NEW YORK – Lawyers defending an yoga instructor and rock musician charged in the throat-slash slaying of an aspiring Broadway dancer have not been shy about bringing up scandalous accusations during the first week of the murder trial.
They are portraying Catherine Woods, 21, as a hard-partying young woman who slept around, danced at strip clubs, and even appeared in a pornographic movie. The defense is also casting Woods' boyfriend as a spurned, jealous slacker who smoked pot and spent the money she earned dancing at sleazy clubs.
But the defense has also had to deal with powerful testimony by the boyfriend, David Haughn, who described discovering Woods' mutilated body. Prosecutors said a fingerprint left in Woods' blood on a wall of the room where she was killed was matched to the defendant, Paul Cortez, along with other evidence linking him to the crime scene.
Prosecutors say Cortez killed Woods in a jealous rage, deciding that if he could not have her no one would. He is charged with second-degree murder and faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
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In opening statements, defense lawyer Dawn Florio told jurors that Woods and Cortez, 26, "loved each other to death."
The lawyer also said Woods had sex with men other than Haughn and Cortez and these included customers — anyone of whom could have killed her — she had picked up at the topless club where she worked to earn money to pay her bills.
"Catherine Woods was sleeping with Paul Cortez, and other men as well," Florio said in her opening statement. She also said the dancer had been raped at the club where she danced topless, had appeared in a porno, and used drugs.
Assistant District Attorney Peter Casolaro said Cortez, who began dating Woods after they met in a gym near her Manhattan home, killed her because he was "twisted and obsessive."
When Haughn testified Friday, defense lawyer Laura Miranda tried to expose him to the jury as the jealous and angry one — possible motives for murder. She got him to admit that on July 18, 2005, he called Cortez, whom he had met just once.
"Didn't you tell him he had better not be sleeping with your woman?" Miranda asked the witness.
"I was calling to find out why he was calling Catherine's phone," Haughn replied. "She pointed it [Cortez' calling] out to me. I remember at this point she didn't want him to call."
Haughn testified he had met Cortez once, in August 2005. Cortez told him then that he and Woods had been in a sexual relationship since August 2004, he said. He said Cortez told him, "If you need anything, call me."
Miranda mentioned a compact disc featuring Cortez' music that the defendant had given to Woods and asked Haughn whether that had annoyed him. Haughn replied that it was simply buried in a stack of CDs that they never listened to.
The lawyer asked whether Haughn thought Woods "was cheating on you?"
"It wasn't a heavy thought, but I thought about it," Haughn answered.
"Did you know Catherine was dating other people, in addition to Paul and yourself?" Miranda asked.
"You were basically financially dependent on Catherine, weren't you?"
"For a while," said Haughn, who eventually found work as a doorman. "Not all the time."
"Weren't you using your money to buy pot?"
"No," the witness said. "I bought a vehicle without her knowing about it. I did things I could have been smarter about. I wasn't buying pot."
Describing his encounter with police after they saw Woods' bloodied body in her bedroom, Haughn said detectives questioned him for almost two days and seemed at first to consider him a suspect. He said cooperated fully, let the cops do what they wanted and he did not ask for a lawyer.
"They asked if there was anybody I could think of who did this," Haughn told Miranda. "It was him [Cortez]."
The first week of the trial also included emotional testimony from John Woods, director of the Ohio State University marching band and the father of the victim. He fought back tears as he told jurors about flying from his home in Columbus to identify his daughter's body.
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