Skip to comments.No Decision From Westerfield Jury: Deliberations Continue Tuesday, August 13, 2002
Posted on 08/12/2002 10:16:25 PM PDT by FresnoDA
The six-man, six-woman panel was handed the case Thursday after more than two months of testimony.
According to search warrant affidavits made public after six months under seal, Westerfield admitted to police that he dropped off bedding and other items at a Poway dry cleaners two days after Danielle disappeared.
The warrants and affidavits had been sealed since shortly after the girl's mother discovered her missing from her bed the morning of Feb. 2. Last week, the 4th District Court of Appeal ordered the documents unsealed.
Westerfield, 50, a self-employed design engineer, is charged with murder, kidnapping and possession of child pornography.
He could face the death penalty if the jury finds true a special circumstance allegation that the murder of the 7-year-old happened during a kidnapping.
The trial, which started June 4, included 23 days of testimony, 98 witnesses and 199 court exhibits.
Trial observers say the deliberations could come down to DNA vs. bugs -- DNA evidence that the victim was in the suspect's motor home versus testimony from defense forensic experts who said bugs on the girl's body indicated it had been dumped while the suspect was under police surveillance.
The alleged swinging lifestyle of the victim's parents, Brenda and Damon van Dam, also could factor into the jury's verdict.
Defense attorney Steven Feldman told jurors forensic evidence involving bugs on the victim's body proved it was "impossible" for his client to have dumped the body beside an East County road, where it was discovered Feb. 27.
The defense claimed throughout the trial that Westerfield was under tight surveillance by police and the media beginning Feb. 5, three days after the Sabre Springs girl was discovered missing from her bed.
Prosecutors contend the defense did not represent accurately the information provided by experts who study insect infestation of corpses.
Physical evidence -- including Danielle's blood on Westerfield's jacket and fingerprints, hair and fibers found in the defendant's motor home -- point to Westerfield's guilt, prosecutors said.
Feldman said the prosecution presented no evidence that Westerfield had ever been in Danielle's home. He noted that her parents testified to holding sex parties in the home, and said one of their house guests might have committed the crime.
Feldman also suggested that Westerfield could not have maneuvered his way through the darkened van Dam home the night of Feb. 1 without anyone hearing him seizing the 58-pound child.
SAN DIEGO Jurors weighing David Westerfield's fate finished a third day of deliberations Monday with a request for the media stop staring at us.
The plea, relayed through a court officer, came after the panel took an afternoon coffee break in a public hallway. As they had in the past, reporters watched the 12 as they chatted around a picnic table, but the prying eyes apparently became too much for some jurors who asked bailiffs to step in. Five minutes after they returned to the jury room, a court officer told journalists to cease further "peeking" at the panel.
The six men and six women have spent 12 hours deliberating charges of murder, kidnapping and child pornography against Westerfield in connection with the slaying of Danielle van Dam, his 7-year-old neighbor. If convicted, Westerfield faces the death penalty.
Beside their picnic table conviviality, jurors have offered little clues to their progress. The only note from the panel concerned jurors' wish to deliberate five days a week instead of four.
One Los Angeles radio station expressed frustration with the pace of deliberations Monday by handing out broccoli spears and fliers reading, "Save the justice system...Chop down the Broccoli stocks (sic)." Employees of KFI AM, which bills itself as "more stimulating talk radio," said "broccoli heads" were holdout jurors who favored acquittal.
Elsewhere in the San Diego courthouse Monday, another jury handed a convicted killer a death sentence for murdering and raping his roommate. Calvin Parker, 33, was the first person sentenced to death in the city since November 1999 when a jury sent child-killer Brandon Wilson to death row. In that trial, broadcast on Court TV, Wilson promised jurors that he would kill again if he wasn't executed.
(08-12-2002) - Search warrant affidavits released today describe David Westerfield admitting to police that he dropped off bedding and other items at a Poway dry cleaners two days after Danielle van Dam disappeared.
The warrants and affidavits had been sealed since shortly after the 7-year-old's mother discovered her missing from her bed the morning of Feb. 2. Last week, the 4th District Court of Appeal ordered the documents unsealed.
In one affidavit, San Diego police Detective Terry Torgersen said Westerfield told detectives he submitted items for cleaning at Twin Peaks Cleaners the morning of Feb. 4.
A clerk told Torgersen that Westerfield had never appeared that early in the morning to drop off items. She also thought it was unusual that he asked for "special service," which she described as "same day service."
The clerk told the detective it was unusual that Westerfield was dressed in short pants, a shirt and no shoes on the cold morning.
According to the affidavit, Westerfield told the clerk he had just returned from the desert.
Among the items recovered from the dry cleaners were two comforters and pillowcases, a green jacket, a pair of black denim pants, a black sweater and a black T-shirt, according to the documents.
Forty-five items were listed as seized from Westerfield's home including: gas station receipts, a shopping list, laundry from the washer and dryer, VCR tapes and lubricant.
An affidavit for another search warrant indicates police set up a "trap" on Damon and Brenda van Dam's home phone number to try to trace any incoming calls.
These come as jurors deliberate the fate of Westerfield on a third day of deliberations. The six-man, six-woman jury was handed the case against the former Sabre Springs self-employed design engineer last Thursday.
(AP) --From San Diego; California; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Stanton, California, the grim news reports suggest an epidemic of child abductions. Yet experts say kidnapping by strangers -- the crime so dreaded by so many parents -- has always been rare and is probably on the downswing.
"Any child that's missing is one too many," FBI spokeswoman Angela Bell said Thursday. "But the media publicity that these cases are getting is making it seem like a big jump, and that's just not the case."
The FBI has offered its help to local authorities working on the case of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion, who was seized outside her Stanton apartment building Monday, then sexually assaulted and murdered within 24 hours.
Her slaying follows the high-profile abductions of 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in Salt Lake City and 7-year-old Danielle van Dam in San Diego. Danielle's body was found and a neighbor is on trial; Elizabeth is still missing.
Most abductions are carried out by relatives of the child as part of a family dispute. In other cases, the perpetrators are acquaintances of the child, acting out of various motives.
Statistics indicate abductions of children by strangers are declining.
Bell said the FBI opened investigations in 93 such cases last year, compared with 134 in 1999. Some abductions by strangers do not result in FBI involvement, but the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates the total number of cases annually at 100 now, down from 200 to 300 in the 1980s.
"It's still a terrible problem," said Ernest Allen, the center's president. "But the good news is, these cases have been coming down. Cases like Samantha Runnion's, as outrageous as they are, are pretty rare."
Experts in the field say precise statistics on child abductions are elusive, in part because different jurisdictions define the crime differently.
"For a crime that gets as much public attention as it does, its pretty appalling that there are not better statistics," said David Finkelhor, a sociology professor who heads the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Center and has worked with the Justice Department to discern patterns in child abductions.
However, he agreed that the number of worst-case abductions, like the Samantha Runnion case, is probably declining.
"From the context of things -- including a decline in sexual assault and abuse -- I can't imagine there's been any increase," he said. "But you get a couple of these cases in proximity, which can happen at random, and all of a sudden it seems like an epidemic."
Finkelhor's research has found that the risk of abduction by a stranger is relatively low for preschoolers, and increases through elementary school to peak at age 15. Teen-age girls are considered most vulnerable.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has been trying to call attention to some missing children whose cases have not attracted as much publicity as the Van Dam, Smart and Runnion cases.
In those three cases, the victimized family is white. Allen said the news media may sometimes be less interested in missing minority children, especially if they are from urban areas where crime is assumed, rightly or wrongly, to be a constant problem.
As an example, Allen cited the case of Laura Ayala, a 13-year-old Hispanic girl from Houston who disappeared in March after buying a newspaper at a convenience store near her home. "Her shoes and the newspaper were found on sidewalk -- that screams of foul play," Allen said.
But Allen also said the Van Dam and Smart cases generated intense coverage in part because the girls were seized from their bedrooms.
"If your child isn't safe in her own bed in her own home, where is she safe?" he said. "It sends a message of powerlessness and fear and 'Oh my God, they're everywhere. They're coming for my child."'
The Runnion case had similar elements, Allen noted: Samantha was playing with a friend outside her apartment building and was dragged away by a man in a car.
"It's an outrageous case, and there's no question it's going to generate fear," Allen said. "What we're trying to do is send a message that you don't have to be paralyzed by fear, you don't need to lock your child in a room, but you do have to be cautious, you do need to know where your children are."
15 MR. FELDMAN: YOUR HONOR, I HAVE NO FURTHER QUESTIONS,
16 BUT I WISH TO HAVE THE WITNESS EXCUSED SUBJECT TO RECALL, 17 PLEASE.
18 THE COURT: ALL RIGHT. SUBJECT TO RECALL.
19 MR. DUSEK: AT HIS EXPENSE.
20 MR. FELDMAN: I WANT A SIDE BAR, PLEASE.
21 THE COURT: ALL RIGHT.
22 (THE FOLLOWING PROCEEDINGS WERE HELD AT THE BENCH BETWEEN COURT AND COUNSEL:)
23 24 THE COURT: FIRST OF ALL, I NEED TO KNOW WHERE SHE 25 CURRENTLY RESIDES.
26 MR. DUSEK: FLORIDA.
27 THE COURT: FLORIDA, OKAY.
28 MR. DUSEK: AND SHE FLIES OUT OF BALTIMORE.
4091 1 THE COURT: SHE LIVES IN FLORIDA AND FLIES OUT OF
3 MR. DUSEK: SHE USED TO LIVE IN SAN DIEGO AND FLY OUT OF
Check on yesterday's thread for a look at the way her brain connects seemingly unrelated and contradictory pieces of information.
But wait...didn't he hide that trip and only fess to the later one?
The dry cleaners that I always do business with would be the last place I would take it...how stupid.
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