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Attorney Discusses Possibilities for Westerfield Verdict

Aired August 21, 2002 - 13:39   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: We are bringing in James Hattori, who is standing by outside the San Diego courthouse for this verdict as well.
James, can you set the scene for us down there? Are people beginning to arrive at the courthouse?

JAMES HATTORI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the calls have gone out to the attorneys, the defense attorneys themselves, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), the prosecutor Jeff Dusek, his colleagues. Of course, the judge has been on standby the whole time. The family, of course, of Danielle van Dam is undoubtedly going to be in court for this. That's why they give them a half hour, 45 minutes heads-up. They have been on a short leash throughout the deliberations, just awaiting word, awaiting a call, so that they could come here in time for the verdict.

And we are told that verdict is expected around 11:00 Pacific time, about 20 minutes from now. We will have that live.

You can perhaps see the camera is already hunched up. It shows the seal of the state of California in the judge's courtroom.

So we expect to hear from them right now.

Let me bring in an attorney, a defense attorney, here in San Diego who we have talked to about this trial a lot. That's Bob Grimes.

Bob, let me talk to you a little bit about the timing. It's been nine days. This is the tenth day of deliberation. Do you have a feeling that perhaps today was the day?

BOB GRIMES, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, I was feeling it was getting close. This jury has had to take a lot of time because, first of all, it was a long and complicated trial. Secondly, they feel scrutiny. They are nervous -- the entire country is watching them. But I think today the time was right. Then they've finally come with their verdict today.

HATTORI: I know guessing what juries are going to say is always dangerous treacherous ground, but what is your gut feeling?

GRIMES: This was a strong prosecution case. The scientific evidence is very strong. DNA evidence, some very strong fiber and hair evidence. A hung jury would have been a real victory for the defense in this case. The probability is that the jury can bring the verdict back guilty and it would be moving to the penalty phase.

HATTORI: And that penalty phase will start pretty quickly -- if in fact a conviction...

(CROSSTALK)

GRIMES: If there is a conviction, a good strategy all along has been to keep the case moving, not waste time, demand the right to a speedy trial. I think they are going to continue it up for the penalty phase. The judge would give them more time if they want it. But I don't think they are going to want more time. I think the defense is going to say if it is guilty, let's go on, decide if it's going to be life without parole or death penalty.

HATTORI: OK.

Carol.

LIN: Quick question for Bob Grimes. This is Carol Lin at the CNN center, Bob. I'm wondering how much -- if you in fact do think it's going to be a guilty verdict -- how do you think the jury digested a lot of the evidence and the stories, frankly, that the defense attorneys had come up with to explain away some of the physical evidence? Do you think that might have influenced their decision?

GRIMES: I lost some of that question with a bus going by.

LIN: Bob, I'm just wondering how the jury might have been influenced by some of the arguments that the defense was making to explain away some the physical evidence like the hairs and blood in Westerfield's mobile home.

GRIMES: The defense had some argument for everything. There was really a lot of, a tremendous amount of scientific evidence. More than we usually see. Everything from Danielle's fingerprints at a motor home, to her hair and some of her blood in the motor home. They try to suggest that she might have been playing in the motor home at some other time. There was a little bit speculative. But there at least was a possibility. They kept arguing crosstransfer on some of the fibers, the dog's hairs. But you get to a point where it strains the possibilities of kind of the coincidence of so much crosstransfer of so many different types of fibers and hairs. And there is no crosstransfer of her blood or fingerprints, either; that can't be explained by crosstransfer.

HATTORI: Bob, let me ask as well: The jury was told that there was no evidence of Mr. Westerfield inside the house. So how could he have committed this kidnapping? How do you think that played?

GRIMES: That's true. That's one of the strongest arguments the defense had, is for all of the scientific evidence -- blood, fibers, hair and everything -- there was not one scintilla of evidence that he was ever actually inside the house, which he would have had to have been to kidnap Danielle. Forensic experts will tell you a lot of times someone could be at a crime scene without leaving any traces. But that was kind of a hole in the prosecution's case.

HATTORI: The other thing in dispute was the time of death and the whole introduction of evidence of the bug expert and the decomposition of the body that was left in rural eastern San Diego County.

GRIMES: That's true. And the strength of the defense on the time of death was that their main expert, Mr. Faulkner, was the same expert who actually wasn't hired by the defense -- he was hired by the prosecution to be at the autopsy of Danielle. And he was the one that testified as the lead defense expert on time of death.

HATTORI: And his main argument was that the body was in such a state that at the point he estimated she died, Mr. Westerfield was already under surveillance by the police.

GRIMES: Exactly. There were -- Mr. Faulkner and another defense expert both testified that Danielle would have been -- her body could not have been dumped at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Road until at least one week or longer after Westerfield was under constant surveillance. Danielle kidnapped the night of February 1. Westerfield started being under surveillance on February 5. And by the defense experts' estimations, the insect activity on the body indicated she could not have been dumped at (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Road any earlier than at least a week after he was under surveillance.

HATTORI: This expert was initially called by the prosecutors. They didn't like what he said, so they didn't call him.

GRIMES: Exactly. And that's what made him particularly powerful as a defense witness.

LIN: James, Bob Grimes, hang on one second.

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