Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Miscellaneous Pitonyak Trial and Hall Trial Observations

A fellow Court TV viewer who had followed the Pitonyak trial (televised on Court TV and through their streaming video feed) wanted my take on a couple of questions (at the bottom) but were especially curious to know what, if anything, I knew about the following three people:

Evan Ray: Based on testimony presented in Laura Hall’s trial, all we know is that when CP showed up at Nora Sullivan’s condo around 3 a.m. (8/17/05), he used her cell three times, trying to call Evan, whom Nora described as “a mutual friend.”

There were several more calls from CP’s cell to Evan’s cell number between around 5:50 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and one more around noon. No evidence of Evan Ray's ever calling (or texting) CP's cell number was presented.

Jason Mack: The following excerpt from my blog and the excerpt from The Daily Texan are all I know about him.

(Part of my Tue., 9/04/07 blog): Okay, back to this morning's testimony: defense's second witness, Jason Mack. Mack said he's 25 and works as a painter, having owned his business for about a year and that at age 17 he served some time in prison for burglary. Mack said that in August of 2005, he'd been living w/CP at CP's Orangetree condo #88 for about 3 months. During that time, he'd met Jennifer Cave and Laura Hall.

According to Mack, 2 days before Cave's murder, Hall came over to collect money she'd loaned CP the week before (that CP owed to some really bad guys.) Mack said that at that time, CP was really drunk and had run out of Xanax and was freaking out, but that "everyone there" was "on something."

Apparently CP had physically thrown LH outside onto the steps of the condo. Pitonyak said to Mack, (according to Mack) "this bitch is driving me fucking crazy" and then pulled his gun out of a (desk?) drawer. Mack tried to calm CP down--CP also mentioned that his mom was in town and that he had a test coming up--telling him to chill out. Mack said CP had been up for 9 days and that he thought CP would have used the gun on anyone at that point, that CP was delusional and crazy.

Mack said he finally convinced Hall to leave (CP's condo) w/him and that the two of them spent the night at a friend's place in south Austin, where they told Hall to stay away from CP or she was going to get herself killed.

Mack said he'd left his Texas ID/driver's license on CP's coffee table (because CP was so paranoid he insisted that Mack leave it) in order to briefly borrow CP's car. Mack said he'd reported the above incident to the Austin Police Department (APD) and was never contacted by APD.

from The Daily Texan: “Pitonyak said he received the Smith & Wesson pistol that ultimately killed Cave as payment for a drug sale in July 2005. He kept the gun for a month before selling the gun to Jason, an acquaintance of Hall's. Pitonyak said he never loaded the gun while it was in his possession. The Saturday before Cave's death, Jason visited Pitonyak's apartment while he was "drinking heavily."
Jason asked to borrow Pitonyak's car to see a friend.
Pitonyak agreed on the premise that Jason would get his newly acquired gun back when he returned the car. Jason didn't return the car and was ultimately arrested. That's how the gun ended up back in Pitonyak's apartment, according to Pitonyak. The defense's case hinges on the premise that Pitonyak didn't check if the gun was loaded after he retained possession.”

Ryan Martindill: In Hall’s trial, he testified (on direct exam) that he worked at the same law office as Laura Hall in spring/summer 2005 and they became friends. He lived in an apartment in southeast Austin (same general part of town as LH’s apartment) with two roommates, Star Salzman and John M. (sorry, didn’t catch his last name.)

Martindill testified that on the night of Tue., 8/16/05, LH was at his apartment watching television with him and that she spent the night and woke up Ryan around 7-7:30 a.m. (8/17/05), saying she needed to go see CP because he was going to be leaving soon and she wanted to spend time with him. Martindill then took her to her car, which was at her apartment.

One or 2 weeks later, LH called him to let him know she was alive and okay and suggested he read the papers; she seemed surprised he hadn’t heard about the murder. Two days later, LH called to see if she could stay at his place, and he told her she could stay for one night. Martindill picked her up from the bus station and asked her if she was involved in Jennifer Cave’s murder. Hall told him “they” were innocent and knew nothing.

Later LH went downtown with Martindill, and while he was at Stubb’s, she got “Colton” tattooed on her ankle. In the car afterwards, LH said she didn’t know anything. Martindill asked her if she had gone into the (CP’s) bathroom and she said CP “wouldn’t have let her.” On cross exam, Martindill admitted that he doesn’t have a complete independent recollection of those conversations and had re-read his prior statements.

At CP’s trial, upon direct exam, Martindill said that LH was obsessed with and in love with CP. The only other sort of interesting (to me, at least) details he added were that the night of Tue., 8/16/05, around 9:30 p.m., LH was hanging out at Martindill’s and that she was drinking rum that she had brought and he was drinking beer. Martindill said that he fell asleep around midnight and that LH woke him at 7 a.m. (8/17/05), saying CP had called her and she needed a ride to her car. Later there was testimony about LH & CP showing up at Martindill’s apartment the evening of 8/17/05 to retrieve LH’s bottle of rum.

Why didn’t prosecutors talk to Hall for CP’s trial? I seriously doubt Laura Hall’s lawyer (at that time it was her court-appointed lawyer, Tom Weber) would allow LH to speak to prosecutors. After the State rested its case-in-chief in CP’s trial, the defense subpoenaed LH, so she appeared and asserted her 5th Amendment right in front of Judge Flowers. Weber asked the prosecutors if they would consider giving LH limited immunity in exchange for her testimony, and they answered with a firm “no.” That all happened at the end of a lunch recess, before many people were back in the courtroom (well, I was there.)

What did I, personally, think of the performance of CP’s lawyers?: Okay, just for the sake of argument, I thought a better overall strategy would have been to scour the earth to try to find drug buyers/dealers, friends, etc who would testify to something like the fact that there were lots of them (and other shady characters) in and out of CP’s condo quite often and at all times of the day and night and that CP was often really messed up and out of it.

Then, when CP took the stand, it might seem more plausible (because others had testified to being at CP’s condo so often) that he would say, “I guess it MUST have been me…” when Minton asked him if he’d killed Jennifer Cave. Instead, what CP did say on the stand was closer to “I killed her: I was the only other person there that night.” I remember my jaw almost fell to the floor when Minton elicited this. I think Minton had CP repeat those words.

Okay, now that I think this through more, I guess it would be VERY difficult to FIND these shady characters in the first place, and if they were found, they might not be very credible or would plead the 5th. I don’t know; I just thought it was bizarre that Minton seemed determined to get CP to say he did it, rather than say it must have been he. I guess Minton was trying to make CP look better for the sentencing phase, having decided CP would never get a not-guilty verdict? Just my opinion, of course.



H.S. Lewis said...

Actually there were a large number of attempts by Colton to reach this Evan Character. He tried through out the day. The number of calls and the frequency in the early morning hours would suggest someone in a panic....

H.S. Lewis said...

Actually, Colton tried to reach this Evan person durinfg the entire day after Jennifer's death. The number and frequency of calls in the early morning hours would suggest someone in a panic.

Iris said...

h.s. lewis,
I think Evan was one of the people alluded to by Stephanie McFarland in her closing argument (in CP's trial) when she said something about everyone who could have helped Colton was in jail--Evan was in jail 8/17/05?

Anonymous said...

what about all the online conversations laura hall had with people? saying she was going to "hack them up"?????? did everyone forget about the horrible things she said post-murder??? jesus christ.