A Missed Opportunity
As a defense lawyer, you need to be able to think on your feet. You need to be ready for possible objections. In Kit’s trial, there was one specific objection by the prosecution that actually had no merit and should have been overrulled. Prosecutors Barbara Whaley and Alex Garcia were so afraid to have Joan Harmon’s name mentioned in court that they were spring-loaded to object the second her name came up, regardless of the circumstances. Such is the case with the cross-examination of Marlene LaRock.
Tom Griffiths had sent a private investigator to speak with Ms. LaRock before the trial. Marlene told the investigator that she was aware of the close relationship that Calvin and Joan had, adding that she had cautioned Calvin about that relationship and told him that it was a bad idea. Barabara Whaley objected as soon as Tom Griffiths brought up the name Joan Harmon. Judge Atkins then called a bench conference.
In the bench conference, Barbara Whaley argued that statements from Joan Harmon could not be brought into the trial because of her fifth amendment rights and Judge Atkins’s earlier ruling. Barbara Whaley was wrong on a number of fronts. For one, the reason Joan Harmon was unavailable to be cross-examined was because of Judge Atkins’s ruling. But beyond that, the statements Marlene made were to a private investigator. She wasn’t testifying about statements from Joan Harmon or Calvin Phillips. The defense team should have argued that the prosecution could cross-examine their investigator if they wished.
Unfortunately, the jurors, courtroom observers, and a Court TV audience never got to hear about the conversation between LaRock and a private investigator. It was a missed opportunity to show that the relationship between Calvin Phillips and Joan Harmon went beyond one neighbor helping another.
Watch the change in the demeanor of Ms. LaRock when Joan Harmon’s name is brought up.