Wake-Up Call

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

Martinez got Broughton to admit that he'd never heard of a violent sleepwalking case in which someone changed his clothes even once, much less two and possibly three times, as Falater had.

"Putting the clothes back into the trunk, that bothered you, right?" Martinez asked.

"I thought it was unusual. . . ."
"And in fact, he not only put the clothes back into the trunk, but he also put the Tupperware back into the trunk inside of the trash bag, right?"

"And on top of that, you just told us that you didn't know he put the gloves . . . in the bag. That should bother you a little bit more, shouldn't it?"

Broughton also conceded it gave him "pause" when he learned late in the game about Falater's brief interaction with his dog.

Finally, Broughton agreed with Martinez that a sleepwalker almost always has to be provoked--usually physically--to get violent.

Cartwright told the jury that Falater's case offered the "purest" case of sleepwalking she'd seen in 30 years. But Cartwright's testimony proved she didn't know this case as well as Pressman.

"I believe [Scott] came home in an upset emotional state, but he had a perfectly ordinary night rather than coming home and kicking the dog and blowing up at his wife, which means he is not handling the stress. Those hormones were raging, as the kids say . . . ," Cartwright said.

Martinez told her, "That woman was about to die--she did nothing. If he was really sleepwalking, he would not have known that that body was there."

"That is not true," Cartwright countered. "He sees her. He does not recognize her. Mr. Martinez, you keep trying to make this a rational scenario, and it isn't rational."

Later, jurors would say with their verdict that Scott Falater's actions had made perfect sense.

One of Juan Martinez's best lines in his closing arguments came after he showed the jury a photograph of Yarmila Falater on Christmas Day 1996, three weeks before her husband killed her.

"Do you think that she deserved to die?" he asked. "Look at her. We've placed so much attention on him, everything's about him. Look at her!"

The prosecutor then showed a photo of Yarmila's butchered body on the autopsy table.

"Look at the indignity!" he screeched.
Falater looked down at his folded hands.
"Does it look like a peaceful death?"
Martinez gestured at Falater: "He's only a killer, plain and simple."

Mike Kimerer's task was Herculean, and he knew it. He'd been up to about 3 a.m. trying to piece together his closing.

"This is a difficult case, and it's been an extremely strange case," Kimerer began.

He then attacked Martinez, a tactic which he said later he's rarely used in three decades of trial work:

"A prosecutor in a case certainly has the duty to see that truth and justice is done. Unfortunately, there have been instances . . . when he mischaracterized the evidence. There have been some comments made that simply have not been supported by the evidence in this case."

Kimerer reiterated that Scott Falater is a nonviolent person by nature who had a wonderful marriage: "[Martinez] is going to have to have a motive, and he doesn't have one, and he's done everything to create one."

Where Martinez employed the fantasy-driven Man of La Mancha to make his point about the bankruptcy of Falater's sleepwalking defense, Kimerer invoked Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis.

He described how the story's protagonist turns into a cockroach (actually a beetle), "and he doesn't know how it happened . . . and he doesn't know why."

He was suggesting that Scott Falater was Everyman until he turned one night into a homicidal sleepwalker. For some in the spectator's gallery, the "cockroach" metaphor was apt.

Martinez's "hammer" argument--the prosecution gets the last word because it has the burden of proving a defendant's guilt--began tepidly. Instead of appealing to the jurors' heartstrings, he tried to refute Kimerer point by point.

Toward the end, he pulled it together.
"One of the things that you cannot get away from and he cannot get away from is the fact that when [Yarmila] was down, he . . . did a violent act. Never in the annals of sleepwalking has there ever been a case where two different types of lethal violence have been applied in one case. . . ."

The prosecutor admitted, finally, "we really don't know what happened in the household that night."

He walked to the front of the defense table and pointed to Scott Falater, who sat between his two attorneys.

"This guy here killed his wife," Martinez said, "and he's guilty of first-degree murder."

The jury agreed.

Contact Paul Rubin at his online address: prubin@newtimes.com

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