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A Cry in the Night, Part 7: Private Wars

[Originally published June 21, 1988]

On Monday, June 8 — the sixth day of the trial — one of the jurors asked to speak privately with the judge. Her name was Beverly Collier.

She wanted off this case.

Collier, a 32-year-old homemaker from Lakeland, was having back pain. She felt distracted. And the things she'd heard and seen in court — the descriptions of Karen Gregory's scream, the videotape from the murder scene, the photos of Karen's body — were giving her nightmares.

"I'm not sleeping at night," she said as she sat in chambers with Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell. "I've spent the last two nights hearing screams. I can't do this. I'm sorry."

"You know, this is an awful important matter," said Farnell.

Collier was crying. "I know it is," she said. "I knew that it would bother me a little bit. I knew that I probably wouldn't sleep as well. I don't know what to say, your honor. The screams are very real."

Reluctantly, Farnell excused her. She was replaced by an alternate juror who had been chosen at the start of the trial, in case something such as this came up. The alternate had been sitting in a chair at the end of the jury box, listening to all of the witnesses. Now the alternate moved into Collier's seat in the front row.

Nightmares had become part of the pattern of the case. Two of the neighbors who heard Karen scream on the night of the murder said later that they had thought it might have been someone calling out from a bad dream. Afterward, David Mackey, Karen's boyfriend, kept dreaming that he was inside the house that night. In the dreams he was always too late. The attack had just occurred, and he would be standing in the dark, trying to decide whether to stay with Karen or to run out and search for the killer. He never knew what to do. Then there was Cheryl Falkenstein, the first police officer to see Karen's body lying there in the hallway. Falkenstein had never seen a murdered body before, and afterward she'd been bothered by nightmares. Two months later, still disturbed by that memory, as well as by other problems with her job, she left police work.

George Lewis was not immune, either. On the morning of his arrest, as he gave his final statement to the detectives, he told them that images of what he'd seen on the night of the murder kept entering his sleep.

To this day, I still get bad dreams about that.

The two sides of the case could not escape each other. As the trial moved forward, day after day, they were constantly thrown together.

Karen's mother, Sophia, sat inside Courtroom A, only a few feet from Lewis. At the beginning of the trial, Sophia had stayed in the back of the courtroom, wearing sunglasses, hoping no one would see her.

Finally, she decided she'd had enough. She took off her sunglasses and moved to the front. Neither she nor Lewis said a word to each other.

Outside the courtroom, Karen's friends and her sister, Kim, wandered the same corridors as Lewis' wife, Lewis' mother and many of his friends. They were all listed as possible witnesses and were not allowed in the courtroom. So they waited, together but apart, within the confines of the halls and the second-floor lobby. They maintained a fragile, unspoken arrangement. Forced to spend days in the same space, they inevitably brushed shoulders, bumped into one another in the bathrooms, stood in line together at the water fountain. At the same time, they gave one another as much distance as possible, avoiding unnecessary contact, each side politely pretending that the other did not exist. The air almost shimmered with the effort.

Complicating matters was the fact that the design of the courthouse nearly forced them all to stare at one another. The lobby outside the courtroom — the place where they spent much of their time — was a rotunda, a circular room beneath a domed ceiling. The benches were arranged along the curving walls of the rotunda, so that they faced the center. Anywhere people sat, they naturally faced everyone else.

"This is the center ring," one person said. "This is the center circle."

At night, some family members and friends drove back to Pinellas County. But others remained in Bartow, taking rooms at the Davis Bros.

Motor Lodge. It appeared to be the only local motel of any size. Judge Farnell stayed there, as did the prosecutors, the defense lawyers, George Lewis — who was out on bond — and his wife, Glenda. Sgt. Larry Tosi, the chief detective, had a first-floor room only a few doors down from George and Glenda. Three of Karen Gregory's closest friends — David Mackey, Neverne Covington and Anita Kilpatrick — had second-floor rooms that overlooked the motel's pool. In the evenings, they'd look out and see George and Glenda swimming in the pool. To Karen's friends, it was an almost surreal sight. Lewis was on trial for his life, and yet there he was, laughing and splashing in the crystal blue water.

One night, Karen's friends saw a strange man by the pool. It was hard to miss him. He was wearing shorts, a casual shirt and sunglasses.

But next to his patio chair he had a briefcase. He sat there for hours, looking up at their rooms and the prosecutors' rooms, scribbling notes on a pad. At one point, he held a newspaper as though he were reading it, even though it was long past dark and there was hardly any light by the pool. Was he supposed to be spying on them? Sgt. Tosi, who saw him too, didn't think so. The sunglasses and the briefcase were too obvious. The man was down there, Tosi said, not to spy but to intimidate — not to watch, but to let them know they were being watched.

Later, when asked if the defense had used a spy in this case, defense attorney Joseph Ciarciaglino declined to say one way or the other. "I'm not going to tell you," he said. "That would either comment on how I try cases or would allay their fears — neither of which I intend to do."

The prosecutors seemed to take the talk of spying in stride. It happens sometimes, one of them told David. It's the way some people work in court.

***

At the beginning of the trial, when they were questioning prospective jurors, the lawyers had cautioned them to remember that this was real life, not Perry Mason. Richard Mensh, the senior prosecutor, asked the jurors to put aside whatever "garbage" they may have learned from TV.

"Can each of you tell me you'll do that?" he said.

Dutifully, the jurors nodded.

It was a standard speech. Lawyers love to knock Perry Mason. Don't expect real trials to be anything like that, they say. Don't expect surprise witnesses to pop up at the last minute; don't wait for a sudden confession from a tearful member of the audience. Those kinds of things, they say, don't happen in real trials, which are supposed to be conducted in an orderly manner according to strict rules.

This is only partly correct. Real trials can be extraordinarily disorderly. The rules are often bent and sometimes broken. Surprises are in fact sprung at the last moment. And though most real trials are fairly dull, they invariably have their moments — moments so outrageous or ridiculous or tragic that they surpass anything on television. It's not presented in a tidy package, as it is on TV. It's confusing and messy, just like real life. The facts of the case are almost never simple. Much of the time, the "facts" presented in court aren't facts at all, but theories, educated guesses, probabilities, likelihoods, insinuations and points of dispute. That's what a trial is. Not just one dispute, but hundreds of tiny, interconnected disputes. The witnesses may be asked to tell "the whole truth and nothing but the truth." But what's astonishing is how hard lawyers work at reshaping the truth to fit their needs. There's nothing wrong with this. The "whole truth" is no good to them; it's too big and complex. It includes too many things that might hurt or complicate their case. What lawyers show the jury, or what they try to show the jury, is their own version of the truth — a carefully edited version, containing only the facts they've chosen.

At the moment, the team from the state attorney's office was showing the jury its edited version of the facts. For six days, the prosecutors summoned their witnesses into court. They called in the neighbors who heard Karen scream, and the woman from across the street who sighted Karen's body through a window, and one of the crime scene analysts who dusted for fingerprints and collected evidence, and the detectives who handled the initial stages of the investigation, and the FBI print expert who broke the case with his identification of the footprint found on the tile floor in Karen's bathroom. One by one, these people were brought in and asked to tell the jury what they knew.

The prosecutors tried to keep the story simple. They also tried to keep it from straying into gray areas that might cause a mistrial. They did not ask their witnesses, for instance, to talk about how racism might have played a role in the attack. This possibility had been explored in the months before the trial, when different people had been questioned under oath in their depositions. But no one had offered any solid evidence to prove the connection — at least no evidence solid enough that it would be likely to stand up in court. So the prosecutors stuck to the basics of the case: Lewis' changing stories. His bare footprint, marked in blood in the bathroom. The other bare footprints, also in blood, that were discovered on the hallway carpet where Karen was found. The white teddy that Lewis had possibly taken from Karen's house and then given to Tonja Dishong, his girlfriend that summer.

Meanwhile, the murder investigation continued outside the courtroom. As witnesses appeared before the jury, both the prosecution and the defense were busy trying to track down where the teddy had come from.

So far, the police had not found the evidence to prove that Lewis had stolen the lingerie from Karen's belongings. David Mackey had told the jurors that the teddy looked exactly like the one Karen had bought.

But that didn't mean the two garments necessarily were the same. The question remained: Had Lewis taken the teddy from Karen's belongings?

Or had he bought it in a store, as he'd told Tonja?

Unfortunately, it looked as though the search would not answer these questions. The defense attorneys, Ciarciaglino and his partner, Robert Paver, weren't saying what their investigator had turned up. It was a fair bet, though, that he hadn't uncovered anything that proved Lewis was telling the truth; the defense would have hardly kept such evidence a secret.

The prosecution's search appeared to have stalled, too. William Brinkworth, the Gulfport detective assigned to the investigation, came to Bartow one morning and told the judge and the lawyers what he had learned. Testifying in chambers, away from the jury, Brinkworth said he had called the teddy's distributor and learned that in Tampa Bay this item of clothing had been sold only at Robinson's outlets, including the one in the Tyrone area. Still, that didn't prove much. Tyrone was not far from Gulfport. Either Lewis or Karen could have easily gone to the store and bought it. So Brinkworth had called Robinson's to find out whether the store still had receipts from the spring of 1984, when the teddy had been sold. Robinson's said no. The section inside the store that had stocked the teddy — Robinaire — had since been liquidated. All receipts had been destroyed.

The jurors were not aware that the search for the teddy's origins had hit a dead end. They were not even aware there had been a search in the first place. All they knew was that they were repeatedly being told to wait in the jury room — often for hours at a time — while some battle was waged out of their hearing.

Actually, the prosecution and defense were fighting dozens of battles outside the jury's presence. They were arguing about what the witnesses should say and not say once they took the stand. They were arguing about which pieces of evidence the judge should allow and which he should exclude. At the same time, another explosive issue had entered the case. It had happened late one afternoon during the first week of the trial. Ciarciaglino and Paver were reviewing some of the prosecution's items of evidence when they found an empty brown envelope. On the back was some writing that said the envelope had contained the diary of Karen Gregory.

The Gulfport police had come across the black-bound book, filled with Karen's neat handwriting, while searching through the house after the murder. The diary had been taken to the station for further study.

Sgt. Tosi had read it, looking for leads, scanning for any mention of people who might have wanted to hurt Karen. He hadn't found anything, though. He'd decided that the diary contained nothing pertinent to the investigation and returned it to Karen's family. Now, Ciarciaglino and Paver had stumbled onto the envelope in which the diary had been kept.

Until that moment, they hadn't known a diary existed.

The two defense attorneys were furious. They told Farnell that this was yet another example of the police and prosecutors withholding evidence, just as Tonja and the teddy had been withheld. They said Farnell should declare a mistrial. They needed to read the diary, they said. What if it contained some clue crucial to their case?

"We have no idea what was in the diary," Paver said. "We can't represent to you what it represents to us."

The prosecutors said that argument was ridiculous. They said the diary contained nothing related to the case, only Karen's personal thoughts. The defense, they said, had no right to read it and invade her privacy.

"The diary," said Dick Mensh, "contains no evidence."

Ciarciaglino didn't want to take the prosecution's word for that.

He said that if Judge Farnell was going to be deciding whether it was important for the defense to read the diary, he needed to know more about the defense's case. But Ciarciaglino didn't want to reveal any such strategy in front of the prosecution. He asked the judge to let them talk to him privately, without the prosecutors. This request was made on Monday, June 8 — the same day Beverly Collier asked to be excused from the jury. The two sides had been arguing about the diary for days, first in chambers and now in the courtroom, while the jury was out. Karen's mother sat in the front row, listening in horror.

Sitting beside her, just as shocked, were Karen's brothers, Roy and Mark, who had arrived at the trial that day from their homes in New York. All of them were incensed that the defense attorneys were trying to push their way inside Karen's diary.

The fact was, Ciarciaglino and Paver were defending a man on trial for his life — a man who was presumed innocent until and unless the charges against him were proven. It was their duty to fight for Lewis as zealously as the rules and the law allowed. And if they'd been free to discuss their case in open court, they probably could have reeled off a long list of explanations for why they wanted to delve into Karen's past. What if it led them to evidence that showed the killer was not George but someone else?

Yet to those close to Karen, it was hard to accept the notion that Ciarciaglino and Paver were merely defending a client. David Mackey and the others thought it was clear that, from the start, the defense had attacked Karen and the people who loved her. Now, with the move to open the diary, the family and friends decided they'd had enough. They wanted a chance to tell Judge Farnell what they thought.

Ciarciaglino said they didn't have the right. He said they should not be allowed to address the judge.

"May it please the court," said Mensh. "That's not my understanding of the law." A person didn't have to be charged with a crime, he argued, to win an audience with a judge.

Farnell agreed. Still, the diary put him in a difficult position.

He didn't want to cause those close to Karen any more pain. But he also didn't want to take the chance that Karen's writings might hold something critical to the defense. He didn't want to find out later that he'd made a mistake and that the case would have to be tried again.

On that same Monday, Farnell met in his chambers with the defense.

With only a court reporter present, taking down what was said, the judge listened as Ciarciaglino and Paver shared their strategy and explained why they thought they should see the diary. Then, understanding what they had in mind, Farnell asked for the diary — Karen's family had brought it to court — and skimmed through it himself, trying to find out if it contained anything potentially relevant. He thought it did. The defense, he decided, could see the book. They were not to tell anyone what it said and not to talk about it in front of the jurors, but they could read it and try to develop any leads they found. The two lawyers began flipping through the pages.

Later that afternoon, after Farnell and the defense had returned to the courtroom, Mensh reminded the judge that Karen's family wanted to speak with him.

"Okay," said Farnell. "Just have them come forward."

Karen's mother, Sophia, was first. She walked up to the bench and talked quietly with the judge. Farnell explained he was trying to be sensitive to the feelings of her family. He was trying, he said, to protect Karen's privacy as much as possible. Sophia said she felt they had suffered enough. There was no reason, she said, for anyone to read her daughter's personal thoughts. It was sacrilegious, she said.

"I feel that we have very few rights," said Sophia.

"Ma'am?" said the judge.

"I feel that we have very, very few rights."

"I understand that. And I —"

"We're the only ones that can speak for her. It's very one-sided, as far as I'm concerned. I have nothing else to say."

Karen's brother Mark stepped forward. "I just wanted to add, my sister had a very — well, it would be easy to misconstrue the way she lived her life."

"I understand that."

"Mr. Ciarciaglino is a very clever man, and if I was in his position, I would — I can see where that journal, that diary could be used to really paint a pretty inaccurate picture."

Finally it was David Mackey's turn. David said he knew what was in the diary. Karen had not shown it to him when she was alive, but once the investigation began, the police had asked him to read it. So he knew, he said, that it contained nothing related to the case.

Ciarciaglino and Paver just wanted to read it, he said, so they could search for dirt. David pointed out that he'd already lost Karen, lost his home, lost any sense of privacy. How much more, he asked, was he supposed to take?

"This entire process feels like it is beyond any control," David said. "I have been very, very restrained. I have been cooperative. There has got to be a line drawn somewhere."

The thing was, David and the others did not know that the line had already been drawn. As they tried to stop the defense, they did not understand that Ciarciaglino and Paver had already been allowed to read the diary. It was too late.

***

Ciarciaglino looked at the man on the witness stand as though he were an insect.

"You say that Ms. Gregory invited you to dinner?"

"Ms. Gregory invited me to dinner, she and David."

"She said, 'David and I want you to dinner?' She used the word —" Ciarciaglino cut him off. "Tell us what she said, as best you recall."

"She said she would like to have me over to dinner."

Peter Kumble, a tall, thin man in a tie and a blue suit, sat in front of the jury, answering the defense attorney's questions.

Ciarciaglino had waited his turn. He'd listened as the prosecution questioned the witness. Kumble, 29, had explained that he was a research assistant who now lived in Tucson, Ariz. In May 1984, when Karen was killed, he was living in St. Petersburg. He was an acquaintance of Karen's. On the evening after the murder, he drove to her house in his VW van and knocked on the door inside the front porch while Karen's body lay not far away, in the hallway. He waited outside the house for about 10 minutes, placed a note on one of the cars in the yard, then drove away.

Lewis saw him there that evening and gave a description of him and his van to the police, who quickly identified the visitor as Kumble. At first, the detectives considered Kumble a prime suspect. For one thing, a detective noticed that he had a scratch on his right hand. For another, the police found it hard to believe that he'd walked onto the front porch without noticing the signs of the struggle, including the broken glass that was scattered along the front walkway. Also, the wording of his note on the car was odd. It said: Karen & David Hello. Stopped by about 7:15 or so but saw no signs of life. Many things to do tonight so I probably won't be back but I have something you wanted. Will be home not too late. Peter

When questioned, Kumble explained that Karen had invited him over for dinner that evening. After no one appeared to be home, he said, he wrote the note and left. The reference to "no signs of life," he said, was purely coincidental. The "something you wanted," he said, had been a cassette tape he'd borrowed from Karen. And he told detectives that he got the scratch on his hand while working on his van. In the weeks after the murder, Kumble voluntarily gave the police his fingerprints and samples of his hair to be compared with prints and hairs found inside the house. None of them matched. Eventually, the detectives dropped him as a suspect.

Now that he was on the witness stand, Kumble went through some of these details again. But Ciarciaglino wasn't satisfied. In his best mocking voice, the defense attorney grilled the witness. Kumble was saying that Karen had asked him to have dinner with her and David on that Wednesday night. But David had gone out of town earlier that week for a conference. Yet Kumble was saying that Karen had made this invitation only a few days before, on the previous Sunday, when she would have known David was going to be gone.

Now, Ciarciaglino pressed on this point. "She said she wanted you to come over to dinner with the two of them?"

"Yes."

Ciarciaglino moved on. He wanted to show Kumble some photos of Karen's house. The photos had been taken immediately after her body was discovered. Ciarciaglino dropped one onto the stand in front of Kumble.

It showed the front porch onto which Kumble had walked that evening.

The screen on the jalousie door had a hole — the hole through which Karen's head had been rammed.

"You notice the cut in the screen?"

"Yes, I do, sir."

"You did not see it that day?"

"I didn't notice it, no." Ciarciaglino dropped more photos before Kumble. Had the witness noticed the broken glass on the walkway? No. He said he had approached the house on the grass, not on the walk. Had he noticed the blood on the hand crank of the jalousie door? No. "Before you left, you wrote out a note and left it there," said Ciarciaglino. "Correct?"

"Yes, sir."

Ciarciaglino was holding the note. He handed it to Kumble and asked him if it said anything about a dinner invitation. Kumble said no. "No reference to dinner at all, is there?"

"No."

"You waited 10 minutes, and no one was there for dinner, so you left?"

"Yes, sir."

Ciarciaglino asked Kumble to think back to the night before his visit to Karen's house, to the night of the murder, Tuesday, May 22.

What did Kumble do that evening? He said he'd probably gone shopping.

"You're sure of that?"

"To the best of my memory."

Ciarciaglino asked if anyone else was at home when Kumble returned from shopping. Kumble said yes. His roommate, a man named Kenneth Kuhar.

"Did you ever leave that evening?"

"No, I didn't."

"Did Mr. Kuhar ever leave?"

"No, he didn't."

"So your alibi as to where you were —" Over at the prosecution table, Mensh was standing up with a pained expression on his face.

Alibi.

"Excuse me," Mensh said. "I'm going to object. That is highly improper."

"Sustained," said Farnell. "The jury will disregard the attorney's last comment."

Ciarciaglino continued. "You were attracted to Ms. Gregory," he asked Kumble. "Weren't you?"

"No, sir."

"It was your desire to have a romantic relationship with her, was it not?"

"No, sir."

"I can't hear you."

"No, sir."

Kumble swallowed hard, shifted in his chair. He looked helplessly toward the prosecutors, as though he thought they could stop what was happening.

Ciarciaglino's voice was rising. "When you went over to that house on Wednesday — the Wednesday you did not see all of the things on that porch and you had the dinner invitation — you only waited 10 minutes?"

"Yes, sir."

"No mention in that note what happened to dinner, is there?"

"No, sir, there's not, sir."

Ciarciaglino was almost shouting now.

"Isn't it a fact, sir, that on Tuesday evening, you and Mr. Kuhar were out for the evening and you went by the Mackey residence?"

"No, that's not a fact."

"You stopped there to see Ms. Gregory. You made advances. She became angry with you, and you killed her."

Kumble's voice dropped to a near-whisper.

"No, sir."

Mensh was on his feet again, objecting. He was so angry that he was stumbling over his words. He said that what Ciarciaglino had just done was improper. He said Ciarciaglino had absolutely no good-faith basis to accuse Kumble.

"Sustained," said Judge Farnell. "Ladies and gentlemen, you should disregard the last statement by counsel."

It was too late. Ciarciaglino had called Kumble a murderer and had suggested that Kuhar was at least an accomplice. What were the jurors supposed to do? Erase that moment from their memories? Cut Ciarciaglino's statement out of their heads?

Out in the courthouse halls, psychological war had been declared.

Once Karen's friends learned that the defense had read the diary, the delicate balance that had been generally maintained between the two sides slipped away. As far as Karen's friends were concerned, the defense had stripped away the last vestige of decency. To them, it was as though Karen had been raped all over again.

David began standing at the courtroom door, staring at Lewis and his lawyers. Out in the rotunda, Neverne Covington worked on Lewis' wife. Neverne figured that to get to George, you went through Glenda.

So she stared at Glenda, trying to imagine what was going on inside her mind.

You must wonder. You must have some questions. Doesn't the evidence make you pause? Do you even know what the evidence is?

***

The prosecutors had only three witnesses left.

The first was Timothy Whitfield, a technician with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Department. A year before, working with the Gulfport police, Whitfield had used Luminol — a chemical solution that reacts with bloodstains and causes them to glow — to find the footprints that had been left in blood on the hallway carpet where Karen's body had been discovered. The Luminol test had been videotaped, and now Whitfield showed that tape to the jurors. As they watched the TV screen, the jurors could hear the technician's voice on the tape, describing the footprints as they glowed briefly in the dark.

The next witness was Tonja Dishong, who quickly explained to the jurors how Lewis gave her the white teddy when they were dating in the summer of 1984. She said she believed the teddy was new and had not been worn before. Then, not long after she'd walked into the courtroom, she walked out.

Only one prosecution witness remained.

"The state," said Beverly Andrews, "would call Detective Sgt. Larry Tosi."

Tosi walked into the courtroom. He was wearing a gray, pin-striped suit and carrying a briefcase that held his reports. He looked stiff and uncomfortable. He looked as though he would have preferred to take off the jacket, light a cigarette and just chat with the jurors. But that was not the way it worked. He took the oath, moved to the stand and sat forward in the chair, his back erect.

"Detective Tosi," said Andrews. "I'm going to call your attention now to May 24th, 1984" By now, after hearing the other witnesses, the jurors had heard most of the pieces of the state's case. Tosi's job was to put together all of the pieces. He talked about the months of working day and night as he tried to solve the case. He talked about going to the house, trying to visualize the murder. He talked about how David Mackey had given him some items from the house that he thought might be useful to develop leads. It was David who had given Tosi the section of hallway carpet that was later tested with Luminol. David was concerned, Tosi said, about the investigation.

"Did you feel that your job was in jeopardy in any way because of his concern?"

"Not at all."

"Did you feel you might be demoted if you didn't make an arrest in this case?"

"No." Andrews wanted to know about Peter Kumble. During the investigation, hadn't Tosi met with Kumble? Tosi said yes.

"And was Kumble cooperative with law enforcement?"

"Very cooperative."

"Did he voluntarily give hair samples, fingerprints?"

"Yes, he did."

"And voluntarily appear for interviews when requested?"

"That's right. Without hesitation."

(Later, Tosi would also point out that no evidence had been found to show that Kumble had been inside Karen's house, other than on the front porch. And as far as the police had determined, Tosi said, Kumble's statements had all checked out. Furthermore, the detective noted that Kenneth Kuhar did not match the description Lewis had given of the man on Karen's lawn.) Then they came to Lewis. Tosi told the jurors he knew George long before the murder.

"George Lewis," he said, "was a friend of mine."

Being so close, Tosi said he knew that George was the type to call the authorities if he saw something suspicious in his neighborhood. The department records, Tosi said, showed several instances in which Lewis had called the police to report various incidents. At the same time, Tosi said, George was not the type to walk away from people who needed help. He was a firefighter and a certified emergency medical technician.

"Did you ever see anything to indicate that he was squeamish in any way?"

"Absolutely not."

Andrews wanted Tosi to testify about how dark it was inside Karen's house. Tosi had been in there at night. He'd turned off the lights. It was hard to see much of anything, he said. There was a big oak tree on the east side of the house, he pointed out, and it blocked light from a nearby street lamp.

"What if you stood in the area where the body was found?" Andrews asked. "In that hallway, what could you see?"

"Nothing."

Tosi said tid they'd even done a re-enactment in the hallway. One night Tosi turned off the lights, and an assistant lay down on the floor where Karen was found. Tosi waited a few minutes to allow his eyes to adjust. But he still couldn't see the assistant. It was too dark, he said.

"Did you try the old putting-your-hand-in-front- of-your-face?"

"Yes."

"Could you see your hand?"

"No." Andrews asked Tosi to talk about the different statements Lewis had given about the night of the murder. The jurors already knew the essence of these statements. Originally, Lewis had said he was working in his garage that night when he heard the scream. He stepped outside, he said, but didn't see anything other than a man on a bike. Then, in a later statement, Lewis said he saw a strange man on the lawn of Karen's house. The man, he said, was white, with red hair and a beard. Lewis said that he and the man simply stared at each other. Then, in his next statement, Lewis said that he and the man talked. The man, he said, threatened him and told him to go away.

"Did you compare all of these versions that the defendant was giving as to what he had seen the night of the murder?"

"Yes, I did."

Ciarciaglino rose to his feet, asking to approach the bench. Once he and the other lawyers were gathered up there, he said he was trying to prevent a mistrial. He said he assumed that Tosi was about to say he'd compared the statements and found that they were conflicting.

Ciarciaglino didn't want Tosi to say "conflicting." He said it was up to the jury to decide that.

"Your honor," said Mensh, "with all due respect, Mr. Ciarciaglino is not concerned with avoiding a mistrial. What he's concerned with is avoiding testimony that's awfully damaging to his client."

"Fine speech," said Ciarciaglino. "Now, if we could stay with the law. The law is ..." The lawyers finished arguing. Andrews went back to the lectern. She did not ask if Tosi had found the statements "conflicting." Instead, she asked if Tosi thought the statements were "progressive" — the word Ciarciaglino had used in his opening statement to describe Lewis' stories. But Ciarciaglino didn't like Andrews using that, either.

Approaching the bench again, he said Tosi should not be deciding whether the statements were "progressive."

"You guys are driving me crazy," Judge Farnell said. He told the jury to disregard the word "progressive."

Tosi continued. He told the jurors that he'd tried in vain to identify this mysterious man on Karen's lawn. Using Lewis' description, Tosi put together a composite drawing of the man. He also collected a group of photos of other people involved in the case. He showed the photos to Lewis, asking if any of them was the man. Lewis said no. "Was Peter Kumble's picture in that group?"

"Yes, it was. Absolutely."

"And did he identify the picture of Peter Kumble as being the person he saw?"

"No, he did not. He said it was not him."

A few moments later, Bob Paver was standing up at the defense table.

"Excuse me, judge," he said. "I wonder if we could approach for a minute?"

That was how it went. Andrews would ask a few questions, and then the defense would head for the bench. A few questions more, and back to the bench. In the approximately three hours that Andrews devoted to direct examination of Tosi, Ciarciaglino and Paver requested 17 bench conferences, making objections at virtually every one of them. They asked for a mistrial five times. Six times, they stood up and made objections in front of the jury.

Eventually, Andrews had had enough. "With the constant objections," she complained in front of the jury, "it's rather hard to get to the end."

The moment she said this, Ciarciaglino and Paver were on their feet, plowing back toward the bench. They said the jury had been tainted by these personal attacks. They wanted a mistrial. Farnell denied it. Calmly, patiently, he reminded the jurors that the lawyers were obligated to make every objection they thought proper.

Finally, Tosi told the jurors how he'd ended up arresting Lewis on March 15, 1986. George gave one final statement that morning, to Tosi and Lt. Frank Hanson. The two of them tape-recorded it.

"May I play the tape now, your honor?" Andrews asked the judge.

"You may."

The tape was slipped into a cassette player. At the defense table, Lewis listened quietly. Lt. Hanson's voice was heard first, asking preliminary questions.

"Now just state your name for the record, George."

"George A. Lewis."

"Do you understand you have the right to remain silent?"

"Yes."

"You understand that anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law?"

Hanson finished reading him his rights. Then the lieutenant asked him, one more time, to tell them about the night of the murder. Again, Lewis spoke of seeing the man on the lawn.

"Okay, were there any lights on in the house?"

"No."

"Could you see in there in any way?"

"No." He and George went through it all, step by step.

"Were you ever up on the lawn at the house?"

"No."

"Were you ever on the sidewalk in front of the house?"

"No."

"Were you ever in the house?"

"No."

What Lewis did not know, as he spoke on the tape, was that the FBI had just matched his footprint to the one found in Karen's bathroom. He did not realize that the detectives knew he was lying. Hanson was getting tired of it. His voice was getting louder.

"You've never been in that house?"

"No."

"You're sure you've never been in there?"

"Uh-huh."

"Was you in there that night?"

"No." Then they told him about the FBI and the footprint. Tosi, who'd been sitting quietly, listening to the questioning, read him the letter from Washington, D.C., that confirmed the match. Lewis still wouldn't admit to Hanson that he'd been inside the house.

"I wasn't even barefoot that night. You tell me how I could get in that house so quick and do all that and come back and my wife be there."

"Your wife was sleeping all night, George. She was in bed. She don't know what happened."

Lewis said he wanted to talk to a lawyer. He said that something was wrong. He said he wasn't that sadistic. Then Tosi spoke.

"Well, I guess we've reached that point, George. I have to place you under arrest for the murder of Karen Gregory."

"I didn't do it to her, Larry."

"I've got no choice, George. All indications are that you did."

"I saw the guy. I went in the house."

His voice began to break. It sounded as though he was crying.

"I heard Karen scream. Okay? Oh God. I never seen anything like that before. I didn't see the guy do it. Okay? I saw the guy outside. I went in after that, real quick. I still don't believe it. 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 didn't kill her. I saw her laying there in blood. I panicked. I didn't know what to do. The guy had seen me. And to this day, I still get bad dreams about that. When he left 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. I went in through the back window because I ran around the back bedroom. I looked, and I saw her laying on the floor. I didn't do anything else. I was scared. I saw what that guy did to her.

He saw me. He knows what I look like right now. I would never do anything like that to a human being. Ever."

The tape ended.

"Your honor," said Andrews, "I have one question for Detective Tosi."

"Yes, ma'am."

Andrews turned to the witness.

"Detective Tosi, at the time the interview took place and the defendant was arrested, did he know where the footprint was from that had been identified to him?"

"No. We hadn't told him where."

The bathroom. When they told him his footprint had been found in the house, they didn't tell him it had been found in the bathroom. And he hadn't mentioned a word about going in there.

***

The tape connected many pieces. Dr. Joan Wood, the medical examiner, had been in that hallway during the day. She saw Karen's body in the light. Until she moved the body, Wood had told the jury, she was not able to see what kind of injuries Karen had suffered. In fact, it wasn't until the dried blood was cleaned away that the doctor realized the murderer had not just stabbed Karen's throat but had also tried to cut it.

But Lewis said he'd been able to see Karen that night in the dark.

He said he stood there without the lights — stood where Tosi said you couldn't see anything without the lights — and saw Karen lying on the floor with her throat cut open. How was that possible? How could he have seen Karen, much less her wounds? Why had he said that her throat was "cut open"? Was it just a coincidental choice of words? Or had he slipped without realizing it?

Across the courtroom, Lewis sat with his face in his hands.

A Cry in the Night, Part 7: Private Wars 04/10/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 1:35pm]
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