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A Cry in the Night, Part 8: The Good Neighbor

[Originally published June 22, 1988]

A week and a half into the trial, the pendulum was swinging hard against the defense.

From the start, the lawyers for George Lewis had argued that their client had not killed Karen Gregory. Early in the trial, they had told Circuit Judge Crockett Farnell — while the jury was out of the courtroom — that they wanted to show that Karen's lifestyle and her taste for reggae music had linked her to two reggae musicians who might have had something to do with the murder. But the defense had not stuck with that particular theory for long. Instead, Lewis' attorneys had accused Peter Kumble, an acquaintance of Karen's, of committing the murder. They had also suggested that Kumble's roommate, Kenneth Kuhar, had accompanied him to Karen's house that night. This line of attack would not be easy: No evidence had been found to show that either Kumble or Kuhar was inside Karen's house.

The defense lawyers, Joseph Ciarciaglino and Robert Paver, faced other problems as well. Judge Farnell had allowed them to read Karen's diary and search for leads. But it appeared that the two lawyers had not found anything solid that could be used in the case. Several days later, they had made no requests — at least in open court — to tell the jurors any of what the diary contained. Ciarciaglino had argued up at the bench that the jurors should at least be informed that Karen kept a diary. But Farnell had refused.

But now the prosecution had rested its case. It was Ciarciaglino and Paver's turn. They began that Friday, after a one-day recess.

***

"State your full name for the record, please."

"Glenda Grace Lewis."

"Glenda, are you married to George Lewis, seated in the courtroom?"

"Yes, I am."

When she'd first settled into the witness chair, she'd looked down and smiled at the court reporter who was seated a few feet away, taking down every word of the testimony. It wasn't much of a smile, just a quick, small, nervous one, as though she was grateful to have found at least one neutral face.

"And how long have you been married to George?" Paver asked from behind the lectern.

"Two and a half years."

"And can you tell us if you have any children?"

"We have a little girl, 2 years old. Her name is Tiffany. And we're expecting our second child in January."

There was a pause as the announcement regis-tered with the jurors and the spectators. Soon, those close to Karen would begin the mental calculations, counting backward through the months.

July, June, May, April. She probably would have conceived in April, just after the change of venue, when George was out on bond. Could she be offering her unborn child as a statement of faith in George's innocence?

Paver continued. "Glenda," he said, "I'd like to direct your attention to approximately 1:15 a.m. on May 23rd, 1984. Can you tell the jury, please, where you were at that time?"

"I was in bed."

"Were you asleep?"

"Yes."

"Did anything happen that awoke you at that time?"

"I was awakened by a scream."

That night, Glenda and George were not yet married. They were living together in the house across the street from Karen Gregory's.

When Glenda heard the scream and woke up, George was not in the house.

She climbed out of bed, she said, and went to the back of the house.

She looked out a window toward the garage, where George often worked at night. The garage light was off, and the door was open. She went into the bedroom and picked up a flashlight.

"Why did you get the flashlight?"

"Well, because it was large and heavy, you know. I was scared by myself."

Glenda took the flashlight into the kitchen, she said, and waited for George. As she sat there, she noticed something out of the corner of her eye. In a window behind her she saw a silhouette. She thought maybe it was a cat, but she wasn't sure. After that, George returned.

He walked in through the utility room, which was beside the kitchen at the rear of the house. He looked a little pale, she said. They asked each other about the scream. George said he'd gone looking to see if anything was wrong. The two of them hugged and kissed. Glenda asked if he was coming to bed. He said sure, as soon as he put away his tools and locked up everything. Then he came in, took a shower and joined her in bed.

"Did you find anything unusual about the fact that George took a shower before he came to bed?"

"No. He always takes a shower before he goes to bed."

"Glenda," Paver said, "from the time that you heard the scream that woke you up until the time that you actually saw George coming up the walk — can you tell us exactly how long that was?"

This was important. Shortly after the murder, Glenda had spoken with her friend Debbie Tosi about the night of the murder. Sgt. Larry Tosi, Debbie's husband, remembered the conversation. He'd told the lawyers about it in one of his depositions. Glenda, he said, told his wife that George was gone that night for "the longest time."

Now, on the stand, with her husband's future in the balance, Glenda said she wasn't sure how long George was gone. She estimated 10 minutes.

"Is that exact? Could it be longer or shorter?"

"It could have been longer."

"Longer?"

"Yeah."

"No further questions."

Any one of the three prosecutors could have cross-examined Glenda.

But the one chosen for the job was William Loughery, who at 29 was the youngest member of the state's team. He was the one with the amiable good looks and the fresh, clean face, the one who would be hardest for the jurors to dislike, even if he was about to fire some tough questions at the defendant's vulnerable wife.

"Good morning, Ms. Lewis," Loughery said.

"Good morning."

Loughery began where Paver had left off, on the question of how long George was out of the house that night. Politely, Loughery reminded Glenda that she had once said that George was gone for a long time. In fact, hadn't she said 20 to 30 minutes?

"No," said Glenda. A chill entered her voice. "I don't recall saying that."

"Do you recall telling Debbie Tosi that?"

"Debbie Tosi? No."

Loughery asked Glenda if it was true that she had become pregnant with George's first child around May 1984, the same month as the murder.

"Right," Glenda said. "But I didn't know it until a couple of months later."

There were other pressures around that time. Glenda and George weren't the only people living in that house. There was George's sister, Mary, and his friend, Mike Blank. Just before the murder, Blank had moved out. Wasn't it true, Loughery said, that there was friction in the house? Glenda said yes. It was hard with that many people together, she said. And after the murder, didn't Glenda herself move out for several months? No, Glenda said. She was only gone for about a month and a half, she said.

Loughery kept going. Didn't George have knives in the garage with his tools? Glenda said she didn't pay attention to his tools. What about his feet? Didn't he often go barefoot around the house and in the yard? Yes. And when he was done working outside, wasn't he in the habit of hosing himself off before he went into the house? Yes. He hosed himself off, Glenda said, when it was warm outside.

The prosecutor stopped. The murder, the jurors knew, had happened in May. Late May.

"It was warm in May," he said. "Wasn't it?"

"I don't remember the weather really."

She looked nervous now.

"Isn't it a fact," Loughery said, "that your memory of what George looked like that night is pretty vague?"

"It didn't seem important."

"You don't even know if he had a shirt on, do you?"

"I don't remember. I can't say at all."

"And you don't know if the reason he looked pale or not is because he just killed somebody. Right?"

Glenda stared at the prosecutor. "I know he didn't kill anybody," she said.

When Loughery finished, Paver went back to the lectern. He asked Glenda about that crucial moment when George returned to the house.

She'd already said she wasn't sure how he was dressed.

"Did you notice," Paver asked, "whether or not George was wet?"

Glenda's face brightened. "No, he couldn't have been wet, because I would have been wet. I hugged him."

"So he was or was not wet?"

"No."

"When the hose was turned on outside your house, could you hear the hose on out there?"

"Yes."

"Did you hear the hose on that night before George came in?"

"No. I was sitting right there next to the window."

A few minutes later, Glenda was done. Judge Farnell looked over toward the defense table.

"Call your next witness."

Ciarciaglino stood up.

"Call Mr. George Lewis."

***

In the movies, the man on trial almost always takes the stand. It's dramatic. It's powerful. It satisfies the audience's desire to let the accused have his say. But in real criminal trials, it often doesn't happen.

Knowing they have the right to remain silent, many defendants do just that. There's too much to lose. If you testify, the state may be allowed to ask about convictions in your past — a question that's generally prohibited as long as you stay out of the witness box. Even if you have been unjustly accused, you run the risk that you won't be articulate or believable enough, that you'll squirm and sweat as the prosecution challenges you. Say nothing, and you're still presumed innocent. Testify, and you could end up talking your life away.

Yet there had never been much doubt that Lewis would take the stand. He had no convictions to hide. He was clean-cut and polite, a husband and father, a helpful neighbor, a firefighter. At the same time, points had been raised that begged an explanation. In his final statement to the police — the statement that Sgt. Tosi and Lt. Frank Hanson had tape-recorded and that the prosecution had played for the jury — Lewis had spoken of seeing Karen lying on the floor of her house with her throat cut open. But he also said that the lights in the house were off. The jurors knew that without lights it was too dark to see anything in the hallway where Karen's body was found. The prosecution had proved it. So how could George have seen Karen and her wounds?

There were other questions. Why had George been so afraid to call the police when the chief detective in the case was a friend? Where had he gotten the white teddy that he'd given to his former girlfriend, Tonja Dishong?

For two weeks, Lewis had sat quietly beside his lawyers, taking notes. Outside the courtroom, he'd sat with his mother, chatted with his friends from the fire department, stood still while Glenda straightened his tie. When he walked past the cameras that waited for him outside the courthouse, he smiled. When he swam in the pool at their motel, he floated happily in the water, not seeming to realize why anyone might have thought it strange to see him there. It was as though he did not understand the seriousness of his situation. But he did. One night during the trial, Glenda wanted to go out. It was her birthday, and someone had suggested that George take her somewhere nice for dinner. But George was reluctant. He didn't want to stray too far from the motel. He said he didn't want to disappear, even for a few hours, and have people think he had run away.

"George, you're going to have to speak up now."

He leaned closer to the microphone. He turned his brown eyes toward the jurors. He spoke softly, tentatively.

"George," said Ciarciaglino, "let's go to the early morning hours of May 23rd, 1984. Did you hear a scream?"

"I heard what appeared to be a scream."

"Where were you?"

"I was inside my garage behind my house."

George said he often worked out there past midnight. His shift at the fire station made it easy to stay up late. He'd work for 24 hours, then be off for 48 hours. That night, he knew he didn't have to get up in the morning. He'd gotten off work earlier that day — Tuesday — and did not have to return until Thursday. So he was in the garage, welding and listening to the radio. He was wearing a T-shirt and shorts, he said. Over those clothes, he wore a long-sleeved flannel shirt and jeans so he wouldn't be burned during the welding. He'd also been wearing boots, he said, but his feet had hurt and he'd taken them off.

Then he heard what he thought was a scream, he said. He turned down the radio, shut off the garage light and stood there for 30 seconds or so, allowing his eyes to adjust to the darkness. He wasn't sure where the sound had come from. He went out and walked up and down the street, looking. He was walking past the corner of Karen's yard, he said, when he noticed someone moving on the grass. A man — the bearded stranger the jurors had already heard about — was walking across Karen's yard.

George asked the man if anything was wrong. The man, George said, told him to get lost, to not say he'd seen him, to get the hell out of there. George went back to his own property. From there, he watched the man walk north, along Upton Street and out of sight. By this point, George said, he was not particularly afraid. He wanted to find out why this stranger had tried to scare him away.

"Why didn't you just call the police then?"

"I wanted to investigate it more. I had done that before."

So he went back to Karen's house, he said. He went to the front door, the jalousie door that led from the front walk onto the porch, and saw glass on the walk. Now he was sure something was wrong. He knocked on the door. No one answered. He walked around the house. He found another door and knocked again. No answer. He walked around to the other side of the house. He found a window, the only one with its shades open. The curtains were partially open. Through the window he could see some light.

"A faint light? A strong light?"

"It was a faint light."

He called out. He asked if anyone needed help. No answer. He peered inside and saw a body lying on the floor. From where he stood, he could see only the lower part of the body.

"At that time, I felt that somebody needed help, and I crawled through the window."

"Why? Why did you go through the window?"

"At that time, that was the way in."

"Have you ever gone into houses and through windows before?"

"Yes, sir."

"When?"

"On several occasions with the fire department. We were trained to make entry in through windows."

"Tell us what happened when you got inside."

"When I got inside, I saw a person, which was a female, white female. And when I took a look, there was blood all over the place.

There was enough light in there to where I could see it. And she was laying there half-nude and I got scared."

"Could you tell what happened to her?"

"I couldn't tell what type of injuries she had, but I knew that something definitely terrible had happened."

"Did you touch her?"

"No, sir."

"Take her pulse?"

"No, sir."

"Why not?"

"At that time, I felt as though there was nothing I could do that would help."

"Why?"

"She appeared to me as though she was dead."

"How close to her did you get?"

"Within a few feet."

"Did you realize that at any time you had stepped in blood?"

"No, sir."

"What did you do then after looking at her and seeing this blood?"

"I started to get sick, and I ran into what was the bathroom then, and I threw up."

"Where was this light coming from?"

"It was coming from the bathroom."

"What did you do then after you threw up?"

"I got out of there."

"Anything happen on the way out?"

"As I was running around the corner into the bedroom to go through the window, I — off the corner of my right — I saw movement, and I thought somebody was jumping after me. And after, I realized that it was the mirror and all I saw was my reflection in the mirror."

He crawled out the window. He ran back toward his property, he said. He thought that the man he'd seen might have gone over there, looking for him. He went up to a window of his house and peered inside.

But he couldn't see through the window's blinds. He went to the garage and shut its door. He went back to his house, entering through the utility room. There, he took off the flannel shirt and jeans.

"How long did that take?"

"About 10 seconds."

"Why did you take off your flannel shirt and the jeans in the utility room?"

"That was something I always did whenever I came in from the garage or anything like that. That was where I always kept my work clothes."

Glenda was waiting for him. She mentioned the silhouette she'd seen at the window. She asked if it had been him, standing outside their house. George said no. "Why did you tell her no?"

"I don't know, sir. I was just shaken up. I was terrified of what I had seen."

"George, why didn't you just call the police now and tell them what you had seen?"

"I was scared and terrified. And besides, with being inside there after that, I didn't know how to explain being in there without them thinking that I did it."

That was the essence of it: He heard the scream and saw the man on the lawn. He crawled inside to help, saw Karen's body, panicked. He decided to keep what he had seen to himself.

Now Ciarciaglino tried to fill in the blanks.

"Did you take a teddy out of the house, this white lady's undergarment that we saw?"

"No, sir."

"Okay. You saw Miss Tonja here tell us that you gave her a — this particular lady's undergarment or negligee, I guess they're called."

"Yes, sir."

"Do you know where you bought that?"

"No, sir. I don't recall exactly where I bought it at."

Carefully, Ciarciaglino guided George from one point to the next.

Did he tell Glenda about what he'd seen that night? No. He didn't tell anyone. He wanted to, he said, but he was too afraid and did not know how to tell what had had happened. Why did he repeatedly change his account with the police, gradually giving new details? Why didn't he just say nothing? Because even though he was afraid, he said, he wanted to help the police as best he could. What about the composite drawing of the man on the lawn? Did George help Sgt. Tosi put it together? Yes.

They'd worked on it for more than an hour. George had done his best to make it look like the man on the lawn.

Ciarciaglino walked toward the stand and handed George several sheets of paper. Each was marked with a drawing of a bearded man.

"What are they, George?"

"This is the composite that I helped Sgt. Tosi do."

Ciarciaglino handed him another exhibit. It was a photograph of Kenneth Kuhar, Peter Kumble's roommate. The photo had been taken in fall 1986 by the private investigator hired by the defense lawyers. It was blurry, but it showed Kuhar, with a beard.

"Is that the person you saw that night, George?"

"It sure looks like him. I can't swear to it, but that's him."

"Okay. Does he look like the composite you drew?"

"Yes, he does."

Ciarciaglino handed the photo and the composite drawing to the jurors. One by one, they looked at the two. When they were done, Ciarciaglino asked George if he'd ever seen the man on the lawn before that night.

"No, sir."

"Had you ever met Kenneth Kuhar before?"

"No, sir."

"George, did you rape Karen Gregory?"

"No, sir, I did not."

"Did you murder Karen Gregory?"

"No, sir."

***

Richard Mensh, the senior prosecutor, did not bother to say good morning.

"Mr. Lewis?" he said, looking disgustedly across the room at the witness.

"Yes, sir."

"Today you're under oath. Correct?"

"Correct."

With that, the questions began. Mensh reminded Lewis that when he stood in his own garage he could see across the street into the house Karen had shared with David Mackey.

"Correct?"

"I would assume, yes."

Assuming wasn't good enough. The point was too important. If Lewis had a clear view of the house from his garage, he could have watched Karen's movements and seen she was alone that night. So Mensh asked again: Could Lewis see inside the house?

"Yes."

Lewis, Mensh noted, had just told the jury he was working in the garage that night. He'd explained how he took off his boots before he heard the scream.

"So you were barefoot then. Is that correct?"

"Yes, sir."

Mensh reminded Lewis that he'd told Lt. Hanson and Sgt. Tosi differently. On the tape of his final statement to the detectives — the tape the jurors had heard earlier in the trial — he had said he was not barefoot that night. Hadn't he?

"Yes, sir."

"That wasn't true, was it?"

"No, it wasn't."

"So that was really just a lie to Lt. Hanson on the day of the tape, right?"

"Yes, sir."

Mensh paused a moment and allowed that word to sink in. Lie.

Lewis was telling them that he'd seen this strange man on the lawn, then gone into Karen's house, seen her, then gone back to his own home.

This would have been in the early hours of a Wednesday. What about the next day, Mensh said. Didn't he return to work at the fire station that Thursday? Yes.

"Performed your duties in your normal routine fashion, right?"

"No, sir. I was upset Thursday."

"But yet you weren't upset enough even on Thursday to tell any of your co-workers, right?"

"I was upset, but I was afraid to tell anybody."

But isn't it true, Mensh said, that firefighters depend on each other in a special way? Aren't they a close-knit society? Yes, said Lewis. To a point, he said. Didn't he have close friends in the fire department? Yes. Didn't he have close friends in the police department, too? Sgt. Tosi was a friend, wasn't he?

"He was a friend, yes. But he wasn't close, what I call close."

"He was close enough that you wanted him to have the privilege of performing the wedding ceremony for you and your wife. Correct?"

"Yes, we had him do that."

"And you had been at his house many times before Karen Gregory was killed, hadn't you?"

"Yes, on several occasions."

"You had confidence in Sgt. Tosi. Otherwise, you wouldn't have had this relationship with him, right?"

"I had confidence to a point, yes."

"Now it's 'to a point'?"

"Well, I had confidence in him, but everybody has doubts about everybody."

"And even at that time, you never bothered to say anything to Sgt. Tosi, did you?"

"No, sir, I didn't."

Mensh wanted to go back to this man on the lawn. This man — "this alleged person," Mensh called him — told Lewis to go away? Yes. And yet Lewis was not afraid after the man said this? No. He decided to investigate around Karen's house? Yes.

"I'm telling the truth here today," Lewis said.

Mensh stared at him in disbelief. He reminded the witness that he'd said he wanted to help the police. Wasn't that what he'd just told the jury? Yes. Did he think he was "helping" the detectives, Mensh said, by lying to them? Did he think he was "helping" by frustrating the investigation and prolonging it? No, Lewis said. He wasn't suggesting that, he said.

"I was afraid to tell them the truth," he said.

Mensh scoffed. There was no one else at the house that night, he said. "There was no one else in the house but you, Mr. Lewis, who had gone over there earlier in an attempt to have sex with Karen Gregory, who told you no, and that's when you became enraged, assaulted her and then cut her throat, slashed her about the body and left her for dead.

Isn't that what happened?"

"No, it isn't," said Lewis.

Having tried the blunt approach, Mensh returned to picking away at details. He kept moving back and forth through time with his questions.

He dragged Lewis back through each section of his testimony.

Lewis was telling them that he'd seen Karen lying on the floor in her blood. Yet he didn't even touch her? Correct. But the medical examiner, Mensh pointed out, had testified that Karen could have lived for several minutes after the attack. Had Lewis heard that testimony?

Yes. But wasn't he supposed to be the neighborhood crime watch, the man who helped his neighbors? Yes. Wasn't he also a firefighter, trained for medical emergencies? Yes.

"And you're suggesting to the jury that you didn't even bother to look to see whether that girl was alive or dead?"

"I was too upset."

"Too upset to even immediately pick up the telephone, if you didn't want to touch that girl, to call 911? Right?"

"Yes."

Mensh wanted to talk about Lewis' getting sick inside the house.

Before today, had he ever told anybody else that he'd thrown up in that bathroom? Yes, Lewis said, he'd told his lawyers. Anybody other than them? No. So this was yet another addition to his story? Yes. And when he threw up, Mensh asked, was he calm and collected enough to flush the toilet? Yes. Did he clean up the bathroom afterward?

"No, sir," Lewis said. "I didn't make a mess."

Mensh asked Lewis to think back to his arrest on March 15, 1986.

That was the day Sgt. Tosi and Lt. Hanson told him his footprint had been found inside the house. But they didn't say exactly where, Mensh said, did they? No, Lewis said, they didn't. That was a long time ago, Mensh said. Plenty of time for Lewis to review the evidence — and to learn that the footprint was in the bathroom. And now, having learned that, he was telling them this new detail about throwing up in that room. Wasn't that what Lewis was telling them?

"I'm telling you the truth," Lewis said again.

"All right."

Mensh circled back. He wanted to go over the details of how Lewis approached Karen's house that night. Lewis had testified that he walked up to the front door before he went to the window and climbed inside.

But wasn't the front door open?

"It might have been ajar," Lewis said, "but it wasn't open."

Mensh stopped. So the door was "ajar," not open. But Lewis could have walked right inside the house, correct? Yes. Wouldn't that have been easier than climbing through a window? Did he even try the door?

No. Then there were the neighbors. Karen's scream had awakened at least a dozen neighbors. Several had gone to their windows and stood there, watching and listening for any further sign of trouble. Two of them had a clear view of Karen's house and the corner of 27th Avenue and Upton Street. One of them looked out at the area just north of the house, the direction in which the man on the lawn supposedly had disappeared. Yet none of them saw Lewis walking in the street, checking the neighborhood. None of them saw or heard him talking to a man on the corner, or walking up to Karen's front door, or walking around to the bedroom window, or climbing inside.

Lewis, Mensh pointed out, had heard those neighbors testify to those things in court. Hadn't he?

"Yes, sir."

Did he know of any reason why they would tell anything but the truth?

"No." Mensh wanted to return to the question of why Lewis had not called the police. Wasn't he telling them that he hadn't called because he thought he would be accused of the murder? Yes. But what about an anonymous tip? Couldn't he have called the police without giving his name?

"You didn't even do that, did you?"

"I didn't even think about that."

Contempt rose in Mensh's voice. "You walked out of the house and left this girl, who you knew being dead, just to sit there a day, two days, literally rotting, without notifying anybody. Right?"

"That's correct."

Mensh didn't want to leave this point. Lewis was afraid of being accused — was that right? Yes. But not too afraid, Mensh noted, to send the police chasing after other suspects. Not too afraid to give a statement that led the detectives to check out a man who mowed David Mackey's grass — a man, the jurors knew, who didn't even have the same color of skin as this alleged intruder on the lawn. One day not long before the murder, this man who mowed for David had suffered a seizure at the house. A rescue truck was called, and Lewis saw the truck and went over to see if he could help. Later, after the murder, he pointed the police toward this man.

It was all in Lewis' first statement, the statement he gave on the day Karen's body was found. It was written in his own cursive hand, in his own misspelled words, on a piece of paper. Lewis had underlined the last two words in that section of the statement. The jurors had already read it.

Ive seen 2 Blacks mowing the lawn, arrox. age about midd 30's-40's also one of them had a sezuire about 1 or 2 months ago and Rescue 1 ran on it, they should have a report with his name.

Lewis said he didn't mean to send the police chasing after other suspects.

"That's what you did, though," said Mensh. "Isn't it?"

"Yes, it is."

"You even wanted them to believe that Mr. Kumble did it, didn't you?"

"To this day, I don't know if he did it or not."

Yet he had pointed the finger at Kumble, hadn't he? He saw Kumble stop at the house the night after the murder, then gave the police his description. But Kumble had left a note at the house — a note, the jurors knew, with his name on it. Wasn't that right? Yes. And what had Lewis left at that house? Wasn't he the one, Mensh said, who left a bloody footprint? Yes.

Sitting behind Mensh at the state's table, Beverly Andrews, one of the other prosecutors, scribbled something on a piece of paper. She handed it to Mensh. He paused, read it, then looked back at Lewis.

What about the light, Mensh said. Lewis was telling them that a light was on inside the house that night. Right? Yes, Lewis said. In the bathroom, he said. But on the tape — the tape made by Lt. Hanson and Sgt. Tosi, the one the jurors had heard — didn't he say there were no lights on in the house?

"Yes, sir."

"And now you're suggesting that also was a lie to Lt. Hanson on tape?"

"Yes, sir."

"Lying is helping the police?"

"No, sir."

"And yet you had lied to Tosi, right?"

"Yes, I did."

"You lied to your wife, right?"

"Yes, I did."

"You lied to the people at work, right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Your family, right?"

"Yes, sir."

"And today, for the first time, we hear how the footprint got in the bathroom. Is that correct?"

"Yes, sir," Lewis said. He looked straight at the prosecutor. "The truth is my best defense."

Everybody has doubts about everybody.

That was what Lewis had said. With one sentence, he had struck at the heart of it all. Because if this case was about anything, it was about the limits of trust. Can we assume the benevolence of our neighbors? Ask those who lived on the streets where Karen had lived.

How much faith should we place in our friends? Ask Larry Tosi. And what do we really know about the person who climbs into bed beside us? Can we be sure where our lover has been? No matter what she believed, no matter which way the jury voted, Glenda Lewis would live with these questions for the rest of her life.

***

"Call your next witness," said the judge.

"The defense rests," said Ciarciaglino.

The testimony was not quite over yet. Now that the defense had spoken, the state had the right to answer. The prosecutors called two people briefly to the stand.

The first was Kenneth Kuhar. On this day, Kuhar had no beard. He acknowledged, under questioning by Loughery, that he had worn a beard in the past. But when Karen was killed in May 1984, he said, he was clean-shaven. There were other differences between him and the alleged man on the lawn. As the jurors already knew, Lewis had described the man as about 6-2 to 6-4, weighing about 230 pounds, with hair that was light red or auburn, a light red or sandy beard, sideburns, a pitted complexion, broad shoulders and muscular arms.

Kuhar was 5-foot-11, with brown hair, a smooth complexion and arms that were by no means muscular. At the time of the murder, he said, he weighed only 140 to 150 pounds and did not wear sideburns. As for his beard — the one he'd been wearing when the defense took his photo — he said he usually wore a beard during the winter, then shaved it off.

On cross-examination, Ciarciaglino focused on this point. "Evidently," he said, "you grow and shave off beards pretty regular.

Is that right?"

"Not pretty regularly, no, sir."

"And when you shaved the beard off, it was just before the last time the case was set for trial, wasn't it?"

"No, sir."

When Kuhar was done, the prosecution recalled Sgt. Tosi to the stand. Lewis had told the jury that he ran into the bathroom, threw up, then ran out — all without cleaning up. Now, Tosi tried to show that this explanation was impossible. It was clear that Lewis had blood on at least one of his feet and had set that foot down on the bathroom's tile floor. But the footprint, Tosi pointed out, was found just beyond the doorway, about five feet from the toilet. There were no other footprints in the bathroom, Tosi said. There was a small blood spot on a green throw rug, he said, but the rug was close to the solitary footprint.

The question was obvious: How could Lewis have reached the toilet without leaving any other trace of his footsteps?

"Anything further?" said Farnell.

"No, sir," said Mensh.

Tosi stood up and left the courtroom. With that, the testimony ended. All that remained was for the lawyers to deliver their closing arguments and for Farnell to give his final instructions. Then the jurors would be sent out to deliberate.

That afternoon, the lawyers met with Farnell in chambers to hammer out the precise wording of his instructions. They argued for hours, because they knew that the jurors would take typed copies of the instructions with them into the jury room. That text would be the jurors' only guidance on how to apply the law to this case and how to conduct their deliberations. It would be their Bible. A slight change in the phrasing here or the addition of a paragraph there might mean the difference between conviction and acquittal.

Ciarciaglino and Paver, as it happened, had tried to include something in the instructions that might tilt the odds in their favor.

They'd asked for the addition of an unusual sentence. A "zinger," the judge called it. It said: The fact that a person charged with a crime who was free on bond appeared for all required court appearances may be considered evidence of consciousness of innocence.

Translated into plain English: When you sit down in that jury room, remember this: Lewis did not run. He showed up at the trial, every day, on his own. Would a guilty man do that?

It was certainly no secret to the jurors that Lewis was out on bond. At first, when they'd seen him sitting at the defense table in his suit and tie, some of them had mistaken him for a lawyer. They'd assumed the defendant in a murder case would be in custody. The fact that Lewis was allowed to wander on his own had led at least one juror to wonder whether the state's case was weak. Now, with their "zinger," the defense attorneys had asked Farnell to encourage such thinking. They had asked him to give the credence of the law to the notion that innocent men show up for trial.

Farnell wouldn't do it.

"Good argument," he said. "But not good jury instruction."

Closing arguments were heard the next day — Saturday, June 13. That morning, the courtroom was packed. Karen's mother and two brothers were in their usual seats in the first row.

First, Bill Loughery spoke for the state. Then Joe Ciarciaglino spoke for the defense. Then came Mensh, bringing up the rear, speaking again for the state. They went at it for hours, their voices rising and falling and rising again like preachers delivering a marathon sermon.

The attorneys wound through the days of testimony, making connections, drawing conclusions, urging the jurors to use their common sense, to remember their duty, to follow the law, to bring back a verdict that spoke the truth. But the two sides could not agree on what the truth was.

Mensh and Loughery said the evidence was overwhelming. George Lewis, they said, was a rapist, a murderer and a liar — a poor liar at that. He went to Karen's house that night, knowing she was alone, and made sexual advances, they said. When Karen rejected him, he forced himself on her, then killed her so she wouldn't identify him. In the months that followed, they said, he trapped himself in one conflicting story after the other. He had talked his way into this courtroom, and even then, he'd kept talking. Only the day before, he'd given yet another account brimming with contradictions and inconsistencies.

Now Lewis and his attorneys wanted the jury to believe that Peter Kumble was the real murderer and that Kenneth Kuhar was the stranger on the lawn that night. The prosecutors scoffed. This was the final insult to the jurors' intelligence, they said. From the start, they said, Lewis had pointed the finger at others. He'd even pointed at the man who mowed Karen's and David's lawn - a man who clearly did not match George's description of the stranger he saw. Why, the prosecution asked, would Lewis have done that? If he weren't the murderer, why would he have tried to drag an innocent man into the case?

When it came time for the defense to speak, Ciarciaglino didn't exactly answer that question. Instead, he attacked the prosecutors' case.

"Look at two sides of everything," he told the jurors at one point, "and you'll see they ain't got it, folks."

Ciarciaglino leaned against the lectern, his suit jacket unbuttoned, a straightened paper clip dangling from his mouth like a silver piece of straw. His country twang, which had faded in and out over the past several days, now returned in full strength.

There were some hard questions that should be asked of Kumble and Kuhar, Ciarciaglino said. He acknowledged that he could not prove that these two men had anything to do with the murder. But the state, he said, had not proved that his client was the killer, either. There was no question, he said, that George had made a mistake. He'd played police officer. He heard Karen scream and saw the stranger on the lawn, and then he was foolish enough to climb through that window to help Karen. Once he did that, he realized no one would believe him. So he lied.

Now, the prosecutors were trying to say that George's lies showed that he was guilty. What had they offered to prove it? Circumstantial evidence, Ciarciaglino said. He spoke these last two words almost as though they were a crime unto themselves. Actually, there is nothing wrong with circumstantial evidence. It's perfectly legal and can be conclusive or inconclusive, just like other evidence. One study after another has shown, for instance, that eyewitness statements are often wrong. Still, years of TV drama have left the public with the impression that anything "circumstantial" is suspect.

The evidence was not even clear, Ciarciaglino said, that Karen Gregory had been raped in the first place. The medical examiner had found semen inside her. But how could they be sure, Ciarciaglino asked, that Gregory hadn't willingly had sex with someone in the hours before the murder? Wasn't it possible, he suggested, that she had gone drinking late that night? Couldn't a man, he suggested, have gone home with her?

Ciarciaglino made sure he talked, too, about the white teddy. David Mackey had testified that the teddy submitted as evidence looked exactly like the one supposedly missing from Karen's belongings. But that didn't hold up either, Ciarciaglino said. David had seen Karen with the teddy only once, a couple of months before the murder, Ciarciaglino said. If she'd kept it, he said, wouldn't she have worn it for David again? Couldn't she have returned it?

Ciarciaglino was on a roll. He waved his arms. He yelled. He paced back and forth, complaining that the state was playing games.

"This boy's life," he said, extending a finger toward George, "is on the line."

When the lawyers were done talking, Judge Farnell read the jurors his final instructions. He reminded them that Lewis had pleaded not guilty and was presumed innocent unless the state proved the charges beyond and to the exclusion of a reasonable doubt. He explained to them that circumstantial evidence was legal. He told them they were not to be swayed one way or the other because they felt sorry for anybody.

Once they had been sent into the jury room, he said, the 12 of them would have to reach their verdict alone, and they would have to reach it unanimously.

Done reading, the judge looked up from his text.

"Mr. Bailiff," he said, "you may retire the jury."

The jurors walked single file down the aisle to a small room at the back of the courtroom. This was the jury room, where they would sit and talk and try to decide what had happened that night in May 1984.

The door closed behind them.

A Cry in the Night, Part 8: The Good Neighbor 04/10/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 1:35pm]

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