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Feldman's Questions Show Defense Strategy: Dig into Damon and Brenda van Dam's Private Lives!
KNSD NBC ^ | March 19, 2002 | Lynn Stuart

Posted on 03/19/2002 2:33:12 PM PST by FresnoDA

Experts say attorney Steven Feldman's questioning of the van Dams gives clues to the strategy he will pursue during the trial.
Feldman's questions show defense strategy
by Lynn Stuart
SAN DIEGO, March 15 –    When the parents of Danielle van Dam testified Thursday at a hearing to decide if the murder case should go to trial, it gave the suspect's attorney, Steven Feldman, an opportunity to grill them.

Much of the questioning may have seemed like needless digging into the couple's private lives, but experts say Feldman was laying groundwork for his defense.


At times during the long day of questioning, Brenda and Damon van Dam appeared openly exasperated by the tough questioning dished out by Feldman. The attorney for murder defendant David Westerfield focused on the couple's drug use, their alleged "swinging lifestyle," and lies they told to police early in the investigation into Danielle van Dam's disappearance. Many of his questions were ruled irrelevant, and at times it appeared to the untrained observer that the attorney was asking the same questions over and over as he tried to find a wording that satisfied the judge. But legal experts gave Feldman's savvy courtroom performance high marks.

"It may just look like not much was happening, but Steve Feldman really got in there, he did his homework and he got the answers to the questions he needed to get," criminal defense lawyer Gretchen von Helms said.

Some of the questioning was an attempt to catch the van Dams in inconsistencies. If Feldman can show that Brenda or Damon answered Thursday in ways that contradict or were inconsistent with their past statements or the testimony of others, it could hurt the prosecution's case when it goes before the future jury.

One example is when Feldman questioned Brenda about her night out at Dad's Cafe.

"You just told me you don't recall dancing with David Westerfield. Is that true?" Feldman asked.

"Yes," Brenda answered.

Feldman claims that he has witnesses who will testify that they saw Brenda dancing with Westerfield the night before Danielle was discovered missing. That could raise doubts about the mother among jurors, legal observers said.

"He wasn't asking those questions for anything but preparing a transcript so that he can use that for impeaching those witnesses at trial and he did that very effectively.," von Helms said. Feldman peppered both parents with questions about their drug use.

"How often did you smoke marijuana?' he asked.

During the preliminary hearing, the judge ruled that many of Feldman's questions about the van Dams' lifestyle were irrelevant. But during the trial, the defense will be permitted more latitude, and von Helms expects Feldman to bring up the subject again.

"It opens up to the defense to go in an say not only were they doing drugs and having sex and all these other things, which in one side of it, but also that it affected their ability to be parents," von Helms said.

The questioning also gave Feldman a chance to see how the van Dam's react to his questions. How the van Dams appear to a jury could plant seeds of doubt that affect their deliberations on Westerfield's guilt. Legal experts say if the parent's don't show any more emotion in trial than they did in court today, that factor alone could hurt them with a jury.

TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Front Page News; US: California
KEYWORDS: vandam; westerfield
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ANALYSIS OF BRENDA AND DAMON'S TESTIMONY, based upon the High Placed LE official account.....


The comments of Rick Roberts source (a high placed law enforcement official) are in bold type. Additional information from other sources (press, etc.) are in italics.

David Westerfield has been quoted in the press as saying that he was a friend of the van Dams.

The van Dams have denied this, stating that their only contact with him was when Brenda and Danielle came to his home to sell girl scout cookies, and when they exchanged greeting as they passed by.

The bar has been identified in the press as "Dad’s Café and Steak House."

David Westerfield openly admitted that he was at the bar that night. He claims that he danced with Brenda van Dam. Brenda denies this.

JUST HOW LONG WERE THEY VD's and their pals in the Garage???  And when did they actually "go to sleep"......we will not know, until Barb, Denise, Rich and Keith are forced to testify...

1 posted on 03/19/2002 2:33:12 PM PST by FresnoDA
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To: golitely;spectre;Amore;Travis McGee;BunnySlippers;Doughtyone;Hillary's Lovely Legs;Snow Bunny...
Ping...) ) ) The CB Club connection is growing stronger...
2 posted on 03/19/2002 2:34:03 PM PST by FresnoDA
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To: FresnoDA



Russell-OJ-van Dam-Yates

3 posted on 03/19/2002 2:40:29 PM PST by isthisnickcool
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To: isthisnickcool
LOL, party on Wayne, party on Garth....
4 posted on 03/19/2002 2:53:19 PM PST by FresnoDA
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To: FresnoDA
Sickening. The only good thing to come out of this is that the little girl is with our Heavenly Father now.
5 posted on 03/19/2002 2:55:31 PM PST by Saundra Duffy
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To: FresnoDA
It just keeps getting better and better. Wonder if any of the guests at the slumber party saw any security lights blinking on the panel?

If Feldman wanted to see how they reacted to his questions, he's gonna cause a few nervous break-downs on the stand.

Of course, the Judge will ask whoever is coming unglued "Are you alright? Are you sure you can go on?"...

I saw this!


6 posted on 03/19/2002 2:59:31 PM PST by spectre
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To: spectre

Signs, Signs, every where there's Signs......








This is a recap of the AMW information give to John Walsh and company by the VD's......differs quite a bit from their testimony!!


Additional Quirks:

Danielle was last seen wearing blue flowered pajamas with flowers
Her favorite colors are pink and purple
Danielle belongs to her local Brownie troop
Family friends have set up a website at: 

San Diego police are scouring the Sabre Springs area for 7-year-old Danielle van Dam.  Police say Danielle's parents, Damon and Brenda van Dam, reported her missing when they discovered Danielle was not in her room at about 9 a.m. Saturday, February 2, 2002.

Damon told police he put Danielle and her two brothers to bed at around 10:30 Friday night while Brenda was out celebrating with friends until about 2 a.m. Saturday, a send-off for a woman who was leaving the area, detectives said.  When Brenda arrived home with four friends at about 2 am, police say they ate pizza with Damon and talked for about an hour.  Shortly after the friends left, police say Damon and Brenda told them they noticed lights blinking on their burglar alarm panel and found a sliding glass door and a side garage door open. Police say the alarm was not set, but the panel is a type that indicates when doors and windows are opened and shut at all times. The couple told police they closed the doors and went to bed, and did not check on the children

Saturday morning, police say the couple told them a friend stopped by at about 9 am to see if Danielle could come out and play.  Damon and Brenda told police that they thought Danielle was still sleeping and that Brenda went to wake Danielle.  That is when police say the couple discovered Danielle was missing from her room and called 9-1-1.

Police began investigating immediately, using helicopters, horses and dogs to search the area canyons for Danielle, a second-grader at Creekside Elementary School in Sabre Springs. Officers also conducted door-to-door searches and provided the Border Patrol and Customs Service with photos of Danielle to keep watch for her at the border.  Detectives additionally interviewed family members, neighbors, schoolmates and friends about the disappearance, hoping to develop leads, but had no luck. 

Danielle was last seen wearing blue pajamas with flowers. She is white, 4 feet tall and weighs about 58 pounds. She has blue eyes and blond hair.

Police say at this point the parents are not considered suspects and have been extremely cooperative with investigators.  Police are considering one of the van Dam's neighbors to be the prime suspect.  Police have searched his home and impounded his vehicles.  At the time of this writing, an arrest has not been made.

The most recent Television Interview with the VD's contradicts what they told SDPD and AMW just 2 weeks ago!!  The March 2 interview will be the third major revision to the events of the evening of Feb. 1-2, 2002. 

This is the original post, from the February 9, 2002 broadcast of Americas Most Wanted.  As of March 4, 2002, it was still posted on the AMW website.

Recap of the Americas Most Wanted MISSING PERSONS REPORT…..

1.                  Kids Put To Bed at 10:30 P.M., by Damon VD.

2.                  Brenda arrives at VD residence at 2:00 A.M. with FOUR FRIENDS

3.                  Brenda and her friends "The Four Amigos" eat pizza with Damon, and “talk” for about one hour.

4.                  3:00 A.M., "The Four Amigos" depart the VD residence.

5.                  Damon and Brenda notice the alarm lights blinking.

6.                  Damon and Brenda notice BOTH the sliding glass door AND the side garage door are open.

7.                  Damon and Brenda note that alarm was not “SET” but was only in the monitoring mode.

8.                  Damon and Brenda tell police they closed all doors, and went to bed.

9.                  Damon and Brenda DID NOT CHECK on the condition of the children.

10.              Approximate time, 3:15 A.M.

7 posted on 03/19/2002 3:02:04 PM PST by FresnoDA
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To: spectre

A point of order!!!

Keith was seen and heard by Brenda and Damon.
Rich was seen and heard by Brenda and Damon
Barbara was seen and heard by Brenda and Damon (Damon kissed and hugged)
Denise was seen and heard by Brenda and Damon.

All were drinking. All were smoking dope. All were in the house. Any one of them could have left a door unlocked.

Did the SDPD take hair and fiber samples from any vehicles at the VD house driven by this motley crew??

I wonder if any of them were mentioned in the initial interviews with police.

Now add that up.

8 posted on 03/19/2002 3:07:54 PM PST by FresnoDA
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To: tutstar, ThinkingMan, RnMomof7, Amore, Howlin, Mrs.Liberty, rolling_stone, wirestripper, UCANSEE2
Yuck..more of the nasty.. ::wink::
9 posted on 03/19/2002 3:24:44 PM PST by Freedom2specul8
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To: ~Kim4VRWC's~
More of the nasty indeed...... I for one am eagerly awaiting the actual trial to finally see the "slam-dunk" evidence against the accused, and not just rumors and accusations.
10 posted on 03/19/2002 3:29:24 PM PST by CAPPSMADNESS
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To: FresnoDA
Wonder if the two boys had anything interesting to tell investigators.

When my kids were that young and there were visitors, it didn't matter how late it was, the kids would frequently get up to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, any excuse, to see what was going on.

11 posted on 03/19/2002 3:31:01 PM PST by uvular
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To: ~Kim4VRWC's~
Can you add me to your ping list, please?
12 posted on 03/19/2002 3:38:29 PM PST by vacrn
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To: ~Kim4VRWC's~;golitely,
good flag thanks!
13 posted on 03/19/2002 3:40:56 PM PST by RnMomof7
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To: uvular
Why does this PARTICULAR case get so much coverage?

G-D forbid, but if this was one one of my twin daughters, it would get 3 days coverage in the local rag......What's the deal?


14 posted on 03/19/2002 3:42:29 PM PST by nothingnew
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To: FresnoDA
Don't leave out that Damon went to a neighbor and asked if he'd seen his little "sleepwalker"..(point of order, she "sleep-walked" twice to the bathroom). NOT outside.

Damon and Brenda served refreshments to all those who were looking for their daughter, but they personally never took part in the desert search, where we were first led to believe Westerfield "buried the body in the sand"...LOL!

But the BIGGIE, and Feldman gave us a huge CLUE, IS.....(drumroll)...Brenda's "admission" she color-treated her hair! Now, WHY would Feldman make such an issue of this in the Prelims? Could it be we have a sample of Brenda's hair somewhere it shouldn't belong? Like...on Westerfield's clothes or premises???

I love Feldman :~)


15 posted on 03/19/2002 3:46:15 PM PST by spectre
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To: nothingnew
The big deal is that it has all the elements of a who done, lies, drugs, etc. Huge community search, high profile people and of course, last but not least, the van Dams hired a PR team to make sure they got press. We're just following up on all that PR...


16 posted on 03/19/2002 3:56:14 PM PST by spectre
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To: vacrn
Sure will, and thanks for the link on that other thread..
17 posted on 03/19/2002 3:58:56 PM PST by Freedom2specul8
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If the evidence the police had pointed towards the parents, you and I both would be doing the same thing..
18 posted on 03/19/2002 4:01:02 PM PST by Freedom2specul8
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To: nothingnew
sex, lies, money, drugs and videotapes...that's why. Oh yeah, there is a defendant! ;-)
19 posted on 03/19/2002 4:03:07 PM PST by Freedom2specul8
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To: ~Kim4VRWC's~
but is there a case?
20 posted on 03/19/2002 4:04:26 PM PST by bvw
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