Monday, February 8, 2016

Adnan Syed Post Conviction Relief hearing: Day 4

It's been an exciting and adversarial day in the Baltimore court today as the PCR hearing for #AdnanSyed continued into it's fourth day.

First on the stand was State's witness, FBI cell expert Chad Fitzgerald, who became very antagonistic during the defense's cross of his testimony from Friday.  Fitzgerald accused defense attorney C. Justin Brown of handing him "manipulated evidence," referring to the call record and cell tower documents provided.  Brown pointed out that the document was the same document originally provided to Guttierez by the State back in '99, the clear implication being that the State gave Adnan's defense documents that had been doctored to make it that much more difficult to prove his innocence.  Brown was skillfully able to get Fitzgerald to admit that the cell information given to the defense was redacted and totally inadequate compared to the prosecution's documents, which Brown was also able to show to the court, and which  are clearly very different.

This is clear prosecutorial misconduct, and the State's own witness inadvertantly helped to prove it.  Fitzgerald certainly won't be getting any overtime bonuses for his testimony.

Next up was Dave Irwin, an expert witness for the defense, who, as an experienced defense attorney, was called on to critique the representation of Adnan's original defense attorney Christina Guttierez.  Adnan's PCR claim relies on proving ineffective assistance of counsel, or in non-lawyer speak, proving his lawyer back in '99 was derelict in her duty.  For those of you unfamiliar with the case, Christina Guttierez's career took a nose dive shortly after she represented Adnan, resulting in her being disbarred for mishandling client funds and for numerous failures in her cases.  She died only a few years later due to health problems, which Adnan's current attorney claims had a serious impact on her effectiveness in 1999 when she represented Adnan in his two murder trials.

Irwin first testified on Friday, but due to time constraints, both parties elected to postpone his cross-examination and redirect until today.  This time it was prosecutor Thiru Vegetales turn to go on the attack, unfortunately for him it didn't go quite as planned.  Irwin stuck to his guns on the fact that Guttierez had been negligent in her defense by not contacting alibi witness, Asia Chapman, who testified last week.  Thiru tried to turn the tables on Irwin by presenting him with a number of hypothetical scenarios in which an attorney might choose not to contact an alibi witness, but Irwin skillfully dismissed them all.  Irwin's testimony made it very clear that to not contact an alibi witness, even if you never intend to put them on the stand, is a clear example of ineffective assistance of counsel.  He went so far as to say that the only excuse for not contacting said witness would be if that witness lived on a space station, and even then, Guttierez should have called NASA just in case.

Pretty unequivocal really.

These hypotheticals proposed by the prosecution led to yet more hilarious hashtags on Twitter, here are a few of my favourites

After Irwin was done demolishing the State's argument that Guttierez failure to contact Asia was a "strategy," the State called their final witness.  You might remember him from Friday's funniest hashtag, yes, it's former Woodlawn Library security guard #UselessSteve.  Turns out that Steve wasn't so useless after least from a defense point of view, because even though he was the State's witness, he ended up helping to support the defense's case.  Steve, who had to be escorted to the Court by a police detective, because he apparently believes that Twitter trolls are planning to kill him, first testified that there were no security cameras in the Woodlawn Public Library back in '99, only to change his story later on when cross-examined by the defense.  Steve's testimony seems to have hurt the State more than anything, because he came across as indecisive, unsure and said he didn't even know about the Hae Min Lee murder until he was contacted by the State...last week.  That's right folks, one of the State's main witnesses in this hearing didn't know anything about anything until last week.

That pretty much tells you all you need to know about the State's case right there.

The weather started going from bad to worse after lunch, but both sides were able to finish putting their cases.  Both the defense and the State rested at the end of the afternoon session, but with confirmation that the hearing will continue tomorrow, weather permitting, to allow rebuttal witnesses.  It is very likely that one of the defense rebuttal witnesses will be Abe Waranowitz, the AT&T cell expert who testified for the State originally in '99.  Waranowitz contacted the defense team recently after learning that the State had mislead him with regards to what exactly he was testifying to, and he will most likely be called to rebutt the testimony of FBI agent Chad Fitzgerald.

Baltimore Sun article on today's proceedings
The Frisky: Day 4 Recap with funny cartoons from the in-court reporter
Undisclosed: Day 4 recap
Susan Simpson recaps Day 4

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