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A Cry in the Night, Part 3: New Year's Eve

[Originally published June 14, 1988]

The sessions took place in small rooms at the criminal courthouse.

In these rooms were lawyers from both the prosecution and the defense, waiting to ask questions, and a court reporter, waiting to take down every word of every answer.

One at a time, the neighbors of Karen Gregory were summoned inside.

"Okay," one of the defense lawyers said to a retiree who had lived several houses away from Karen. "You have been listed as a state witness in this case. We are here today to ask you what it is you know about the case, what your first involvement was, and just exactly what happened."

"I, I heard a scream," said the woman. "Now, my first thought was — am I going too fast?"

"No."

"My first thought was that it was a brawl, a family brawl, and that the woman just screamed. And now this scream I should say lasted — I don't know — maybe half a minute. I really don't know, but at the end of it there was agony. At the end of the scream, agony. And I thought to myself, 'Somebody is in trouble." ' Later, a woman who had lived across the street from Karen recalled the same moment: "Well, I was in bed when I heard the scream, and my windows were open, and shortly after, I heard a door slam. I thought it was a car door. And I just thought someone was slapping around a girl in a car. And then I got up and had a cigarette."

"How would you characterize the scream?"

"I would just say clear. Very clear and short."

"Could you tell whether it was male or female?"

"It was definitely female."

Another neighbor said: "I looked out. I didn't see anybody. I thought maybe it was some kids late at night coming down there acting up, but it really wasn't that type of scream. It was, well, I will never forget it, anyhow."

Then there was the man who had lived a couple of houses behind Karen. He had been reading in bed, he said, when he heard the sound.

"To tell you the truth, the best way I can describe it — and I don't mean to be cruel —"

"Sure."

" — but I imagine if I put my hand over your mouth and then took a knife and cut your throat, what I heard was the air coming out of your throat. It was very short. It was very conclusive. I have no doubt in my mind that what I heard was her last breath."

First a question, then an answer. Another question, another answer.

On and on until the lawyers were finished probing. Then another witness was brought in, and the questions began again. This was the process known as "discovery," and in The State of Florida vs. George A. Lewis, it was well under way.

Discovery is an established part of the Florida Rules of Criminal Procedure. It's designed to eliminate what's known as "trial by ambush." In the early stages of a case, the prosecution and defense reveal their evidence to each other and share the names of their witnesses. That way, the logic goes, the lawyers will know as much as possible about the opposition's case before trial. Trials will be decided on the facts, not on surprises. At least that's the way it's supposed to work.

In this case, discovery began in April 1986, only several weeks after Lewis was arrested. The prosecutors had given the defense a list of their potential witnesses. Now Joseph Ciarciaglino and Robert Paver, Lewis' attorneys, were calling those witnesses to the courthouse and questioning them under oath about their knowledge of the case. These sessions were called depositions, and the defense attorneys were using them to gather facts from dozens of people — the neighbors who had heard Karen scream, the paramedics who had found her body, the FBI print expert who had identified the bloody footprint discovered in the bathroom, the detectives who had finally charged Lewis with first-degree murder.

"Did you ever do anything to determine if this behavior was consistent with George Lewis and the person you knew as George Lewis?"

Larry Tosi heard Ciarciaglino's question. But he wasn't sure he understood it. Which behavior were they talking about? The murder, said Ciarciaglino. Had Tosi found anything that explained how Lewis could be capable of committing murder?

"You knew this man rather well, didn't you?" said Ciarciaglino.

"Well," Tosi said. "How well do you know someone? I mean, I knew him. I mean, he's not a brother."

"You officiated at his marriage, didn't you?"

"Yes. I performed the ceremony. At the time, back in ..."

Of all the witnesses, none was questioned as thoroughly as Gulfport police Sgt. Tosi. Four times that summer, Ciarciaglino and Paver summoned him to the courthouse. He pulled out his notes for them and reviewed his reports and told them how he had ended up arresting his former friend.

During one of the depositions, Paver brought up the fact that Glenda Lewis, George's wife, had not reported seeing any blood on George's body when he returned to their house on the night of the murder. Had Tosi drawn any conclusions from that?

Tosi had. He pointed out that on the east side of George's house there was a hose and that a neighbor had seen George washing himself off there in the past. That night, the scream had awakened Glenda.

Afterward, she had talked of seeing a silhouette at a window near that hose. Tosi said he believed the silhouette had been George, washing off the blood.

"Did you ever ask Glenda Lewis if George was wet when he came in the house?" Paver said.

"I didn't talk to her about that."

"Do you know if she was ever asked about that?"

"No, I don't."

"Do you know if she was ever asked if there was blood on his clothing?"

"I don't know that either."

"Did you also conclude that the blood would wash off his clothing if it was present? Did you have any opinion as to that?"

"No. That's not what I felt. I don't feel that he washed blood off his clothing. I felt he changed clothes."

"Outside?"

"No."

"How did that occur?"

"In the back yard or his garage. George would keep old clothes in the garage to use for rags and stuff like that, so he could have had a change of clothes there."

Paver asked Tosi if he had found any evidence of Lewis owning a knife that could have been the murder weapon. The police had never found the weapon. Tosi said a friend of Lewis' had mentioned that George once kept a knife in the garage.

"What did they indicate about the knife?"

"Just that he had a knife in his toolbox."

"Did you ever ask George about that knife?"

"No. I didn't get a chance to ask him much at all."

***

On a rainy day in March 1986, Tosi had taken Lewis to the county jail and said goodbye.

"Take care of yourself," Tosi said.

"Thanks, Larry."

"Are you all right?"

"Yeah. If you could just do me a favor and see to it that my wife's taken care of."

"Sure."

It was the last time the two of them had spoken. Their wives didn't speak anymore, not even at the bank where they worked as tellers.

Glenda Lewis had been moved to another section of the bank, and the lawyers had advised her not to talk with Debbie Tosi. Co-workers were asking Debbie what was going on. How could Larry have arrested George?

Ever since the arrest, Tosi had been trying to understand how this man whom he thought he knew could have possibly committed a brutal murder. He knew that George had a temper — Larry had witnessed it himself — and could occasionally fly off the handle in the space of a few seconds. But this was someone who had never been arrested before.

About the only thing on his record was a traffic citation for failing to observe a stop sign. Was there another side to him that he kept hidden?

The day of the arrest, Tosi and his boss, Lt. Frank Hanson, had tape-recorded their final interview with George. It was the interview during which he had admitted he had been inside Karen's house on the night of the murder. He said he had gone inside after he saw a stranger on Karen's lawn.

I didn't kill her, Larry. I saw her laying there with her throat cut open. The guy had seen me. When he left, I ran back in the house, okay? I ran back over there, 'cause I wanted to see. I wasn't sure if David or somebody was there, too. There wasn't any lights on in the house, and when I went in, I went in through the back bedroom. I saw her laying on the floor. That's it. I didn't do anything else.

Tosi kept taking out the tape of the interview. He played it over and over, listening to George's voice.

I would never do anything like that to a human being. Ever.

Tosi had wanted to believe it. He had tried for so long to make excuses for George. But now, as Tosi listened to the tape, it seemed clear to him that his former friend was still lying.

I was scared. I saw what that guy did to her. He saw me. He knows what I look like right now.

If George was so afraid of this man on the lawn, Tosi asked himself, why would he have returned to the house without calling police? He said he wasn't sure if someone else might be in there. If that was true, why would he have climbed through the back window in darkness and exposed himself to attack? Wouldn't it have been easier to use the front door?

I saw her laying there in blood. I panicked. I didn't know what to do.

The whole thing made no sense to Tosi. George was a firefighter and an emergency medical technician. He rode a rescue truck. He had been to accidents. And he wanted them to believe that he seen Karen's body and not known what to do?

There were other things Tosi hadn't figured out. For instance, there was the fact that the murderer in this case — whether it was Lewis or someone else - appeared to have gone back to Karen's house.

From the start, Tosi and the other Gulfport detectives had been convinced that the killer had returned the night after the murder, when Karen's body was still lying undiscovered in the hallway. Karen had been killed in the early hours of a Wednesday. Later that same day, neighbors had noticed that the jalousie door that led from the front walk onto the porch was ajar. That same evening, Peter Kumble, an acquaintance of Karen's, had stopped by the house and walked onto the porch. When he walked off the porch, he said, he had left the door ajar and unlocked. But the next morning — Thursday morning, when the police arrived and found Karen's body — the door was locked.

If George Lewis was in fact the killer, why would he have risked going back? Tosi knew it happened sometimes. He knew that some killers go back, for instance, to relive the crime. But in this case, Tosi thought it more likely that the murderer had gone back to clean up. Lewis had admitted being inside the house the night Karen was killed. Yet none of his fingerprints had been found. And though there had been a violent struggle through several rooms, the furniture did not appear to have been disturbed. Tosi thought perhaps Lewis had fled from the house after the murder, then slipped back the next evening to straighten up, wipe away his prints and remove other traces of his presence.

There was no doubt that Lewis had kept an eye on Karen's house. By his own admission, he had seen Karen there early on the evening of the murder. He had seen her coming and going that night and washing dishes in the kitchen. The next day, when Peter Kumble stopped by, Lewis had seen him as well. Lewis had noted what Kumble looked like and what kind of vehicle he drove. Later, after Karen's body had been found, Lewis had reported the visitor to the police. Such vigilance was not surprising. Lewis was known for keeping close tabs on the neighborhood.

Something about that had stuck in Tosi's mind. He couldn't help wondering if it was possible that Lewis had been more than an observant neighbor.

Maybe, Tosi thought, Lewis had been watching Karen.

She had been vulnerable on the night of the murder. Her boyfriend, David Mackey, was out of town. But his car was still in the yard, parked next to hers. A casual observer would have guessed that at least a couple of people were at home. But someone watching the house closely might have realized Karen was alone. Tosi had some ideas on why Lewis might have chosen to take advantage of that fact. Tosi knew that George and Glenda had been frequently arguing around that time. Shortly after the murder, she'd moved out of the house. One friend had told Tosi that he wouldn't be surprised if George had made a pass at Karen. If George had thought she'd be receptive, the friend said, he might well have given it a try.

There was no indication that Lewis and Karen had known much, if anything, about each other. David Mackey couldn't even remember Karen saying hello to the man. After all, she'd just been moving into the house when she was killed. Still, Tosi thought it was possible that Lewis might have been tempted to try starting something with his new neighbor. It was possible, Tosi thought, because Lewis could see for himself that her boyfriend, David, was black. At least one person who knew Lewis had told Tosi that George didn't like blacks. Tosi tried to think it all through. Had George bought into the racist stereotypes?

Had he figured that a white woman who lived with a black man was promiscuous? Did he think that Karen would automatically sleep with a white man who wandered over late one night when she was by herself?

The defense attorneys asked Tosi to tell them his theories. So Tosi did. He pointed out that it would have been easy for George to try to make a pass at Karen that night. Karen had been moving her belongings into the house. Maybe George had seen her carrying them and had used that as an excuse — either earlier in the evening or after midnight, when she returned from having dinner at her friend Neverne Covington's house — to go over there and start a conversation.

"It's your hypothesis," said Paver, "that he just knocked on the door and was allowed to enter?"

"My hypothesis is probably that," said Tosi. "And I base this on the fact that other neighbors had said that George Lewis was very helpful to them. If they got a flat tire, he would help them. He would help people make repairs on their homes, watch their homes for them while they were gone. It was my feeling that perhaps as she came home with some of these items, that he may have, in fact, walked over to her and offered to help her move some of these things and gained access in that manner."

The defense asked other witnesses about Tosi's theories. Among them was Richard McCann, who had worked with Lewis as a volunteer Gulfport firefighter. McCann told the lawyers that, after the murder, George had started acting differently toward women.

"Like, how do you mean?"

"He joined a singles club, was getting letters from girls, wanted to get an orgy going."

McCann talked about being interviewed by Sgt. Tosi. He said Tosi had asked whether he thought George could become violent if he felt his career and future were threatened.

"I said it's possible," McCann remembered. "Anything is possible."

"Any more possible with George than any other person?"

"No."

"Did you ever tell Tosi that George had a very obvious temper and displayed it?"

"He had a temper, but it wasn't -—"

"Was there anything unusual about his temper?"

"No. He was a normal person."

The lawyers also spoke to Denise Lewis, George's first wife.

When they met in April 1980, Denise was a store clerk who lived outside Pittsburgh. She came to Florida for a vacation and was introduced to George on a double date with one of her girlfriends. That night, they went to dinner and saw Urban Cowboy. By the time Denise's vacation was over and she was headed back north, she and George were ready to start a long-distance romance. George called and sent cards, and the following fall, he went to visit her and proposed. They were married at Most Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Gulfport on Feb. 21, 1981.

The two of them lived in Gulfport, in the house on Upton Street.

George worked as a welder then — he hadn't yet joined the St. Petersburg Fire Department — and Denise took care of the house. George was generally amiable and easy-going. Denise remembers him as caring and soft-spoken. But he worked in the garage too much for her liking.

When they argued, that's where George would retreat. He and Denise argued frequently. She'd tell him to pay more attention to her, and he'd tell her to stop nagging. A couple of times, she said, he slapped her. Once, she said, he wrapped his hands around her throat. Denise was surprised. She'd never seen George act this way. His face was growing red. His eyes were bulging. He held his hands there at her throat, talking about how he didn't want to hear her nag anymore. He was squeezing tight — but not so tight that she couldn't speak.

"Go ahead and kill me," she said. "You'll be behind bars for the rest of your life."

George let go. Denise backed away. It was the first time she'd ever been afraid of him. But she didn't want to call the Gulfport police.

After all, he had friends in the department.

The marriage lasted barely seven months. Denise moved out in September, she said, when she learned George was having an affair with someone named Glenda Harness. Later, what Denise would remember about their parting was what George said as he drove her to the airport: "Boy, look at that."

It was a pretty woman in a phone booth. Denise started crying.

"I can't believe you," she told him. "You cheat on me, and you're still talking about other women."

Glenda moved into the house on Upton Street. Denise went back home to Pennsylvania and waited for the divorce to become final. One day five years later, she heard from a friend in Florida. George had been charged with murder. Denise was stunned.

The lawyers called her several months after the arrest. They took her deposition over a speaker phone. Quickly, Denise told them about her and George, how they'd gotten married and how they'd broken up. She told about the time when George had put his hands around her throat.

"Did you see anything on that occasion that caused you to believe that George Lewis would be capable of murder, though?" Paver asked her.

"No. That is why I was shocked. I still can't imagine him doing something like that."

***

Lewis' lawyers were quietly pursuing an unusual strategy. In April 1986, when the case was just starting, Ciarciaglino and Paver had filed a two-page document demanding that the state comply with the state's rules of discovery. The first page appeared to be written in the usual jargon and appeared to make the usual demands to see the state's evidence. But tucked away at the top of the second page was a startling sentence. It said: No demand is made as to 3.220(a)(1)(i) and no reciprocal discovery shall be furnished pursuant to 3.220(b)(3).

Translated into plain English: We're not asking you to tell us the names of your witnesses.

Because we're not going to tell you the names of ours.

Translated further: We're willing to risk the chance that you might surprise us when this case goes to trial. We're willing to do that, because we might just want to surprise you.

By itself, that one statement would have set the Lewis case apart.

But when Ciarciaglino and Paver sent the document to the prosecutors in the state attorney's office, something else happened: The prosecutors didn't read it. At least, they didn't read it closely enough to realize exactly what it said. Because the document looked like the standard demand for discovery, they answered it as such. They made a list of all their witnesses and sent it to the defense. Then they sat by and watched as Lewis' lawyers deposed those witnesses, asking them to tell everything they knew. It was an error of potentially devastating proportions. The prosecutors had revealed the foundation of their case to the other side, even though the other side had vowed to keep its case a secret until the trial.

Not realizing what they'd done, the prosecutors waited for Ciarciaglino and Paver to send their witness list. Under the rules, they normally had seven days to hand it over. Seven days went by, and the defense did not send the list.

A month went by. Still no list.

Two months. Three. Four.

Nothing.

Ciarciaglino and Paver knew how to fight against their opponents in the state attorney's office. Before they'd become criminal defense attorneys, they'd worked for years as prosecutors. They'd learned firsthand how prosecutors think and how they act and how they go about building a case. Having learned that, they knew how to tear a case apart.

At 30, Bob Paver was the younger member of the team. Though he'd been a lawyer for five years, he'd never tried a first-degree murder case before. The pressure was intense, because in Florida there are only two possible sentences for someone convicted of first-degree murder: death in the electric chair or life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. But Paver was accustomed to pressure. Over the years, he'd handled more than 100 trials. In fact, he would later — in 1988 — be elected president of the Pinellas County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

Ciarciaglino, 40, was the kind of man who could — and would, with the slightest encouragement — tell stories for hours. His background gave him plenty of material. When he was still a kid, growing up in New York state, Joe helped his father truck chickens to slaughterhouses.

When he was a teenager, he sold used cars at auctions. After graduating from college, he went to Vietnam, served as an Army lieutenant in field artillery and won three Bronze Star medals. Now, after 13 years of practicing law, Ciarciaglino cut an intimidating figure. Even his last name was daunting. Almost no one could pronounce it right. He'd listen to people losing their way through all those syllables, and he'd sound the whole thing out for them. "C-R-SA-LEE-NO," he'd say. Often they'd get it wrong again.

Remembering was too hard. Maybe that was why some people called him Joe Cigar.

Joe stood out, not just because of the name but also because he was loud and tall and undeniably large. Sometimes he told jurors he was chubby, but that was understating it. The truth was he looked like a well-fed bear in a three-piece suit. He acted like one, too. In court he'd seem soft and tame at first, like a teddy bear. Then, when the time came to attack, he'd transform into a grizzly and start clawing away at the opposition. As it happened, Joe had a thing about bears. He thought they were beautiful, and he could talk on and on about what it was like to glimpse one through a forest. He liked to hunt them. He knew some people might find that strange — killing an animal he admired — but he didn't care.

Around the courthouse, Ciarciaglino was known as the lawyer who looked out for people in uniform. He represented the local chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, and he taught criminal law at Pinellas County's police academy. When cops and firefighters got in trouble, many of them sought him out. He respected them because they put their lives on the line every day. They respected him because he wasn't afraid of scrapping hard for a client.

Ciarciaglino had a gentle side. He taught Sunday school classes at his church, and he loved to brag about his 9-year-old daughter, Ann-Marie. But in the courtroom he was a different man. There, he was willing to do almost whatever he could to throw his opposition off balance. When the other side was talking, he'd pull out an old pocket watch and wind it with a key, just to distract the jury. He'd goad witnesses into losing their composure. He'd shower them with sarcasm.

If no one else was looking, he once told a reporter, he'd even wiggle his tongue and make faces at them.

"I'll do anything for a client, as long as it's not illegal, immoral or unethical," he'd said. "Short of those three things, there ain't no line I won't cross. There ain't no fighting dirty other than those three."

Ciarciaglino and Paver went on questioning the state's witnesses. As the depositions continued, the defense attorneys asked people to supply an intimate portrait of Karen Gregory's life. They asked how much alcohol she drank, whether she ever used illegal drugs and whether she had ever been arrested. They asked about her relationship with David Mackey. They asked how she felt about their sex life, and what kind of contraceptive she used, and what sort of attire she wore to bed, and whether she might have dated other men while she was dating David.

Some of these questions were directed at William Brinkworth, one of the Gulfport detectives who had worked on the case.

"Did you find anyone that indicated Miss Gregory was a sexually promiscuous woman?" Ciarciaglino asked him.

"No sir," Brinkworth said.

"By that I mean had sex with anybody other than Mr. Mackey while she was dating Mr. Mackey?"

"No sir."

"Went to bars to pick up young guys, anything like that?"

"No sir."

Ciarciaglino also asked this: "What type of person, from talking to the other people, did you feel she would be attracted to?"

"Someone that was very athletic."

"Macho, so to speak?"

"Yes. Very athletic, very well-built."

"Like a firefighter?"

"Some firefighters are well-built," said Brinkworth, "and some aren't."

The defense asked similar things of other witnesses. One of them was Peter Kumble, the acquaintance who had stopped by Karen's house the evening after the murder. Paver questioned Kumble at length about his intentions toward Karen.

"Did you ever have an occasion," Paver said, "to develop what could be described as a friendship with Ms. Gregory?"

"A distant friendship," said Kumble.

"Did you have any desire to make that relationship less distant and more intimate at any time?"

"No sir."

"Would it be your testimony that you did not want to have sex with Ms. Gregory specifically? When I refer to intimate, that's what I mean."

"That's not a nice question," Kumble said. "I did not desire to have sex with Ms. Gregory."

"Did you desire in any way to have any kind of romantic relationship with her?"

"No."

***

After every deposition, the court reporters took their notes and prepared typewritten transcripts. The transcripts were kept along with the rest of the case file in the clerk's office on the first floor of the criminal courthouse. It was all public record, available to anyone who went to the front counter and asked to see it.

Anita Kilpatrick, a close friend of Karen's, did just that. She knew that reading the file would be upsetting. But many things about Karen's death were still unclear to her. So she went to the clerk's office one morning and asked for the file. It had already spilled into several bulging volumes, each bound in a bright red folder.

Anita carried the volumes to a seat across from the front counter.

She sat there all day. She read through the arrest statement and the indictment and the growing stack of motions and orders and other papers. Near the bottom of the pile was the deposition of Dr. Joan Wood, Pinellas County's medical examiner. Anita knew that Dr. Wood had viewed Karen's body inside the house and later performed the autopsy.

In the deposition, Wood had undoubtedly been asked to describe Karen's wounds. Anita was terrified of seeing such details. But she was tired of wondering what Karen had suffered. She wanted the truth.

She began reading.

Q. Now let's return to the wounds. Did any of the knife wounds hit any vital organs, arteries, veins, bone?

A. The stab wounds to the left neck incised the left jugular vein.

Q. What does incised mean?

A. That means it was totally cut in two under a stab wound of the left neck. The carotid arteries were intact. One stab wound created a wound on the front of the mid-cervical vertebral column, the spine.

Anita had been inside Karen's house after the murder. She had gone in there that day after the police had finished and Karen's body had been taken to the medical examiner's office. David was not yet back in town. He'd been told of Karen's murder only that morning, while he was at a conference in Rhode Island, and he was now flying back. The inside of the house was still marked with the signs of the struggle. The crime scene analysts hadn't cleaned it up; it wasn't their job. Not wanting David to see such a thing, Anita and a friend had tried to clean Karen's blood from the walls. They'd gotten permission from the police, then gone in with a spray cleaner and some paper towels. They hadn't been able to finish, though. There'd been too much.

As her eyes moved across the pages, horrible images from that day flashed through Anita's mind.

Q. Did you form an opinion how long this activity would have taken?

A. Well, taking into account the placement of the blood within the house, number of injuries to her, blood on the bed, the presumed sexual assault, it certainly took a few minutes, out to ten, fifteen, twenty.

Q. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes?

A. It could have been.

Anita sat there, the folder open in her lap, and wept. She'd had no idea the attack could have lasted so long.

Q. How long after the assault — are you able to form an opinion as to how long after the assault ceased she would have been alive?

A. My opinion, she didn't live any significant amount of time. We might be talking about a few minutes. She is bleeding massively from multiple wounds.

Q. Are we talking probably five minutes?

A. Probably.

Five minutes. Plenty of time for the police to have reached the house — the station was less than a mile away — had any of the neighbors reported the scream.

Q. Is the fact her eyes were open when she's dead indicative of anything?

A. She died with her eyes open.

Anita's body was shaking. She could barely stand up. She felt as though a wave of white light was running through her brain.

Anita was not the only person reading through the depositions. In mid-August, a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times had spent days in the clerk's office, poring over the file. The reporter had never met Karen Gregory or George Lewis. But after following the case for some time, he was now working on a series of articles about it. There would be four pieces in all, and they would chronicle who Karen had been and the events that had led to Lewis' arrest.

The editor on the series was Neville Green, who was shortly to become deputy managing editor of the Times. Green knew the series would be controversial. For one thing, David Mackey, Anita Kilpatrick and Neverne Covington, another friend of Karen's, were urging the newspaper to not publish it until after Lewis was tried. The trial, they pointed out, was fast approaching. Though originally scheduled to begin in August, it was now set for Nov. 12 — not even three months away.

Karen's friends didn't want the newspaper to do anything that might cause the case to be moved. Things were already complicated enough.

"These are our lives you're dealing with," David said.

Green and the reporter pointed out that the courts were set up to assure a defendant a fair trial even in cases with extensive pretrial publicity. If the lawyers could not find enough impartial people to sit on a jury in Pinellas County, then the venue would be changed. In other words, the case would be moved to another county. But Green and the reporter said they didn't think such a drastic move would be necessary.

In a county with close to a million residents, many of whom do not read the paper, lawyers rarely had trouble finding 12 unbiased jurors.

"A change of venue," the reporter said, "is highly unlikely."

David and the others did not know what to do. To them, it seemed that nobody else could truly understand what they had gone through since the murder. What gave the Times the right to intrude into such private territory? And if the newspaper was wrong, if this series affected the trial's outcome, Green and his reporter could just walk away and move on to their next story. But David and the others — not to mention Lewis' family — would have to live with whatever debris the series left in its wake.

"They don't care about us," David said. "They're just trying to sell more papers."

But as far as he and the others could tell, the Times had left them with only two choices. Either cooperate and grant interviews. Or keep their mouths shut and let the story be published without the details they could provide about Karen and her life. David, Anita and Neverne did not want that to happen. Reluctantly, they consented to interviews.

"When you write this story," David told the reporter, "try to imagine how you'd feel if this was your wife or your mother or your sister."

The series began on Sunday, Sept. 28, 1986. In the state attorney's office, Beverly Andrews read it and wondered how long it would take Ciarciaglino and Paver to ask for a change of venue.

Not very long. Three weeks after the series, the defense filed the motion, saying Lewis could not get a fair jury in Pinellas County because of the "highly sensationalized" coverage in the Times. The motion was heard in late October by Circuit Judge Mark McGarry. Paver pointed out that the Times series had been widely read. Many readers, he said, had followed the series as though it were "a cheap murder mystery." Beverly Andrews argued that an impartial jury could be found in Pinellas. Not everyone, she said, had read the series. And not all of the potential jurors would be Times subscribers.

Judge McGarry agreed. He denied the motion for change of venue.

"I don't think you'll have any trouble picking a jury," the judge said afterward.

The trial was to begin in two weeks. But the defense and the state attorney's office were still battling over discovery. Six months had gone by since the prosecutors had given the defense their list of witnesses. Ciarciaglino and Paver, however, had not handed over the list of defense witnesses. They were standing by the position they had taken so long before on page two of the demand for discovery.

We're not asking you to tell us the names of your witnesses. Because we're not going to tell you the names of ours.

Ciarciaglino and Paver had already used the state's list to take depositions from more than 20 witnesses. But without a witness list from the defense, the prosecutors had not taken any depositions. They were gathering statements from several people on the other side who were obviously part of the case - Glenda Lewis, for instance - but they could only guess if the defense had other witnesses who might also know important details. So Beverly Andrews filed a motion with Judge McGarry. The motion contained some jargon of its own. It said: WHEREFORE, the State of Florida moves this Honorable Court to enter its Order granting the State's Motion to Compel.

Translated: Dear judge, Make them tell us who their witnesses are. Please.

The hearing was a week later inside Judge McGarry's chambers.

McGarry wanted to know what the problem was. Wasn't it only fair that the defense should hand over its list, too?

Paver said no. He pulled out a copy of the two-page demand for discovery that had been sent to the state in April. He pointed to the sentence at the top of page two. The defense, he said, had not asked for the state's witness list and therefore had no obligation to release its own witness list.

"I don't know how it could be any clearer," he said.

Beverly Andrews said she had not read the document that way at all.

Her understanding, she said, was that the defense had demanded to see the state's list. If the sentence on page two said differently, she said, she had not noticed it.

McGarry studied the document himself. Paver seemed to be right, he said. The defense did not have to hand over its witness list.

"We'll deny state's motion," the judge said, "and press on."

Five days later, Andrews and Paver were in front of McGarry again.

Andrews wanted the judge to reconsider his ruling.

This time, Andrews was the one reading aloud from the defense's demand for discovery. If the judge looked closely, she said, it would be clear that Ciarciaglino and Paver had in fact asked to see the state's witness list. Andrews pointed to a paragraph on page one, where the defense had demanded that the state hand over "the name and address of each witness."

"Let me see," said McGarry. He looked at the document again.

The defense attorneys, Andrews argued, had tinkered with their demand just enough to be confusing. They had asked for the state's witness list on page one, then had slipped a one-sentence disclaimer at the top of the page two, saying they didn't want the list after all. It wasn't right, Andrews said. The rules, she said, weren't designed to obstruct justice.

Paver said the defense hadn't obstructed anything. They had merely followed the rules, he said.

"I'm afraid I can't agree with you, Mr. Paver," said McGarry.

If the defense attorneys didn't want the state's witness list, McGarry said, they should have made that clear right up front. Instead, he said, they had practiced some "artwork." In the interest of justice, the judge said, the defense would have to hand over its list.

Ciarciaglino and Paver did not send their witness list. Instead, they fought the issue further. They asked the 2nd District Court of Appeal to review McGarry's decision. The appeal judges, however, said no. McGarry's decision would stand.

Still, the appeal was not a total defeat for Ciarciaglino and Paver. They had been pushing for a trial delay, and now they had it. By the time the appeal court had dismissed their petition, it was already December. The scheduled trial date of Nov. 12 had passed. The trial was rescheduled for March 10, 1987. So the defense had lost the appeal but won more time.

***

On the night of Dec. 31, Anita Kilpatrick and Neverne Covington ran into each other at a party. They talked about how glad they were that the man charged with killing Karen was still behind bars. They had been terrified for so long. Not just of Lewis, but of the world and so many of the people who walk through it. If Karen's death had taught them anything, it was that none of us is ever completely protected.

But as they stood there at the party, surrounded by friends toasting the new year, Anita and Neverne were relieved. They hugged.

They danced. They walked out-side under the stars and remembered what it was like to breathe the night air in Gulfport and not be afraid.

That night, George Lewis walked out of jail.

For weeks, the Lewis family had been talking to a private bonding company, trying to arrange the payment of the $300,000 bail that would free George. Finally, the family had scraped together what the bonding company needed. Early that evening, agents for the company went to the jail and paid the bond.

It was dark when George left the jail. He was driven to a nearby office. Glenda was waiting for him. It was time to celebrate. It was New Year's Eve.

A Cry in the Night, Part 3: New Year's Eve 04/09/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 11, 2008 1:23pm]

    

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