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February 28, 2021
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Chris Edwards Trial Blog
(NET Radio) - Edwards Trial March 29, 2007 The prosecution rested its case. The defense made a plea to have it all thrown out. Chris Edwards started to cry. On the ninth day in the stuffy and sticky courtroom of J. Russell Derr, the most impassioned discussions arose when the jury was out of the room. The prosecution had completed questioning of their final witness (more on that later). It's not uncommon for attorneys to make, as it was phrased by the defense, the half time motions when the field is turned over to the other side. (Defense lead Steve Lefler has, in fact, played a lot of football). But the arguments put forward today did come in greater detail and with higher passion than the norm. The Judge was asked to throw out the murder charges against Chris Edwards before the case goes to the jury. Without Jessica O'Grady's body, Lefler argued, without a death certificate or a medical expert to say she died there can be no case for murder. No one has said this blood loss could cause even a loss of consciousness, much less death, added co-counsel Denise Frost. We are giving the jury the authority to do something that no doctor can do, that no expert can do. After weeks of hearing similar arguments, Judge Derr did not appear especially sympathetic. Taken to its logical extreme, the judge added, you're saying that in any murder case without a body, there is no case. Not so, countered Lefler. If they came in and had Jessica O'Grady's brain on the pillow and a doctor said you can't live without your brain, that would be proof. The Douglas County Prosecutor barely spoke in response. The State feels very strongly that, with the overwhelming circumstantial evidence, we have proven our case. (I was reminded just this morning by Creighton University law professor Michael Fenner that in the eyes of the law, circumstantial evidence carries equal weight with eyewitness and expert testimony.) Judge Derr reminded everyone he'd been warned there would be some tough calls to make this case. He then overruled the Defense motion, because he believes there is sufficient evidence to at least present to a jury. The last of that evidence did little more than bolster a great deal of the case already presented. Two members of the Douglas County CSI unit brought their specialties to the jury. Deputy Jennifer Tinsley spent days tracking down who made and received nearly a thousand calls on the cell phones owned by Chris Edwards and Jessica O'Grady. Concentrating on the last two weeks before the girl's disappearance, Tinsley laid out a busy routine of teenaged phone chat among a group of friends and co-workers. The records show that at 11:48 PM on May 10, 2006 O'Grady's cell made a 21-second call to Edwards's cell. She had told her friends she was on her way to see Chris. Even Edward's other girlfriend, Michelle Wilkin, testified that it was routine to call ahead so he could let visitors in privately through his Aunt's garage door. A minor but notable detail came out of the brief testimony of Deputy Matt Churchill, the Sheriff Department's computer expert. The investigator's forensic dissection of Chris Edward's laptop revealed he was doing research on the Internet the day before O'Grady may have been murdered. The single word he entered for a search on Google was arteries . The medical web site Edwards visited next displayed diagrams of the human circulatory system for study. There was not, Deputy Churchill admitted during cross-examination, any way to confirm that the defendant was the one using his laptop at that moment. The final prosecution witness carried the most impressive credentials, but much of what he had to offer on the record had already been assumed. Criminal Forensics expert Stuart H. James wrote the book or at least one of the books about analyzing the ways blood gets spread around crime scenes. The testimony was important enough, and interesting enough that several Deputy County Attorneys and Sheriff's deputies joined the spectator's gallery. Stuart James is a hired gun working for $250 an hour out of his office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His clients, he claims, are more often than not people defending murderers rather than those prosecuting them. This prosecutor, Leigh Ann Retelsdorf, lead James through each area where blood was found in Chris Edwards's bedroom and car and asked what could be determined from what had been left behind. To trace the path of a drop of blood, spatter experts use geometry, biology, physics, and more, along with the study of nearly every type of surface that might be on the receiving end of a victim's bodily fluids. The blood soaked mattress? My overall conclusion is a significant bloodshed event occurred on or near the mattress. The droplets on the headboard? The source of the blood was over or close to the top surface of the mattress. The lines of blood spots on the ceiling? I determined there were seven overhead swings with a bloody object. Did the lines provide clues about the type of object? The linear pattern I saw was consistent with a thin object rather than a broad object. At that point Retelsdorf had James examine the sword found in Chris Edwards's closet. Retelsdorf: Were the seven cast-off's you saw consistent with an object such as this? James: Yes. Retelsdorf: You can't say it is THIS object. James: No, and I would not. Retelsdorf: But an object LIKE this? James: Yes With the addition of those final pieces of the road map prosecutors promised the jury at the start of the trial, they rested their case. Once Judge Derr ruled that the case against Edwards would proceed, so did the rapid-fire parade of defense witnesses. Over the next hour, thirteen relatives and friends of Chris Edwards rushed through testimony that consisted of testimonials. Oddly, there were tight limits on what could be said in support of his character. Is he a peaceful man? Lefler would repeat for each witness. Each said he was. Anytime anything else was said on his behalf, it was stricken for the record. He's a very good man, added his youth pastor. The jury was ordered to ignore it. He's a great person, said his former boss. That won't be part of the transcript. Two former girlfriend's stood up for their ex. It lead to a very queasy moment for one young woman. She's 19 now. Apologizing for posing such a personal question, Edwards's attorney asked, when they had been close a few years ago if they had made love together. She quietly said they had. Lefler has repeatedly asked questions advancing a theory that the large bloodstain on his client's mattress could be menstrual blood from lovers. Lefler asked the girl if the couple had ever had sex during her period. She said they had. The obviously nervous girl may not have even noticed the huge photograph of the bloody mattress still on display next to her. Taking a deep breath, Prosecutor Retelsdorf marched up to witness stand, turned the photo towards the girl and asked if she could have stained the mattress so thoroughly. The girl looked like she might be ill and replied, no. No other witness during this trial looked more shaken leaving the courtroom. Ever so briefly family had their time to stick up for Chris Edwards. His stepmother and stepfather both agreed the boy was peaceful. Then LaDonna Barrett took the stand. I'm his mom. Like the rest, she was only allowed to say it was a very peaceful boy that she'd known from birth to age 18. Sometime during all of this, for the first time in this trial, Chris Edwards cracked. He began crying quietly with a tissue clenched tight in his fist. The family and friends who testified today had been kept in the hallway by court rules until now. At the end of the day it was a larger group than usual that lined up to softly offer their encouragement. Edwards regained his composure and silently greeted each person on the other side of the court railing with smile and a raise of his impressive bushy eyebrows perched above slight features. As soon as the family left the courtroom, the lightness vanished again. Some started crying out of sight of Chris. The jury will probably begin its deliberations on Friday afternoon. ****************************************** The Girlfriend and the CSI Team
March 26, 2007
Jessica O'Grady has often been referred to in news reports as Chris Edwards's girlfriend. It must be horribly uncomfortable for a 19 year-old girl to have to testify under oath that, for over a year, she has been Edwards's real girlfriend. She is the one to whom Edward's talked to about marrying; the one who gave birth to his baby daughter named Macy; the girlfriend he was unfaithful to; and the girlfriend who remains faithful to the young man on trial for murder of that other woman.
Defense attorney Steve Lefler: Are you still talking about getting married?
Michelle Wilkins: Yes.
Lefler: Is he a peaceful guy?
Wilkins: Yes.
Lefler: Were you afraid when you saw those swords?
Wilkins: No.
Lefler: When you told him you were pregnant was he supportive?
Wilkins: Yes
Lefler: Did that surprise you?
Wilkins: No.
It was just one set of moments during quietly emotional and uncomfortably explicit testimony from Ms. Wilkins. She may be supporting Chris Edwards, but it was the Douglas County Prosecutor who called her as a witness to give the jury an idea of why Edwards might have had reason to murder Jessica O'Grady.
The start of the second week of the trial also showed what a split personality these events can have for everyone involved. The riveting personal story told by Ms. Wilkins was a counterpoint to the methodical and technical groundwork laid for the most important hard evidence to be introduced the analysis of the Douglas County CSI team and it's compliment of forensic experts.
No one (other than the prosecutors) seemed to expect Ms. Wilkin's trial appearance to be dropped in today between that of the two crime scene investigators. The 19 year-old beautician-in-training seemed to go out of her way to avoid eye contact with Edwards in the courtroom, while providing every bit of support she could while under oath. The defendant remained just as impassive as he has been through much of the testimony, only occasionally tightening his down-turned lips.
The two had met while working together at the Lone Star Steakhouse in 2005. By the end of the year they became very good friends and began sleeping together on occasion. In January of 2005 Wilkins learned she was pregnant. Two months later they had serious talks about their relationship and gave it the title of boyfriend and girlfriend. They decided at that point to see each other exclusively.
But a lot happened their relationship just a few weeks later. Jessica O'Grady's roommate testified earlier that her friend had started seeing, and apparently also sleeping with, Edwards by early May last year. Then O'Grady disappeared.
It was a surprise to Ms. Wilkins that the police would be asking her anything about the disappearance of another girl who she did not know, and that the investigators were linking her to Chris Edwards. Only after the police questioned her, and Wilkins asked for an explanation did Edwards admit he had been unfaithful. The only reason he was being questioned, he explained, was because phone calls to him had shown up on O'Grady's cell phone.
He claimed he told Jessica O'Grady they could not longer see each other when they met for the last time on May 8th. That same day, Wilkins revealed, was the first time Chris Edwards talked about getting married.
Two days later was the last time anyone saw Jessica O'Grady alive.
Wilkins had been over to Edwards's house briefly May 10, just a couple hours before Jessica O'Grady had told friends she was heading over. It was 12:20 AM when the last text message was sent from O'Grady's cell phone. It was 12:58 AM when Michelle Wilkin's got her own text message from Edwards: I love you. Good Night.
No matter what occurred in Chris Edward's basement bedroom, the testimony that followed from Michelle Wilkins was unnerving for anyone who had been in the courtroom since the start of the trial.
Earlier the photos of a blood saturated mattress brought by the lead CSI investigator had been removed from the courtroom easel. In the witness chair Ms. Wilkin's calmly explained how her normal routine of visits to that bedroom continued for another week after if what prosecutor's claim is true Jessica O'Grady was murdered.
Wilkins: We would watch TV on his bed. We probably laid on the bed for an hour. That's usually what we did.
Prosecutor Don Kleine: Did you seem him Saturday?
Wilkins: I think I spent the night. That Sunday was Mother's Day. It would have been Saturday.
Kleine: Where did you sleep?
Wilkins: In his bed.
Kleine: Notice anything unusual?
Wilkins: No.
She said there was nothing odd about the look of the room or in Edward's behavior during that week. He did mention to Wilkins that his room, including the walls, got a through cleaning that same week. She didn't find that unusual. When he cleaned, he cleaned a lot, she explained.
The condition of Chris Edward's room remains the centerpiece of the prosecutor's murder case. On either side of the Wilkin's testimony were members of the Douglas County Crime Scene Investigation Unit.
The photos of the bloodied mattress, blown up to six-foot enlargements, were a constant presence in front of the jury. In front of them was the 8 square foot bloodstain, roughly the shape of the curved top of a grand piano. Other photos showed that in places the blood had soaked down an inch and three-quarters into the foam.
Lead Crime Scene Investigator Dave Kofoed explained how samples were taken at the scene from the mattress, from the walls, and from a number of objects where blood had apparently been sprayed across the 15 foot length of the room.
The defense raised two potentially damaging points during questioning about the suspected weapon in the case: the ornamental swords Chris Edwards's owned. First, there are fingerprints on the weapon, but they are not the same as the accused. No one can say where they came from. Secondly, the swords and a set of knives were not found until a second search of the Edwards's home, hidden in the closet. That closet had been searched earlier leading defense attorney Lefler to ask, Can we reach the conclusion that he did not do a very good job or that the swords were not there previously. Is that correct?
Yes, replied Inspector Kofoed.
The defense also has been reminding jurors that the first Omaha Police detectives on the scene who were handling evidence did not wear protective gloves initially. Kofoed testified that his groups standard operating procedure always calls for investigators to wear gloves, but added that he felt secure in knowing that the OPD officers, like his own, had also been trained in how to properly handle evidence without gloves as well.
But tests did reveal blood on one of those swords, and a University of Nebraska Medical Center DNA expert is expected to testify Tuesday that tests prove it be that of Jessica O'Grady.

****************************************** Edwards Trial Blog March 23, 2007 The Investigators Take The Stand Landing fighter jets on an aircraft carrier was good training for investigating a crime scene, according to Dave Kofoed. He told me that as the lead CSI investigator for the Douglas County Sheriff's Department the same sort of mental focus and organization he needed to be a pilot in the Air Force came in very handy. That organization as well as his military bearing came to good use in court on Friday. Much of the responsibility for proving that Jessica O'Grady is dead and that Christopher Edwards murdered her rests on his shoulders and those of his team of investigators. Anyone routinely watching any of the television crime dramas would have had a good feel for the testimony at Chris Edwards trial today. It also served as a reminder for how different the real world can be from a well-written script. The evidence is fascinating. The testimony can be tedious. It was also the first time the jury, and perhaps those closest to Jessica O'Grady, had the unnerving image of what the State claims is her blood at the scene of the crime. The Omaha Police Department started on this case when Jessica O'Grady disappeared in May of last year. A week later it became the primary responsibility of the Douglas County Sheriff when it appeared the murder scene was just outside the city limits. Again today, the presentation of evidence kept to a steady timeline. After hearing from the last people who saw Jessica alive yesterday, jurors picked up the story when her car was found one week later. While the car may not have yielded many clues, for the jury it was another small window in the life of an average young woman living her average young life. The crime scene photos show a mildly cluttered car. In the backseat lay her notebooks from her college classes with her name handwritten along the top. An empty Mountain Dew bottle rolled around behind the driver's seat. On the passenger seat was something she's purchased from a craft store on the last day she'd been seen, along with a red and blue softball glove. There'd been a game for the team of 7 year olds she helped coach that she never showed up for the previous weekend. The car had been found in a parking lot near the Lone Star Steakhouse in west Omaha where Jessica (and Chris Edwards) worked. There was little evidence found to indicate how it got there without the owner. The Omaha Police Investigators hadn't found any DNA other than Jessica's in the car, and no fingerprints other than her roommate's. It was Edward's attorney Steve Lefler who had to ask the obvious of Mark Strangland, OPD's Senior Crime Lab Investigator. It made for a brief moment of black humor. Lefler: You did not find a body? Strangland: We did not. Lefler: You would have told us about that if you had? Strangland: Might have even had a picture of it. Nearly every essential bit of evidence for this case was found in Chris Edward's bedroom and in or near his car. The Omaha Police investigators working on the missing persons case had brought Edwards to police headquarters and talked to him for a couple of hours. It is interesting that none of that statement has been introduced into evidence. Chris Edwards own words will apparently not be used to make a case against him. After the interview he and his aunt, Jean Edwards, gave the officers permission to look around their home. There was no search warrant. Jean Edwards made a comment on how clean the room appeared. Detective James Arndt agreed. Lefler: Do you know what a 19-year-old's room looks like? Arndt: I remember what my bedroom looked like. Lefler: Was your room cleaner or neater than Mr. Edwards? Arndt: My room was not that clean. Detective Arndt looked through Chris Edwards Honda Accord (which was a cluttered mess) and found a dirt covered shovel in the trunk. Shortly, the other investigators on the scene called him back into the bedroom. They'd spotted what they took to be blood spatter on the headboard. Just as one Detective was about to pull up the bedspread Ardnt claims Chris Edward's said, I'm not sure I want you checking that area. Ardnt reminded him that they'd talked about the possibility that O'Grady had taken her own life. Maybe, he added, there would be a suicide note that she'd left to be found later. It seems surprising, but that was enough for Chris Edwards to agree to have them lift the mattress. That was when the discovered the huge dark red stain that lead the Omaha Police Detectives to believe that something very bad and very violent had occurred in the room. It was an alarming photograph shown to the jury. Some had wondered at the start of the trial if it might be too much for some of the panel to take. Their reactions were subdued, even passive. That set the stage for Dave Kofoed's testimony. After a search warrant came through, it was up to his team, over the next nine hours, to process what had become a suspected crime scene. Kofoed had given me a short preview of the evidence he was going to present last month as part of NET Television's documentary on preparing and training CSI specialists. He explained that the size of the bloodstain on the mattress was reason enough to assume someone had been fatally injured. A week after the blood had allegedly been left, the bottom of the flipped mattress was still damp and sticky, so great was the fluid left behind. The range of the blood splatter, clear across the 15-foot wide bedroom, indicated to him that something had struck someone with great force. Kofoed claims there were three signs that a deliberate attempt was made to conceal something had happened in the bedroom. First, there were the plug-in air fresheners in every available outlet. Second, there seemed to be a white substance covering a number of dark stains on the ceiling. Finally, the lab technicians used a chemical called Luminal on the wall where there appeared to be no blood splatter. Sprayed on a surface in a dark room, Luminal causes certain substances, like blood, to glow like blue neon. The photo of the wall in Chris Edwards bedroom shows floor to ceiling bright blue swirls of light, like an astronomers photo of a far away galaxy. If the CSI investigators are right about that being blood, it leaves the impression there was an attempt to wipe the wall clean with only the invisible-to-the-naked-eye residue left behind. Tall, bald, and serious, Kofoed is well aware that how you present a case can be as important as what you present. He and every member of his team show up in court in their Para-military style CSI uniforms shiny black boots, tailored pants and dark blue shirts with gold Crime Scene Investigator embroidered on the back. The photos and diagrams of the crime scene are presented in the manner of a polished, high-tech PowerPoint. Kofoed draws attention to important details with his laser pointer. There's not much to write about concerning the Edwards defense team after this day in court. Attorney Steve Lefler found himself frustrated time and again when raising objections to evidence. In pre-trial motions he had asked that all of the material collected in two searches of the home be thrown out on constitutional grounds. The judge said no then, and every attempt to raise the issue again today was rebuffed. Which is not to say there was not tactical groundwork laid. Questions may still be raised about the manner in which evidence was processed, and the methods used. But the cross examination of Dave Kofoed, as well as the testimony of the rest of his CSI investigators will wait until after the court's weekend recess. ******************************************* Edwards Trial Blog March 22, 2007 When a man brandishes a two-foot long battle sword in a crowded courtroom, it gets your attention. Mid way through this afternoon's testimony, prosecutor Don Kliene surprised nearly everyone by reaching into a cardboard box under his worktable. With a whoosh and a metallic clang, he pulled out what may be the weapon that killed Jessica O'Grady. If there was a collective gasp in the courtroom, I was too surprised by the sight to hear the reaction. On the witness stand was Chris Edwards's good friend and golfing buddy, Riley Wasserburger. He'd just testified that Edwards had shown him a pair of Bangkok fighting swords. That's the sword Chris showed me. Wasserburger had estimated it at maybe a foot and a half long. Prosecutor Kliene is a big guy, and even in his hand, the weapon seemed huge. There are moments every attorney hopes a jury will take with them into deliberation. This is likely one of those moments. Today was the first day of testimony. It did not take long to figure out that what wasn't being said and what couldn't be said in court would play a significant role in Chris Edwards's murder trial. The objections from the County Attorneys were frequent and shared the same theme. What can be said in front of the jury about talk among friends that the missing and presumed dead Jessica O'Grady was pregnant? The only thing prosecutors want to establish is that Chris Edwards may have thought he had fathered children with two women at once and may have murdered one of them in an act of desperation. The defense wants to take it further. Whether Jessica was pregnant at or near the time of her death may open the opportunity to raise whether a miscarriage could have caused her death, whether she is still alive and fled in her own act of desperation, and perhaps more subtly in a reflection of her character and stability. So far, the prosecution has successfully fended off most of the slow-drip revelations that could bring more information about Jessica's pregnancy into play. The actual testimony at today's trial may have not been sensational, but it was essential. Shauna Stanzel has been the community's link to the O'Grady case since the disappearance last year. She organized the initial searches, dealt with the media, and served as the primary liaison to the police. Not only was Stanzel her aunt, but also at times served as something of a surrogate parent while Jessica's mother got it together. Stanzel, the opening witness for the prosecution, served two purposes. This was the first opportunity to put a face on the woman missing and presumed dead. Just as importantly, O'Grady's aunt was one of the last people to see her before the disappearance. During dozens of interviews over the past year Stanzel has been a model of composure. There were times on the stand today that her emotions caught up with her. Not only did tears well up when presented with Jessica's high school photo, but even reciting the girls cell phone number a number she's call three or four times a day somehow struck a painful nerve. O'Grady's friends and roommates, Holly Stumme and Tracy Lee Christianson filled in the rest of what's known about Jessica's last hours while on the witness stand. Together the painted a picture of a young woman who could not have been more normal. She took classes at UNO. At one point she wanted to study law, but had recently switched to be an education major. She helped her aunt coach a softball team for 6 and 7 year olds. The last time Shauna Stanzel saw her niece Jessica was wearing a purple team jersey that all the girls on the team had signed. She and Chris Edwards both worked at Lone Star. Jessica was a server, Chris also waiting tables and working the bar. They hadn't gone out very long, but her roommates said when they saw the couple together they were laughing and flirty. Jessica talked about Chris on the night of May 10, 2006. She used her cell phone to send text messages to someone throughout the evening. She and her roomies had pizza, before showering and doing her make up and hair. When she left, everyone assumed she was going to see Chris Edwards. Another friend testified she'd gotten a call from Jessica saying she got lost in the suburban tangle of streets near Chris's house. A text message that showed up after midnight playfully told her friend: No shenanigans for Jessica. It was their best friend's code word for sex. No one would have any contact with Jessica O'Grady again. In the days that followed upset friends and family knew something was wrong when they couldn't reach Jessica. They went anywhere they thought she might be. They talked to her co-workers. Chris Edwards told them he hadn't seen the girl since the day before she disappeared. The two of them had plans to get together again the next day, but he had cancelled. Edwards called a couple of her friends through the first weekend of her disappearance to find out if anything was new. Chris Edwards hung out with his friends the same day that Jessica vanished. There was golf early in the evening followed by a late movie called An American Haunting. It was on the golf course, at the first tee, that Edwards told his friends he had made a mistake. He had gotten a girl pregnant. If he mentioned a name, his friend Riley couldn't remember who it was. They parted after the movie. He hadn't seen his friend again until today, as they sat in court across from one another. He's a pretty peaceful guy, Wasserburger told the court. I've never seen him angry before. ******************************************* Edwards Blog 3-21-07 The Opening Arguments Leigh Ann Retelsdorf, deputy prosecutor, opened and closed her first statement to the jury with the same blunt claim: Jessica O'Grady is not missing. Jessica O'Grady is dead. In a case where the victim has never been found when there is no body on which to perform an autopsy no death certificate on file to make it official there is no more important piece of persuasion for the prosecution. Jessica O'Grady is dead. Steve Lefler let everyone in court know about his most daunting challenge when still questioning possible members of the jury. While everyone has heard the phrase innocent before proven guilty. It can be very hard to put into practice. Let me tell you my fear, he told the court. My fear is this is like the wild, wild west. The idea that first we try him, then we hang him. Most people will walk in and assume Chris Edwards is guilty. The trial began in full late this afternoon when a strikingly diverse jury was sworn in to hear evidence. Seven women and five men. A wide range of ages. A black warehouse worker. A white media executive. A Hispanic college student. A nurse and a hardware store manager and a stay-at-home mom. The only thing they all have in common is Chris Edwards future. As a veteran of a lot of criminal trials, Leigh Ann Retelsdorf knows how to spin out a case to a jury. Her opening arguments stuck to a straight line, day-by-day, hour-by-hour theory of what happened to Jessica O'Grady. She calls it giving jurors a road map. Her stark open was an attempt to get past the Missing posters that blanketed the Omaha area last year while the search for O'Grady was in full swing. Missing is a term of hope for the survivors she told the jury. To try a murder, you have to admit the victim was killed and she is not coming home. Laying out the night of alleged murder, the jury will hear from Jessica O'Grady's best friends who got together for pizza on May 10th of last year. Later she'd called a friend right before she said she'd gotten to the home where Chris Edward's lived with his aunt. A text message to a friend not long after midnight was the last anyone heard from her, according to the prosecution. The police will be the next to the stand. The Omaha police officers will explain how they came to question Edwards, to search his bedroom, and to find a mattress with an 8 square foot bloodstain on it. Crime Scene Investigators from the Douglas County Sheriff's Department will testify about examining blood splatters around Chris Edwards's bedroom, determining what had been used to paint it over, and getting a surveillance video tape from a Walgreen's showing Edwards buying white poster paint. Rarely in a murder like this is there a witness, said Retelsdorf, adding that science has made the crime scene the most reliable witness. The image the very disturbing image the prosecution may want the jurors to dwell on will come from the analysis of the blood spatter experts. The blood cast off that made red spotted lines on the ceiling indicates there were multiple blows to the head from the alleged weapon, known as a Bangkok fighting sword. The blood on ceiling shows at least seven linear cast off patterns. You don't get that pattern on the first strike. Retelsdorf explained that there is no blood on the weapon yet. You do get it the second, the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth. Between each number she lengthened her pause to let the image sink in with each juror. For Steve Lefler this is not a case to prove, but to disprove. His opening statement did not set out a single alternative theory of what happened, but a number of scenerios of what might account for individual elements of the case against Chris Edwards. He'd let the court know during jury selection that the concept of providing proof beyond reasonable doubt would be put to the test in this case. He told the jury he's ready to challenge any of the medical and science professionals who take the stand with a basic premise: does the mere appearance of this blood equal death? Lefler says they will almost certainly say no it does not.' Questions will be raised about other possible sources for the bleeding. Perhaps menstration. Perhaps a miscarriage. Does it have to be homocide? The defense argues no it does not.' The defense will challenge the validity of DNA evidence in proving that it is in fact blood from Jessica O'Grady. There will be doubts raised about motive, about the accuracy of police reports, and even about whether Chris Edwards is physically fit enough to carry the body to the trunk of his car. The defense made clear it intends to give quarter on no element of the State's murder case against Edwards. The State has to prove she's dead and that Chris had reason to kill her, he concluded. He added that every juror has to ask the same question: Has the state given me everything I need to make the most important decision I will ever have to make. I am telling you, they won't be able to do that. For the man on trial, there may be one great hope stated by his defense attorney at the start of his opening argument. One piece of evidence has already been put before you, Steve Lefler told them. Mr. Edwards is innocent before proven guilty. Keep in mind that burden of proof. ******************************************* Edwards Trial Blog March 20, 2007 It's called jury selection, but as Douglas County Attorney Don Kliene pointed out late this afternoon, it is more an elimination than a selection. It is not exciting. There is no way to make it so. Scriptwriters have good reason to avoid the process on Law & Order. While law must be followed and the order maintained, it does not provide anything close to drama. And it shouldn't. Everyone involved in Chris Edward's trial knows what is at stake. Like a number of things in this case, the process has been adapted to account for the publicity and emotional content of the charges. Ordinarily nearly the entire process is public. Weeding out any publicity-tainted jurors gets the highest priority. Next to tampering with a jury, few things will more quickly turn a trial into a mistrial. So rather than have exchanges with jurors in open court all of the initial questioning about contact with media coverage ended up behind closed doors. One at a time would-be juror's names are called and each head back to the judge's chambers. Five or ten minutes later they slouch out and slump back into their assigned seat, and the judge's assistant calls out another name. The entire process turns the bland, fluorescent Courtroom #8 into the quietest airport waiting room you have ever been in. For the attorney's it apparently is not much more compelling. We've spent two days asking one question, said one during a break. By 3:30 this afternoon there were 42 people lined up who at least passed the pre-trial publicity test. For the next hour Don Kliene asked individuals and the jurors as a group their views on the law and general questions about their lives and up bringing. There are people still in line to sit on this jury who's lives have clearly been shaped by the worst sort of crime. One juror was a family member of a little girl raped and murdered in another high profile case. Another person has known three people murdered. Sitting through this case would very painful. From the remaining members of the pool each attorney can cross 12 names off the list without giving any reason. Others can still be challenged and the judge will decide if its reason enough to send them home. It should be done by tomorrow morning. Through it all Robert Edwards watched from the back row of the courtroom. It is his son on trial. Mr. Edwards, often in the company of half a dozen other family members and friends, takes pages of notes on the jurors and everything else. He has not welcomed contact with reporters. The contact with his son has been limited by the comings and going of jurors during this process. When Chris Edwards arrives or leave, there are whispered best wish and hand signals. As the courtroom emptied out efore lunch, watching four people giving him four different hand signals from across the room, Chris Edwards laughed. He whispered they should just hold up a single we're number one index finger. Jury selection continues, and will likely conclude, tomorrow. *******************************************
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