Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day Six of Testimony: Prosecution Cross-Examines Ortiz

Prosecution is now cross - examining Wanda Ortiz. Ortiz says she's been with Jose Cirino for eight years. Ortiz says Wesley Molina Cirino has spent the night and had meals at her home. Ortiz remembers talking to police April 22, 2007 about Officer Lindsey's murder. Prosecution asks Ortiz if she has a pretty routine schedule-she says yes. Prosecution asks if Wesley Molina Cirino was at her house night of April 12, 2007. Ortiz says yes. Prosecution asks Ortiz if she recalls telling investigators that she fell asleep that night around 9:20-9:30. Prosecution asks if she rememers telling them her daughter called around 10:30, waking her up. Prosecution shows her statement where she did tell police it was 10:30. Ortiz still says 9 - something or going on 10:00.

Translator asks if he can say something; judge tells him just to translate what is being said; not to interject himself into this. Translator asks if they can 'approach' (the bench) ....something attorneys usually ask. Judge says 'no'. Prosecutor asks Ortiz if she called her son when he was in jail. She says he called her. Prosecution asks if she's aware those conversations were recorded. Wanda says yes. Prosecutor asks if she recalls speaking to her son, "NeNe" from jail after defendant was arrested for killing a police officer. Prosecution asks if she recalls saying to her son that she had no idea where Wesley was that night. Ortiz says no. Prosecution asks if it's fair to say that on the night of April 12, 2007, at 9:15 pm she had no idea where Wesley Molina Cirino was. Ortiz says "I don't know-when I went upstairs he was there."

Wanda Ortiz is excused from the stand.

Day Six of Testimony: Defense Calls 1st Witness

Back in court from recess. Defense calls Wanda Ortiz to the stand. An interpreter is sworn in first (to translate for Ortiz). Then she is sworn in with his help. Ortiz is 38 years old and lives on Neilson Street with her two children and her boyfriend. Jose Cirino is her boyfriend. Asked if she speaks any English, she replies, "a little". She says she works at HTC (Human Technologies). In April of 2007, she was working at Divine Brothers--the 6:30 am - 2:30 pm shift. She says she is familiar with defendant Wesley Molina Cirino and points him out in the courtroom.

She says she knows Molina Cirino because he is a cousin to the man she lives with (Jose Cirino). Defense draws her attention to the day Officer Lindsey was killed. She worked her regular shift and got out at 2:30pm. Her kids were home when she got there after work. So were defendant Wesley Molina Cirino and Jose Cirino. At some point that night, she went to her bedroom (around 6pm). Everyone was still at her house. She watched a Spanish soap opera. At some point, she came back downstairs from her bedroom. It was after her daughter called her--which was around nine or ten o'clock. After that, she came out of her room to see if her kids were still there. Her daughter had asked her if she was aware that police were outside.

She went outside to see what was going on. She saw many police officers. After the phone call from her daughter, Wesley Molina Cirino went upstairs and was looking out a window. Ortiz says defendant was in her house when she came downstairs after her daughter called her; says he and others were playing play station when she went upstairs. She did not see "Majon". Says Wesley was wearing a brown shirt with some designer on it that night. Says he always wore it. (Note: several witnesses have testified that a man fleeing from the murder scene minutes after Officer Lindsey was shot was wearing a white hoodie). Defense shows her a brown hoodie and asks her if if was what defendant was wearing that night. She says it looks like what it was wearing that night.

Day Six of Testimony: :10 Minute Break, then Defense Presents Their Case

Defense asks for charges to be dismissed because the prosecution has failed to prove a 'prima facia' case. This is very common and is done at the end of proof in most criminal trials. The judge denies the motion. Back in 10 minutes for any defense witnesses.

Day Six of Testimony: The People Rest

Defense is done with Investigator Serrano. Prosecution now questioning investigator once more. Prosecutor Michael Coluzza asks if, on May 14th interview, defendant had good knowledge of streets where officer Lindsey was killed. Investigator says yes. Prosecutor asks if suspects often offer fingerprints, dna and to take lie detector tests. Serrano says yes. (Earlier, defense brought out that defendant offered all these things to police during interview).

Investigator Serrano is finished testifying. The people (prosecution) have no other witnesses. Now, a few housekeeping matters; the prosecution is offering certain exhibits into evidence--including Officer Lindsey's service weapon. No objection so far from the defense. The people rest. The judge asks the jury to step aside for 10 minutes while he takes care of some matters with the attorneys. Don't know yet if defense will present any witnesses they might have today, or if the judge will reconvene tomorrow for this.

Day Six of Testimony:

The videotaped interview of defendant Wesley Molina Cirino has been playing on courtroom monitors for several minutes, uninterrupted. Some courtroom observers are closing their eyes for extended periods of time. Defense asks a few questions of Serrano, then asks for a video clip of the interview by police of Molina Cirino in June of '07 at UPD to continue. Defense asks if, during that interview, police asked defendant to describe what he was wearing the night of April 12th. Serrano, from the stand, says he doesn't remember. An investigator in the video tells defendant that Sammy hasn't changed his story, and who's going to believe him over Sammy, who had a baby in his car at the time this allegedly went down? Serrano says he also said something to defendant about who would believe him over Sammy when he keeps changing his story and Sammy's remains consistent.

The videotaped interview conducted at UPD continues, and Spanish voices rise in volume in the interview room. Defense asks if defendant gets aggitated when investigators bring up his brother and his mother. Investigator Serrano says 'oh, yeah'. Defense asks if, about four and a half hours into the interview, police had told defendant that Sammy fingered him as the shooter. Serrano says yes. Defense asks if defendant says, 'you've got the wrong guy--it's Mojon' (Jose Cirino).

Day Six of Testimony: Back From Lunch on Tuesday

Lunch break is over; defense attorney Rebecca Wittman is questioning NYS Police Investigator Samuel Serrano. She asks to play a video clip from a questioning session of defendant Wesley Molina Cirino by police in Onondaga County. Before lunch, under questioning by Wittman, investigator Serrano said that Molina Cirino had said around 100 times that he "didn't do it".

Wittman asks Serrano if there was any confusion in his mind whether defendant had seen the gun he refers to on more than one date. Serrano says no confusion--he saw the gun. Serrano says that, in the interview clip we just saw, that the defendant says he saw it only once-on April 12-the day Officer Lindsey was killed.

Amidst the Spanish-English translations happening in the video clip of the interview of the defendant by police in Onondaga County, we hear someone say, in English, "Jose said 'I killed the officer'". Sounds as though it was an officer translating what defendant had just said.

Wittman asks Serrano if, during that interview in May, defendant refers to having seen the gun on April 9th--three days before Officer Lindsey was killed. Serrano says yes. Defense asks for another clip from videotaped interview to be played in court-this one from a subsequent interview that took place in June of 2007. The only language being spoken is Spanish. Occasionally you will hear the name of a street in Utica. We hear someone say that Sammy gave the officer i.d. and the officer went back to the computer to check it--presumably an investigator translating what Molina Cirino has just said. Interview taped in Onondaga County is on. Jurors have the benefit of having their own monitors on which they can see closed-captioning of the entire questioning session. For everyone else in the courtroom, the words and letters are too small to make out. The people in the gallery are left with a largely Spanish questioning peppered with an English word or two here and there. In other words--the rest of us have no idea what's being said.

Day Six: Did Flaco Seek A Break

Serrano says that Flaco told him several times that he wanted to "go down stairs" or to the Oneida County Jail. Serrano did not take a break or think that is what was intended.

Serrano is asked about things being said referring to Flaco being charged in connection to a "conspiracy" involving Indio, Jose and Rivera and a plan to kill a "black guy".

Judge Donalty takes a lunch break. Court is back in session at 2PM.

Day Six: Building Up To Playing a Tape

Wittman has a few questions building up to her recording of the interview of Flaco on June 6th.

Serrano says that Flaco told him at least twice, may be more, that Serrano's questioning was confusing him.

Serrano says that Flaco told him over 100 times that he didn't shoot Lindsey. Flaco also kept asking for his finger prints to be taken to prove his innocence.

Flaco asked to take a polygraph. Serrano says the request was made more than once. No polygraph was given by Flaco. Others, like Rivera, were given a polygraph.

Serrano suggested to Flaco that they had Indio. This information did not shake Flaco about his story.

Day Six: Technical Questions

Serrano is shown the Merranda Rights Form given Flaco on June 6th. The form is in spanish. Serrano says that he read the form to Flaco in spanish.

A lot of time is spent of how the rights were presented to Flaco at the June 6th meeting. Defense attorney Wittman goes over the question of the rights about the right to an attorney. Serrano says that it should be recorded and he translated that segment of the recording word for word. Serrano says that Flaco did not ask about an attorney. Serrano says that Flaco was read the form and signed it.

Wittman questions Serrano about his interrogation technique. Wittman asked if Serrano felt he and Flaco were friendly. Serrano says that they weren't friends, but he did try to develop a relationship with them.

Day Six: Cross Examination Begins

Serrano asks Serrano about his preparation before interviewing Flaco in Syracuse. Serrano says he didn't think Flaco was not being truthful in the May 14th interview.

On June 1st, Flaco's Syracuse lawyer was not told by Serrano that Flaco was the prime suspect.

There was no converstaion between Serrano and Flaco on the ride to Utica on June 6th. Serrano felt that Flaco had little difficulty understanding Serrano.

Serrano felt that Flaco could handle english is a street sence. But, Serrano thought that Flaco was limited in reading and writing.

Serrano thought Flaco was street smart.

Day Six: Flaco Says He Was Closer

Flaco again demonstates how the shooting wentg and shows the shooter sneaking up, at an angle, on Lindsay's right side.

Flaco now indicates that he was behind the driver's side, to the rear of Lindsay's patrol car.

Lindsay is shown eating during all this. Flaco is asked if he asked for forgiveness and Flaco says "I did it. On that day I did it."

Flaco says Lindsay stopped him twice.

Day Six: How Close Was Flaco To Shooting

Flaco shows police, on a map on the wall at UPD headquarters, where he was at the time of the shooting. The location Flaco gives is south of the shooting, near an old firehouse at the corner of Eagle and Neilson. That is a block away from the shooting.

Flaco says that Jose Cirino was on Mortimer St. before the shooting and that Jose ran behind houses on the east side of Neilson St., came out behind the houses and shot Lindsay. Serrano says that he has stood where Flaco says he was and you cannot see into the backyards on the east side of Neilson St. Flaco says that Jose Cirino jumped a fence.

Flaco now says that Jose Cirino fired three shots. He had previously said there was only one shot.

Flaco demonstrates to Serrano how the shooter came up on Lindsay's right side and fired. Flaco says that he heard Lindsay talking with Rivera about how Rivera doesn't have a license. This is the first time that Flaco says he heard a conversation between Lindsay and Rivera. This presents a problem between where Flaco says he was and where he would have been in order to have heard this.

Flaco has now changes his location from two blocks away, to one block away, to in the same block, to a few car lengths away on the east side of the street.

Day Six: More Differences

There are differences between what and where Flaco says he was and what others he cites were involved. Officers tell him that the others Flaco cites told police other times that can't work with what Flaco says happened.

Flaco tries to deflect their testimony by challenging the character of the others.

Flaco denies ever talking about the shooting with inmates in jail.

Flaco says that he saw the shooter of Lindsay fire only once. Flaco is challenged on how close he was to the shooting.

Flaco was asked by police about his relationshio with Sammy Rivera. Flaco says he had a falling out with Rivera. It was over Naomi Diaz, with whom Flaco has a relationship with at one time.

Day Six: Flaco's Changing Story

Flaco tells police that he was standing on Neilson St. at time of the shooting and that he saw Lindsay using his computer in the patrol car.

Flaco says that, after the shooting, he went to Wanda's house...different from his earlier statements.

Flaco tells Serrano that he knew Lindsay. That Lindsay has stopped Flaco several times.

Police challenged Flaco on the timeline he set for the events the day of the shooting. Time differences between what and where Flaco says he was are pointed out to him during the interrogation.

Day Six of Testimony: Defendant's Story Grows, Changes

Investigator says the defendant is referencing a plan, with Jose Cirino, Indio and Sammy Rivera being the players. Voices in interview room at UPD are getting loud. Serrano says defendant is providing new information. Prosecutor asks if Serrano and defendant and other investigator used a map on wall in interview room. Serrano says yes--defendant used the map to point out where he, Officer Lindsey, Sammy and others were standing at the time of the shooting.

Morning recess--10 minute break.

Day Six of Testimony: June 6, 2007 Interview of Defendant

Serrano says he gave Wesley Molina Cirino a ride from Onondaga County to Utica with other investigators present in the car. Went to interview room at Utica Police Department. Segment recorded 1:50 PM June 6 is played. Now, at UPD, video is black and white. It was in color when recorded at Onondaga County. Defendant Molina Cirino is looking at photos on the wall--pictures of different people who'd been interviewed in the course of the investigation. Before interview, Serrano advised defendant of his miranda rights from a card where the rights are written. He advises him in Spanish.

Segment from 2:06pm played. It was recorded from a greater distance than the Onondaga County interview; everyone looks smaller. It's also a bit harder to understand (sound quality perhaps not as good) but the closed-captioning is at the bottom of the screen. Serrano says defendant had very limited ability to read and write Spanish. Serrano asked if defendant wanted to speak to an attorney before police started interviewing him. Defendant said 'no' and Serrano had him write it in English and Spanish.

Serrano says he asked defendant to talk about where he was the night Officer Lindsey was killed, beginning around dinner time. Defendant says he was at his brother's house (Guillermo Molina) on Seymour Ave. Says others were there. Defendant says he ate and then went to Square and Neilson Streets in Utica. Says he went to Neilson street around 5:30pm. Defendant places himself at brother's then Wanda's then Mary Alice's house. Defendant describes encounter with "Indio" when coming down Mary Alice's stairs.

Serrano says defendant's account of where he went after leaving "Mojon" differed from what he'd said before. Serrano acknowledges becoming more 'accusatory' during a point in this interview. Investigator - possibly Serrano--walks around to defendant, leaning in close, asking him to tell what happend and to tell the truth. Defendant seems upset; investigator asks if he wants some water. This is first time in police interviews that Molina Cirino put himself at the murder scene instead of only relaying the accounts he claims others told him about it.

Day Six of Testimony: Defendant talks about night officer killed

Prosecutor asks Serrano if street names came up in this interview. Serrano says yes and prosecution asks for another segment of the dvd to be played for the jury. We hear the names "Mojon" ("Ma-hone"), Mario, Flaco (defendant's nickname), Jose, and others. In that interview defendant identified Mario Cirino as "Mojon" and "Flaco" as himself.

Now to the part of the interview where what happened to Officer Lindsey is discussed. Defendant says that, according to Indio, Jose was wearing a white hoodie the night the officer was killed. Dark windpants, too. Several witnesses have testified about seeing someone in a white hoodie and dark jeans running from the scene shortly after Officer Lindsey was killed. In interview, defendant told police he was on his way home at one in the morning when he learned of all this.

Prosecution asks Serrano who else is a source of defendant's info; Serrano says Jose. Prosecutor stops dvd and asks if a new source of knowledge came up in the interview. Serrano says defendant said he ran into Indio while Indio was on his cell phone talking to Jose, who was talking about the murder and where he put the gun used in the crime. During the interview with police, Wesley Molina Cirino often leans forward in his chair and gestures with his hands even though his wrists are shackled. In the video, an officer asks Serrano to translate "did Jose say anything else besides 'I killed the officer'." Molina Cirino seems to gesture a negative response, shaking his head 'no' .

Serrano says defendant at one point brought other people into the picture: Sammy Rivera. Molina Cirino indicates the men he's mentioned had planned the officer's murder. That night, Molina Cirino said he came from Loiza, Puerto Rico. It's an impoverished city where more than half the population lives below poverty level and the average income for men and women is around $15,000 annually.

Now to the part of the interview where Molina Cirino talks about where he was after the shooting. He says he went to William Sepeda's house to get a ride to Jay Street, where he was staying for the night. Talking about the gun...how it dropped into the water (barge canal off North Genesee Street). Serrano says defendant is describing it in first person, showing him physically how gun was dropped, but claiming it's how the men involved described it to him. An investigator can be heard saying something like, "how did he hear it hit the water if he'd already taken off?"

Day Six of Testimony: May 14th Interview of Defendant

Investigator Serrano addresses May 14th, 2007 interview of Wesley Molina Cirino by police in Onondaga County. The prosecution plays the dvd. It's in color and appears to be being recorded from a camera up in the corner of the room. The defendant is in a chair at a big brown table . Investigator Serrano begins by asking the defendant if he's "boricua", meaning Puerto Rican. Serrano tells him he is, too. There is some laughing and joking on the part of everyone in the room.

Prosecution asks Serrano if he asked Molina Cirino how he knew who committed this crime and asks for a certain segment of the dvd to be played. There is closed captioning at the bottom of the screen for the jury but it is too small for courtroom observers to see.

Serrano says that Molina Cirino told him in the interview that "Indio" is his source of information about the night Officer Lindsey was killed. Indio, we heard earlier, is Sammy Rivera's uncle. Rivera is the man Officer Lindsey pulled over minutes before he was shot and killed.

Prosecution asks Investigator to identify where everyone in the interview room is sitting and Serrano does this by pointing to the screen. Serrano is sitting across from the defendant.

Day Six of Testimony: Police Interview Defendant

Investigator has reviewed transcript from police interview with Molina Cirino. Says rolling transcript accurately represents what was spoken in the actual interview and matches dialogue in the videotape of the interview.

June 6th, Serrano again participates in interview with defendant, this time at the Utica Police Department. Again, this interview is videotaped. Serrano identifies a dvd recording of the Utica interview. He acknowledges there are inaudible sections of the recorded interview. He says there are subtitles on the dvd and that the dvd fairly and accurately represents what is said in the interview.

The prosecution wants three dvd recordings of the June 6th interview entered into evidence. Judge receives them into evidence.

Day Six of Testimony: Investigator Serrano

The jury is coming into the courtroom for day six of testimony. The judge points out that the defendant isn't in here and that court personnel need to bring him in first. The judge jokes that his presence is 'kind of necessary'. Defendant Wesley Molina Cirino is now in the courtroom. The jury is filing into their seats as the defendant, prosecution and the defense stand. The judge greets the jury and directs the prosecution to call their next witness, Investigator Samuel Serrano.

Investigator Serrano has been with the State Police since 1993. He is Puerto Rican and speaks Spanish fluently. He says he speaks the Puerto Rican dialect fluently and that he speaks it every day. Investigator Serrano uses the language when dealing undercover with Spanish-speaking drug dealors and has also served as an interpreter in many different scenarios in and out of court.

The day they were "burying Tommy", Serrano says he became involved in the case of the murder of Utica Police Officer Tom Lindsey.

In May of 2007, Serrano went to the Onondaga County Jail to interview Wesley Molina Cirino about the whereabouts of the gun used in the Officer Lindsey homicide. Serrano entered an interview room at the Onondaga County D.A.'s office. Several police officers were there. It was the continuation of an interview that had started earlier in the day. It was videotaped. Serrano was there as a Spanish investigator and to assist in interpreting.