Wake-Up Call

That's what the jury gave Scott Falater, convicted of killing his wife in the Sleepwalker Murder Case

But a few discordant notes oozed under the protective wall that the defense had constructed about his supposedly idyllic life with Yarmila.

For example, Falater testified that his wife was his true confidante, and he had "learned I could trust her advice completely."

But in the hours before he killed her, Falater had spoken to his family at dinner about an important meeting scheduled for the following day at Motorola. He'd explained that he'd have to tell his subordinates about the impending demise of a big project, or risk being labeled a phony when the roof finally did cave in.

"She actually advised a few times, 'Just smile and play the game, go ahead and go through the motions [at work],'" Falater testified. "I said, 'It's time for me to be honest about this.'"

In other words, Falater was dead-set against Yarmila's go-along, get-along suggestion.

Another surprising comment came after Kimerer's question about an athletic mouthpiece that investigators found in the large Tupperware container. Martinez had insinuated that Falater may have inserted the mouthpiece before his attack to protect himself. (DNA samples taken from the mouthpiece did not exclude the possibility that Scott Falater had put it in his mouth. But the tests weren't definitive.)

"I have no idea what that's about," Falater said, and should have left it at that. "It's very possible the thing was laying around in the garage and . . . I popped it into my mouth, I don't know."

Kimerer asked Falater if he had tried to fix the pool pump on the night of the murder. Falater said he had started to work on the pump after dinner, but gave up because he couldn't see well. He recalled putting his tools (a pair of pliers and screwdriver, he said) and large flashlight back into the Volvo. Then, he said, he had practically staggered to bed after kissing his wife goodnight, quickly fell into a deep sleep, then landed in a sleepwalking state within minutes. That's all he remembered, until police arrived at his house.

The defense scenario held that Falater, still asleep, had arisen, retrieved a knife and the flashlight from his car, went outside, and was at the pump when Yarmila startled him, prompting his violent response with the knife.

Martinez rose to cross-examine Scott Falater, wading into the center of the ring with both fists flailing.

"One of the things that you told us was that the woman in this photograph was your soul mate?" the prosecutor said, directing Falater's attention to an image of a smiling Yarmila on a screen.

"Yes," the defendant replied evenly.
"Somebody that was very, very important? And you loved her more than anything in your life?"

"Then how come it is that you don't even know her birthday?" Martinez blurted, his voice more shrill than usual.

"I know her birthday. February 5, 1955."
"What if I told you it was September 5, 1955? Would that refresh your recollection?"

"You're wrong."
"So the records from the police are wrong?"
"That's correct."

It was an embarrassing start for the prosecutor, who had had more than two years to prepare for this moment.

(Martinez told the jury the next day that Yarmila's birthday is February 5, after all. "There may have been some confusion yesterday," he said.)

During cross-examination, Falater continued to blurt unintentionally ironic phrases such as:

"The last nail in the coffin," referring to a failing project at Motorola.
"Spilling engineer blood," again about the moribund project. "In order for Motorola to minimize the blood loss and the money loss . . ."

"Layoffs were coming to Motorola, and we were gonna end up on the chopping block."

Recovering from his birthday gaffe, Martinez got his prey to admit that he'd "misled" defense sleepwalking expert Roger Broughton about the presence of a second knife in his garage--the newer one with which he'd stabbed Yarmila.

"I guess I misled him on that point--I just had forgotten . . . ," Falater said. The word "misled" would stick with jurors.

Martinez invoked a "Yarmila as a dumpy wife" theme he'd tried to develop since a buddy of Falater's had mentioned it on the stand.

"Does that woman appear to you to be dumpy?" Martinez asked Falater, showing him a photo taken shortly before Yarmila's death.

"She is not dumpy, sir."
"That wasn't her pet name, was it?"
"Absolutely not."

Martinez launched into the "unforgivable sin"--which an assistant to defense team psychologist Dr. Brad Bayless had jotted down next to a "sentence completion" sheet during testing at the Madison Street Jail.

"You uttered those words, didn't you?" Martinez asked Falater.
"Yes, I did."
"Was the unforgivable sin that she didn't want to go to Temple with you?"
"No," Falater said. Martinez cut him off before he could elaborate.

"That she didn't want to have more children? You know if the Mormon church wanted her to have more kids?"

"That is absolutely untrue."
At the defense table, Mike Kimerer's leg twitched as Martinez grilled Falater about his mouthpiece comment. Falater repeated that he probably had just stuck the thing in his mouth on a whim.

"I'm speculating about that," he said, "but that's something I would do . . . if I saw it laying around my work bench."

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