Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Closing Arguments: the Prosecution

It's 10:31 and the defendant is back in the courtroom from a 10-minute recess following his attorney's closing arguments. The jury is taking their seats. The judge is back at the bench and has directed prosecutor Laurie Lisi to begin closing arguments. We hear transmissions from a police radio and see a white Utica Police cruiser on the monitor. Now we hear a frantic officer say "we've got an officer down!' More chaotic transmissions as another officer says, "expedite 'em! expedite 'em!" about the Utica Fire Department coming to treat the officer. Now we hear a hysterical woman calling 9-1-1 saying an officer has been shot. Now prosecutor Laurie Lisi is speaking to the jury. She's recounting the night Officer Lindsey was killed. Those two words no officer ever wants to hear, "officer down'. "Nine minutes, nine minutes ladies and gentlemen, and in the blink of an eye th elife of every Utica Police officer was indeed forever changed". Lisi says Tom Lindsey was assasinated; ambushed by a coward in a white hoodie. She tells the jury they're here today to consider one charge only: aggravated murder.

Lisi asks if there is any doubt that the elements of the crime of aggravated murder have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Is there any doubt Officer Lindsey was killed while performing his lawful duties? She says the only real question for the jury to deliberate is "who killed Officer Thomas Lindsey". She points out how the defense spend nearly all her closing remarks talking about Sammy Rivera and acknowledges he is the most important witness. She says defense has spent so much time on him because Rivera is an eyewitness to the brutal slaying of Officer Lindsey. Lisi says he is the most crucial witness, but reminds jurors that case doesn't rise and fall on his testimony alone. She too asks jurors not to consider Rivera's testimony in a vaccuum but in the context with all other evidence. Lisi says if jurors do that, they'll have no problem concluding that the defendant is guilty of the aggravated murder of Officer Lindsey.

Prosecutor Lisi says Rivera's story, with a few exceptions, has remained constant. Lisi reminds jurors that another witness testified that he was in the car with Sammy Rivera, alone, except for baby Luis, at 9pm the night Officer Lindsey was killed. She says there are no lagging time periods as the defense suggests. Lisi says Rivera rolls through the stop sign at Eagle and Neilson Streets because he had car trouble. Now Lisi is getting to where Officer Lindsey pulled over Rivera for running the stop sign at 9:16pm (when the officer called the stop into dispatch).

Now, prosecutor Lisi shows on a monitor an image of Officer Lindsey's computer screen in his police cruiser--the name Ishmael Rivera is on it, verifying that Sammy Rivera at first gave Officer Lindsey his brother's name--something Rivera admitted to in this case. Lisi says all this verifies Sammy was driving the Neon when Officer Lindsey pulled it over--who else would give the name Ishmael Rivera but a family member? Lisi says Rivera's wallet was still in officer's cruiser after he was shot because Officer Lindsey actually was not going to let Rivera drive away, but rather, wait for a licensed driver to come and get Rivera. Lisi says there is no doubt Sammy Rivera was the driver of the red Neon. Lisi asks jurors to consider that "Flaco" was interviewed extensively over several days and never once indicated Sammy Rivera was not the operator of the red Neon.

Prosecutor is talking about how Officer Lindsey had radioed back to dispatch, "code four", meaning everything is ok. She points out that he didn't immediately call in "code four" because at the time, he didn't know who or how many people were in the car--not until he walked up to it and saw. Lisi points out that, to other officers who'd driven by the vehicle stop, Officer Lindsey looked relaxed, so they became relaxed and therefore didn't take note of details--i.e., the driver of the Neon. (Defense pointed out that the officers couldn't identify Sammy Rivera as the driver of the Neon). Lisi points out that Officer Lindsey was waving fellow officers on before they even reached him. Asks jury if they think that the officers don't think of this every night when they go home and put their heads of the pillow, "what if....what if I'd stayed behind". Lisa says identification is a funny thing; that she could parade someone by the jury and ask them all to describe the person and that they'd all have different accounts because different people remember different things.

Prosecutor Lisi suggests it's not that one of the officers doesn't believe that Rivera was the driver of the Neon...but rather, that the officer didn't get a good look at the driver.

Prosecution closing arguments continue. Our cameras are still recording but I'm off to the station for the noon news.....

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