Anticipating the Defense in the Sniper Case

Published October 29, 2002

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the second Unresolved Problems segment tonight, anticipating the defense. Authorities know the defense lawyers will try just about anything to discredit the case against the alleged snipers. So there's intense activity going on right now in at least four states, Maryland, Virginia, Washington state, and Alabama.

Joining us now from Boston is the author of The Criminal Investigation Handbook, Tom Mauriello, who teaches criminology at the University of Maryland.

All right. What do the authorities have to do right now to just lock down their case, and you know, we don't want an O.J. Simpson situation here, tainted evidence, mixed up this, but there are so many people, as Judge Napolitano said, involved, what do authorities have to do right now?

TOM MAURIELLO, FORENSIC SCIENTIST: They first need to properly document the case and document the evidence. You know, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) just because they have ballistics evidence that, that, that connects the, the, the gun that was in the car with those cases, now they need to properly document it.

Because what the defense is going to do is, they're going to look at the evidence. During discovery, they're going to have an opportunity to see the forensic evidence and see the results of the examination. If the examinations were done and effective, then they need to attack it another way. They have to look for vulnerabilities.

Did they handle the evidence properly? Is the chain of custody intact? In other words, everybody who handled the evidence, are their names properly on the documents? Did they preserve it correctly so none of it got destroyed?

They also need to be looking at some of the media footage, when they were working at crime scenes. Is there anything that the cameras caught that would make -- give the impression that evidence wasn't properly handled?

These are the things that the defense will have to look for if the forensic evidence is sound.

O'REILLY: All right. Now, because there are so many different agencies and different investigators on it, federal, state, local, and there really isn't anybody in charge other than Chief Moose, who's basically the communications guy, who should be doing the hands-on stuff? The FBI?

MAURIELLO: Well, the hands-on stuff of the evidence itself?

O'REILLY: Yes. I mean, look, you made the point that it has to be accumulated, has to be tagged, has to be logged, everything has to be organized. Who should be doing that?

MAURIELLO: Who -- whatever agencies handled the crime scenes at the time in question, but what's more important...

O'REILLY: All right. That would be the Maryland state police.

MAURIELLO: If this -- the evidence of the vehicle, yes, the Maryland state police. The various jurisdictions that had jurisdiction over each one of those cases handled it separately.

But what needs to be done now is the prosecutor needs to take over the case. We have to decide is this going to be a federal case, is it going to be a state and local case? Who's the prosecutor going to be because the case now belongs to the prosecutor. I understand that tomorrow the prosecutors from the various jurisdictions are going to get together.

O'REILLY: Right.

MAURIELLO: They need to decide who's going to be -- who's going to own the case...

O'REILLY: Right.

MAURIELLO: ... so they can now decide how the case is going to unravel and what the strategy's going to be.

O'REILLY: All right. Now Judge Napolitano says it should be in the hands of the Maryland officials because the feds don't prosecute murder on a routine basis. Do you concur?

MAURIELLO: I certainly do.

O'REILLY: All right.

MAURIELLO: I certainly do.

O'REILLY: Now, if the Maryland officials are going to run the case, then do they have to tell the other states to back off, to wait in line to look at the evidence? Do they have to tell them to get out of our way until we're finished? What do they have to do?

MAURIELLO: I believe that the prosecutors from all the jurisdictions need to sit down and they have to establish a strategy on how the best -- the bottom line is we want to prosecute these people to make sure that they don't have -- see the light of day ever again.

O'REILLY: Right. So you can't have evidence whipping around to Virginia and here and there and all of that. You have to have it in one place, just a few people have access to it, correct?

MAURIELLO: Absolutely. Every -- the more people who have access to evidence, the more you give the defense the opportunity to attack it.

O'REILLY: All right. And that's really all what it's going to be about now. If it's true -- and we are reporting it is, and I believe it is -- that the rifle found in the vehicle, along with the tripod and the scope, is connected to 11 of the murders -- 11 of the shootings, 10 of the murders, there's no other way for the defense attorneys to go other than saying it was a frame job.

MAURIELLO: Yes. Well, again, we've connected the rifle to those crimes.

O'REILLY: Yes. And the rifle was in the car with the two guys.

MAURIELLO: OK. And we don't want to give them an opportunity to say somebody threw the rifle in the back seat. So now we need to look for forensic evidence that will hopefully place them at some of the crime scenes...

O'REILLY: Right.

MAURIELLO: ... shoe prints...

O'REILLY: They'll probably confess. I would imagine they'll confess. I mean, I know the younger kid will flip.

MAURIELLO: Well...

O'REILLY: So that's probably the way it'll go.

MAURIELLO: Probably, but -- but we cannot think that. If they start thinking that way, they're not going to focus on the...

O'REILLY: No. Absolutely. You've got to be very methodical.

MAURIELLO: ... protection of the...

O'REILLY: Thanks, professor. We appreciate your point of view.

MAURIELLO: Thank you.

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