|By: 154. Diane McGarry | Date: Apr 13, 2010 |
Today was a victory for the good guys.
4- Not Guilty
Two counts of guilty of murder in the 1st degree.
Five counts of attempted murder.
All counts guilty with special circumstances. We've waited four years to hear this sweet victory. The jury came back in a total of six hours with the verdict we were expecting / hoping to hear. The only count they disputed was the attempt to kill Stefanie Cartwright. She was the incredible witness who testified early in the trial the defendant pointed the shotgun at her, and then turned and fired at her boyfriend Adam Wheeler. The jury did the right thing. They were listening to all the evidence. We - the family - didn't know what to do this morning. We knew the jury was out for the verdict, so we knew we didn't have to be at the courthouse at 9AM. So a couple of us gathered at my rented apartment for a coffee and a roll, and by 10AM we knew we had to be at the courthouse waiting so the jury could see us when they broke for lunch. By that time, we knew they had asked for an audio player and to hear the testimony from Dr. Tucker, the paid psychiatrist, as he was being cross-examined by the DA. By early afternoon, they had asked to re-read the testimony from Adam Wheeler and Stefanie Cartwright. We speculated that since these were counts 3 and 4 that maybe they were through the two first degree murder counts already. None of us had ever been through anything like this before so we really didn't know what to think. We saw the jury break at 3.11PM and then go back into the deliberation room at 3.30PM. At 4.15PM the bailiff came out of the courtroom with instructions for the reporters and we overheard him say "it won't be long". Wow! A total of six working hours, and exactly 24 hours from when they received the case, and we were told the jury was ready to read the verdict. The family walked into the courtroom at 5pm. There were 9 or 10 police officers in attendance. Three of them surrounded the defendant. We knew something special was up. Maybe they were there for protection. Or maybe they were there because two of them - fellow police officers - had been attacked and they wanted to hear the verdicts. We'll never know. The jury entered the courtroom, many of them gasping at the sight of so many officers. I'm sure they realized at that point they were part of something totally life-changing. At 5.10pm with the family in their usual places in the second row, all tightly holding hands, the judge asked the court clerk to read the verdict. We were mesmerized as she read out seven guilty verdicts and one not guilty verdict. All the guilty verdicts were followed with special circumstances. The defendant remained seated - and stoic - throughout the reading of the verdicts. He had a smirk on his face at one point, and smiled at another, but to me, he was remorseless throughout. The family is relieved that this part of the process is now finished. This is the verdict we were hoping and praying for. Justice is served. Nothing will bring Mike back, but this is some comfort and closure for all of us. The next phase in the process is the penalty phase. With the first degree convictions, all with special circumstances, the same jury will now meet to decide the penalty to be served. The only choices for consideration are life without possibility of parole or death. They will reconvene next Thursday April 22nd to hear impact statements from the families and to hear from the defendant's family and friends as well. The judge feels that by April 27th the jury will be considering their choices, and by the end of April the defendant will know his fate. We will be here until the end. Thanks for all your love and support.
|By: 153. Diane McGarry | Date: Apr 13, 2010 |
|Monday April 12, 2010 - This is my last summary before the verdict.
We started this morning in Court with the Judge giving the Jury thirty minutes of instructions regarding the case they would be receiving later in the day. The Judge repeated each charge, and reminded them that along with each charge there were also special circumstances to
consider (discharging a firearm makes it a special circumstance).:
1 - Murder of Jon Johnson
2 - Murder of Mike Daly
3 - Attempted Murder of Adam Wheeler
4 - Attempted Murder of Stephanie Cartwright
5 - Attempted Murder of Vincent Marconi
6 - Attempted Murder of Tisha Smith
7 - Attempted Murder of Janelle Bestpitch
9 - Attempted Murder of Janelle Bestpitch
In addition, the attempted murder of a peace officer (counts 6,7, and 9) call for special circumstances) With a guilty verdict the "special circumstances" require a capital murder crime penalty (i.e. life without possibility of parole or death).
Counts 8 and 10 for Attempted Murder were previously dismissed for lack of evidence. (These were counts against Tisha Smith, the Police Officer, that the prosecution felt did not have enough evidence to prosecute.)
In order to convict the defendant of 1st Degree Murder the jury must decide that the defendant committed the act causing death, and that when he acted it was with malice aforethought. The defendant must have
acted willfully, deliberately, and with intent to kill.
Then the Prosecutor Scott Triplett gave his closing arguments in the "People vs. Aaron Norman Dunn". The jury sat riveted during his one hour point-by-point summary of the acts committed by the defendant
on the day of March 25, 2006. We all sat in rapt attention as Scott reviewed the evidence and the facts.
Since March 9th we've heard from 67 witnesses and reviewed almost 300 pieces of evidence. The jury will have access to thousands of pages of court
transcripts should they need to be reminded of any testimony. In my mind there is no doubt that these facts are not in dispute - the evidence is overwhelming and overpowering, the facts seem compelling
and convincing. But all 12 jurors must unanimously agree on each count, and even one juror in doubt could cause issues in the deliberations.
When the defense attorney gave her closing arguments today she focused on the one thing she feels the jury should consider - the defendant was so high on drugs
that night that he had lost touch with reality, felt he was being attacked by everyone, and was defending himself in battle against the police. He was in such a "meth-induced psychosis" that he had no idea what he was doing that night. She even used the widow Mrs. Johnson's
words - "he was a madman, he looked right through me" - to try to convince the jury that the defendant was not in his right state of mind when he killed her husband, shooting him in the head at point blank range.
She also blasted the DA for not calling his own expert to dispute the psychiatrist's testimony about the defendant's "disorder', implying that by not calling another expert, the DA must agree with the diagnosis. We all know the prosecution bears the burden of proof that
the crimes were committed, but it seems to me that "innocent until proven guilty" totally tips the scale the wrong way. It is so frustrating to watch the defendant smirking, nodding his head, making faces at the DA as his attorneys try to excuse his heinous actions.
In his rebuttal Scott relentlessly attacked the main defense witness Dr. Tucker, the paid psychiatrist, as a "complete joke", reminding the jury that the doctor never moved from his "paid" diagnosis regardless of the evidence.
He also reminded the jury that the one reason we are all together in this court room is that the defendant killed two people, tried to kill several others, and changed the rest of our lives forever due to the havoc he wreaked during his calculated killing rampage four years ago. The decisions he made that day - stealing a shotgun from a friend after not being able to get his own out of storage, giving the contents of that storage locker to his friend in exchange, paying for the drugs, negotiating to fill his car with gas, driving 53 miles to Elk Grove on four major highways,
navigating 12 street lights to get to his destination, making four phone calls on three different phones (to his sister, his mom, his wife, and his best friend) along the way - all point to a man who had reasonable control that day, and maybe just used the large amount of meth as courage to carry out his deadly plans. The DA also reminded us that his sister had let the defendant babysit her three small children that very morning for an hour and a half. Is this the same man being portrayed as a crazy madman?
We were finally reminded the defendant had encouraged his wife and his friend to "watch the news tonight". If this isn't evidenceof a man who was planning his actions, I'm not sure what is.
At various times in the rebuttal, Scott pointed to the defendant calling him a "coward". We've never seen Scott even look at the defendant. We thought the prosecution was extremely effective.
Now the case is in the jury's hands. They were given the case at 3pm today.
We hope they do the right thing.
|By: 152. CBS Channel 13 News | Date: Apr 12, 2010 |
|By: 151. court proceedings | Date: Apr 8, 2010 |
|Thursday April 8th, 2010. The Defense rested today after calling another good friend of the defendant; the "ex" common-law wife of the defendant’s brother Patrick. Nancy Castillo testified that she thought the defendant had been taking massive amounts of methamphetamine and alcohol in the weeks before the shooting. And she also claimed he became a completely different person in the weeks before the shooting; he was paranoid, depressed, and delusional and hadn't slept in days. But what came out on cross-examination was that she was also a meth user at the time and had been using meth with the defendant's wife as well. We hadn't heard that about the wife before and, in fact, on the day of the shooting the defendant seemed fine, just tired. She even let her son go somewhere with his dad Patrick and the defendant that morning. That was the same morning that the defendant’s sister had left her three young children with the defendant as well. So that was the last witness for the defense. The jury was excused for the weekend and the afternoon was spent with the judge and the attorneys discussing jury instructions. The closing arguments are scheduled for Monday morning, and then after jury instructions the jury will get the case for deliberation - most likely by Monday afternoon.
|By: 150.court proceedings | Date: Apr 8, 2010 |
|Wednesday April 7th, 2010. Today Scott Triplett, the DA, spent most of the day cross-examining the "expert" psychiatrist the defense had on the stand Tuesday. Dr. Tucker has diagnosed the defendant with "meth-induced psychotic disorder". This he explained to the jury excuses the one time psychotic episode that caused him to kill Mike, and Jon Johnson, and attempt to kill six others on March 25, 2006. The day started with questions about the amount of money the doctor makes from his various sources - his private clients, his forensic court work, his teaching, etc. The doctor was unable to give any details about his income including his yearly income, or any guess as to how it was distributed. He claimed he "has people who figure that out for him" and even though we are about a week away from filing taxes for last year he had no idea how much money he makes. We do know however that he has made at least $60K so far for this trial work and he had racked up about another $2500 for his testimony today. This was not lost on the jury. Yesterday the doctor dismissed the confession the defendant had made to Officer McHenry in the hospital ("I knew what I was doing that night"..."I was on methamphetamine"..."I just don't want to live") as not credible since it was from a police officer who had an agenda. And he felt there was no one to corroborate the statement. The doctor said this was merely a three-line statement, less than a page, not credible. As it turns out the full report the doctor provided for the defense was just one and a third pages long, and included a total of 18 lines about the diagnosis. And even after considering a plethora of evidence in the defendant's background (expulsion from school, constant fights, incarceration as a juvenile and an adult, inciting racist tension, writing threatening letters) he concluded that his persistent drug and alcohol intoxication trumped any other diagnosis he could have considered. The jury did not get to hear about any of his background. At the end of the day however, they were presented with a potential alternative diagnosis of anti-social personality disorder which could explain his total lack of remorse and callous disregard for humanity. We all know this one night in the defendant's life wasn't just a psychotic episode, but a carefully planned yet poorly executed night of killing motivated by the revenge he was seeking due to his wife's infidelity with a couple of guys who coincidently lived in Elk Grove. We also learned today (not in the presence of the jury) that the defendant has continued to use drugs, and abuse alcohol even while in the county jail - as recently as in the last two weeks. And when the doctor was finally dismissed we didn't think it could get much worse...until we met David Buckley, who was the friend of the defendant who got in a fight with him the afternoon of the shooting. Apparently he was called as a witness to confirm the fact that the defendant was having delusions that day. David claimed that the defendant thought he was talking "in code" about him. So he picked a fight. David didn't seem at all credible. The doctor seemingly showed his true colors today as a paid expert witness. The jury saw the same thing the courtroom saw. The jury was dismissed for the day. Tomorrow we will hear from the defendant's former sister-in-law. I think that will be the last witness for the defense. Closing arguments are expected Monday.
|By: 149. The Sacramento Bee | Date: Apr 8, 2010 |
|Prosecutor, doctor spar over Elk Grove murder defendant's actions
By Andy Furillo
Published: Thursday, Apr. 8, 2010
A defense-paid psychiatrist fended off a prosecutor's relentless attack Wednesday and stuck to his story that Aaron Norman Dunn didn't mean to kill anybody the night he went on a homicidal rampage in Elk Grove.
Dr. Douglas Tucker of UC San Francisco insisted under questioning by Deputy District Attorney Scott Triplett that a delusional Dunn acted out of methamphetamine-induced psychosis when he killed Michael John Daly and Jon Johnson.
Dunn, 33, wounded another man and shot at two police officers and other victims in his March 25, 2006, spree that put him on trial for his life in Sacramento Superior Court.
After a day of sparring with Triplett, Tucker testified that it would be fair to say that Dunn has exhibited anti-social personality traits.
The defense is expected to rest its case today. Attorneys are scheduled to present their closing arguments Monday.
Defense lawyers concede that Dunn shot and killed Daly, 45, and Johnson, 46. But they say that his lack of intent makes it second-degree murder rather than a first-degree case where prosecutors have asked for the death penalty.
Triplett sought to establish in his questioning Wednesday that Dunn was motivated to kill the night of the attacks, and Tucker largely agreed with the events that led the defendant to Laguna Boulevard:
Dunn was upset that his wife was having affairs with two men who lived in the Elk Grove area. He was mad that one of the men had sought to become a father figure to his daughter.
He acquired a shotgun and drove to Elk Grove from his hometown of Olivehurst. He called a friend and told him to watch the news on TV that night. He called his sister along the way and told her that he loved everybody.
But the psychiatrist did not budge from his assessment.
"There was never an intent to shoot innocent people in the street," Tucker testified. Instead, Dunn "became acutely psychotic" from massive methamphetamine ingestion that "caused him to lose control of his behavior," the doctor said.
Tucker testified that he was "skeptical" about a police officer's testimony that Dunn said in the hospital two days after the shootings that "I knew what I was doing," because the statement lacked "a substantive pattern of corroboration."
Triplett suggested Dunn provided the corroboration in a later jailhouse conversation with his wife when he said he could have shot more people. In addition, Dunn told her, "I might have been a little over the edge, but I wasn't totally."
Those statements "potentially" could serve as corroboration, Tucker testified. The doctor said he thought Dunn was trying to assure her he wasn't out to kill her.
After a heated hearing out of the presence of the jury Tuesday, Triplett was able to ask Tucker if he knew Dunn had the Satanic Bible in the trunk of his car the night of the shootings. Tucker testified that he did, but he said the defendant's spiritual beliefs "had nothing to do with Satanism."
Jurors did not hear evidence that Dunn has been involved in 20 to 30 fights over the years, that he got kicked out of public schools, that he made obscene gestures toward television cameras in court, that he has incited racial incidents while in jail and that he abused snakes and a tortoise while a school kid.
Tucker also testified he didn't know Dunn has a tattoo on his body of the grim reaper.
|By: 148. CBS 13 TV | Date: Apr 7, 2010 |
|Apr 6, 2010
Shooting Spree Trial Grows Tense
By David Begnaud
A fiery exchange during the trial of the man accused of a shooting rampage in Elk Grove nearly derailed the entire case against the suspect.
The judge and prosecutor in the trial of Aaron Dunn verbally sparred for a full hour during Tuesday's proceedings. The prosecutor demanded to be allowed to present certain evidence, but the judge denied his requests repeatedly.
At one point, the prosecutor said he would look stupid in front of the jury if he wasn't allowed to speak about the evidence, and the back-and-forth debate grew so tense the word "mistrial" was tossed around.
The families of the victims from the Elk Grove murders watched in fear as the argument continued, but after an hour, the prosecutor and judge agreed to move forward with the trial.
"I thought it was crazy," said Karen Johnson, the wife of television cameraman Jon Johnson, who was gunned down during the rampage. "The law seems to be very slanted for the defendant."
Dunn's attorneys have already admitted the suspect killed two people in the March 2006 shooting spree, but argue that methamphetamine use made him do it. The defense paid $60,000 to a psychiatrist who testified that Dunn was in a meth-induced psychotic state when he started shooting.
A police officer testified that Dunn told him after the incident, "I knew what I was doing that night."
Dunn also wrote a letter last week from jail to his brother, making reference to the judge in the case and saying he hopes "the drowns."
The prosecution is expected to contest the psychiatrist's conclusions during cross examination on Wednesday.
|By: 147. The Sacramento Bee | Date: Apr 7, 2010 |
| Prosecutor eager to attack psychiatrist in Elk Grove shooting spree trial
By Andy Furillo
Published: Wednesday, Apr. 7,
The prosecutor called the defendant a "sociopath" and the psychiatrist who testified on his behalf "a joke."
Deputy District Attorney Scott Triplett also said he wants the jury to know that Aaron Norman Dunn had a copy of the Satanic Bible in his trunk when he went on a killing spree in Elk Grove four years ago.
Triplett's remarks came in a Sacramento Superior Court hearing Tuesday to set the parameters of his cross-examination today of a defense-paid psychiatrist in Dunn's death penalty murder trial.
The psychiatrist, Dr. Douglas Tucker of the University of California, San Francisco, testified Monday that Dunn embarked on his March 25, 2006, killing spree in Elk Grove amid a "methamphetamine psychosis" episode.
His face at times turning red with anger, Triplett countered that Dunn, 33, is a "sociopath" who abused animals as a child, has a long criminal history and adhered to the Satanic Bible.
All of that should be "fair game," the prosecutor said, when he gets his shot in court to undermine the psychosis defense.
Triplett said Dunn exhibited "callousness and disregard" when he unloaded his shotgun on Laguna Boulevard on an early-spring Saturday night. Rather than having gone psychotic on meth, the defendant's symptoms more accurately reflected recognized mental conditions such as anti-social personality disorder and intermittent explosive disorder, the prosecutor said.
"This doctor chose to not even go there," Triplett said. "He didn't even conduct a test or an examination on this guy. And I think it's proper cross-examination to show what a joke this doctor is, coming in here and basically being paid $60,000 to write an 18-line report to say that this is meth psychosis and basically ignoring any other potential diagnosis out there."
Defense attorneys have admitted that Dunn shot and killed cameraman Jon Johnson, 46, and salesman Michael John Daly, 45, in his March 25, 2006, rampage. But they said he was so impaired by the drugs that he couldn't form the intent needed for first-degree murder. They conceded that Dunn, 33, is guilty of second-degree murder.
The case has consumed 12 court days since March 9 and is winding toward closing arguments early next week.
On Tuesday, it featured its most heated moments yet, with Triplett arguing for wide latitude in his cross-examination of Tucker. At one point, he even wanted to bring in already excluded evidence about Dunn's four-year stint in the old California Youth Authority.
Judge Michael W. Sweet, in lengthy colloquies with the prosecutor, said he favored a "vigorous, far-reaching cross-examination." Sweet told Triplett, "I appreciate you want to attack the doctor."
"Go for it," Sweet said.
But the judge also warned Triplett to stay out of territory walled off by his pretrial rulings and to be wary of references to unsubstantiated psychiatric diagnoses. "We want to make sure we don't have a problem and we don't have to redo this thing," Sweet said, referring to the possibility of a mistrial.
Triplett then said he should be allowed to delve into reports that Dunn had been suspended from school as a youth "because he's smacking animals." He said Dunn's record contains "repeated examples about this defendant that show he's a sociopath." More recently, he has dealt methamphetamine, the prosecutor said.
"Let's not get too carried away here," the judge responded. He told Triplett that straying into restricted prejudicial information is "what mistrials are all about" and that "we are so far along we don't want to get hung up on areas that could be a problem."
Undeterred, Triplett told the court he wants to refer to the Satanic Bible in his cross-examination "as a motivation for why these crimes were committed."
"He doesn't have Christian beliefs, your honor," Triplett said of Dunn. "He's got a Satanic Bible. He's had it for some time."
The 1969 book by Anton Levay is a collection of essays on Satanic "rituals and ideology" that reflect Satan as "a symbol of struggle against a tyrannical God," according to gotquestions.org.
Defense attorneys said references to the book should be excluded.
"He throws out the term 'Satanic Bible, which … sounds pretty scary, but we don't even know what it has in it," said Hayes Gable III, defending Dunn along with Assistant Public Defender Amy Rogers. "And besides that, there's no evidence that (Dunn) attended covens, or whatever they call those get-togethers that those folks have."
Sweet said it "might be a stretch" to connect the Satanic Bible to the Elk Grove killings, but the judge did not specifically bar its use from today's cross-examination.
|By: 146. court proceedings | Date: Apr 6, 2010 |
|TUESDAY APRIL 6, 2010…Court was in session for only a few hours today but no jury was present. The attorneys and the judge were discussing how much the prosecutor could reveal to the jury during his cross-examination of the psychiatrist we heard yesterday. The DA would like to discredit some of the biased testimony that the jury heard. The opinion of the doctor points to only one diagnosis, ("meth-induced psychosis"), when clearly the defendant was able to plan his revenge and carry out his plan even while hyped up on drugs. The DA believes the doctor should have considered other factors and motivations for the defendant’s explosive behavior.
The judge is encouraging a "full throttle" cross-examination to get to the truth but is not allowing any revelation of the defendant's criminal background.
We learned today that the defendant has a criminal past. He spent four years incarcerated as a juvenile for various criminal activities. He was kicked out of school for mouthing off to teachers and for abusing animals. He probably was dealing drugs to support his habit and he lived his life by the "Satanic Bible" which may have encouraged him to kill indiscriminately and revel in the act. Unfortunately the DA may not be able to use any of this in his cross. The jury returns tomorrow at 9AM.
|By: 145. Sacramento Bee | Date: Apr 6, 2010 |
|Psychiatrist testifies to meth psychosis in killings, but defendant's words cast doubt
By Andy Furillo
The Sacramento Bee
Published: Tuesday, Apr. 6, 2010
A psychiatrist testified that Aaron Norman Dunn was "paranoid," "delusional," even "nuts" the night four years ago that his methamphetamine-laced shooting rampage killed two men in Elk Grove.
But defense attorneys face potentially large obstacles in their efforts to avert the death penalty for their 33-year-old client – his own words.
On Monday, Deputy District Attorney Scott Triplett told the court that sheriff's investigators at the jail intercepted a March 27 letter in which Dunn wrote to his brother that he hopes the judge who is presiding over the case "drowns."
Dunn's lawyers, Assistant Public Defender Amy Rogers and Hayes Gable III, also have to contend with testimony that their client admitted two days after the fatal March 25, 2006, shootings that "I knew what I was doing that night."
Salesman Michael John Daly, 45, and cameraman Jon Johnson, 46, died when Dunn – distraught over the breakup of his marriage and fueled by a months-long methamphetamine run – opened fire on them while they were leaving popular Laguna Boulevard restaurants after having dinner with their families.
Prosecutors are seeking capital punishment in the case. The defense lawyers have admitted that Dunn killed the two men but say the onset of a methamphetamine psychosis makes it only a second-degree murder case, not eligible for the death penalty. The key defense witness, Dr. Douglas Tucker, a UC San Francisco psychiatrist getting paid $60,000 for his work in the case, testified Monday that Dunn's psychotic methamphetamine episode culminated in the rampage.
According to the psychiatrist, Dunn had been shooting up for six months, hadn't slept in a week and had injected a full three-and-a-half grams of crank the day before the spree. Tucker said Dunn, who had also been drinking, was upset about his wife leaving him for a police officer and that her decision figured into his nonfatal shooting assaults on law enforcement personnel the night of his homicidal attacks.
"He thought his wife was organizing these people to arrest him or kill him," Tucker told the jury.
While Tucker recounted witness characterizations of a wild-eyed madman who jumped into a victory dance after shooting and killing Daly and Johnson, the defendant himself suggested afterward that he was clear-headed during the spree, according to other testimony in the case.
Officer J. McHenry testified earlier in the trial that while he was providing security in Dunn's hospital room at the UC Davis Medical Center two days after the shooting, the defendant told him, "I knew what I was doing that night."
Defense lawyers unsuccessfully sought to exclude the officer's statement from trial.
After Judge Michael W. Sweet ruled the testimony admissible, Dunn leveled his written broadside in the jail letter to his brother that authorities seized March 27. Prosecutor Triplett told the court Monday – outside the presence of the jury – that Dunn used an expletive in writing about the judge, who took a previously scheduled vacation last week, "I hope the ----- drowns."
Defense attorney Rogers said in court that the statement was irrelevant to the case. Triplett, however, suggested he might want to use it when he cross-examines Tucker today.