After it was introduced into evidence and a courtroom full of strangers, media, and court personnel experienced a glimmer of the Florida dad’s horror for the first time, Lunsford had no choice but to sit so uncomfortably close to the mattress to the right of Judge Ric Howard for the remainder of the day — until it was rolled away when court recessed for the weekend.
Neither the jury nor the spectators were given any emotional narratives or an easy script by which they could prepare for the evidence they faced on Day 2 of the Couey trial, the submissions first referred to as "objects" or "LL for identification" as the prosecution methodically questioned detectives who had entered Couey’s bedroom or who had dug up the body of Jessica Lunsford, a 9-year-old girl who was buried alive.
There would be no relief for the jury or the family as the day progressed. They were shown the closet wall in which Couey allegedly held Jessica for an undetermined time. Investigators testified that they elected to remove the entire closet wall from Couey’s residence in order to do a chemical processing for fingerprints that they said was more effective than the alternative black powder method.
At one point Prosecutor Peter Magrino stepped inside what would have been the interior of the closet, in order to show the jury its depth, which two sergeants said was 1 foot, 11 inches. This was where the prosecution says Mark Lunsford's baby was held while teams from the Citrus County Sheriff's office, FBI, and Florida Law Enforcement, as well as dozens of church volunteers, searched for her.
As if it hadn't sunk in already.
The prosecution continued to meander back and forth in time, taking the courtroom through a horrific series of items it hopes will convict Couey:
— The black garbage bags in which Jessica was buried.
— The purple dolphin, nearly as big as she was, that her dad had won for her at the fair. She was found clutching it in her premature grave.
— The shovels and rake recovered from the property.
They were all sealed in manila evidence bags, cut open one-by-one on the witness stand for submission. The jury viewed diagrams of the interior of the Couey residence and a consecutive photo series taken by investigators who recovered the body. Citrus County Det. Brian Spiddle testified that, after slowly scraping away inches of dirt, his team viewed what may have been the top of Jessica's head in the black plastic. He then described the painstaking process of lifting the body from the site.
In addition to looking at the excavation photos, which revealed a black plastic bag in a fetal shape in a hole in the ground, the jury viewed a 20-minute video of the inside of Couey's residence at the time.
After 48 hours and 12 witnesses, the state was able to present the first of what it indicated will be several forensic matches: Jessica’s fingerprints and a palm print on the closet wall.
In his cross examinations, Public Defender Dan Lewan worked to create doubt whenever prudent, creating an image of up to a dozen marked and unmarked cars descending on the Lunsford home that would come and go throughout the day. Law enforcement witnesses couldn't explain why they decided to park "on the crime scene." Lewan then focused on what was not examined at the Couey residence: the mattress, but not the mattress cover, the closet, but not the closet door. Spiddle acknowledged that the shovel and rakes were not processed for prints, and the prosecution fired back that after being outside for weeks, there would have been no prints to be uncovered.
Ultimately, the defense got witnesses to say they could not remember whether there was a lock on the closet door in Couey's room, and one replied "No, Sir" when asked if you can tell when a print was left on a surface during fingerprint testing.
But in the end, after the second day of John Couey’s trial for the first-degree murder of Jessica Lunsford, it was five photos – ordered for viewing only – that the jury would see and never forget.
Five photos Judge Howard said no one would copy, or sketch, or photograph, or videotape.
"No one in my courtroom."