From Justice on Trial:
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The defense in the Mickey Thompson murder trial, rested this afternoon. Defense attorney Elena Saris presented witnesses who attacked the credibility of the prosecution’s case. Virtually all of the prosecutor’s case is hearsay with no direct evidence implicating Michael Goodwin, the creator of Supercross racing. Goodwin and Thompson, the first man to exceed 400 mph, attempted to merge their companies but, after a 3 ½ month association, they split. Thompson sued Goodwin for $500,000. More than 3 years later, Thompson and his wife were murdered in their driveway as they left for work.
Saris called memory experts to the stand to testify of how reliable eyewitness memory is, over time. Kathy Pezdek, an expert on memory and a psychologist, testified that after less than a year, eyewitness identification reliability was only 10%. Witnesses who saw a person in a car almost a mile from the Thompson’s briefly as the suspect peered through binoculars at an elementary school across from their house. 13 years later, in 2001, the witnesses, shortly after seeing national TV programs where Goodwin was named as the most likely perpetrator of the Thompson murders, they identified Goodwin, with difficulty, in a “photo lineup” of 6 photos and subsequently, with 5 dissimilar men, different from those in the photos, in a live lineup. (The Innocence Project has now exonerated 188 persons, 101 of them were because of mistaken identification.)
Pezdek told the court that the reliability of someone's memory after 13 years, “…is just off the scales ... for identifying a person you just saw briefly."
Saris then called a sheriff's detective who said that his notes indicated that Eric Miller, a former Thompson employee, stated that Thompson talked of taking possession of something of great value. The defense contended that what Thompson purchased was gold which disappeared after the murders. Saris attempted to establish that the Thompsons' murders were the result of a botched robbery in which the killers may have stolen the gold from a safe at the Thompson’s home. The safe had extensive pry marks and other evidence of tampering on the door. Also, witnesses saw the killers with white satchels as they fled.
Saris rested her case late in the afternoon.
Jurors will be bused to the crime scene on Thursday and court will not be in session on Friday. Closing arguments are scheduled for 9 AM Monday, December 18th. The jury will then begin deliberations.