By Alan Scherstuhl
By Stephanie Zacharek
By Carolina Del Busto
By Amy Nicholson
By Simon Abrams
By Kevin Dilmore
By New Times
By Amy Nicholson
Ferguson had no answers. And there were other mysteries.
"You used only one ruler, did you not?" defense attorney Avilla asked.
"Yeah," Ferguson replied.
Avilla then asked Ferguson to look closely at the ruler in the photos next to the bloodstains, smears and the speck.
As had other witnesses, Ferguson agreed the ruler's scratches in the tissue-speck photo appear markedly different from the scratches in the other blood photos.
"I probably had a different ruler then," Ferguson said. "We could have stopped, had a Coke and grabbed another ruler."
But earlier, Pete Janik--the Tempe policeman who recalled holding the ruler--testified he hadn't changed rulers.
"It looks as if the photo[s] had two different rulers, right?
"It could have," Janik answered.
New Times asked Bill Jay, an associate professor in the School of Art at ASU who teaches photo history, to study the rental-car photos, without telling him more. After studying all the photos, Jay concluded:
"There are too many variables to say exactly what's going on here. But as far as I'm concerned, these are two different rulers. There's not much question. And the [tissue-speck] photo doesn't match any of the other photos in terms of lighting, the whole look of it. It's a real puzzle."
Myrna Parker may argue at Carpenter's trial that the speck photo may have been taken at an angle, which caused different scratches on the ruler to show up than in the straight-on blood photos.
But Bill Jay and some prosecution witnesses are adamant the photo of the speck, too, was taken straight on.
The state took another hit when two of its expert witnesses testified the speck couldn't possibly have stayed as fresh as it appears for as long as it had to under the state's theory--at least 32 hours.
Maricopa County chief medical examiner Philip Keen testified the speck appeared "relatively fresh" to him, though he wasn't sure how fresh.
"I can take fresh tissue and have essentially fresh tissue 12, 24, 30 hours later if I have preserved it in the right way."
"In a refrigerator?" Avilla asked.
"Yes," Keen replied.
Dr. Thomas Jarvis, a retired Maricopa County coroner, agreed with Keen.
"You defined it within a day or two," Jarvis told Avilla. "I think much less than that, actually."
Jarvis testified he wouldn't have said the speck even was tissue unless investigators had told him its alleged history.
"If I were given the photograph with no information and [asked], 'What is this?'" Jarvis testified, "I would have said, 'I don't know.'"
Whether the truth of the tissue speck is a sinister one or major-league bungling by law enforcement, Judge Martin was outraged by what he was hearing.
"I can't understand how that piece of evidence could not get taken and preserved," the judge said in court. "It didn't. So if it ever gets to a jury, there is no doubt you'll get a Willits instruction and that may be enough to acquit him . . . certainly, because that is the law and a jury would be told that. And that is an important piece of evidence."
The Willits instruction, which refers to a 1964 Arizona case, is a defense attorney's dream. It tells deliberating jurors:
"If you find that the state has lost, destroyed or failed to preserve evidence whose contents or quality are important to the issues in this case, then you should weigh the explanation, if any, given for the loss or unavailability of the evidence. If you find that any such explanation is inadequate, then you may draw an inference unfavorable to the state, which in itself may create reasonable doubt as to the defendant's guilt."
@body:One morning in March before testimony started, Judge Martin spoke to a group of high school students visiting his courtroom.
Steve Avilla was poring over a police report. Investigators Jim Raines and Barry Vassall were sitting next to Myrna Parker, busying themselves with paperwork.
The passenger door of Carpenter's rental car--the actual door--was resting against a wall nearby. The infamous photo of what prosecutors insist is Bob Crane's flesh was sitting atop a pile of other evidence.
John Carpenter was quietly writing in a notebook at his customary place at the defense table, looking more like an attorney than his attorney.
"The courtroom has some of the best theatre in town," Judge Martin told the students. "It's real life and you don't need a ticket to get in. If you're ever bored, don't be afraid to drop in.
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