Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Laura Hall Trial: Sentencing Phase Closing Arguments

The jury's made their decision, but I thought some snippets from the closing arguments might be of some interest.

Prosecutor Stephanie McFarland began by saying that last week, they (the prosecution) had asked the jurors to focus on Laura Hall's actions, and now the focus should be on the community's reaction. She said the State believes the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison is an appropriate sentence. Then she summarizes the judge's sentence-charging instructions, explaining what "community service" (probation) means, etc. I'm paraphrasing here, but McFarland then gives examples of "tampering with evidence" to show just how wide the range can be: from the guy that tries to kick away the last bit of the marijuana cigarette he's smoking when he sees police, to the person commits an armed robbery and drops the gun in the sewer, to mutilating a body.

Defense attorney Joe James Sawyer begins his closing argument by thanking the jurors for their hard work--14 hours of deliberations. He then reminds the jury that "you can't put a clock" on DNA, and for example, we have no way of knowing when Hall's DNA was placed on the sandal. He talks about how much he wishes he'd known about Jason Mack's story before the jury began deliberating in the guilt phase because it may or may not have changed their decision. Sawyer says, "You were denied that testimony." Urging the jury to give Hall probation, Sawyer believes "we must send someone to prison when we must," not someone "whose life can be salvaged." "You literally have someone else's life in your hands."

The prosecution ends with Bill Bishop's closing argument. He says that sentencing is designed for punishment in this case, not rehabilitation, that there is no rehabilitation for what Hall did. "There are no classes to take for rehabilitating that," Bishop continues. "Someone capable of that cannot be free on the streets," he says. Bishop explains that he used to think that burying a child was the worst thing a mother could ever go through but that having to bury a child in a closed casket is worse. Bishop ends by pointing out that, although they're not to consider lack of remorse in making their decision, what they can consider is what Hall said about Jennifer Cave a year after her murder.


KMTBERRY said...

I am not DOUBTING your reporting, I am just wondering: WHY would the judge instrut the jury to NOT take the (obvious) lack of remorse into account?

Even though your coverage has been evenhanded and objective IN THE EXTREME (at least certainly compared to anything I might have written; I think because of my lack of journalistic background, I tend to write in an... inflammatory.. style) I still totally get the impression that LH is a total and complete SOCIOPATH.

hullabelew said...

Thank you for keeping us posted on this trial. I greatly appreciate it.

Iris said...


It wasn't the judge's personal decision; it's the law. Because of a defendant's constitutional right against self-incrimination, the defendant, as in Hall's case, maintains her innocence, even after a jury's found her guilty. So the prosecution is not allowed to mention the person's decision not to testify as something the jury can consider during the penalty phase.

So, at the sentencing phase, Hall can't (logically & for her appellate record) claim remorse & still maintain her innocence at the same time. Sawyer mentioned this in his sentence-phase closing argument, but I only have a few incomplete, scribbled words in my notes on that.

Iris said...


Thanks for reading!

katmom said...

Just wondering, did it ever come out in CP's or LH's trial whose gun was used to kill Jennifer? It must have been registered to someone, right? Did they find out? If so, can they go after that person for giving it to Pitonyak in the first place? If he didn't have it that day....who knows what would have happened.

Iris said...


I'll check my CP trial notes tomorrow, but I know the bullets recovered from Jennifer Cave's body matched the ones in the (only, I think) gun in CP's apartment, as well as the box of live ammo found in either CP's condo or car, I can't remember for sure which location right now.

I do remember that in CP's trial, Pitonyak testified that the gun belonged to some guy he'd (CP) insisted on leaving as collateral while the guy borrowed CP's car (which ended up impounded because the guy got ticketed?/arrested? for something while driving CP's car.)

I'll check old notes tomorrow to see if I can provide more accurate info.

katmom said...

Hmm, I wonder if that guy was Jason Mack, the 'roommate'. Didn't you say that he also borrowed CP's car and the CP insist on him leaving his license there at the apartment? I just wonder because if CP wasn't given the gun for collateral in the first place, then we might not be talking right now.

Kurt said...

It was Jason's gun. Whether that's the same Jason Mack or another Jason, who knows. No matter, Pitonyak said he never loaded the gun while it was in his possession. This "Jason" is ultimately responsible. Wait, no, that's bull. Indeed, the gun did it. Smith & Wesson needs to 'fess up.
If I lend you my car, and you go careering off, even with your spotless driving record, and winsome smile, but you inadvertently plaster an old lady to the pavement at the crosswalk, I am not liable. The same logic applies when lending a gun.
I understand you're taking the devil's point of view, katmom. Let's say you don't recall ever driving over that old lady at the crosswalk. Maybe you blacked out and some vagrant borrowed the car and did it during your sleep. That is a lot of spin; sounds like we're just making stuff up here.

Iris said...


For what it's worth, I checked my CP trial notes, & unfortunately, I took VERY few notes during CP's testimony because I wanted to watch him. But I did write down that, according to CP, on Sat. 8/13/05, "Jake" left THE gun (ultimately used in the murder) with CP as collateral to borrow CP's car.

The car ended up being impounded, and Jake (while borrowing CP's car) had (from memory, not notes, here) had been pulled over for something & hauled into jail.

It's possible that "Jake" is Jason Mack, but I don't know. I also wrote down that, according to CP's testimony, on Tue. 8/16/05, Laura Hall drove CP to the impound place to pick up his car and CP got home around 5 p.m.

Kathryn Casey said...

Hey All,

Iris is right. The bullets taken from Jennifer's body matched the gun found in Pitonyak's car. They were also of the same type found in the box in his apartment.

Enjoyed the blog, Iris. Hope you'll enjoy my book!

Iris said...

kathryn casey,

Thanks for verifying and adding info re CP's gun/ammo. If you notice any posts on this blog from my trial notes that are incorrect, please let me know, because I want to be as accurate as possible. Looking forward to your book!