This was sent to me today and was so
well written I felt it should be shared.
For the record, here is what went on in the morning session on Friday May 17.
Court was scheduled for 10 a.m. I arrived at 9:00 in case there was any activity regarding Walter Wells. At 9:30 a.m. Marlissa Ferreira entered the courtroom alone. I saw no activity and assumed that she was preparing for the day ahead. Later at about 9:45 a.m., I was sitting outside the courtroom and both Marlissa and Kirk Bunch exited the courtroom. If there was some action in the courtroom in that time period, I missed it sitting outside.
However, while waiting, I heard that there was a juror issue regarding a juror who in his capacity of being the power-of-attorney for an individual, was involved in an incident that involved some Turlock Police officers. I entered the courtroom at 9:55 a.m., and saw Judge Zuniga, not on the bench, but speaking with court reporters. Shortly afterward all the parties, lawyers, defendants, and prosecutors, entered the courtroom. Judge Zuniga was interested in an incident report and wanted Kirk Bunch to contact the relevant Turlock Police department officer. Bunch left the courtroom to do so. Judge Zuniga informed Marlissa and the defense attorneys that she wanted to talk with the juror before proceeding with scheduled court activities. While waiting, Judge Zuniga was going over what Marlissa characterized as at least a partial incident report. Bunch returned and informed the judge that the officer(s) were not on duty and not able to be contacted. The judge left the courtroom.
At 10:25 a.m., Judge Zuniga entered the courtroom and prefaced her comments with an announcement that we are “off the record”. She explained that a juror issue had arisen. Marlissa and Judge Zuniga had a brief discussion regarding information on the juror’s questionnaire. They were talking about the fact that relatives of the juror included a medical doctor and others with medical backgrounds. Judge Zuniga again expresses a desire to speak with the juror. It appears that there was a possibility and concern that the juror had contact with at least one Turlock Police officer who was involved in some aspect of the Kauffman disappearance investigation and subsequent actions.
After a short wait, Judge Zuniga announces that she needs an in-chamber meeting with all attorneys and defendants and juror and court reporters and that her chambers will not accommodate that many people. She declared the courtroom as her chambers for this purpose. She announced that the transcript of the discussion will be sealed. At 10:45 a.m., she asked the bailiff to clear the courtroom.
After a long delay, at about 11:30 a.m., the courtroom was reopened. At 11:35 a.m., the courtroom was back in session with Dr. Beck(?), the county coroner (?)on the witness stand.
Marlissa Ferreira questions Dr. Beck regarding blood degradation and gets Dr. Beck to agree that if blood is sufficiently degraded, it would not be detectable. He further agrees that animals are attracted to the odor of blood, and that blood could disappear not due to degradation, but due to animal activity.
Jai Gohel questions Dr. Beck and gets him to state that not only were the fingers and toes missing from the location of Cory Kauffman’s remains, but so were the entire hands and feet. No hands and feet were found at the scene. Regarding blood degradation, Dr. Beck admits that he doesn’t know if blood-soaked socks stuffed into an intact leather boot would completely degrade to the extent that it would not be detectable.
Jai now questions Dr. Beck regarding body decay and decay processes. The doctor agrees to each individual stage and opines as to timelines for each as follows:
Stage 1: Autolysis, which the doctor agrees begins as soon as blood flow cease.
Stage 2: Bloat, which begins as enzymes within the body act, producing gases. The body swells. Gasses within begin escaping producing a strong and easily detectable putrid odor.
Stage 3: Liquification, which begins within 2 weeks, wherein organs, muscle, and skin liquefy. Liquids escape particularly at body orifices.
Stage 4: Skeletization, where all that remains is hair, cartilage, and bone.
Jai gets Dr. Beck to agree that stage 3, is well underway by 28 days. (This would be within the timeline expressed for the move of the body, as the prosecution alleges, from the Pop’n Cork location of the initially buried body, to the mountain location of the recovered body.)
Percy Martinez questions Dr. Beck regarding the possibility that attempting to grab and move a body in stage 3, say within 28 days of death, could result in “tearing” of the body. As an example, Percy gets Dr. Beck agrees that it is possible that trying to grab a shoulder of a body in stage 3, could cause the shoulder to separate from the body.
Marlissa Ferreira now questions Dr. Beck regarding degradation and factors that could slow the decomposition/decay rate of a body. There were more than a few objections by defense lawyers, many of them sustained. Marlissa gets Dr. Beck to agree that animals could alter the rate. She gets him to agree that if the body is buried versus on top of the ground, this would affect the rate of liquification. He opines that if the body is buried, the rate could be decelerated (slowed down), and that skin could persist longer than if not buried. She gets him to agree that a body wrapped in a tarp could stop the emission of odors. She asks him if in his experiences with buried bodies, were decay rates slower, to which he answers yes. (As an aside, it appears that Dr. Beck doesn’t really understand the question, particularly in regard to buried bodies he has examined. In fact, it appeared to me that, based on his responses, that he didn’t understand more than a few nuances of questions he was asked, and that he is a very agreeable witness, no matter what the question was, as long as it was asked as a “would you agree that…” format. Further, that Marlissa capitalized on this propensity)
Marlissa now asks what color blood would be if it were degraded. He answers that it would appear black.
Percy now asks Dr. Beck questions regarding the depth of burial and its effect on the rates of decay. In particular, focusing on the buried bodies he has examine, when asked if he knew the depth of burial, he didn’t know how deep any of them were buried.
Percy now asks Dr. Beck the extent to which the volume of a body swells to when bloated. He doesn’t know. When asked if it would be twice the volume, he says he doesn’t know, but doesn’t think so, probably less. When asked if the amount of bloat could depend on the depth of burial, he agreed it could. When he was asked if a body were only buried by 10 to 14 inches, would the bloat cause the soil to be uplifted, he said he didn’t know. Marlissa objected to this, and I’m not sure if her objection was sustained.
Marlissa now took over questioning. She got Dr. Beck to agree that a body wrapped in a tarp would decay less rapidly. (This is a particularly lame answer in my opinion, as the conditions, such as temperature, moisture, pressure (like being buried), and likely other factors, may be more dominant than simply the wrapping.)
Percy got Dr. Beck to agree that the condition of the tarp itself could affect the rate of decomposition. He now shows Dr. Beck a few photographs. These are not shown to the courtroom. When asked, Dr. Beck doesn’t recognize the “blue islands” in the photo. Dr. Beck agrees that whether the tarp was old or new could possible affect the rate. Further, that the way the body is wrapped (tight, loose, completely, incompletely) could possibly affect the rate. Dr. Beck admits that if the wrap was not sufficient to seal the body from moisture, air, and temperature, that the rate of decay could possibly be affected.
Jai Gohel now questions Dr. Beck regarding the thickness of a human chest. He didn’t know. (I don’t think he didn’t know; I just think he didn’t understand the question!) When pressed by Jai, Dr. Beck agrees that it is around 8 to 10 inches. When asked, Dr. Beck testifies that he doesn’t know if the condition of the tarp would affect body decomposition. (Note that this answer conflicts with a previous answer, where he said it was “possible” to this answer, where he “doesn’t know”). Jai asks Dr. Beck if animals are attracted to decay odors more than blood. Marlissa objects and the objection is sustained.
Judge Zuniga calls for a lunch break and the jurors leave the courtroom at 12:00 noon.
There is a short discussion between the Judge and Percy as to which witness will be next. Percy replies that it will be Georgia di Filipo (excuse the spelling), followed by Detective Lingerfeldt and then someone of the last name Perry. Percy explains that Kirk Bunch was to provide a contact number for Perry but hasn’t so far. The Judge exercises her privilege and says no, that it will be Police detective Lingerfeldt, over the objection of Percy.
End of Morning Session, Friday May 17, 2019.
Thank you for that summation