By Paul Rubin
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After hearing two months of occasionally riveting testimony, the jury in the Robert Ortloff murder case finally will begin its deliberations tomorrow morning. Just got back from the closing arguments, which took up the better part of the day in the courtroom of Judge Warren Granville--a fine jurist who wears a whimsical expression much of the time. Prosecutors accused Ortloff of murdering 20-year-old Kathleen Smith back in October 1984, a particularly brutal murder inside Smith's Tempe condo that included a bludgeoning and subsequent body burning. If the Shoe Don't Fit You Must Acquit
Closings always can provide some of the most compelling moments of any trial worth its salt, and this one was no exception, with two seasoned attorneys going head-to-head. Defense attorney Dan Patterson was far more quotable than his veteran counterpart, prosecutor Noel Levy, and proved to be (at least on this day) a much more compelling orator. However, that doesn't guarantee an acquittal in this fascinating case. In the end, the state's case rises or falls on whether every one of the twelve jurors believes that key government witness Fred Tokars (now serving five life terms for, among other convictions, having orchestrated the murder of his wife) told them the truth when he testified that Ortloff (who has been in prison for two decades on a mail-bomb conviction) confessed to him.
"Quite frankly, everyone liked Kathleen Smith," Patterson said. "It's not about bashing Kathleen Smith today." Well, obviously not everyone liked Kathleen, a young horsewoman who was just moving into adulthood when the killer stole her life from her. But Patterson is trusting that the legitimate spectre of `reasonable doubt' that hovered other this case throughout will win the day in the panels' collective mind. Predictions? Not from this corner. But we'll write a far complete story of the trial (which I attended for hours on end) for the paper next week, space permitting.