The prosecution’s case against accused mass murderer Marcus Wesson will end soon, Judge R.L. Putnam said Tuesday in Fresno County Superior Court.
The surprise announcement likely means the prosecution will not play several hours of tape-recorded interviews between Wesson and Fresno police detectives and that his lawyer soon will call witnesses on his behalf.
Marcus Wesson, 58, is charged with killing nine of his children March 12, 2004. He also is accused of sexually abusing his daughters and nieces.
If convicted of the multiple murders, he could be executed. He has pleaded not guilty.
Testimony has revealed that Wesson was the father of the slain victims; the mothers include his wife, Elizabeth, daughters Kiani and Sebhrenah, and nieces Rosa and Sofina Solorio and Ruby Ortiz. On Tuesday, prosecutor Lisa Gamoian called to the witness stand Wesson’s former neighbors from when the family lived in San Jose, Marshall and Fresno. The neighbors described him as a strict man who isolated family members and ruled over them, using his religious beliefs to justify his behavior.
At the end of the day, Putnam gave enough clues to show that the prosecution won’t air Wesson’s police interviews anytime soon.
Putnam told jurors that no testimony will be heard today because a witness is ill. The judge said the trial will resume Thursday, with only a half-day of testimony.
Putnam said a hearing will be held Friday, outside the presence of jurors and closed to the public.
The hearing, a continuation of legal arguments that began May 9, will determine whether prosecution witnesses — psychologists Dr. J. Reid Meloy and Dr. Kris Mohandie — can testify.
If Putnam rules in Gamoian’s favor, the experts will testify early next week, wrapping up the prosecution’s case. If Putnam does not allow the expert testimony, Wesson’s lawyers will likely start their case Monday.
Gamoian has said Meloy would testify about the effects that a father’s “domination and control” would have over family members and that Mohandie would testify about “coercion and persuasion and how it relates to acts of violence.”
The slayings were sparked when Sofina Solorio and Ruby Ortiz went to the Wesson home to reclaim their children. Years before, the women had given their children to him to raise.
Since the start of testimony on March 3, Gamoian has played the police interviews of several key witnesses, including those of Elizabeth and Kiani Wesson, Rosa and Sofina Solorio and Ruby Ortiz.
In the police interviews, the family members confirmed that Wesson preached of a murder-suicide pact that would be carried out if authorities came to split up the family.
His lawyers, however, contend that Sebhrenah Wesson fatally shot her eight siblings, then killed herself.
Jail records say Marcus Wesson was arrested at 4:47 p.m. March 12, 2004. He was booked into the Fresno jail at 5:27 p.m. the following day, the records show.
Early in the investigation, Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer described Wesson as “very intelligent, very articulate and very well-spoken.”
Local legal experts say a prosecutor can play a defendant’s tape-recorded police interview to jurors during the testimony of a detective. The police interview also can be played to jurors if a defendant chooses to testify.
If Wesson testifies, he would be subjected to intense cross-examination by Gamoian, who has grilled his family members for several days. Wesson’s lawyers have declined to publicly discuss that scenario.