Wednesday, June 30, 2010

day two of Laura Hall's re-sentencing trial

Today I was especially looking forward to hearing any new testimony I hadn't heard during Laura Hall's or Colton Pitonyak's 2007 trials, and that finally happened in the afternoon session, when some jail witnesses and jail psychiatric counselors testified.
The first senior psychiatric counselor from Travis County's Del Valle jail testified that in September 2005, two inmates made statements to her regarding things Hall allegedly said to them and that she made a memo of those statements at the time.
The first former inmate, who was convicted of a felony as a minor but is now on probation, testified that she was housed in the same unit as Hall in September 2005. She testified that she had a few conversations with Hall, in which Hall said she (Hall) didn't know why she was in jail.
The former inmate said that from Hall, she understood Jennifer Cave to be Hall's "boyfriend's girlfriend" and that Hall referred to Cave as a "fucking bitch and a stripper" that Hall was angry her "boyfriend was cheating on her with her (Cave)." She also testified that Hall said the "eeriest part was cutting her bone."  She said she reported the conversation to the jail counselor.
The second former inmate, who was convicted of felony burglary of a building in 2006 and a 1993 misdemeanor larceny charge, was also an inmate in Del Valle in the same unit as Hall in September 2005. She testified she had no direct conversations with Hall but that in a voluntary group therapy session of more than five inmates, Hall said "the whore was just a dancer and she deserved to die."
She said she reported Hall's statement to the jail counselor on the same day. The private investigator for Pitonyak's current appellate attorney, Joe Turner, contacted both former inmates. Apparently, based on the private investigator's interviews with these inmates, Turner wrote out affidavits that each signed.
On cross exam, defense attorney Joe James Sawyer elicited that this inmate had relied on Turner's notes to remember most of the content of her original statement. She testified today that she is now uncomfortable with the word "confessed" in her original affidavit. It was unclear exactly in what context the word "confessed" appeared because her affidavit was not presented as evidence.
The afternoon's next surprise was when Hall's former 2005 cellmate, Henriette Langenbach, testified. In Hall's trial, Langenbach testified that Hall talked to her frequently when they shared a cell and that when she asked Hall how she could cut up a body, Hall said, "How many grandmothers can tell their grandchildren that they cut up a body?"  
Today, Langenbach backed off her earlier testimony, saying that Hall never told her that she (Hall) was actually physically involved in mutilating Cave's body. Much of Langenbach's testimony today was consistent with her 2007 trial testimony
On cross exam, Sawyer wrangled with Langenbach about the timing of her turning over her notes of conversations with Hall, implying she took the notes as a calculated way of getting herself a better plea deal.
Another witness from Hall's 2007 trial, Javier Rosales, today appeared to back off from some of his former testimony, too. In his 2007 testimony, Rosales, who was a co-server with Hall in the summer of 2006 at Baby Acapulco's restaurant, said Hall told him "she helped him do it" then masterminded her and Pitonyak's escape to Mexico. 
Today, Rosales testified that Hall never directly spoke of mutilating Cave's body. However, Rosales was consistent today in his testimony from 2007 that Hall said Cave's murder was "a victimless crime."
The prosecution's case seems to be winding down. Tomorrow morning they will begin by playing some snippets from interviews Hall granted CBS' "48 Hours Mystery" show, and then I think they'll play audio tapes of calls Hall made from jail. Guessing the defense case will begin late tomorrow morning or early afternoon.

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