Last week I did an 0verview, a very condensed version, even for ‘Reader’s Digest Condensed Version’, of the trial. Click that link if you are interested in the setup. This is part 2 of "A Tale of 2 Prostitutes."
I wanted to tell the complete story, but the trial took four days and a lot of it didn’t particularly matter at the end of the day, so I needed to edit some out.
Here is a little more detail. It’s a very interesting story. I wish I had time to hone my fiction writing skills and fill in details. There were parts we were not allowed to hear, and I'm still very curious.
They say there are 3 sides to every story:
If you hear a court case, however, there are as many versions of a story as there witnesses. You often don't get the whole picture. Photos, witness accounts and evidence paint most of a picture. Actually it's more like putting together ripped photocopied pieces of a faded painting of an old negative than an actual picture.
You are told things in the way the witnesses, and their lawyer, want you to hear them, and nothing else. You have to make some reasonable assumptions to fill in the rest. Therein lies the problem. This word "reasonable." Everyone has their own idea of reasonable. Especially interesting when the jury is made from a group of Americans, a world where we think reality television is reasonable, and adding words like 'bookaholic' to the Oxford English Dictionary is necessary. Isn't that self explanatory?
On June 26th of 2012, Trina was released from prison. She had served a 6-month sentence, we were never told why she was arrested*. Less than 48 hours later she was dead from a heroin overdose. Those less than 48 hours, especially those last few hours, are mostly what took 4 days to go over in court, and 4 hours for the jury to deliberate over.
(*When the trial was over, I read some articles that said her arrest was drug-related, and some articles claimed it was for prostitution. I imagine attorneys didn’t want us to know this, because it’s easier to be emotional about a dead mother of 5 than it is about a dead hooker. If you watch Law and Order, you know that no one demands justice for dead hookers.)
The state proved that the defendant delivered the drugs. They showed us her taped verbal confession, and written confession, signed by the defendant.
The state proved the deceased had those drugs in her system. A forensic pathologist, whose training and qualifications alone took about a half an hour to go over in court, went over the details of how he knew for a fact that she died of a lethal amount of heroin and cocaine, ingested recently. The morphine in the heroin alone was a lethal amount.
The first witness was Melissa. Melissa is the sister of the deceased. She testified that on June 26, 2012, she and her son were staying with her mother in her 3-bedroom apartment because Melissa recently had surgery. We never knew for what.
I tried hard not to think about the fact that this apartment, that would be the scene of the crime, and the place of a woman’s death by drug overdose, is in my town. Very close to my home, and my family. I drive right past this exact building all the time. I’m not naive, when I’m home I just prefer to think of crime at a distance, at least mentally.
Some time in the evening hours, Trina came home after being released from prison earlier that day. She testified that Trina was happy to be with her family, in good spirits. Their mother had made Trina’s favorite, Italian food, and everyone was happy to see her. They stayed up late talking and planned to have a barbecue by the apartment complex pool the next day.
She was happy, she was with her family. Various witnesses testified to this.
The defense attorney asked her if she saw Trina vomiting that evening. Melissa said no. He consulted his notes and asked her if she recalled telling a detective on the phone (in December, 2013 I believe) that she had witnessed this. She answered the way we heard a lot of questions being answered in this trial, “I don’t recall.”
We wouldn’t know for days why that piece of information was important. Long story short: Morphine, found in heroin, makes people sick to their stomach. So do a lot of things, though.
It’s true that the incident happened two years prior to the trial. It’s true that when it comes to the timeline, it would make sense everyone would not remember the exact time of specific things happening. It’s true that you may forget specific events, and what you told someone on the phone a year and half ago.
What I found interesting is the nature of things that people forgot.
In quotes, “forgot.”
Any other way I can politely say people ARE FULL OF FREAKING BULLSPIT when there is no evidence to prove otherwise.
They all seemed to conveniently forget everything they told detectives before they spoke to a lawyer. The last witness straight up CHANGED her story, and then simply claimed she wasn’t under oath when she said the first thing. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Melissa, again the sister of the deceased, told her story of that next day, June 27th, 2012. The whole family had a barbecue at the pool. Melissa's son, the deceased’s nephew, had to testify in court about the night his aunt died. He happened to be in the bathroom when she wanted to get in. She would never come out of that bathroom alive. He was 14 at that time.
He was not the youngest child there that night, but he was the youngest to testify. He was stoic, he didn’t show any emotion, just answered the questions as if he had practiced them many times. I’m she sure he had.
I’m not sure if it’s tough for everyone to see a 14-year old testify, or if that’s just a bonus prize with the Mom package. His demeanor, his absolute toughness, broke my heart. I had to force myself to concentrate on the case, and not think about my own son at age 14. Or my brother, who was involved with drugs at a young age, and died by suicide at 17. I was 13, and me and my family were never the same after that. I kept thinking about the juror who lost his son to heroin. How was he listening to all of this?? I kept telling myself to listen to the facts. Just listen, this is not about you, or any of the jury.
All of Trina’s 5 children were there, one had a friend overnight, and her mother, sister, and nephew were there. All in the 3-bedroom apartment of their Mother, Denise. At some point Trina’s girlfriend, Lee arrived at the party. They were at the pool for a time, talking. One witness testified they were arguing, but all agreed that most of the day they were in the pool area, generally in plain sight of the entire family.
There is some debate about the exact timeline, where in the area they specifically were, and what happened specifically when. It seemed the defense was trying to prove Trina and Lee were alone.
We know that sometime in the evening hours Lee and Trina went upstairs, from the pool area to the apartment. Trina’s mother Denise testified she was already in the apartment, but no one could remember any exact times, or exactly where they were.
If I think back about parties from 2 years ago, I wouldn’t remember exact times either. Who went where, with whom, at what exact time? Not a chance. Besides, we’re drinkers, I would be lucky to remember anything about any party.
They showed the jury pictures of the pool area, and surrounding walking paths that Trina and Lee had walked on and talked on. They went over how you can see the entire area from the picnic tables, etc. These pictures were taken later with other people from the apartment complex in the pictures. The defense attorney tried to object to us seeing some of those photos, maybe because there were children in the photos. The judge asked us to realize the people in the photos have nothing to do with the case, and are not related to anyone involved, they are just to set the scene.
We found it interesting there were children in the photos. You could easily find, or even take, a photo of the pool with no one in it. Out of curiosity I went to the website of those apartments, and what do you know? There are photos of the pool area, sans innocent children.
This was also taken from the “Features” section of the apartments web site. Yes, I’m a fan of dark humor.
Though just west of Chicago, you’ll find there is rarely a need to leave, as there is never a dull moment in this vibrant community.
Every witness who testified does remember that around the time the pool closed, 8:00pm, everyone was upstairs in the apartment. Most were in the living room area. Some of the children were in Trina’s son’s room. Trina was braiding Lee’s hair on the couch, and at some point Lee fell asleep.
Sometime later, Lee’s roommate came to pick her up. Enter Jody. Jody is the defendant in this case.
Lee and Trina went down to the car, all testified they were gone only 5-10 minutes at the most. During these 5-10 minutes, Jody testifies to giving Trina a hug, and at that time she handed Trina a dirty sock containing the following:
2 tin foil bindles* of heroin
1 1x1 in. plastic ziptop bag of crack cocaine
1 cooking spoon
1 glass pipe
* Here a bindle means an envelope made to carry drugs.
This an example picture, to show tin foil bindles. from digitaljournal.com
Once Lee left, Trina immediately went upstairs to the apartment and told her family she needed to take a shower. Her nephew was in the bathroom, he testified she made him leave the bathroom, and she appeared anxious. She kept ‘touching her top’ according to 2 witnesses.
She turned on the shower at some point.
The next thing we know happened is that Lee started to call the apartment, wanting to speak to Trina. Trina’s son, who was 18 when he testified, and 16 at the time this happened, told us that he answered the phone, and told Lee that Trina was taking a shower. Trina would have to call Lee back. Lee insisted it was urgent, she needed to talk to Trina immediately. Eventually he hung up. He said he hung up on her because Lee was ‘yelling at him.’ Lee called back several times.
Lee testified that she called the apartment 40-50 times that evening. She eventually spoke to Denise, Trina’s mother, and told her: “...someone gave Trina drugs, you need to call the police. Now. Call 911!” Denise testified that Lee sounded panicked, it was urgent.
We were never sure about the ‘call 911’ part. I’ll get to that.
At this point, Denise knocked on the door and got no answer from Trina. She and her grandson, Trina’s son that testified, took the doorknob off of the door. They could see through the hole where the knob had been that Trina was passed out against the door. She would not answer them, or move. They couldn’t get the door open.
They called the police. The first responding officer shouldered the bathroom door open. A second officer had arrived and they both removed Trina from the bathroom so they could start CPR. She was unresponsive. They tested her for defibrillation, but there was no heartbeat. They used an I/O needle (put directly into the bone, faster than finding a vein) in an to attempt to revive her, as is their standard procedure. She never responded.
They recovered all evidence from the scene, as they were trained, and they took her to the nearest hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 2a.m.
This is the same hospital where my daughter was born, less than six months later, I tried not to think about that. That’s how hospitals work.
We were told whenever someone is pronounced dead at an E/R, an autopsy is performed. The forensic pathologist who performed her autopsy was a witness. A key witness for me, and most jurors. More on that in the next post.
Back to Lee.
Lee's testimony is one of the things that I cannot get out of my head. It stays with me even now, weeks later. She was completely different than every other witness. The other witnesses were well spoken, nicely dressed for court, and polite. Lee strut-walked dramatically up to the stand, wearing a sleeveless shirt, shorts, not-tied Jordans (w/laces, btw) and for some reason she had a few rubber bands on her wrists.
I can't stop wondering why there were there.
What were they for?
Why wouldn't you take these off for court, whatever they were for?
She moved her arms and the rubber bands would slide up and down her arms, it was distracting to me. At times she would touch them and look at Jody.
Did I imagine that? No. I remember that happening at least a couple times. She would smile ever so slightly at Jody, right in front of all of us. Jody did not smile back.
Lee was not polite, not in any way. She answered the way an angry, rebellious teen would answer their parents. For as young as clearly was, she was beyond cocky, as an untouchable higher-up movie mobster would be. She freely told us about her drug habits, she wasn't the least bit ashamed. She was confident. She was not going to get into trouble.
Why was she so confident?
Was it an act?
Did she know something?
She had a muffled voice and she mumbled with an accent, some words were difficult to understand. I wish I could remember more examples, but she pronounced heroin as "hair-wan." Almost one syllable. When asked to repeat that, she would bark the word in a cold but louder, mean voice, and we would all squirm. How dare someone make her repeat herself.
At one point she was asked why it took so long for the police to get a hold of her to ask her questions after Trina died. There was some back and forth, and finally she answered that there was a warrant out for her arrest at that time, so she wasn't going to talk to no cops.
She furiously spat that out and gave the state's attorney such a cold-blooded, look of rage-hate that it would have made my bladder instantly drain were it directed at me. It almost did. I sat there trying not to physically nod in agreement, like "Sure sure, that makes perfect sense." Her angry voice even woke up the ever-snoozing bailiff.
I am not even sure why exactly, but I felt afraid of her. She looked over at the jury many times purposely, and slowly. I willed myself not to look away, not to smile moronically, and not to tremble with flop sweat. When my eyes met hers for a second, I saw behind them a dark depth I have no experience with. I caught just a nano-second glimpse of things they have seen, and I went cold all over.
Have you ever been in the presence of someone larger than their body? This is a person who never worries about being mugged, or audited by the IRS. She gave off a tense vibe, but you also knew that she could make things happen. She could provide you with whatever you would want that you may not be able to find on your own, or she could summon a demon from the bowels of the underworld. Or maybe from her own actual bowels. As a mother, I really need to work on that vibe.
She testified that during the time of June 26-27th, 2012, she was dating Trina. She told us they met because she sold drugs, and Trina bought drugs. She told us that Trina and Jody prostituted themselves. She said she never did.
She said that Trina and Jody shot heroin, they shared needles, and smoked crack. Lee never used a needle, she would snort 'hairwan.' Her other drug of choice was pot and her favorite flavor (?) was wikki-sticks. I'm proud to say I have no idea how to spell that.
|Doesn't the polka dot cloth make it look FUN? from statlabs.com|
I hope you don't already know that this particular poison is marijuana cigarettes dipped in embalming fluid. The high is like that of PCP.
I'm far from an innocent prude, but in my humble opinion: BARF. Why not just snort rat poison and be done with it? You can get that at a hardware store.
When the defense attorney tried to push the fact that Lee was in control of these relationships, she was their dealer, she was the pimp, never the prostitute. Trina and Lee were just addicts, Lee held the drugs and called the shots. After Lee's testimony this made sense. That also did not matter to Jody's defense.
What stuck with me, and still does, is this:
Why did Lee call so many times that night and tell Denise, Trina's mother, to call 911? This makes no sense.
Was she simply concerned after she knew Trina wasn’t answering the door?
Did Jody tell her something in the car that was specific about the drugs that made her worry?
Lee testified that she and Trina were snorting heroin and doing crack just the day before this.
The only difference I see this time is the needle. Why would Trina having a needle suddenly warrant a 911 call?
Lee also testified that she promised Trina she would not tell Trina’s family that she was doing heroin again. She told us this is why she had told the police in an earlier interview (December, 2013) that Trina did not do any drugs with her that day. When asked why she changed her testimony, she simply said now she's under oath.
WHY then, would she keep calling that night and speak to her mother, and tell her mother someone gave her drugs, and to call 911? This was the ONE PIECE that did put reasonable doubt into my mind for awhile, because it didn’t make sense.
Did it have something to do with WHERE the heroin came from?
Lee testified that the day before Trina “went next door” and got heroin, they lived next door to a drug house. This heroin, this particular, fatal batch was from another source.
Was there something worrisome to Lee about heroin from this other person?
Did it have to do with Jody’s previous complaint to the dealer about the quality of his last product? (In her interview she said the last bag she got from him was ‘all dorm,’ or cut with too much antihistamine, more on that next post.)
Maybe this batch of heroin was more pure? That would be more harsh for Trina who was relatively clean then, having just gotten out of prison. Maybe Lee knew that people fresh out of rehab and prison can easily overdose.
It's possible Lee had given Trina the drugs the day before, and Lee had cut the heroin down a lot so she wasn't worried about that as much.
Ultimately, it did not matter.
I will post the next part in the next couple of days.
Again, I'm not trying to be all "Tuuune in next week when we learn about the inept practices of my town's police department!"
Though that is, among other things, what the next post will entail. Along with the defendant's awful-quality interview, and her confession that would seal her fate.