Wake-Up Call

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

As for the knife--the new one, the murder weapon--Martinez asked an excellent question. Falater's experts had testified that he'd retrieved the knife from the Volvo in a sleepwalking state. But, Martinez asked Falater, why would he have gone to the Tupperware container for the knife when he'd said that he'd rarely used it in the two years he allegedly had owned it?

Falater didn't have much of an answer, deferring to the "sleep experts" whom he said know much more about sleepwalking than he.

During redirect examination, Falater said he hadn't intentionally misled Dr. Broughton, but just had forgotten about the new knife. When he finally had seen a photo of the bloody murder weapon, Falater said, "I said, 'Oh yeah, I remember that.'"

Kimerer also had his client revisit the "dumpy wife" theory.
"I kind of like large women," Falater said. "It [Yarmila's weight] only impacted me because she was upset about how large she was. It didn't bother me at all. . . . She might have been large, but she was always beautiful to me. Always."

Kimerer also asked Falater to address the concept of "unforgivable sin" that Juan Martinez had been so keen on selling as a possible motive. Falater said he'd been referring to himself, not to Yarmila when he'd used the phrase during the jailhouse psychological testing.

"My own salvation is gone and my chance to live with Yarm is gone because of this," he testified.

"You wouldn't see Yarm in the afterlife, is that right?"
"That is correct."
Questions from jurors came fast.

One asked Falater to clarify the two types of stress he'd referred to during his testimony. Falater replied that the stresses of being overworked didn't bother him, but that "playing the game, so to speak" with his bosses and subordinates (as Yarmila had suggested that he do) did.

Other questions from jurors were head-scratchers:
"What did you have for dinner on the night of the murder?" one asked. Falater said he couldn't remember.

"Do you always write with such a tiny pencil?" a juror asked Falater, referring to the golf pencils with which the defendant had taken voluminous notes.

"Uhhhh," Falater answered, then couldn't help laughing. The jurors and Judge Reinstein--who read the question with an almost-straight face--joined in the brief laughter.

The silly question allowed Falater to connect, at least for a moment, with his peers.

He finally explained that the sheriff's office issues only tiny pencils because of security reasons.

The jurors studied Falater as he walked past them back to his seat. He'd held his ground on many issues, and lost ground on others. But had he won them over?

In the end, jurors said they believed the prosecution sleep experts more than they believed the defense experts.

On paper, it would have seemed a mismatch--the esteemed Roger Broughton and Rosalind Cartwright against prosecution experts David Baratz and Mark Pressman. But Pressman, especially, did so well that Juan Martinez told another expert--his expected ace in the hole--that his testimony wouldn't be needed.

Pressman, director of two suburban Philadelphia sleep laboratories, was the antithesis of Broughton and Cartwright. The latter pair came across as kindly, esoteric doctors whose knowledge of key details in Yarmila Falater's murder would prove to be their--and Falater's, to some degree--undoing.

"I think the facts as described by [the Falaters' next-door neighbor, eyewitness Greg Koons] are the only important evidence about what happened that night," Pressman testified.

He continued, "The only way that sleep experts think that violence can happen with a sleepwalker is that somebody physically confronts them, gets in their way. That's clearly impossible on the second episode of violence [drowning]. The victim was lying there near death. Clearly she didn't get up and get in his way. She didn't grab him, she didn't stop him."

"How do you know that he just doesn't come back and rediscover the body?" Kimerer asked Pressman during cross-examination.

"Twice?" Pressman shot back. "How would he even know it's a body?"
Kimerer: "Well, we don't really even know what they know, and what they don't know in sleepwalking."

Pressman: "Are you here to suggest that all of these behaviors--just wandering around, and he just happens to wander out to stand over the body and stare at it, and moments later come back with gloves and drag the body into the pool?"

Kimerer: "I think we're suggesting that we don't fully know what happens in a sleepwalking state, and what is going on in a sleepwalker's mind, do we?"

Pressman: "I think we know what's in a wakened person's mind. I don't think he was sleepwalking."

Kimerer: "They wouldn't leave a body in a swimming pool, would they?"
Pressman: "I think if they had time to do something about it, they might not leave it."

Kimerer: "But you wouldn't put the body in the swimming pool for the children to find, would you?"

Pressman: "I have no idea. I wouldn't murder my wife, either."
Where Pressman was adamant that Scott Falater had not been sleepwalking, Roger Broughton became equivocal.

"To me, it is the best explanation of all the facts that I have," Broughton said in response to a juror's written question. "But it's not proof that he was sleepwalking."

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