Friday, August 31, 2007

Laura Hall Trial: Answers to a Few Questions That Weren't Posted Here Earlier

I've gotten some questions through other forums/forms of media I'd like to try to briefly answer here.

1.Was that a bodyguard with Nora Sullivan when she testified?

I asked a few court reporter veterans, and they all said it's not uncommon for an officer of the Court, like someone from the sheriff's department, to accompany a witness to & from their testimony in a criminal trial. It's not done for all witnesses, but it's also not all that unusual.

2. How effective was Sawyer's cross exam of the jail snitch?

Sawyer was able to elicit that she had more than the one conviction to which she admitted. She also served a bit of time in Travis County for something like misrepresenting her fiduciary responsibility re someone's property, which Sawyer likened to stealing the property. Sawyer also got her to admit she'd served time in the penitentiary in New Zealand (over 10 years ago) for something related to an illegal baby adoption. (She was very vague about the New Zealand thing.)

3. Why did the defense call the cell phone guy as witness?

Sawyer needed to show that APD didn't follow through w/obtaining the cell phone TOWER location info from Hall's phone, which would at least show the difference in location between calls made north (CP apartment) of the river versus south (Hall's apartment) of the river. APD did do this for Pitonyak's cell phone, which requires some special court order for the tower info.
The detective said that Hall's cell phone provider company gave them an incomplete report, omitting the tower location info, but he didn't really have an explanation as to why the detective or someone at APD didn't follow up to obtain that tower info.

4. What was Hall's Facebook "name"?

That info wasn't presented. What was presented from her retrieved Facebook profile page (dated 8-24-05 & last updated 8/15/05) were some favorite movies, including Ronin, Pulp Fiction, Napoleon Dynamite, Scarface, Donnie Brasco, and Scent of a Woman. (There were more movies listed, but I didn't catch the rest, sorry.) Posted under the additional information section, "summer plans", was "I should really be a more horrific person; it's in the works."



Bud said...

Do you know how it is determined which witnesses are escorted by armed officers of the court and which aren't? Oh and did Scott Engle testify? Was there any mention of LH's instant messages to JC's family? Also, I did a search of LH's screen name - it's some kind of horror movie, like a Friday 13th type.

Thanks for your info~

Iris said...

Hey Bud,
I don't know how they determine the escorts, but I sort of inferred that it was usually by the witness' request? I was told that the cellmate "snitch" also had the armed court-personnel escort.

I think you may be right about the screen (Friday 13th-type) name: the DA reeled that info off so quickly I didn't catch them all! They didn't show any of the page on the overhead. My husband is going to think I'm a total nut if I don't go to bed now.

Bud said...

Iris, Great question and answer section !!!

Here's a few more - 1) how do they determine who is escorted by a dedicated court appointed law enforcement officer? I guess to say it planner, what reaches a level of concern enough to warrant that? 2) Did Scott Engle testify and if so to what? 3) I guess this is kinda a question - why would the judge let someone who's has been shown to be a flight risk, free on bail? Was there any justification for that made any sense? 3) was there any mention of her Instant Messages to JC's little sister or any other members of JC's family? I heard an interview on another post and the comments were twisted and cruel. Can't understand why that stuff wouldn't have been brought out.

And foot note - after reading your last answer about her screen name. I looked it up and it is the name of a horror movie, in the lines of a Friday 13th type series. Really does seen more relevant than some of the other internet stuff.

Do you know what her weekend bail is? Did they ask her to surrender her passports or anything like that? I mean doesn't she seems like a flight risk, she did leave the country in an "on the run" episode.

Thanks Again,

Bud said...

Sorry some of the questions were repeated twice - my system didn't seem to upload the first, so that's why the repeats~

Iris said...

Hey Bud,

Hall's been out on bond, originally posted at (according to the Daily Texan)$175,000.00 for close to a year now, I think. I don't know if her bond was increased when the "tampering w/evidence" charges were filed against her.

The judge only said, "denied," when DA Bishop requested that Hall's bond be revoked and that she be taken into custody. He didn't ask/say anything about conditions, increased bond, flight risk, passports, etc.

I'm guessing that the reasoning is that if she were going to flee, she would have done it a long time ago, not on Labor Day weekend after she's been convicted & had lots of media scrutiny. That's just my guess.

Nothing about instant messages (IMs) was presented. Once again, I'm making an educated guess here, but,(& I don't know what these alleged IMs contain,)IF they're going to come in, it would probably be during the sentencing phase, which begins Tuesday. That's when character witness testimony is usually allowed to be presented for both sides.

If the State had indeed attempted to introduce the alleged IMs during the guilt phase, they may have been overruled on grounds of relevance or on that more-prejudicial-than-probative rule. I wasn't present for any pretrial hearings, so I don't know...

Scott Engle did testify. Here's what I noted on direct exam from the prosecution:
Engle said that Jennifer Cave (JC) dated him (Engle) from around Jan '05 through July '05. In August '05, they were still friends.

Engle said he'd known Pitonyak (CP) since Jan '05 but hadn't seen him at all in Aug '05. On Monday, 8/15/05, Engle called Jennifer (JC) & on Tuesday (8/16/05) they'd talked & JC was very excited about her new job at a law office, which she was to start the next morning.

On Wed, 8/17/05, around 2 p.m., Sharon Cave (Jennifer's mom)called Engle asking about JC because JC had not shown up to her first day of work. Sharon obtained all the cell phone numbers from JC's phone (because the account was in Sharon's name.) Later that afternoon, Sharon shared all JC's cell numbers with Engle, who identified CP's cell number.

Engle or Sharon Cave, (my notes are confusing at this point, sorry)called CP's cell twice, leaving messages saying that the police were on the way to his (CP's) apartment because they knew JC's car was parked there.

Around 6:30 p.m., CP answered his cell, sounding "jittery", according to Engle. Engle said he did not know Laura Hall.

Upon Sawyer's cross exam, Engle said that JC was not attracted to CP but wanted to help CP as a friend--she always wanted to help people. Engle also admitted that JC had said that CP had once held a knife to her throat.

Sawyer asks Engle if he thought CP was a mean guy? Engle says, "no, but maybe under the influence..."