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Episode 77: William Kennedy Smith Rape Trial

On Dec 11 1991, William Kennedy Smith was acquitted of rape after a trial in Palm Beach, Florida. Smith was represented by defense attorney Roy Black, who pulled no punches in his questioning of the accuser, Patricia Bowman, and her friend Ann Mercer.

The incident began on the evening of March 29, 1991, when Smith, 30 years old, went to the Au Bar in Palm Beach, Florida, with his uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, and his cousin Patrick J. Kennedy. Smith met Patricia Bowman, a 29, and her friend Anne Mercer at the bar. The five then went to a nearby house owned by the Kennedy family. When Smith and Bowman went outside for a walk along the beach, Bowman alleged that Smith raped her; Smith testified that they had consensual sex.

In the first excerpt, prosecutor Moira Lasch asks Patricia Bowman to describe the alleged rape. Bowman is then cross-examined by Roy Black. The second excerpt is from Black’s  cross-examination of Anne Mercer. In the third clip, Black questions Senator Ted Kennedy. The final clip is Moira Lasch cross-examining William Kennedy Smith.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 76: Pastor Timothy Omotoso Trial

Pastor Timothy Omotoso is currently on trial in the High Court in Port Elizabeth, South Africa (though proceedings are on hold until December). Omotoso is a charismatic Nigerian televangelist with a taste for garish jackets who, until his recent arrest, led the popular Jesus Dominion International congregation. Omotoso, 60, along his two co-defendants, Lusanda Sulani‚ 36‚ and Zukiswa Sitho‚ 28‚ is facing a string of charges including rape, racketeering and sexual assault.

Testifying here against Omotoso is Cheryl Zondi, 22, who describes how Omotoso began sexually abusing her when she was 14, and a member of his “Grace Galaxy” singing group. Zondi spent a grueling 3 days on the stand facing intensive cross-examination from Omotoso’s defense lawyer, Peter Daubermann. She is asked the kinds of intimate and probing questions that would be considered inappropriate if asked in a U.S. courtroom. For example, Daubermann repeatedly asks Zondi whether Omotoso pushed his penis against her vaginal lips, or whether it actually penetrated her vagina- and, if so, by how many centimeters?

Under the circumstances, Miss Zondi is remarkably brave, composed, and articulate.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 75: Bernhard Goetz Confession

On December 22, 1984, Bernhard Goetz was riding a New York City Subway when he was confronted by four teenagers who asked him for money. Rather than being robbed and “beaten to a pulp,” Goetz pulled out a gun he was carrying and shot the boys. All four were seriously wounded.

After the shooting, Goetz jumped out of the train on to the tracks, ran south through a subway tunnel, and went home to gather some belongings. He then rented a car and drove north to Bennington, Vermont, where he burned his blue jacket and dismantled the revolver, scattering the pieces in the woods north of town. He drove around New England for several days, registering at motels under various names and paying in cash.

Nine days later, Goetz returned to New York and turned himself in to the police. During a two-hour interview  Goetz was charged with attempted murder, assault, reckless endangerment, and several firearms offenses. At the trial which followed, Goetz’s confession was used by the prosecution in the case against him.

In his confession, Goetz comes across as confused, angry, defensive, and distraught. He justifies his actions by describing an incident in which he was mugged in the past; he was injured, and the assailant went unpunished. His diatribe against the legal system and the City of New York City is eloquent and passionate, and won him many supporters in court. Goetz calls the justice system a “joke, a sham, and a disgrace.” He says he has no desire to be seen as a hero or a vigilante, but at the same time, he’s unapologetic about his actions, telling police that, “my intention was to murder them, to hurt them, to make them suffer as much as possible… If I had more bullets, I would have shot ’em all again and again. My problem was I ran out of bullets.” Goetz’s defense team described the electronics engineer as a nebbishy weakling who turned on the bullies, refusing to have sand kicked in his face. The strategy worked. The jury found Goetz not guilty of all charges except for one count of carrying an unlicensed firearm, for which he served eight months of a one-year sentence.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 74: Lee Rodarte Police Interview

On the evening of August 2, 2017, waitress Savannah Gold, 21, failed to show up for her shift at the Bonefish Grill in Jacksonville, Florida. Her unlocked car with a flat tire was found in the restaurant parking lot, her purse untouched inside. Her family received text messages from her phone, saying she had met someone and was running away with him. But the texts sounded uncharacteristic of Savannah, and police began to look closely at chef Lee Rodarte, 28, who had unexplained cuts on his body.

When questioned, Rodarte admitted that he had a sexual relationship with Savannah, though he broke it off because she was using drugs heavily, and because his girlfriend discovered the affair. When police pulled the security surveillance video from the parking lot of the shopping center in which the Bonefish Grill is located, they saw an apparent struggle between Rodarte and Gold inside his car the night she disappeared. On the video, Rodarte’s car was seen shaking, and the rear door opening and closing. After a few minutes, Rodarte walked over to Savannah’s car, took an object out of it and put it in his. He then returned to her car and punctured the front left tire of her vehicle. He returned to his vehicle and after a few minutes, he drove away, with Savannah still in the car.

After the police finished interrogating Rodarte, who denied any knowledge of Savannah’s whereabouts, they left the room. Once alone, Rodarte was caught on tape sobbing and saying “I’m sorry, Savannah.” Later, he confessed to the murder, and told investigators that he had thrown the waitress’s body in a nearby lake. Despite his confession, Lee Rodarte has pleaded not guilty. His trial will begin in February 2019.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 73: Ted Bundy Phone Call

This is audio from a phone call made by Ted Bundy to prison psychologist Dr. Al Carlisle before Bundy was known to be a serial killer. Bundy was in Utah State Prison after his 1975 arrest for the kidnap and attempted murder of Carol DaRonch (he soon became a suspect in a progressively longer list of unsolved homicides – or “transactions”, as Bundy refers to them here – in multiple states). Dr. Carlisle spent about 20 hours evaluating Bundy to determine whether he posed a danger for future violence. Carlisle concluded that Bundy was hard to get to know, precise, objective and somewhat impersonal when discussing himself. He lied easily, compartmentalized, and had a lot of anger. Carlisle concluded that Bundy had the capacity to commit serious crimes.

Bundy left Utah when Colorado authorities charged him with the murder of Caryn Campbell, and he was transferred to Aspen in January 1977.  On June 7, he was taken to the courthouse for a preliminary hearing, and since he was representing himself, he wasn’t required to wear handcuffs or leg shackles. During a recess, he asked to visit the courthouse’s law library to research his case. While there, he opened a window and jumped from the second story. He was arrested again six days later.

Despite his negative evaluation, Carlisle clearly established a rapport with Bundy, who, in this call, seems casual and friendly but evasive and impersonal. On Dec 30 1977, Bundy escaped again and committed further assaults, including three murders, before his ultimate recapture in Florida in 1978.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 72: Jake Evans 911 Call

On October 4, 2012, 17-year-old Jake Evans called 911 from his home in Aledo, Texas, and informed the operator that he’d just shot and killed his sister and mother. She asks if he’s sure they’re dead. The boy replies, “Yes… It’s weird, I wasn’t even really angry with them. It just kind of happened. I’ve been kind of planning on killing for a while now… This is probably selfish of me to say, but to me, I felt like they were suffocating me in a way. Obviously, you know, I’m pretty – I guess – evil.”

Other than the fact that his mother and sister were “suffocating” him, Evans has no explanation for the murders, which he committed when his father was out of town and his two older sisters were out. The home-schooled Jake, who was apparently a shy, quiet boy, reloaded his revolver at least once during the shootings. His family lived on two acres in a gated community and his mother was a public school teacher. In a written confession, he wrote that he intended to kill not only his mom and younger sister, but also his older sisters and grandparents. In April 2015, Evans was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Listen to the 911 call here.

Transcript of the 911 call

Episode 71: Leon Jacob Sentencing Hearing

In 2017, failed doctor Leon Jacob, 40, and his veterinarian girlfriend, Valerie Daniels, 48, were convicted of planning the double murder of their ex-partners. But the “hit man” whom Jacob hired was in fact an undercover officer working for the Houston Police Department. The “hit man” was paid after showing the Jacob gruesome, staged photos of Verikas bound and gagged, and Mack McDaniel, covered in fake blood, pictured as a slain corpse. A short time after her arrest, Valerie McDaniel killed herself by jumping off the balcony of her apartment.

The trial revealed that Leon Jacob had an extensive history of obsessive behavior and violence towards women. He was shown to have stalked and abused numerous women, including his ex-wife Annie. He was sentenced to life in prison for two counts of solicitation of capital murder. In this extract from the penalty hearing, Megan Verikas describes the lasting effects of Jacob’s abusive behavior. Jacob is represented by the “legendary” Houston defense attorney George Parnham, 78, who defended  both Andrea Yates and Clara Harris. He is slow, hard of hearing, out of touch, and deeply annoying.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 70: Steven Fishman Scientology Interview

This episode contains parts 1, 2, and 6 of a seven-part interview conducted with Steven Fishman in November 1988 by false memory expert Richard Ofshe, and attorney Marc Nurik. Fishman was currently facing several criminal charges relating to a mail fraud scheme he’d set up when he was working as a financial planner for the Church of Scientology. In the interview, Fishman reveals various aspects of Scientology doctrine, his own Scientology involvement, and the church’s response to his arrest. He claims that church staff had ordered him to murder his psychologist, Uwe Geertz, and then to commit suicide.

The interviewers, Ofshe and Nurik, are smart, open minded, and speak to Fishman in his own language. They present as affable and non-threatening, asking lots of questions and appearing to follow Fishman’s lines of thought. They don’t interrupt, contradict, or interject. For his part, Fishman appears to have a fascinatingly complex, detailed and coherent worldview, yet it is completely off the wall. He describes how he became the true father of Jesus Christ, and how he eats his soups in alphabetical order “because I don’t believe in randomity.”

The court found Fishman to be sane, and he made a plea bargain, serving three years of a five-year sentence for wire fraud and money laundering. In October 2009, in connection with another fraud scheme, Fishman was sentenced to another 21 years in prison.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 69: Broken Arrow Murder Confession

This episode contains an interview conducted by Detective Eric Bentz with Michael Bever, 16, who, along with his older brother Robert, killed five members of their family on the night of July 22–23, 2015. Michael tells detective Bentz that the familicide was Robert’s idea, since he was “against society” and “wanted to kill as many people as possible” so the brothers could get their own Wikipedia page. Robert had been plotting the killings for months, according to Michael, and wanted to strike that night because he was expecting the delivery of a combined 2,250 rounds of ammunition the following day, and he didn’t his parents to know about it.

Using knives, the two home-schooled brothers killed their father, David, 52, and mother April, 44 (“mom was okay but dad was a bit too much,” says Michael), younger brothers Daniel, 12, and Christopher, 7, and little sister Victoria, 5. Another sister, Crystal, 13, was critically injured but survived, and baby Autumn Bever, 2, was unhurt. After killing their family, the Bever boys were planning to go on a cross-country killing spree to become the most notorious mass murderers in history. However, aware that Daniel had managed to call 911 before his death, the two fled to a wooded area behind their house, where they ultimately were arrested after being discovered by a police dog.

Detective Bentz is remarkably calm and even-keeled in the face of Michael’s confessions. He holds back all emotion as he tries to get Michael to feel at ease. The boy, who has a slight speech impediment and seems impressed by the detective’s authority, at first claims he didn’t kill anyone, but eventually admits he was supposed to kill his dad, Victoria, and Crystal, and confesses to stabbing his little brother and his mother. Of Robert, he says, “I did want to do it with him because he was going to do it no matter what.” Their plan was very specific, says Michael, but everything went wrong (“I didn’t like it the minute it started”).

Robert Bever and Michael Bever were both charged with five counts of first-degree murder and one count of assault and battery with intent to kill. Both were tried as adults, and both received life without parole.

Listen to the episode here.

Episode 68: Dahmer Trial Testimony Excerpts

In Dahmer’s defense, Fred Berlin testified that the defendant was unable to conform his conduct at the time that he committed the crimes because he was suffering from necrophilia. Dr. Judith Becker, a professor of Psychiatry and Psychology, also diagnosed Dahmer with necrophilia. The final defense expert to testify, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Carl Wahlstrom, diagnosed Dahmer with borderline personality disorder, schizotypal personality disorder, necrophilia, alcohol dependence, and psychotic disorder not otherwise specified.

For the prosecution, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Resnick testified that Dahmer didn’t suffer from primary necrophilia because he preferred live sexual partners. Dr. Fred Fosdel testified that Dahmer was without mental disease or defect at the time he committed the murders, and able to differentiate between right and wrong. Dr. Park Dietz testified that he did not believe Dahmer to be suffering from any mental disease or defect at the time that he committed the crimes, stating: “Dahmer went to great lengths to be alone with his victim and to have no witnesses,” adding that that there was ample evidence that Dahmer prepared in advance for each murder.

Each attorney was allowed to speak for two hours. For the defense, Gerald Boyle argued that Dahmer’s compulsive killings were the result of a sickness he couldn’t control. Prosecutor Michael McCann, on the other hand, described Dahmer as sane and in full control of his actions. The jury agreed that Dahmer was sane and not suffering from a mental disorder at the time of each of the 15 murders for which he was tried. There was no death penalty in Wisconsin, so Dahmer was sentenced to life without parole. He was bludgeoned to death by a fellow inmate on November 28, 1994,