to be something there. I had a question about a cause of death. I had to tell her, I said, for this case to be prosecuted, I had to have a death certificate that said the manner of death was a homicide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FILAN: The death certificate for Jaime Lynchard said he died of natural causes, but that wasn’t enough for his sister Tammy Dobbs. Believing Jaime’s wife, Brigitte, was behind his mysterious death, Tammy used the HBO Web site to contact Dr. Michael Baden, the famed forensic specialist and host of the HBO program “Autopsy”.
Tammy wrote, I need your help to prove my brother was killed in July of 2001. Please, I beg you to take the time to read what I’m writing you. I believe the lives of four little children are at stake.
Dr. Baden got the autopsy and toxicology reports and slides from Jaime’s diseased lungs and he asked Tammy to come up to New York to talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) death certificate?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, sir.
BADEN: Death certificate says—I’m sorry, do you want a tissue. I’m sorry dear. This is kind of tough. But I know you’ve been concerned about it. That’s why you contacted us. And the person who initially made out the death certificate, he thought that the cause of the lung disease was a blood clot to the lung. But that—even though that’s what’s on the death certificate, and that’s a natural reason for death, it’s wrong. Your brother didn’t have a blood clot. We have been able to reconstruct what happened to your brother.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FILAN: Wow. With me again, Dr. Michael Baden is the host of HBO’s “Autopsy” and a former chief medical examiner from New York City, and Tammy Dobbs, Jaime Lynchard’s sister. Dr. Baden, what happened to Jaime Lynchard and why did you agree to look into this case?
BADEN: Yes, what happens, Susan, in this country, if a family is unhappy with the cause of death of a loved one, there’s very little they can do except hire a lawyer, make it an adversary situation. What we found in our series of autopsies on HBO is that families write in—e-mail us. We’ve got 3,000 e-mails of families who feel that their loved one was not properly diagnosed.
FILAN: So how did you pick this one?
BADEN: This one—in looking through the e-mails, this one had something in it that possibly could lead to a solution one way or the other and that was because the poisons that were used that were in the e-mail could be seen under a microscope. So what we did was ask to get the microscopic slides and sure enough when we looked at the microscopic slides we could see evidence of the poison, which led to resolving the matter and being able to give it over to the district attorney who then was able to proceed further with the matter.
FILAN: So this was a case where the wife was just slowly poisoning the husband to death?
BADEN: That’s what it turned out to be, yes.
FILAN: And Tammy, this must have just been an absolute nightmare for you all through the case and then an absolute blessing when Dr. Baden got involved. How did you feel when you learned that your suspicions were in fact true that your brother was murdered?
TAMMY DOBBS, JAIME LYNCHARD’S SISTER: Well, I was glad to know that I had it resolved, but you know it kind of hurts to know that he was actually murdered.
FILAN: I can’t even imagine. How are the children doing, now?
DOBBS: As good as can be expected. You know, with what had happened, they don’t have a mother or a father. So, their grandparents, which are my parents, are raising them and you know they’re doing the best they can do.
FILAN: Tammy, what was it that made you think this wasn’t just an ordinary illness or some kind of an accidental death? Why did you suspect your sister-in-law of murder?
DOBBS: Well, Jaime and I were pretty close and we were never one to be sick a lot. It was strange for Jaime to be constantly sick day after day and then he would get well and then he would be sick again and it seemed like it was, you know, there for the longest time it was only in the morning times and I just knew something wasn’t right and something in my gut was telling me, something’s happening to him. So I just started you know watching, paying attention, listening and I just knew.
FILAN: Did your sister-in-law do anything after his passing that made you even more suspicious?
DOBBS: She did a lot after his passing.
FILAN: Did she burn the house down?
DOBBS: I don’t know if you know—yes. The arsons were—I mean she went ramped (ph) with that. She just...
FILAN: And did you think she was trying to destroy evidence? I mean is that what made you more suspicious. Dr. Baden, you’re nodding your head. Tell us...
BADEN: I think Tammy was terrific and the prosecutor was terrific also. Tammy was concerned. Afterwards, there were suspicious fired that partially burned down the residence and there was a concern by Tammy that maybe there’s some evidence there that she’s trying to get rid of and sure enough, they found some things that were important.
FILAN: And the result of your remarkable findings, this case actually didn’t go to trial, did it? Tell us what happened...
FILAN... after you came out with it. You have to watch the show. The show is Saturday night at 10:00. We’re sort of the lead-in for “The Sopranos” the next day and we’re the whole—everything will be revealed as to how it happened, but in order for families to be able to get some resolution and—of the death of a loved one, there has to be a sort of kind of cooperation between medical examiner, law enforcement.
In this case the prosecutor in Mississippi was just a super professional person. A lot of prosecutors don’t want to reopen cases that are closed. They have plenty of cases on their desk and I think Tammy would agree that he was a very excellent professional person to proceed in the matter.
FILAN: And what happened in your opinion with the initial autopsy? I mean because that guy just dropped the ball or does it take someone with your esteem and expertise...
FILAN... to find something like this?
BADEN: Most autopsies in this country are done by hospital pathologists who are very good at cancer, heart disease, stroke, but not on subtle ways of killing people. Forensic pathologists who didn’t do the first autopsy normally look for signs of poisoning on the microscope, which a hospital pathologist wouldn’t normally do. So I think they did miss it initially and we were able to look at—see by the time passes that tissues are no longer available for toxicology so poisons can get by that way, but in this instance the poison could be seen under the microscope.
FILAN: Well it’s amazing what you’re able to do in this case. Tammy, I’m so sorry that you’ve got the answer that you got, but I’m very pleased that there is resolution for you in this dreadful case. Dr. Michael Baden and Tammy Dobbs, thank you very much for joining us. You can watch more about this case Saturday night at 10:00 Eastern Time on the show “Autopsy” on HBO.
Coming up, why Dan’s got it wrong when it comes to the Debra Lafave case, the Florida teacher who had sex with one of her students.
And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike again. Today we’re in Nevada.
Police are looking for Jack Kester. He’s 48, five-four, and he weighs 200 pounds. Kester is accused of attempted sexual assault with two boys under 14 and he hasn’t registered his address with the state. If you have any information on his whereabouts, please contact the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation. Their Fugitive Unit is at 775-684-2644.
FILAN: My “Closing Argument”—Dan has just got it wrong. A Florida judge is currently considering the fate of former teacher Debra Lafave, trying to decide whether the plea deal she agreed to was too lenient and whether the 25-year-old teacher deserves jail time for having sex with a 14-year-old student. I know you’ve heard Dan say he thinks it’s OK to have a double standard. He said back in November that he’s more—quote—
“Concerned with male sexual predators than I am with female sexual predators.” Dan thinks female predators shouldn’t be punished as seriously as males.
Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I disagree with Dan. A double standard isn’t OK under any circumstances. Look, a statutory rapist is a statutory rapist. I don’t care if you’re a scary looking male teacher who preys on female students or if you’re an attractive young female teacher like Lafave. Either way, when you have sex with underage students, you’ve broken the law, not to mention taking advantage of your position as an authority figure at the school. Under the terms of the plea deal, Lafave served no jail time. But she’ll serve three years of house arrest and seven years of probation.
Prosecutors in Hillsborough County reluctantly agreed to the deal because the victim’s mom decided she didn’t want her son to have to testify. But a judge in a neighboring county isn’t so sure this deal is fair. It’s a great deal for Lafave, although Lafave’s attorney claims she’s mentally ill and that sending her to prison would be like—quote—
“Putting a piece of raw meat in with the lions.” Guess what? I don’t buy that. And I don’t think the media fascination with the case, Lafave’s mental vulnerability, or her looks should change the fact that a predator is a predator and a victim is a victim.
I’m not in favor of unequal justice. While I sympathize with the victim and his family, as the judge said yesterday, we’re not dealing with a 5-year-old here. The victim is 15 years old and if he’s testifying and it means he has to admit that a sex offender like Lafave will finally be tried for her crimes, well you know what? Maybe that’s what has to happen then for this to be fair.
Up next, a lot of you are still writing in about Imette St. Guillen’s murder. Now you’re mad at the bar employees for apparently lying to the police.
FILAN: I’ve had my say, time now for “Your Rebuttal”. Dan’s talked a lot about how he’s not happy with the many people who are practically blaming Imette St. Guillen for her own murder. Well, a lot of you are now writing in upset not with Imette, but with the employees at the bar where she was last seen.
From Illinois, Elizabeth writes, “I find it interesting that many of your guests are so eager to give the bartender or owners of the bar the benefit of the doubt. No, they weren’t really lying to police. Maybe they didn’t know that Littlejohn was a bad guy, blah, blah. Yet, many of those same people seem to think that Imette was at fault for letting herself be vulnerable to this very same guy.”
And Jim Baughman in Tennessee writes, “Here’s what should be done with the bar employees who lied to police investigating Imette’s murder. They should all be taken to the city morgue and shown up close the bodies of murder victims. Maybe the sight of brutality inflicted on the innocent people would teach them to think of the greater good and not to worry so much about losing their jobs.”
Jim, I agree, but it really shouldn’t take someone having to see a dead body in person to realize you should do the right thing, right from the start.
Send your e-mails to the firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll go through them and read them at the end of the show.
That does it for us.
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