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10.24.2003

Reasonable Doubt - Part 7

If this wasn't so serious an issue, I'd probably laugh.

From the evidence found at the scene of Duran Bailey's murder, at least one "item" seemed like it was taken straight from an uninspired plotline and applied to a second-rate film. Those bloody footprints - especially the one leading away from the body - summon images of a Warner Bros. cartoon directed by Wes Craven. And it doesn't help that I saw copies of the photos myself.

Louise Renhard got to see those footprints, too. She was one of the investigators sent to the site to gather forensic evidence. She was also a witness for the prosecution.

One footprint, she testified, was actually on a cardboard box that was then thrown over the face of the victim. As she describes it (bold added by me):

Q (Defense counsel Kohn) And I also show you Defense Exhibit E, what is that?
A (Lousie Renhard) Okay. This is a cardboard box or piece of cardboard, I should -- that looked like it was probably originally a cardboard box. With a footwear impression in blood on the cardboard box. I didn't take this photo. I don't know who did.
Q Do you know where that cardboard was found?
A I believe it was on the -- over the torso, face portion of the victim.


Later she says she believes her associate Dan Ford took the picture. But it's hardly the point. This is a bloody footprint...not on the ground, but on the cardboard box that was thrown over Bailey's face. I think it is more than reasonable to say the murderer made that print while walking around in the blood, then threw the piece of cardboard along with the rest of the trash over Bailey's body afterwards. I mean, bloody footprints don't just make themselves. That would be downright creepy.

Joel Geller, a forensic expert in prints, tire tracks, and footwear working for the Metro Police, would confirm two testimonies later that the prints did not belong to the accused, Kirstin Lobato, who was later convicted of this murder despite the enormity of evidence that favored her innocence and complete lack of conclusive evidence to the contrary. The defense expert reported that the prints were not even close to her size (though his testimony on this matter was blocked by the prosecution). Geller also said the prints did not belong to Richard Shott, the man who found the body and called the police. And the officer on the scene makes it clear he secured the crime scene swiftly and well.

That's what's referred to as exclusionary evidence. Someone walking around in Bailey's blood made that print. Someone then threw that piece of cardboard over the victim's face. And that print does not belong to Kirstin Lobato.

Lousie Renhard also talked about testing for blood in Kirstin's car. Although initial tests found some sign of substances that could be blood, the confirmatory tests showed nothing. Basically, the Luminol (the glowing spray stuff) detects blood and some other common materials. A second and sometimes a third test is then used to determine if it is actually blood and not one of the other substances it could pick up. On no test did they ever determine that there was blood in Kirstin Lobato's car.

Of course, that picture of what looked like a hand swipe on the door was really nice. A cute touch, brought to you by the prosecutors. Maybe it was a hand swipe. But ultimately it didn't detect as blood either, no matter how intriguing a mark it was. I'm still betting it was a favorite picture of his, especially since he started his opening argument with it.

Anyhow, Lousie Renhard listed the things she took into evidence (looked at by Thomas Wahl, who I will be talking about next). She did very little in the way of comprehensive analysis...her job was mostly the collection of evidence. Fingerprints, tire tracks, chewing gum, and so on. Her largest role in analysis was running the preliminary and follow up blood tests, which found nothing. And the blood tests did not show anything on the aluminum bat found in the car, which is the weapon prosecutors say was used in the attack.

There was an interesting dance going on between the prosecution and defense about how to use the lack-of-blood evidence, and it really got surreal because both sides ended up talking about how tests could be unreliable (though each side did it for reasons that would help their case, of course). On the defense side, how effective the blood tests were and whether they could pick up false signals was a long topic of conversation. On the prosecution side it was more about how blood traces could be destroyed through washing or cleaning, thus destroying any potential blood samples. Either way, the final evidence was that no blood was found in Kirstin Lobato's car.

Of course, the prosecution claims that Kirstin Lobato or her parents did a good job cleaning the car.

Yeah, a great job. So good a job, in fact, that they left vomit under the front left seat. Enough vomit that Lousie Renhard knew exactly what it was the moment she saw it - no tests necessary. This supports what Kirstin Lobato said about her car being vandalized in a disgusting manner (defecation and other unpleasantries), which is why she said she didn't drive it for awhile. It does not support the prosecution's "crack cleaning job" theory.

Not like the defense team ever brought that up.

More to follow.


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