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.