Matt attended the trial today and described it as grueling. There were eight witnesses including four police. Their testimony was pretty matter-of-fact, focusing on the investigation. The defense did not cross-examine any of the police, so I won’t go into much detail there.
The defense attorney pretty much continued his theme of challenging witnesses from the neighborhood, trying to assert that Pena was not a member of the gang at that time and that the witnesses were being forced to testify by the gang. Today he also harped on the witnesses not remembering exact dates and the fact it took them a long time to go to the police with what they know.
All of the witnesses, though, asserted that Pena was in the gang and they were not being forced to testify. And, Matt reports that the flamboyance of the defense attorney, his numerous objections (of which only about two were sustained today) and his general manner are not winning favors with the judge. While it is a jury trial, if juries like a judge they will take what cues they can from him.
The first witnesses were a brother and sister. Matt described the brother as a hard-core gangbanger. He testified that Pena told him the 15-year-old needed to be silenced. The defense brought up his prior criminal record. Matt said the brother, while he was testifying and upon leaving the stand, stared down Pena and his family. Pena had about six people in attendance today, Matt says.
The sister was up next. She was and still dates a ranking gang member, one mentioned by the defense. Remember, the defense gets a list of people who will testify and they do have access to an investigator who was in attendance yesterday, so it’s not surprising that this would come up. And it helps explain how the defense came up with their assertion. The sister was the friend of yesterday’s 13-year-old witness. She corroborated what the girl said yesterday and also said she heard Pena talk to her brother.
I’m going to skip a bit to talk about the fourth witness from the neighborhood. She came late and was the the last non-police witness. A women in her late 20s, Matt describes her as perhaps the hardest-core of the gang members so far. The Penas lived with her for a month after the murders. She said Pena admitted to her that he killed the 15-year-old and that the boy had no idea he was going to be killed. Pena allegedly told the woman that he got the boy into the alley by saying he was going to just show him the gun. Pena would not admitt to Mark’s murder though.
Matt wasn’t sure how successful these three witnesses were. It didn’t feel like a slam dunk. Certainly the content of their testimony is compelling, but they were or are gang members and their demeanor showed it.
The last witness I’ll report on was actually the third witness of the day. Tim Lysinski (not sure of the spelling so I’ll refer to him as TL) is the only person so far convicted of involvement with Mark’s murder.
TL was the homeless kid who, when picked up by police on a minor drug charge, admitted to being the lookout during Mark’s murder. His testimony was extremely difficult to listen to, according to Matt, because he went into detail about the night of Mark’s death.
That night, TL met the Pena brothers and the 15-year-old by chance. He stayed at the corner while the others knocked on Mark’s door and brought him outside.
Right after the murder they ran under the viaduct to an abandoned garage. There, TL said Pena threatened him and the boy in the garage, said he’d kill them if they said anything. After about 20 minutes, they separated. TL went to Des Plaines and stayed with a friend before returning to the neighborhood two weeks later. He said he talked to Pena, who said the 15-year-old was “running his mouth” and that he needed to be silenced.
During the cross examination, Matt said he was sharp. TL actually corrected the defense attorney on a fact at one point. Defense harped on him being another gang banger, and made sure the jury knew he was there as a result of a plea bargain.
Besides the witnesses, the prosecution started introducing evidence about a car Pena and the 15-year-old were in that day, including fingerprints and palm prints. It was recovered a day after the murder, which seems to back up some of the 13-year-old’s testimony that she saw the two in a car together.
Thursday will be some more detailed forensics information that sounds like it’s establishing specific details of the shooting. Late word has it that Pena may not testify. Brian plans to attend tomorrow, and I’ve asked him to blog the day. Matt will take a well-deserved break. I will definitely be attending Monday, when final summations occur and the case should go to the jury. I’ll stay as late as I can, but I wouldn’t be surprised if deliberations take a day or so. Matt will also try to attend. Mark’s parents can not stay past the weekend.