Stacey Barker Murder Trial Day One - Openings And First Witness
The murder trial for Stacey Barker, 26 got under way on Wednesday April 27, 2011 in Lancaster, CA at the Michael Antonovich Antelope Valley Courthouse, with Superior Court Judge Hayden Zackey presiding. ( Tori reports Judge Zackey seems to be a very pleasant man...and I think he's pretty easy to look at as well!)
Stacey Barker is accused of killing her 18 month old daughter, Emma Leigh Barker, on March 18, 2009. Barker was arrested on April 27, 2009 and the charges filed against her include Second Degree Murder, Assault On A Child Causing Death and Child Abuse. The complaint alleges that Barker willfully caused and permitted the child to be injured and harmed and that injury resulted in death. If convicted on either of the top charges Barker may face 25 to Life. Barker formally entered a not guilty plea to all counts on August 12, 2009.
After selecting from a jury pool of over 80 venires,12 jurors and 3 alternates were finally selected on Tuesday. Tori said the jury consists of mostly women, 7 women and 5 men with 3 women alternates. They appear to range in age from 30 to 50 and a sidenote: 1 of the women juror is pregnant. We will update you more about the jury, this first day a LOT is going on. None our friends who have been attending the pre-trial hearings were able to attend the voir dire so we're not able to tell you what type of occupations the jurors have or much about them. Tori did mention that some are dressed nicely and more than she expected came dressed super casually...jeans and t-shirts.(At this point we haven't been told yet exactly what she said to Brendon but we do know she wanted him to stop and pick up her brother Nick from their home in Quartz Hills). The 911 call came in at 10:50 pm. Nick made the call from the car on the way to the Palmdale Park n Ride.
When law enforcement arrived at the Park n Ride three minutes later, Brendon and Nick were there outside of the car. Stacey was reclined in the front seat of her car, half naked and moaning over and over, "They took my baby". The sheriff's deputy asked Brendon and Nick to cover Stacey, so they both took off their shirts and covered her. She did have bruises on her forehead and ribs so an ambulance was called and an Amber Alert was issued for Emma. Barker reported at the ER that she thought she had been raped, so at 12:19 am the SART, Sexual Assault Response Team examined her and did find bruising injuries in her vaginal area. None of her injuries were serious so Barker was released at 5:30 am on March 19.
Court started at 10:30 am without the jury present so that Deputy District Attorney S. Kelly Cromer (KC) and Deputy Public Defender Roberto F. Dager (RD) could present their arguments to the court on several outstanding motions. One of the motions argued was over Witness X and the Massiah Motion to exclude his testimony. The defense would still like to have him declared a government agent. Judge Zackey ruled recently that X can testify to any conversations he had with Stacey Barker before he contacted the sheriff's department with an offer to assist them in this case. Zackey stopped short of ruling on the entire Massiah motion at that hearing because Kelly Cromer told the court she will only use X's testimony about the independent conversations with Barker and the letters Barker wrote to X herself (24 letters over a one month period of time!). Roberto Dager wants to use Witness X's prior criminal history at trial, the extensive amount of time he has spent incarcerated and what his convictions are (A couple Robbery and a burglary) . Dager also calls X a liar and a thief.
( A side note: Witness X commented on an earlier post at katfish ponders through a third party in response to some comments made by members of the Barker family.)
A Defense Motion to Exclude was argued as well. This motion asked the court to prohibit the state from presenting the evidence found in Stacey Barker's car. We haven't seen the motion but the defense argues it was irrelevant and prejudicial. The state said the evidence should be admitted because there were morning after pills found in Stacey's glove box that show state of mind, that she didn't want kids and the pink baby blanket that Emma kept close and called her "Binky" wasn't found in the car, with Emma's body or in the Barker home. The evidence (and lack there of ) from the car is coming in.
Seated at the table for the state are the Prosecutor, Kelly Cromer and Sheriff Department Homicide Detective Sandra Nava. For those interested in the "full picture" Kelly Cromer is a woman in her early 60's, dressed in a light blue suit, Jacket and skirt. Detective Nava is about 40, she is wearing a maroon colored pant suit. At the defense table Stacey Barker(SB) is wearing a dusty violet colored pants and knit shirt, her attorney, Roberto Dager (early 40's) has on a black suit with a blue shirt. Our friends in court have described Dager as looking like Snidely Whiplash. From Tori's description of the day, it seems Mr. Dager came loaded with "Snidely's"swagger today as well.
Opening arguments were scheduled to begin at 11 am. Things didn't get started on time though, because it was between 11:30 and 12:00 before one of the alternate jurors made it to court. After giving the late juror a severe abmonation about being late and holding up the court, Judge Zackey recessed for lunch.
The State's Opening Statement
Court reconvened from lunch at 1:30 pm. Before beginning opening statements the court announced that anyone who is on the witness list for either side must leave the courtroom until after they are released from testimony by the court. The Barkers were all seated in their "normal seats" although more of the family are present than at the pre-trial hearings. Stacey Barker's parents, Gary and Sue Barker, get up and leave, as does Sue's father. Barker's other three grandparents and an aunt and a brother remain in the courtroom. Brendon Borrelli, Stacey's boyfriend at the time of Emma's death, also leaves the courtroom. Brendon normally sits with the Barker family but today is seated with his mother off to the side in front of our friends in court.
Kelly Cromer rises to begin her opening for the state. ( FYI, Tori noted that for the most part the information in the state's opening is a rehash of the testimony given at the Preliminary hearing, but there are some extra things...so hear we go...) After introducing herself to the jury, Cromer informed the jury that what she or Public Defender Dager say to them in court is not evidence and is not to be viewed as such. She also told the jury not to try and "read anything" into the questions they ask.
Cromer said that what should be considered evidence is witness testimony and the exhibits, it is up to the jury to give the weight to the evidence that they deem appropriate. Roberto Dager objected and said a witness is not evidence. Judge Zackey overruled the objection.
Kelly Cromer began talking to the jury about the state's theory of the case and what they intend to prove....The state will show this "mother", after fighting with her own mother, took her 18 month old daughter Emma and killed her.
Stacey Barker's mother, Sue, changed her work hours to the night shift, 6pm to 2:30 am, so she could take care of Emma from 5:30 am to 2:30 pm, while Stacey worked. The arrangement seemed to work out at first, but things began to change with Stacey wanting to spend her time on the party scene after she began dating Brendon Borrelli in December 2008....just 4 months before Emma died. Stacey and Brendon did know each other before that from high school.
Evidence will show that on March 17, 2011 Stacey and Brendon celebrated St. Patrick's Day drinking at Coaches late into the night. Stacey didn't arrive home until 2:30 am but she still got up and dressed as if going to work for her 5:30 am shift. Stacey actually spent the day hanging out at Brendon's and they went out for lunch. Later in the day Stacey returned home like she had worked. When Stacey got home from "work" on March 18 she was late again, so her mother was mad. Her mother had an appointment and wanted to get some rest before leaving, something Stacey knew, but was late anyway. Thus the argument ensued. Sue Barker told Stacey to make other childcare arrangements and threatened to throw Stacey out of the house. Sue was feeding Emma a "Lunchable" when Stacey got home, so Stacey finished feeding Emma and said she was going to see Anthony for some money. Sue left for her appointment. Stacey then went to her brother Nick's room and told him she was taking Emma to the park. He was the last person besides SB to see Emma alive.
Cromer said phone records will show Stacey was sending text messages to Brendon at work from the time she left home all the way to Sylmar. Cellphone pings show that while she was texting Brandon that she was at the Lancaster City Park with Emma Barker's phone was pinging in LA. Later records show that Stacey called Brendon from the Park n Ride in Palmdale and said she needed him
At 8am Barker came to the sheriff's department for her first formal interview with detectives. Police records show the interview lasted one-hour forty-seven minutes and 7 seconds. By this time, LE were already noticing some inconsistent statements from SB and had gathered her phone records. From the start of the interview they confronted SB with phone records and said they have other evidence that doesn't line up with her story of being attacked. After being confronted, Barker admitted she hadn't been attacked, she said Emma was chewing on the baggy and choked. SB said she made up the story and hid Emma's body because she was afraid people would think she was a bad mommy. At that point, Detective Nava begged Barker to tell detective Marsh (March?) where she hid Emma's body. Emma's body was found at 9:30 am after Stacey finally told LE where she had hid her daughter off the highway in Sylmar.
At this point Kelly Cromer (KC) began showing some photographs on an overhead projector. The first picture was of a grassy field...the prosecutor pointed out if you look closely you can see Emma's raised leg. The next picture was closer and you could see that both of Emma's legs were raised and bent at the knees. The third picture was even closer and you could clearly see that Emma, dressed in blue shorts and a pink shirt, was in the position as if sitting in a baby car seat with her legs bent and her arms raised in front as if they were resting on the cushioned restraint bar. Cromer said Emma's body wasn't propped like that....that is rigor mortise. (Tori noted the next picture was harsh.) The fourth picture was a close-up of Emma's dirty face with blood in her nose. Cromer said this suggests that SB did something to Emma before she died and told the jury that Emma had triple the normal dose of Benedryl in her system at autopsy as well. The last picture shown to the jury was a shot from the roadway, KC pointed out that where SB left Emma, she couldn't be seen by anyone driving by, adding that Emma was left to be eaten by animals. (UGH!)
(Tori reported that Stacey Barker looked directly at these pictures of Emma with no emotion. Barker's family that were still in the courtroom didn't show any visible emotion either. Were they coached not to show their emotions? It's possible. Back to the rest of the state's opening.....)
My notes show here that Brendon Borrelli told detectives that he didn't want a family, he couldn't afford a family financially and isn't ready emotionally. He said he only met Stacey's parents one time, after Stacey was let out on March 19.
At her next interview with homicide detectives, on March 20, Barker stuck with the first account that she had told the day before, that Emma died accidentally by choking on a baggy that the baby got out of her purse. It seemed that Barker began changing her story to 'fit' what LE was telling her. Another account was that she was playing peek-a-boo with Emma with a plastic baggy. Detective Sandra Nava asked SB, "Why a plastic bag?" SB replied, "Well, it wasn't tight." When told that pink blanket fibers were found in Emma's airway (was this an interrogation tactic or a real finding?), SB changed her story again to say she was playing peek-a-boo with Emma using the baggie and the blanket. SB said she didn't hold that long, she was just entertaining Emma, adding, "I guess that wasn't the best option". After not hearing anything from Emma for two minutes, SB told detectives she looked back and saw the blanket over Emma's face, she knew Emma was dead and panicking took the next exit. Stacey claimed she put her hands over Emma's heart and face for signs of life, but there were none.
Dr. Ribe (Deputy Medical Examiner who conducted the autopsy on Emma) concluded that Emma was asphyxiated but said it took force to cause the nose bleed. Benedryl is often used as a sleeping aid.Was no baggy or pink blanket found in the car or with Emma when she was found.
Cromer moves on to wrap up her opening statement, that lasted over a half hour. She told the jury they will hear testimony from an inmate referred to in court as Witness X, a 3 strike felon who is covered in tattoos. When X first befriended Stacey Barker he thought she was innocent so he tried to help her. He told her not talk to anyone about her case or put anything in writing. Despite the advice from X, SB started writing him letters, she obsessed about tattoos and her plans to get some too. Her letters became sexually explicit and she was even trying out X's last name. In the 24 letters that SB wrote to X over the course of 1 month, Barker admitted Emma was dead before leaving Palmdale. DDA Cromer ended her opening statement by saying that Stacey Barker asked X to help her come up with a plausible story, adding she has been practicing in her cell for court, but needs help to make the story fit.
The Defense Opening Statement
Roberto Dager began his 20 minute opening statement by telling the jury that after Emma died, his client Stacey Barker did some stupid things, but she had no reason to kill Emma. Emma was basically a miracle baby because Stacey had been told she may not be able to bear children.
Dager actually dares the jury to find someone who will say Stacey Barker was a bad mother. Kelly Cromer rose and said, "objection!" Before she could even get the basis for her objection out, Mr. Dager says, "withdrawn."
Stacey was dating others besides Brendon, she had dated Mark before Brendon even came along and at the same time she was seeing Brendon she was having a sexual relation ship with Sheriff's Deputy Villa Lobo.
Dager continued, Stacey did make up a cockamamie story, but he has a real problem with detectives Nava, McCarthy and Marsh. They are trying to make the story that Brendon Borelli and Nick Barker helped kill Emma and conspired to cover it up.
Dager told the jury when they see Witness X take the stand, they will see a manipulating snitch who is a liar and a thief. Kelly Cromer says objection and asks for a sidebar. When they return from the sidebar Dager moves on.
Roberto Dager wrapped up his opening statement by telling the jury they will see that Emma was always well dressed, Stacey supplied what her baby needed and cared for her baby...her love. She had no motive to kill her, she just used bad judgement.....
(Dager didn't say what type of abuse Sue allegedly suffered. Tori said she looked at Sue's family when he said this and saw no response.)
First Witness - Sue Barker
Stacey Barker's mother, Sue Barker, was the first witness to be called in the state's case in chief. I plan to write this in a question and answer format. Sometimes it seems as though the questions are all over the place. Kelly Cromer told the jury not to try to read anything into the questions she and Dager ask or how they are asked so I'll take her word for it. :)
I'll use abbreviations as follows for the defendant and those speaking in court today....
"JZ" for Judge Hayden Zackey
"KC" for Deputy District Attorney Kelly Cromer
"RD" for Deputy Public Defender Roberto Dager
"Sue" for Sue Barker
"SB" for Stacey Barker
KC - You were served a subpoena to appear today. Do you want to be here? Sue - No, I don't want to be here.
KC - Would you identify Stacey Barker if you see her in the courtroom? Sue - Points at Stacey at the defense table.
KC - Would you tell the court your kids names and birth dates? Sue - Matt, Stacey 01/02/1985, and Nick (I listed in birth order but didn't note birth date for the boys.
KC - How long has Stacey been living with you? Sue - Stacey got her own apartment when she turned 18, but she moved back home as soon as she became pregnant with Emma. She lived back at home for 27 months. She continued working while pregnant but took a month off work before delivering Emma by C-section and then 3 months after Emma was born.
KC - Who cared for Emma when Stacey went back to work? Sue - When Stacey went back to Bank Of America (BOA) she went on the 5:30 am to 2:30 pm shift and I went to the 6 pm to 2:30 am shift so that I could watch Emma while she worked. She paid me $100 a week for babysitting.
KC - Who took care of Emma the most? Sue - I did, but everyone had their own room. Emma slept in with Stacey until she went back to work and then we converted an office into Emma's room. We gave her a crib for a gift. Emma was a normal baby but she had delayed speech.
KC - Why delayed speech? RD - objected, speculation. JZ - Overruled, she can answer if she knows.
Sue - Yes, because she was spoiled.
KC - How was Emma treated? Sue - Like a princess.
KC - How was Stacey treated? Sue - Like a princess. She was always a Daddy's girl.
KC - Who did Stacey start dating New Years Eve? Mike from work? Sue - I can't remember the other guy's name
KC - Was Stacey often focused on new relationships? Sue - Yes, sometimes, but Emma came first.
KC - Did she ever date a Hispanic guy, dye her hair black, tan and shave her eyebrows and then draw them on with liner? Sue - Yeah...she lived with that guy.
KC - Did Stacey try and take on whatever persona or role she thought a guy wanted her to be? Sue - Yes.
KC - Was she treated bad by men? Sue - Yes.
KC - Did she approach her relationships with such intensity that she drove them away? Sue - I can't remember.
KC - Since Mr. Dager brought it up, are you an alcoholic? Sue - Yes.
KC - Have you drank today? Sue - It's been 12 days since I drank alcohol. I drank before Emma died, but after she died I drank everyday.
KC - Do you have depression? Sue - Yes. KC -Does the depression or medications cloud your memory? Sue - No.
KC - Who did you sit with at Emma's funeral? Sue - I sat with Nick, Stacey and my sister at the viewing. I sat with my son and my sister at the funeral.
KC - Why didn't you sit with Stacey? Sue - I don't know.
KC - Was there anything that you did after the funeral that you didn't do before? Sue - No.
KC - Did you lock your bedroom door? I can refresh your memory with a transcript from your police interview, Who were you afraid of ? Sue - Stacey
KC - Not trust her? Sue - Yes. KC - Did you think she was capable of murder? RD - Objection! JZ - Over ruled. Sue - No.
RD - Objection! Opinion! JZ - In 2009, did you think she was capable of murder and now you don't? Sue - No response given
KC - On 3/19/2009, did you think Stacey killed Emma? Didn't you tell Detective Nava if the things you were saying about Stacey got back to your husband, Gary, that you would lose him? (Showed transcript)
Sue - Yes.
KC - When Stacey told you what happened to Emma on 3/20 what did she say? Sue - An accident with a baggy playing peek a boo and the blanket got caught on the car seat. She was worried people would think she was a bad mother. Brendon came and stayed that night. She wasn't crying when telling the story but after she was confronted, she cried. RD - Ask to strike as hearsay! Was last question and answer striken?
KC - Did Detective Nava ask you did Stacey do this? Sue - Yes, I did tell Nava that
KC - Do you believe she is capable of killing Emma? Sue - Yes
KC - Was Stacey going to Long beach to see Anthony on the 18th of March? Sue - No. KC -Going for money? Sue - No, she was due to get several thousand dollars back in income tax, she didn't need money.
KC - Did Stacey express any regrets? Sue - I asked her if she tried to save Emma and she said no.
KC - Did Emma have an incident with an allergic reaction to peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Blotchy itchy lips? Sue - Yes, Stacey took Emma to the emergency room right away.
KC - Did you and Stacey have fights before March 18 about caring for Emma and threaten to kick her out of the house? Sue - No
KC - Did you ever argue with Stacey about you coming home from work and needing to find someone to watch Emma? Sue - I can't remember.
KC - Did Brendon back track to your house on March 18 to pick up Nick? Sue - Yes, I didn't know then.
KC - Did Stacey get a new cell phone after law enforcement took her phone? Sue - When the box came I thought it was some DVD and toys that I had ordered for Emma but didn't come until after...
KC - Who bought things for Emma? Sue - I bought most of her toys and Stacey bought her clothes. Emma had a stuffed animal she called "Bear Bear" and a blanket she called "Binky" that she like to take with her in the car and she always she slept with.
KC - What happened to Binky? Sue - I don't know. KC - Did you put Bear Bear in Emma's casket? Sue - Yes, when I asked Stacey where Binky was she said she didn't know. KC - To put in the casket too? Sue - Yes
KC - On March 18, 2009 you argued with Stacey about coming straight home from work, was this the first time? Sue - Coming home on time? KC - Only time? Sue - Only that day. I had an appointment at 3:30 that was only 5 minutes away so I wanted to take a nap before.
(Tori notes here that Sue seems flustered with these questions, possibly because she didn't want to say they argued because Stacey hadn't got home the night before until 2:30 am. When asked in the preliminary she said she wouldn't know what time Stacey got home because she was at work. Remember, Sue told Detective Nava that she was afraid of losing her husband if she said anything against Stacey. Court breaks here for 15 minutes. back at 3:15. When court reconvened Stacey Barker's brother, Matt, came into the courtroom....after the break, Tori noted many of Sue's answers to any "hard" questions was "I don't recall.")
KC - Was Stacey neat or a slob? Who cleaned Emma's room? Sue - We both straightened Emma's room but the maid cleaned.
KC - Was Stacey a good student? Sue - She got some A's and B's mostly C's.
KC - What did Stacey tell you about the baggy in her purse ? Sue - I saw the baggy. She had Girl Scout cookies in it, Thin mints. KC - What kind of a baggy was it? A real ziplock baggy or another type?
Sue - real
KC - Did Stacey keep a neat purse? Sue - Yes. KC - She wasn't like me...bag stuffed with every receipt? Sue - No. KC - Did you ever see Emma play with Stacey's purse? Sue - Yes. KC - Did you lie to Detective Nava about that? Sue - I was in shock. KC - Is your memory better now than then? Sue - People remember important things.
KC - When is dinner time for Emma? Sue - I don't know I went to work at 5:30.
KC - How coordinated was Emma? RD- Objection, calls for speculation! JZ- It's first hand information. (The question wasn't answered although it sounds as though JZ permitted it. KC moved on.)
KC - Did anyone give Emma Benedryl ? Sue - No KC - Was Emma teething? Sue - No, but we used Tylenol and a teething ring when she was.
KC - asked some questions about the Lunchable that Emma had for dinner that night, where it was bought and what was in it. RD- objected, relevance ? JZ must have over ruled the objection .Sue- answered it was bought at Stater Brother's Market. I didn't get Sue's answer about the contents of the lunchable. Court recessed for the day. Sue Barker will be back on the stand tomorrow, Thursday April 28.
It was a long day in court for everyone. Thanks to Tori for taking such in depth notes...it was much more than I expected. Kudos to Tiff, ANurse, Ange and Gabe for helping to fill in some blanks as well.