Defendant accuses the prosecutor of being ‘disrespectful’ to court.
Accused killer Marcus Wesson brought his trial to a short halt Thursday as he accused prosecutor Lisa Gamoian of disrespecting the court.
“Objection, your honor,” Wesson said, telling Judge R.L. Putnam in Fresno County Superior Court that “my counsel’s silence” prompted him to speak up.
Wesson said his lawyers, Ralph Torres and Peter Jones, were not objecting enough to Gamoian’s “disrespect to the court” in her questioning of Wesson’s wife, Elizabeth.
Putnam quickly ordered jurors from the courtroom to hear Wesson’s complaint.
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After a 15-minute hearing, Putnam and Wesson resolved the issue with Wesson promising to make objections through his lawyers. Elizabeth Wesson, portrayed by the prosecution as a bad mother and unwilling witness, also had words for Gamoian, calling the prosecutor “a bitch” in front of jurors.
It was a dramatic end to five days on the witness stand for Elizabeth Wesson, 45, given immunity by the prosecution to help prove its theory that Marcus Wesson ordered his daughters and nieces to carry out a murder-suicide plan if outsiders came to split up the family.
Marcus Wesson, 58, is charged with killing nine children inside his Fresno home near Roeding Park on March 12, 2004. He also faces charges of sexually abusing his daughters and nieces. He has pleaded not guilty.
Testimony has revealed that Marcus Wesson was the father of the slain children. The mothers included his wife, daughters Kiani and Sebhrenah, and nieces Sofina and Rosa Solorio and Ruby Ortiz.
Marcus Wesson forced Putnam to hold a hearing because he threatened to go “proper,” or represent himself in court.
Wesson then calmly told Putnam that Gamoian was showing “no respect for the head of the household,” meaning the judge.
Marcus Wesson also told the judge he didn’t like the “inference” that he had incestuous relationships with his daughters and nieces. “They were surrogate mothers,” he told Putnam.
Putnam, in response, told Wesson that his objections also were a show of disrespect and advised him to make his objections through his lawyers.
Wesson also complained that there was “no decorum” in the courtroom and said, “I’m not used to that.”
After Putnam explained that the examination of witnesses is “a confrontational process,” Wesson said, “I don’t mind witnesses being badgered.”
He then apologized and promised to refrain from making future objections.
Earlier this week, Marcus Wesson came to the defense of his wife, voicing objections that “the prosecutor is angry.”
Thursday, he sat silently ó and sometimes cried ó as Gamoian hammered Elizabeth Wesson with questions.
Because Gamoian stood next to Elizabeth Wesson, Putnam politely asked the prosecutor to give the witness some space.
Gamoian moved back for a few questions, but quickly moved in again for another series of questions regarding Elizabeth Wesson’s penchant for asking relatives and friends for money.
Why didn’t you sell your collection of 2,000 home movies if the family needed money? Gamoian asked.
Elizabeth Wesson became defensive: “You’re giving me stupid questions to answer. They are not even worth answering.”
Because Gamoian persisted in asking questions as she stood next to Elizabeth Wesson, Putnam ordered the prosecutor to return to the prosecution table.
Gamoian, in response, said, “Excuse me, your honor.”
Marcus Wesson, apparently believing Gamoian’s response was disrespectful toward Putnam, raised his first objection, but the judge told him to make his objections through his lawyers.
From the prosecution table, Gamoian continued to grill Elizabeth Wesson, asking her to explain what her husband meant when he said he wasn’t in jail for that “stupid, little stunt.” Gamoian earlier said Marcus Wesson believes the killings were a “stupid thing.”
Elizabeth Wesson, however, accused Gamoian of misleading the jury. She said the “stupid, little stunt” phrase referred to her husband’s belief that jailers and inmates were conspiring to harass him.
“I know he’s not going to get a fair trial,” Elizabeth Wesson said without a question pending. “We already know he is never getting out of jail.”
Elizabeth Wesson grew upset again when Gamoian asked her about her definition of sensitivity, since she had described her husband as a sensitive man who cried a lot.
“Is it sensitive to molest your daughters?” Gamoian asked.
After a long pause, Gamoian asked another question: “As you sit here today, do you believe he fathered Kiani’s child?”
No, Elizabeth Wesson replied.
Why not? Gamoian asked.
“I don’t want to believe that. I don’t want to believe it. It’s not true,” she said.
Marcus Wesson then voiced his second objection, forcing Putnam to hold the hearing.
After Elizabeth Wesson left the witness stand, jurors began hearing her account through two tape-recorded interviews she gave to Fresno police detectives.
Because Elizabeth Wesson speaks softly and sobs throughout the interview, much of what she says is inaudible. Jurors were given copies of the transcripts to read along.
In the interviews, Elizabeth Wesson tells detectives she is too distraught to recall what she saw in her home when the children were slain. In court, she told jurors the same thing.
On the tape, Elizabeth Wesson recalled seeing her husband holding their 17-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, near a pile of blankets in a rear bedroom.
When her husband ordered her to come into the bedroom, she said on the tape that she got scared and ran, leaving the younger Elizabeth and another daughter, Sebhrenah, inside the home with their father.
The girls were still alive when she ran from the room, Elizabeth Wesson told the detectives. The younger Elizabeth and Sebhrenah were later discovered among the slain victims, testimony has revealed.
The trial will resume Monday.