THE BOB CRANE MURDER CASE PART THREE

AFTER MORE THAN A DECADE, PROSECUTORS THOUGHT THEY HAD A SMIKING GUN. BUT THE EVIDENCE THEY'VE BUILT THEIR CASE ON IS TAINTED.

Her weakness, say even those who respect her, is that Parker can become tunnel-visioned about a defendant's guilt, even in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary.

Rick Romley says Parker was the last of the prosecutors in the Temple murders case to insist the four Tucson men later cleared of wrongdoing had been involved, even after it became apparent they had been wrongly charged.

Once Parker had become convinced Carpenter was guilty, she worked tirelessly with her investigators to gather enough evidence to charge him.

In April 1992, however, another major problem with the case became evident. It was one thing that Doug Ferguson recalled taking the photo of the tissue speck months after he'd told investigators someone else had. Twelve years is a very long time to remember details, even in a high-profile case.

But Ferguson--and prosecutor Parker--had a much bigger problem: He had lied to police about his work in the case and he had gotten caught.

Ferguson's assignment in 1978 and in 1990 had been straightforward. He was to compare John Carpenter's fingerprint chart to all unknown fingerprints that had been lifted from the actor's apartment and from the rental car.

Both times, Ferguson neglected to complete his assignment. In fact, it appears he stopped processing the prints after he had identified one of Carpenter's prints inside Crane's apartment. Even worse, he had lied to police about what he had done.

Asked at John Carpenter's preliminary hearing about why he hadn't completed his work, Ferguson said: "I identified Carpenter inside the apartment. To the best of my memory, that's what they were concerned with."

But Ferguson's present-day employers didn't buy his reasoning when it came to light last year. After his lies were revealed, Ferguson was forced to resign from the Phoenix Police Department.

Myrna Parker knew she would have to contend with Ferguson's lies as a key witness at Carpenter's trial. But she was raring to go, and, in May of 1992, she convinced Rick Romley that the case's considerable shortcomings were surmountable.

"You have to decide," Romley explains. "Do you go with something that has problems, that may be close, but you think the guy is guilty? We decided to go for it."
On June 1, 1992, Parker filed a direct complaint against John Carpenter instead of taking the case to a county grand jury. That's why Carpenter had a preliminary hearing, which--unlike a grand jury--is held in open court.

Defense attorneys may cross-examine prosecution witnesses at prelims, a right they don't have at grand juries. John Carpenter's attorney would take that right to heart at the monthlong hearing.

@rule:
@body:Assistant public defender Steve Avilla operated at a disadvantage during his client's prelim. Not only did Avilla have to quickly digest volumes of police reports, he had to make a major decision.

Should he and his co-counsel Candace Hewitt Kent allow Myrna Parker to steamroll them and wait for the jury trial to go to war? Or should they fight like mad, which would make Parker aware of their strategy?

Avilla decided on the latter.
"To be honest, we don't look for our clients to be innocent," he says. "You can deal with those kinds of cases where someone is guilty. The hardest case for a public defender is one in which he's mentally convinced his client is innocent. I became convinced that John Carpenter didn't do it and that they have a lousy case against him."
A former prosecutor, Avilla is a different breed from his counterpart Myrna Parker. She is buttoned-down, precise, organized; he is slightly disheveled, emotional, disorganized. Both are known as effective before a jury.

Parker questioned numerous witnesses at the hearing to try to show Carpenter's motive for murder. However, Judge Martin--a jurist respected by most as fair-handed and astute--put things in perspective at one point:

"This case boils down to the blood and Exhibit 50 [the tissue-speck photo]. There are all kinds of inferences to be drawn from John Carpenter's relationship to the victim."
At the preliminary hearing, the prosecution tried to prove the bloodstains were left when the murder weapon brushed against the door panel of John Carpenter's rental car. At trial, however, Avilla hopes to refute that, by showing that unknown auto repairmen had access to the car before police impounded it. One of them could have cut himself while working on it, then touched the door panel.

Much of the testimony was devoted, as expected, to the critical photo of the speck. And the Crane team found itself in deep trouble when testimony by its own witnesses revealed the speck's checkered history.

Ex-DPS criminalist Bruce Bergstrom reiterated he'd examined the door panel of Carpenter's rental car and hadn't seen tissue or brain matter.

Doug Ferguson then took the stand. He now insisted he had taken the 21 photos of the car "about two weeks" after the murder, not the 36-or-so hours that police records indicated.

Ferguson said he couldn't remember taking the photo of the tissue speck, though he did specifically recall taking some photos of blood on the door panel.

Ferguson put a stunning new spin on what might have happened to the photos. He had stored them in his locker at DPS for at least five years and possibly more. He didn't say how had they gotten from DPS to Scottsdale and then to the County Attorney's Office. And what about those missing negatives?

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