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For week ended June 27, 1999 Posted 26 Jun 1999

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Falater murder case goes to jury

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Falater murder case goes to jury
(Phoenix) AZ Republic 24Jun99 L8
By Jerry Kammer The Arizona Republic

PHOENIX, ARIZONA -- The jury has heard the case and now must decide whether or not LDS Church member Scott Falater is guilty of killing his wife. After hearing final arguments, the jury deliberated for 90 minutes on Wednesday and was expected to resume deliberations today.

In closing arguments, prosecutor Juan Martinez compared Falater's sleepwalking defense to the delusions of Don Quixote, "It's a fanciful sort of world, just like Don Quixote's. Are you willing to follow him there?" Martinez argued that Falater's actions were premeditated because Falater not only stabbed his wife, Yarmila, 44 times, but then returned after stashing his clothes to find that she was still breathing and then drowned her in the family's swimming pool.

But defense attorney Michael Kimerer said that Martinez was distorting the evidence, "The person who is the Man From La Mancha creating the fantasy world is the prosecution in this case," Kimerer said. He criticized Martinez's claims, and noted that more than a dozen character witnesses testified to his devotion to his family and calm demeanor. "The sadness and the horror in this case is that because you're in a sleepwalking state and have no voluntary control over your actions, you have ended up killing the most important thing in your life," he said.

Kimerer claimed that the attack was just not what Falater would do under concious circumstances, "This is a person who has never been in any trouble, this is a man who had a wonderful marriage, and this is a man who had two of the finest children you ever could have." He also said Falater's bloody attack "was a total aberration from everything in his life."

Both sides spent some of their closing arguments focusing on the handwritten notes of a psychologist who evaluated Falater after the killing. The notes read, in part, "Unforgivable sin -- not continuing to grow -- getting stuck in life. Dad did it, so did SF (Falater). Dad told him not to grow past his wife like he felt he did -- Scott did it too."

Prosecutor Martinez interprets these notes to say that Falater thought his wife,Yarmilla, had committed an "unforgivable sin" which, Martinez speculates, could have been her attitude toward the Church or her refusal to have additional children.

But defense attorney Kimerer attacked Martinez's interpretation, saying, "This concept of unforgiven sin is simply not supported by the evidence." He says that in Mormonism an "unforgivable sin" is murder.

In many ways this case was a battle of experts, and both attorneys sought to diminish the testimony of each other's experts. Martinez says that the defense experts offered sloppy analysis of Falater's actions because they want to make this a sleepwalking case, "They're so quick to want to make this a cause celebre," Martinez said. "They want to be a part of this thing." He claims that the defense experts, Rosalind Cartwright and Roger Broughton, are testifying to bolster their own careers, "I submit to you that these (resumes) are nothing but steps to their shrines of self-indulgence," he said.

In response, Kimerer said that Broughton and Cartwright are "two of the finest, best experts in the world on parasomnias," the type of sleep disorder that includes sleepwalking.

The jury can find Falater guilty of either first-degree or second-degree murder. Only first-degree murder would allow a death-penalty sentence, and Falater could appeal either verdict. In addition to possibly finding Falater not guilty, the jury could also become a hung jury, which would mean Falater could face a new trial.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information