Skip to comments.Jurors To Hear Recorded Westerfield Tapes: Mudd Still Wrestling With Media! (VERDICT WATCH-Aug.14th)
Posted on 08/13/2002 10:12:33 PM PDT by FresnoDA
and WIRE SERVICES
August 13, 2002
The fourth day of deliberations in the David Westerfield trial has ended with no conclusion by the jury. The jury will resume deliberations Wednesday morning at the San Diego County Courthouse. Earleir today, jurors asked to hear Westerfield's only recorded explanation of what he was doing the weekend 7-year-old Danielle van Dam was kidnapped.
Superior Court Judge William Mudd said he was granting a request from the jury for a tape recording and transcript of the taped interview Westerfield gave to police interrogation specialist Paul Redden on Feb. 4, two days after Danielle's disappearance.
During the interview, Westerfield makes a reference to "we" as he describes his meandering trip through San Diego and Imperial counties on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3.
"The little place we, we were at was just a little small turnoff-type place," Westerfield said.
Westerfield, 50, could face the death penalty if convicted of murder, kidnapping and a special circumstance allegation that the killing of Danielle van Dam occurred during the commission of kidnapping.
He is also accused of the misdemeanor possession of child pornography.
Jurors are in their fourth day of deliberations.
Mudd's disclosure came during a 10 a.m. open hearing on a request from KFMB-AM 760 to let River Stillwood, an assistant radio producer for talk show host Rick Roberts, back into the courtroom to cover the trial.
"She's out and will remain out and will not be permitted in for any live proceedings... because she is the representative of an individual who takes great glee and delight shoving it in this court's face," Mudd said.
Mudd ejected Stillwood from the courtroom on Thursday after asking her to tell him who told Roberts about the details of a Wednesday exchange between Mudd and the attorneys in the case during a sealed hearing.
Stillwood told Mudd that she didn't know who gave Roberts the information. On the air, Roberts later said he had received a call from a source in the courthouse.
The court is conducting an internal investigation, but cannot compel Roberts and Stillwood to name their source, Mudd said.
Stillwood can still sit in the pressroom and watch the video feed of any court activity, Mudd said.
KFMB was welcome to send someone else to sit in the courtroom, so long as the person was representing the radio station and not Roberts, he said.
KFMB's attorney Joann Rezzo argued that the disclosure did not violate the defendant's right to a fair trial. She also argued that Stillwood didn't give him "the source of the leak" because she didn't know who it was.
Before Mudd made his ruling, he invited comments from prosecutor Jeff Dusek, who managed only a wry remark.
"My inclination is to comment, but on advice of counsel, I I will submit," Dusek said, gesturing to his fellow prosecutor, Woody Clarke.
Defense attorney Robert Boyce told Mudd he was concerned about the integrity of proceedings. "They broadcast it, they knew what they were doing," Boyce said.
He called it "just another effort to sensationalize these proceedings."
Mudd told the media attorneys he welcomed the opportunity to make a "full and complete record" of his decision to eject Stillwood.
In his comments, Mudd made it clear he was still angry with KFMB television's decision to include a high school yearbook photo of Neal Westerfield during a telecast of the son of the defendant's testimony. Mudd had ordered that no television or print images of the adult, who is now 19, be transmitted.
The judge's inclination was to ban both the station's radio and TV representatives from the trial.
"Frankly, they seem to be the two networks in this community that just don't seem to get it," he said.
However, after his wife advised him to "sleep in it, " he gave the matter "serious thought," Mudd said.
He quoted a line from a Supreme Court decision in 1976 involving a press restraint issue in Nebraska.
" The extraordinary protections afforded by the First Amendment carry with them something in the nature of a fiduciary duty to exercise the protected rights responsibly--a duty widely acknowledged but not always observed by editors and publishers," Mudd said. "It is not asking too much to suggest that those who exercise First Amendment rights in newspapers or broadcasting enterprises direct some effort to protect the rights of an accused to a fair trial by unbiased jurors. "
Mudd said he was troubled by the host's decision to broadcast the information, knowing it was from a closed hearing.
The judge wasn't impressed by the host's justification that the general public was already aware of the issue, and that Stillwood was ignorant of the source.
He said the host wasn't conducting a search for the truth, but a grab for ratings. He also took the opportunity to lash out at "idiots from LA talk stations," who broadcast an afternoon program from a media compound outside the County courthouse. He said the members of the talk station were "acting like teen-agers" in front of the courthouse.
The judge acknowledged he could not control such behavior but could control his own courtroom.
The judge said officials from KFMB must be taking "great glee in shoving it in this court's face."
Fred D'Ambrosi, news director for KFMB-TV and Radio, said his television station showed only a high school yearbook photo of Westerfield's son.
"We didn't shoot him in court, which was the judge's order," D'Ambrosi said.
Regarding River Stillwood, D'Ambrosi said the issue was important because of the First Amendment and a free press. He added that he was not in charge of the Rick Roberts program.
"We're just trying to report the news and uphold the First Amendment," D'Ambrosi said. "If (Mudd) can ban River Stillwood, he can ban anybody." The news director suggested that the judge was angry because he didn't like the story that was reported.
D'Ambrosi said he had never spoken to Mudd, and called his reading of the situation "totally inaccurate."
Mudd said he had done a 180-degree turnaround on the issue of allowing cameras and reporters in the courtroom since deciding to allow Court TV to cover the trial live.
SAN DIEGO ---- Sheer chance often plays a pivotal role in criminal investigations.
Such was the case with David Westerfield, the 50-year-old Sabre Springs man on trial for kidnapping and murdering his 7-year-old neighbor, Danielle van Dam.
Search warrants released Monday show that one of the detectives on the case used the same dry cleaner as Westerfield. Because of that, he was able to identify the origin of a dry cleaner's receipt, dated Feb. 4, taken from Westerfield's vehicle just two days after the girl turned up missing.
A search of the business, Twin Peaks Cleaners in Poway, provided what the prosecution would later call the "smoking gun" in the case: a green windbreaker that experts testified had a small drop of Danielle's blood on the shoulder. The defense never explained the blood.
Meanwhile, jurors finished Day 3 of deliberations in the nationally watched child-murder case. Testimony lasted eight weeks, closing arguments three days. No notes or requests for testimony to be read back were reported from the panel of six men and six women. Jurors' deliberations are scheduled to continue today.
Outside the downtown San Diego courthouse, media trucks and day tents continued to line the streets as reporters grasped for daily tidbits to broadcast. New journalists arrive daily from all over the country to wait for the verdict.
"Camp Westerfield" was sent into a tailspin early Monday morning when one network anchor reportedly said on national television there were rumblings of a verdict. This was before jurors even arrived at the courthouse.
The only development in the case Monday was the release of San Diego Police Department search warrant affidavits that outline a request to search Westerfield's dry cleaners and a long list of items they removed from his house, car and dry cleaners.
The 40 pages of documents also include a request for a "trap and trace" device to be put on the van Dams phone to find the location of incoming calls ---- with their permission ---- and what appears to be a request for Westerfield's phone records.
There was nothing in the search warrant affidavits that hadn't been touched on in the trial.
Police suspicion turned to Westerfield because he was the only van Dam neighbor authorities were unable to contact in the days after Danielle was discovered missing on Feb. 2.
When Westerfield returned to his Sabre Springs home two days later, police were waiting. In a search of his black Toyota 4Runner, police found the dry cleaner receipt, which had no business name.
Police spent a day canvassing dry cleaners in the area, until a detective realized that the receipt was from the same business where he takes his dry cleaning, according to a search warrant affidavit.
The search warrant request also states Westerfield admitted not being up front about going to the cleaners the morning of Feb. 4 after he returned from his trip. Originally, Westerfield only told police he went to the cleaners that afternoon, according to court testimony.
The prosecution's case against Westerfield was built largely on fiber, fingerprint, blood and hair evidence found in Westerfield's house, car and motor home. Westerfield's defense team turned the spotlight on Danielle's parents, saying their admitted marijuana smoking and sex with other couples might have put their children in danger.
Danielle's parents, Brenda and Damon van Dam, described Westerfield as an acquaintance whose name they didn't know until right before their daughter's disappearance. Westerfield's attorney insisted whoever took the girl must have been familiar with the couple's house.
Contact staff writer Kimberly Epler at (760) 739-6644 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAN DIEGO As jurors deliberated David Westerfield's fate for a fourth day, the judge angrily denied a banned radio reporter's attempt to get back in the courtroom.
"She's out and will remain out," said Superior Court Judge William Mudd during a hearing Tuesday morning.
He said neither KFMB reporter River Stillwood nor any representative of the station's daytime talk program, The Rick Roberts Show, will be allowed in his court for the capital murder verdict. He also barred reporters from the show from participating in courtroom interviews with jurors after the verdict.
The judge booted Stillwood from her seat in the front of the courtroom Aug. 8, the day after the station broadcast an apparently accurate account of a closed hearing between Mudd and the lawyers in the case. The hearing concerned, in part, an encounter between the victim Danielle van Dam's father and the parents of defense attorney Steven Feldman.
Mudd ordered Stillwood to reveal the source of the leak and when she said she did not know, he asked her to leave the courtroom.
Joann Rezzo, an attorney for the radio station, argued for Stillwood to be permitted back in court, saying the reporter had no idea who the source of the information was and in any case, was protected from revealing her sources by the state reporter's shield law.
The lawyer suggested the judge "talk to people who were actually present in the court at the time to find out who the source was."
Mudd acknowledged that an internal investigation was underway, but said Stillwood would remain out. He blasted the station and particularly Roberts, who he referred to repeatedly but never by name.
"(Stillwood) is the representative of an individual who takes great glee and delight in shoving it in the court's face," said Mudd.
Stillwood is permitted in the media room adjacent to the courtroom, where she can watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television. The station is selling "Free River" T-shirts on its Web site.
The judge also announced Tuesday morning that jurors sent a note requesting the audio tape and transcript of a police interview with Westerfield Feb. 4, three days after Danielle vanished from her room. In the interview, Westerfield recounts his alibi for the days after her disappearance a circuitous 560-mile trip in his recreational vehicle.
At one point while describing the solo trip, Westerfield used the plural "we" instead of "I," a slip the prosecution said revealed his consciousness of guilt.
"This little place we were, we were at was just a small turn-off type place," Westerfield told police interrogation specialist Paul Redden.
"Every other ... station in this community followed the request of the court, except KFMB," Superior Court Judge William Mudd said.
Mudd spoke for about eight minutes before denying a motion on behalf of KFMB-Radio assistant producer River Stillwood to allow her back into his courtroom.
"The only thing I can do is control my own courtroom," the judge said. "She's out and will remain out."
Stillwood, who works on "The Rick Roberts Show," was kicked out of the courtroom Aug. 8, the morning after her station reported what happened in a closed-door hearing the night before.
Media attorney Joann Rezzo told the judge that Stillwood didn't give him "the source of the leak" because she didn't know who it was.
"She didn't know then ... she doesn't know now ... the source of the confidential information," Rezzo said.
The attorney said there were no reporters at the closed-door hearing, yet information on the hearing still "leaked out to the press."
Mudd said an internal investigation is under way to find out who gave the information to the radio program.
The judge said his first inclination after the report was broadcast was to ban the CBS television network and affiliates KFMB-TV and KFMB-Radio from the trial, but decided against it after his wife told him "to sleep on it."
"They don't get it," Mudd said, referring to KFMB.
The judge said KFMB was the only station to broadcast the information regarding the closed-door hearing, and the only station to show pictures of Westerfield's son, Neal, when he specifically issued an order against it.
Mudd said the station had probably received advice from its attorneys "that they can publish whatever they want."
The judge suggested that Stillwood's boss must be taking "great glee in shoving it in this court's face."
"Let's not kid ourselves, it's not, as he pontificates, to spread the truth and be the nice guy -- it's for ratings," Mudd said.
Stillwood (pictured, right) can still cover the proceedings from an adjoining media room, and KFMB-Radio can send someone from its news department to sit in on the trial, the judge said.
Mudd also singled out what he called "idiots" from a Los Angeles radio talk station "acting like teenagers" in front of the courthouse.
Mudd said he had done a 180-degree turnaround on the issue of allowing cameras and reporters in the courtroom since deciding to allow Court TV to cover the trial live.
In denying Stillwood's request, Mudd quoted from a case involving the Nebraska Press Association: "The extraordinary protections afforded by the First Amendment carry with them something in the nature of a fiduciary duty to exercise their protective rights responsibly; a duty widely acknowledged, but not always observed by editors and publishers."
"It is not asking to much to suggest that those who exercise First Amendment rights in newspapers or broadcasting enterprises direct some effort to protect the rights of the accused to a fair trial," read Mudd.
For 400 years until the US Supreme Court wrongfully stepped in, it was the job of judges in England, in the American colonies, and then in the United States, to name the penalties for those convicted of crime. Juries were never involved in THAT stage of a trial.
Judge Mudd in the Westerfield case, and most judges in most courtrooms across the country, would have no hesitancy in ordering that a man who savaged and killed a little girl should pay with his life. But because the US Supreme Court dragged the jury into this issue -- with no justification in the text of the Constitution -- all it takes is one squeamish juror, and Westerfield will be housed at taxpayers' expense for the rest of his life, rather than executed, which is what his crime deserves.
I am certain of a conviction. If there is a hold-out on this jury and a hung jury and mistrial, that will mean a new trial. He WILL get convicted. My concern is that he might not get the death penalty, for the reasons stated.
That "concern" might mean you have been brainwashed by Court TV as that IS their focus now. Check yourself, Congressman, carefully check yourself.
But the media already has him drawn & quartered.--They eviscerate him daily!!
I'm very tired of Nancy Gracisms & the other dame who say things like ....
.."well, the jury is enjoying their time away from their jobs a little too much"....
...in other words...'Jury, you know he's guilty, so quit fooling around & bring in the right verdict, you lazy people'.....
I think the man has been railroaded, pure & simple.
Surely Westerfield testified to his innocence at the trial. He could have explained it easily.
What happened to independent thinking?
I don't watch CourtTV but thanks for sharing. If I was innocent, I would run to the stand, especially in the light of circumstantial evidence. Having served on a 1st degree murder jury, I can tell you that nothing works better than a defendent taking the stand and saying "I didn't do it".
I was amazed that OJ swore his innocence in public but would not swear it in court.
Who wrote this? Geez, they had to have more than that - suspicious because he wasn't home? Ok, so then they discovered he did some meandering out to the desert (not unusual for him) and to the beach (also not unusual). So what? Sounds to me like he was the most convenient boob to pin the crime on. Remind me not to go on vacation next time some neighbor gets molested/murdered.
And why hasn't the defense explained the blood on his windbreaker? Are they holding the smoking gun? Is the blood absolutely and exclusively Danielle's? Or could it be Brenda's?
That was a trivial thing in comparison to this, and no man should have to testify about himself in a trial against him. That is a great princible of Freedom. Why say nay to it, which you do in practical effect? If one hews to the another great princible -- that of presumption of innocence -- why then what a man doesn't say sshould be held to speak for him. Your stance is affine to presumption of guilt, which is a stance poison to Liberty.
Come one, come all....
They were freewheeling in the sexual department, and offering invitations to strangers at Dad's Bar.
Did anyone truly investigate the comings & goings of ALL the possibilities of folks who ACTUALLY were invited & entered the house, and would know it's layout?
This is what steams me!!!
I didn't say he had to. I just said he should if he really wants people (like the jury) to believe he is innocent. It's simple logic. If you are innocent and your life is on the line, say you are innocent.
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