Friday, June 20, 2008

When your son has been charged with murder

What do you do first when you learn your son has been charged with murder? First came the humiliation and disbelief as we told our employers. We avoided the television news reports but read the mostly inaccurate newspaper reports which appeared to be news releases from the prosecutor’s office. We went through the motions of working, eating, sleeping; compartmentalizing our lives, trying to keep it together as we continued to tell each other that this will never go to court; Todd is innocent, justice will prevail. After all, Todd was never near Anthony Madril, Brad Orgill was the one who’d fought, and Orgill’s clothes were covered in blood. Orgill’s guilty behavior after the stabbing included proposing that Todd and Mike Melick help him burn his bloody clothing, and then badgering them until they acquiesced. Orgill succeeded in talking Todd into burning his own shirt as well. Todd’s experience with Orgill’s personality was that of consistent overarching paranoia; he didn’t know that Orgill was actually trying to cover his bloody tracks or that Brad’s fight had resulted in death.

Not long after the stabbing we learned that Orgill’s parents bought him a new house because of his fear of going back to the house he’d been living in. Todd’s attorney Phil Tate learned that Amy Mullaney was about to cut a deal with Orgill; Tate met with her and urged her not to, stating “I don’t want you to make a mistake.” Mullaney angrily replied that Phil Tate didn’t need to worry about her. Such arrogance, such lack of concern for such an important decision.

Before any evidence returned from CBI, Mullaney cut a deal with Orgill for a four-year deferred sentence for accessory to murder. Remember, this is the guy who is fighting with the victim when he dies, Anthony identifies his assailant when he is pulled into the truck and says, “I just got stabbed”; Orgill is covered in Anthony’s blood. The prosecutor was threatening Joel with an eight year sentence for accomplice to murder for being the driver but having no other involvement.

Confident that forensic analysis of the evidence would support Todd’s innocence, we awaited the reports from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. We knew that Todd had used his knife to puncture the tire on Chas Schwartz’s pickup truck as the truck moved forward to pick up Anthony and leave the scene. Todd’s attorney Phil Tate had told us that the forensic evidence all came down to the presence or absence of blood in that puncture; blood in the puncture would show that Todd had stabbed Anthony. The absence of blood would strongly affirm his innocence. Tate cautioned us that any minute amount of blood found on Todd’s knife would be inconclusive because the knife had been handled after the stabbing at Orgill’s residence surrounded by Orgill’s bloody clothing, where small amounts of blood could easily have been transferred to the knife.

When the findings on the evidence were returned, the CBI reported that despite extensive and sensitive testing on the tire puncture, no blood was found. At that time Amy Mullaney removed herself from the case and assigned it to Jeff Lindsey. Lindsey wasn’t involved in making the deal with Brad (and said that he wouldn’t have made such a deal) but he was no more ethical in his handling of the case than was his supervisor.

The prosecutor’s office refused to test the DNA on Todd’s clothing, although it must be noted that there never was evidence of any blood anywhere except on the collar of Todd’s jacket and it was his own blood from the wound to his face inflicted by Lopez just before he jumped into the truck. Todd had to pay for his own DNA testing of his jacket and then had to fly two expert witnesses from California to discuss their findings (at a cost of thousands of dollars). This was required by the prosecutor’s office in order for these findings to be used in Todd’s defense.

What the prosecutor’s office decided to test was a shirt that Todd had not worn on the night Anthony was stabbed. They did DNA testing on a shirt Brad gave Todd to wear the following morning. (photos's of the shirt and a closeup of one of the stains appear here). The startling thing about this shirt is that it had human blood on the inside of the collar and the back of the sleeve--human blood that didn’t belong to anyone involved in this incident. It is especially interesting that Brad chose this particular shirt since Brad and Todd sold clothing on eBay; it would have been much easier for Brad to grab a shirt from inventory than from his own closet. Please hear me clearly: the night of this incident, Brad is covered in Anthony Madril’s blood, Brad burns his own shirt and pants and talks Todd into burning his shirt, and then replaces Todd’s shirt with one of his own blood-stained shirts. The shirt was an ugly plaid shirt and the blood wasn’t easily visible.

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