Monday, July 7, 2008

Portraying Liz as a Liar

Elizabeth's defense lawyer Freddie Ruiz decided to put her on the stand as part of her defense. In fact she was the only witness for the defense. This meant that prosecutor Kazen was able to cross-examine her. Since the only real evidence the prosecution had was the testimony of V.L. the trial would come down to her word against her aunt Elizabeth's. Kazen's goal was to destroy Elizabeth's credibility by portraying her as a liar. He used several points from her sworn statement to attempt to do this in front of the jury. However, Kazen has no solid evidence of mendacity on Elizabeth's part, his arguments are taken out of context, to intentionally achieve his goal. The fact of the matter is that Elizabeth's statements are very consistent and credible; her alibis are supported by her work schedule.

The charges laid against the four women were ambiguous with respect to time, and stated that the sexual assault occurred “on or about July 24....” During the initial police interviews, the crimes were alleged to have occurred in the evening. During the initial interview of Elizabeth Ramirez, Detective Matjeka asked her for her whereabouts during the evenings when there was a possibility for all of the alleged perpetrators as well as the "victims" to have been present in the apartment. Elizabeth was able to provide a work alibi for those times. Matjeka then changed the time that the assault was to have happened to daytime, or as prosecutor Kazen states, “when he found out that it happened during the day, you changed your statement”(Vol. III p. 428). Because she worked as a floating manager at Arby’s restaurants, Liz also happened to be working days at the newly alleged times. During cross-examination prosecutor Kazen used this ambiguous information to infer that Liz had lied to Matjeka in her statement by first saying she worked nights, and then saying she worked days. It was in fact not Elizabeth, but rather Matjeka, who had changed his story to attempt to get the time and date to coincide with a possible time for the assault to have occurred. Liz says that during question "(Matjeka) kept telling me different stories". The reality is that Liz only answered the questions she was asked. The assault was also alleged to have occurred on July 24, but Liz had medical records showing that she was in hospital that day. The investigators weren't even sure what week the alleged assaults were supposed to have happened at the outset, and that is why they used the "on or about" language in the formal charges.

When Liz had a solid alibi for the crime, Matjeka simply picked a different day.

Both Elizabeth and Cassandra claimed that Detective Matjeka repeatedly told them that he would have their children taken away from them by Child Protection Services if they did not fully cooperate with him in the investigation Although Elizabeth had no children, she was 4 months pregnant at the time the investigation began, and she says that Matjeka repeatedly threatened to have her child taken away the day it was born if she didn’t admit to the crimes. Matjeka denied these allegations during the trial. During Elizabeth's trial prosecutor Kazen makes a point of asking why this threat of taking her child away was not included in the statement and calls Liz a liar because it is not there. The reality is that it was Matjeka writing down the statement, and no police officer would ever include any evidence of the psychological pressures they put on a suspect to get them to "confess" to be put in a sworn statement.

These "inconsistencies" would not have been available to prosecutors if the women had known to exercise their constitutional right, and said the 7 magic words - "I want to speak to a lawyer." When a suspect being questioned exercises this right police will say "why, do you have something to hide?" But if the police are operating above board, they should have no concerns about the presence of a lawyer during interrogations.