Defense questions police handling of evidence
on November 18, 2010
Richmond Police Officer Joanna Grivetti testified in the Richmond High rape case on Wednesday that she was the first crime scene investigator to take command of the area where police say a student was raped and beaten outside her school’s homecoming dance in October 2009. Grivetti was the sole witness yesterday to testify before the court, where she discussed the details of her evidence marking and collection.
Grivetti described abrasions she found on the victim’s toe knuckles, feet, and knees, which she testified could have been caused by someone pulling or dragging the student across the concrete in the school’s courtyard.
Several defense attorneys objected to Grivetti’s qualifications to provide expert testimony about the causes of the abrasions, and moved to strike any such testimony from the court record.
On Tuesday, Judge Gregory Caskey had overruled similar objections to Grivetti’s testimony.
But on Wednesday after listening to the officer detail her training in wound morphology and identification, Judge Caskey ruled to strike all testimony in which Grivetti described how the student acquired specific wounds.
In her testimony about the inventory of the scene, Grivetti said she placed around 30 small placards next to items of evidentiary interest. These included: a black walkie-talkie radio, a pair of brown pantyhose with a silver high heel inside one of the legs, a red bicycle, white cotton underwear found several feet from the student, a can of the caffeinated alcohol drink Four Loko (under pressure of a pending FDA ban, the maker of Four Loko announced Tuesday it will remove the caffeine from the drink), and a used condom found in a blackberry bush on the northern fence line of the courtyard.
In the three days of the preliminary hearing, several defense attorneys have paid particular attention to the black walkie-talkie radio found in the courtyard.
On Monday, Officer Gunnar Googins testified that he picked up the radio along with a student ID off the ground when he first arrived at the scene. He said he was trying to identify the student, who was unresponsive and needed medical attention.
Googins said he placed both items on a picnic table but lawyers for the defense said he failed to mention certain details in his police report.
In a series of questions, they asked Googins to specify whether or not he wore gloves, how far the ID and radio originally were from each other, and whether the ID and radio had come into contact with one another.
Googins replied that he was unsure and testified that the walkie-talkie and ID may have come into contact with each other when he picked them up. He testified that the walkie-talkie did not come into contact with any other items or the student.
Ernesto Castillo, defense attorney for Ari Morales, asked about the shape of the walkie-talkie and whether any biological fluids had been transferred to the radio in Googin’s handling of it. Googins testified that the antenna of the walkie-talkie was five inches long and wobbly and said there was no transfer of biological fluids.
At present, it is unclear if there is DNA evidence on the walkie-talkie radio linking any of the suspects to the charges.
Charges against the seven suspects include assault, robbery, and forcible rape and rape by a foreign object while acting in concert—the legal terminology for gang rape.
The preliminary hearing will continue today at 9 a.m. in Contra Costa County Superior Court in Martinez.
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