Good morning court watchers,
This is John Ensslin, legal affairs reporter for the Gazette, coming to you live from Division 5, where closing arguments are about to begin in the first-degree murder trial of Robert Hull Marko.
Marko, a 23-year-old Fort Carson soldier, is accused of first-degree murder and sex assault in the October 2008 death of Judilianna Lawrence, a 19-year-old woman whose naked body was found 2.7 miles up Old Stage Road. Her throat had been slit.
Marko has entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity.
If the nine-woman, three-man jury convicts him of the first-degree murder charge, he faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison. If the jurors find him not guilty by reason of insanity, he faces an indefinite commitment to the Colorado State Mental Health Institute in Pueblo.
In an unusal move, there are two judges on the bench. Fourth Judicial District Judge Larry E. Schwartz has a cold and has all but lost his voice. Thus Judge Thomas Kane is sitting along side of him and reading the instructions to the jury.
Deputy District Attorney Deb Pearson begins her closing argument that Marko had control of the crime scene and all the evidence on Oct. 10, 2008.
“This is the point in time when the community takes control of his actions,” Pearson said.
She quickly takes aim at Marko’s insanity defense.
“He made a decision to do what he did,” she said. “He knew exactly what he was doing.”
Pearson takes the jury through the various versions that Marko gave to El Paso County Sheriff’s investigators after Lawrence’s mother reported her missing.
She details how at first he denied knowing her. Then later he admits to dropping her off at a mountain location. Then how he had sex with her. How he pushed her off a cliff.
Pearson then plays excerpts from the video statement where Marko admitting slitting Lawrence’s throat with his knife.
“In one swift move, I did it,” Marko says on the taped interview with Detective Cliff Porter.
Pearson adds: “Hardly sounds like someone who has amnesia.”
This last comment is aimed at Marko’s later claim that he had no memory of the details of Lawrence’s murder and came too standing over her body.
Pearson also dismisses Marko’s claim that he retreated into a violent alternate persona of “Rex 290″, a black raptor who took control of his actions that day.
She goes over his actions after the murder, when Marko went to a 7-Eleven and went to a haunted house and movie with his girlfriend.
“He doesn’t say, ‘please call me Rex.’ He consistently idenitifies himself as Robert Marko because that’s who he is,” Pearson said.
“He thinks he can outsmart law enforcement. But eventually they catch up,” she added.
Pearson shows the jurors a picture of Lawrence.
“Judi was a member of our community,” she reminds them. She didn’t deserve what happened to her, she adds.
Pearson points to Marko and asked the jurors to find him guilty of her murder.
Deputy District Attorney Dan King begins his closing argument by showing a picture of Marko in his military uniform with the words “Robert Marko” and “Rex 290″ next to the photograph.
“I’m a pure-blooded black raptor born as a human,” King says, quoting from Marko’s writing. “I am a cold-blooded killer.”
King faces his client.
“This man is Robert Marko,” King said. “He’s damaged. He’s disassociative. He’s damaged.”
“He slit Judi Lawrence’s throat up on top of that mountain for no reason,” King continued.
“The prosecution has suggested a theory to you of how this case took place,” he added. “The problem is that their theory makes no sense.”
“The prosecution theory provides no explanation of what happened or why it happened,” King added. “It just doesn’t make sense when you ignore Mr. Marko’s severe mental illness.”
King shows the jurors a photograph of Lawrence.
“I’m concerned that this young lady was left to die…bleeding to death,” King told the jury. “That is horrible! Horrible!”
“She did nothing to deserve this,” King said. “Her family did nothing to deserve the torture and torment they are going through.”
King talked about how it’s a natural response to be sympathetic to the victim and her family and to find someone responsible for her death.
But King said his concern is that “because of the senseless horror of this crime, that you will not follow the law.”
“We are asking you to do something that’s going to be very difficult if you follow the rules,” King said. “But it’s the right thing to do.”
He reminded jurors that soldiers such as Marko are fighting every day to protect basic freedoms and the rule of law.
“That is meaningless unless you as jurors respect that law.”
King takes aim at the sex assault charge against Marko by showing the jurors the exchanges between his client and Lawrence on the MySpace pages.
“It’s obvious when you read this that they were having sexual contact with each other,” King said. “These two people were seeing each other.”
In addition to the issue of consent, King noted there was no DNA or sperm found in Lawrence’s body after her body was discovered. Nor were there any defensive wounds.
“It’s just not proven that there was a struggle,” King said.
King describes the abuse that Marko suffered as a child and how his mother abandoned him.
He talks about how Marko was diagnosed as a child with post traumatic stress disorder.
“This was a child with severe mental illness at age nine,” King said.
He talks about how an Army doctor described Marko as have a “schizotypal personality disorder.
“He’s about as schizotypal as you can get,” King said.
King addresses the conflicting psychiatric evidence in the case. Experts called by both sides disagreed on whether Marko was legally insane at the time of the slaying.
King said Dr. Hal Wortzel, the prosecution witness “is a nice guy.” But he suggests that he’s young and “that he pretty clearly has some bias.”
He also argued that Wortzel failed to watch a video tape of Marko’s interview with Detective Porter.
“It’s not right and it’s not reliable,” King told the jury.
Watch the video. Just don’t accept what’s being foisted on you,” he tells the jury.
The battery on my computer is about to run out so I’m going to stop this blog here.
Stay with gazette.com later today for the full story.