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Poor Homicide Investigation=No Charges?

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  • Poor Homicide Investigation=No Charges?

    Wow! This is a new idea for a defense. The attorney for an accused LAPD detective has requested that the murder case against his client be dropped, because the investigators originally assigned to the case were negligent by not identifying her as the suspect earlier!

    "LAPD Detective Accused in 1986 Slaying Seeks Dismissal of Charges

    An L.A. police detective accused of murdering her ex-boyfriend's wife was deprived of her constitutional rights, her lawyer said today, and the case against her should be dismissed.

    In a 20-page motion filed this morning, defense attorney Mark E. Overland argued that police investigators who handled the 1986 murder missed obvious clues and evidence that should have identified his client, Stephanie Lazarus, as a suspect.

    That oversight, Overland said in the novel legal gambit, deprived Lazarus of her due process rights since she must now defend herself against the charges 23 years after the crime, when much of the evidence has been damaged or lost and many of the witnesses' memories have faded.

    Overland inventoried several crucial elements of the case file that he said authorities cannot locate today, including audio-taped witness interviews, tapes of 911 calls and other police communications, gun-residue analysis and the victim's toxicology report.

    Also unaccounted for were audiotapes and reports detailing a polygraph test that was allegedly taken -- and failed -- by the victim's husband, John Ruetten, according to Overland's motion to dismiss the case. The attorney said a second lie-detector test was not administered.

    On Feb. 24, 1986, Ruetten said he came home from work to discover his wife of three months dead in their Van Nuys town home. Sherrie Rae Rasmussen, an accomplished hospital administrator, had been badly beaten and shot several times. Her car had been stolen.

    Shortly after the slaying, two men robbed a woman in the area at gunpoint. LAPD detectives theorized that the same men had killed Rasmussen when she came upon them burglarizing her home. The lead detective in the case said he never questioned Lazarus during the investigation and that when he retired in 1991, he still believed the victim had been killed during a burglary.

    But in his court filing, Overland sought to highlight flaws in the original police investigation, saying essentially that if Lazarus was going to be charged, it should have been at the time of the killing. He called LAPD detectives "either negligent or reckless" for overlooking his client as a possible suspect in the first place and seeming to ignore suggestions -- or failing to interview altogether -- Rasmussen's friends and relatives.

    A few weeks after Rasmussen's slaying, for example, Ruetten mentioned Lazarus to LAPD detectives as a possible suspect, according to the court documents. Months later, in November, Ruetten contacted LAPD homicide investigators to verify that Lazarus, an LAPD officer, was his former girlfriend, the defense alleges.

    The victim's father, Nels Rasmussen, went further, according to the defense motion. The day after his daughter died, Nels Rasmussen asked detectives if they had "checked out John Ruetten's ex-girlfriend, an LAPD officer," according to the filing. In December 1986, Rasmussen allegedly told the lead detective in the case that his daughter had been threatened by an ex-girlfriend who was an LAPD officer.

    Rasmussen's roommate, who was not identified in the court filing, verified Ruetten's ex-girlfriend was an LAPD officer who confronted Rasmussen, dressed "provocatively and said she would be there to pick up the pieces if Sherrie Rasmussen did not keep her husband happy." She was not interviewed until this year, the filing notes.

    And Rasmussen's secretary at Glendale Adventist Hospital, Sylvia Nielsen, witnessed a confrontation between Rasmussen and an unknown person before the slaying. Police were told about the confrontation in 1988. Nielsen died in 2000. Detectives also failed to interview any of Lazarus' police colleagues around the time of the killing to see if they had seen signs of violent struggle.

    After laying dormant for years, LAPD detectives revisited the Rasmussen case in February as part of an ongoing effort to solve thousands of old homicides, testing blood or saliva samples from the crime scene thought to have been left behind by the killer. Genetic testing indicated the attacker was a woman, contradicting detectives' earlier theory of a male killer.

    Additional interviews led them to Lazarus, who was followed to a store by an undercover officer who secretly recovered a plastic discarded item with her saliva on it, police sources said. The DNA extracted from the saliva matched the DNA evidence collected from a bite mark at the murder scene, authorities said. That DNA will be the center of the prosecution's case against Lazarus, authorities have said.

    Prosecutors said they had no immediate comment on the motion.
    "

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lano...r-defense.html
    Last edited by pulicords; 10-21-2009, 06:58 AM.
    "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."

  • #2
    Lawyers gotta make money and get their name in the paper somehow

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    • #3
      Some people will try anything, and any angle to get out of jail....so not too surprised....
      'Evil always wins when Good does nothing'-Anonymous

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      • #4
        http://forums.officer.com/forums/
        Last edited by Nobody; 11-06-2009, 03:50 PM.

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        • #5
          Your honor my client is so guilty the original investigator should have caught her years ago, I'm declaring the legal principal of olyoly oxin free and demand that my client be released.

          What's that your honor? 4 years of law school? Uhhm, no I thought the requirement was completing the 4th grade.
          Today's Quote:

          "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."
          Albert Einstein

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          • #6
            The statute of limitations does not provide the only ground for dismissal due to lack of diligence, as those of you who have had to show that reasonable efforts were made to serve a warrant know. However, this effort is novel. The only circumstance where this might make sense that I can think of would be a situation in which proof beyond a reasonable doubt would have been obtained by conducting a proper investigation 22 years ago. Since DNA analysis was in its infancy at that time, no such showing could be made.

            On the civil side, the equitable doctrine of laches may result in dismissal of a lawsuit if the delay materially prejudices the other side. That can happen, for example, when a critical witness dies in the interim.
            Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
            Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. -- Albert Einstein

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            • #7
              Maybe Lawyer Overland should try his hand as Detective Grade III Overland if he is so good.

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              • #8
                In a 20-page motion filed this morning, defense attorney Mark E. Overland argued that police investigators who handled the 1986 murder missed obvious clues and evidence that should have identified his client, Stephanie Lazarus, as a suspect.
                Admission on guilt?

                I'm curious to see how many of her cases (as detective) will be reopened...since she is obviously a lying SOS.
                Molly Weasley makes Chuck Norris eat his vegetables.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by pulicords View Post
                  Rasmussen's roommate, who was not identified in the court filing, verified Ruetten's ex-girlfriend was an LAPD officer who confronted Rasmussen, dressed "provocatively and said she would be there to pick up the pieces if Sherrie Rasmussen did not keep her husband happy." She was not interviewed until this year, the filing notes.

                  And Rasmussen's secretary at Glendale Adventist Hospital, Sylvia Nielsen, witnessed a confrontation between Rasmussen and an unknown person before the slaying. Police were told about the confrontation in 1988. Nielsen died in 2000. Detectives also failed to interview any of Lazarus' police colleagues around the time of the killing to see if they had seen signs of violent struggle.[/I]"
                  While at first glance I'd say the defense doesn't have merit, looking at the above info one has to wonder what would have happened without DNA evidence? Suppose witnesses who could provide exculpatory evidence for the defense had died or couldn't be located because of the passage of time? What if DNA evidence (that could have exonerated the defendant) was lost or destroyed? What if the detective wasn't even contacted for 20+ years and simply didn't recall where she was when the crime occurred?

                  While I certainly believe this is a tight case against Lazarus, DNA isn't the only evidence of criminal activity. If it wasn't present in this case (thank God it is!), the admissibility of other circumstantial or physical evidence might reasonably be subject to attack under the theory that a poorly conducted initial investigation unconstitutionally denied Lazarus the ability to defend herself. I believe it's important to keep in mind why statutes of limitations exist generally and what could happen if a court ruled that the state unreasonably prohibited a defendant from access to evidence of innocence.
                  "I'm not fluent in the language of violence, but I know enough to get around in places where it's spoken."

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                  • #10
                    In-friggin'-credible...that takes the cake for trying to get charges tossed. What a maroon!
                    "You're never fully dressed without a smile."

                    Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

                    Three things I know for sure: (1) No bad deed goes unrewarded, (2) No good deed goes unpunished, and (3) It is entirely possible to push the most devoted, loyal and caring person beyond the point where they no longer give a 5h!t.

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