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Old 5th November 2019, 07:52 AM   #1
wasapi
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Edward O'Brien jr, 15, convicted of murdering friends mother.

https://www.southcoasttoday.com/arti...news/310029911

I had never heard of this case, but it sounds interesting on a few levels. Found guilty of stabbing his friends mother, 98 times, O'Brian is still incarcerated, but it sounds as if issues regarding his possible involvement, as some speculate that it was the friend who killed his own mother.

What's strange is there is so little information online. Most of it being about his family trying to get him released and charges dropped. From the little info I read about the evidence, he sounds as guilty as hell.
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Last edited by wasapi; 5th November 2019 at 07:53 AM. Reason: Tried to change misspelled O'Brien that i spelled O'Brain.
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Old 5th November 2019, 08:15 AM   #2
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When I click on that I get an access denied page.
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Old 5th November 2019, 09:27 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
When I click on that I get an access denied page.
Odd. I tried it again, and it worked right away.
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Old 5th November 2019, 09:40 AM   #4
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I think it's a geographical thing. It said something about my IP. It may be only people in the USA can access it. It may be specifically screening out Europeans.
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Old 5th November 2019, 11:43 AM   #5
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The Politics of Murder

From the link to South Coast Today above, "On the night the Downing, 43, was killed, a cut and bleeding O’Brien phoned police from a nearby convenience store and reported that he’d been mugged. Investigators found that blood on his leg matched Downing’s, and his blood was found throughout the murder scene, witnesses testified during the 2?-week trial."

The case of Edward O'Brien is discussed at The Somerville Times.
"The DNA on what the prosecutor alleged to be the murder weapon was identifiable, and it was not Eddie’s. The prosecutor chose not to identify the DNA under Janet Downing’s fingernails, as well as other DNA and fingerprints found at the scene."

"Nor did they [the police] interview Viginia Reckley, who lived in the apartment that shared a wall with the Downings. Reckley had heard a commotion in the Downings’ residence at a point during the short time window when the murder could have taken place, but when witnesses established that Eddie was elsewhere. Nor did police interview Artie Ortiz."

I know very little about this crime at present, but offhand it does not sound as open-and-shut as it did at the first link. The book The Politics of Murder covers some of the problems in this case.
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Old 6th November 2019, 08:25 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Rolfe View Post
It may be specifically screening out Europeans.
I've seen this occur with other sites. In those cases it was because they didn't bother conforming to GDPR.
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Old 8th November 2019, 05:33 AM   #7
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a puzzling case

“You don’t need to be a forensic expert to understand that it’s impossible to commit that homicide, a homicide that included a struggle traversing three rooms and a flight of stairs, and not get a single drop of blood on a white shirt, green shorts, or black sneakers. And yet the police charged Eddie O’Brien with the murder on the night of July 25, 1995. The fact that he had no blood on his clothes, in the creases of his hands, under his fingernails, or on his size 15 sneakers was just an inconvenient truth.” – THE POLITICS OF MURDER link

"Edward was linked to the crime by a bloody fingerprint found on a beam in the cellar of Ms. Downing’s home, said District Attorney Thomas Reilly." Link to AP story.
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Old 13th November 2019, 09:43 PM   #8
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http://masslawyersweekly.com/wp-file...efs/obrien.htm

Guilty.
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Old 14th November 2019, 05:12 AM   #9
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Artie Ortiz

From the link directly above:

"1. The trial judge correctly precluded Virginia Mahoney from testifying to certain statements of Janet Downing, in which Janet allegedly expressed fear of her brother-in-law, Artie Ortiz. Such testimony is hearsay and it falls under no exception to the hearsay rule. The defendant's reliance on the "third party culprit" rule is misplaced. In order to admit evidence that another person may have committed the crime, the defendant must first establish that the evidence is relevant. Its relevancy is a matter left to the discretion of the judge. Here, Janet Downing's purported expressions of fear of Artie Ortiz had no tendency to prove that Artie Ortiz was the murderer. ...

2. The trial judge correctly exercised his discretion in admitting into evidence the front page of a one month-old Boston Herald newspaper bearing the headline, "We're Natural Born Killers," which was found in the defendant's bedroom. The accompanying news story was about two young men arrested for killing an elderly Avon man by stabbing him twenty-seven times. The judge twice instructed the jury that this evidence was admitted for the limited purpose of establishing the defendant's state of mind. This evidence was further neutralized when the defendant introduced into evidence the entire newspaper in order to suggest that the real reason he saved it was an announcement for a sports trading card show appearing in the sports section. ..."

The apposition of these two paragraphs from the "summary of the argument" section is interesting.
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Old 14th November 2019, 10:55 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Chris_Halkides View Post
From the link directly above:

"1. The trial judge correctly precluded Virginia Mahoney from testifying to certain statements of Janet Downing, in which Janet allegedly expressed fear of her brother-in-law, Artie Ortiz. Such testimony is hearsay and it falls under no exception to the hearsay rule. The defendant's reliance on the "third party culprit" rule is misplaced. In order to admit evidence that another person may have committed the crime, the defendant must first establish that the evidence is relevant. Its relevancy is a matter left to the discretion of the judge. Here, Janet Downing's purported expressions of fear of Artie Ortiz had no tendency to prove that Artie Ortiz was the murderer. ...
Correct.


Quote:
2. The trial judge correctly exercised his discretion in admitting into evidence the front page of a one month-old Boston Herald newspaper bearing the headline, "We're Natural Born Killers," which was found in the defendant's bedroom. The accompanying news story was about two young men arrested for killing an elderly Avon man by stabbing him twenty-seven times. The judge twice instructed the jury that this evidence was admitted for the limited purpose of establishing the defendant's state of mind. This evidence was further neutralized when the defendant introduced into evidence the entire newspaper in order to suggest that the real reason he saved it was an announcement for a sports trading card show appearing in the sports section. ..."
Correct.


Quote:
The apposition of these two paragraphs from the "summary of the argument" section is interesting.
In what way?
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Old 15th November 2019, 05:04 AM   #11
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alternate suspect

Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
In what way?
What a judge allows or disallows into a courtroom can have a significant impact on the outcome of a trial. For example in the West Memphis Three case the judge did not allow a nationally recognized expert on false confessions to testify for the defense, but he did allow someone who took a correspondence course on the occult to testify for the prosecution. Most now see this case as a miscarriage of justice. As I have implied in at least one other recent thread within this sub-forum, my impression of appeals courts is that they value finality over getting things right. The present case does not offer me any reason to reconsider. The newspaper was more prejudicial than probative, the prosecution's reason for wanting to include it was risible.

Even more significant is that Mr. Ortiz was at least as reasonable suspect as O'Brien was, probably more so. For example, "On the day of the murder, Janet expressed her fears about Ortiz and begged Gina to ensure that the police would “investigate, investigate, investigate” if she were killed. Gina, who was stalked by Ortiz after the murder, repeatedly tried to present her evidence to police." The author of this story, William Shelton, presents other evidence that should have led police to consider Mr. Ortiz a person of interest.
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Old 15th November 2019, 08:17 AM   #12
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The key to the case?

Roger Ramjets and others,

Why were Mr. Ortiz's keys found in the yard the next day?
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Old 16th November 2019, 06:00 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Chris_Halkides View Post
What a judge allows or disallows into a courtroom can have a significant impact on the outcome of a trial. For example in the West Memphis Three case
Off topic.

Why was the 'apposition of these two paragraphs' in this case 'interesting'?
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Old 16th November 2019, 07:00 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Chris_Halkides View Post
Roger Ramjets and others,

Why were Mr. Ortiz's keys found in the yard the next day?
From the comments in the article you linked, "7. In regards to Artie blocking the emergency vehicle, this is what actually happened. Artie was working the night of Janet’s murder. His wife called him and told him what happened to Janet. Like any family member would, he rushed up to the house, quickly parked, and tried to run into the house to see Janet. The police grabbed him and they fell. Artie later realized that he lost his keys when the police grabbed him. That’s why he was looking for his keys."

Seems to be just as likely as anything else (applying the internet story grain of salt to the claims of being directly involved family from the poster), since there was no evidence beyond hearsay that Mr. Ortiz was involved at all.
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Old 17th November 2019, 08:07 AM   #15
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using an example versus going off topic.

Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
Off topic.

Why was the 'apposition of these two paragraphs' in this case 'interesting'?
I used the WM3 case as an example of how what the judge lets in or excludes from the trial has important consequences with respect to its outcome. We will have to agree to disagree whether such an example is or is not off topic.

The links I have provided so far indicate that Mr. Ortiz is a plausible suspect (see next comment for more information). On the other hand an old newspaper means very little. In both instances I disagree with the decision of the appeals court. YMMV.
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Old 17th November 2019, 08:13 AM   #16
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Ortiz's behavior

Originally Posted by TalosMarr View Post
From the comments in the article you linked, "7. In regards to Artie blocking the emergency vehicle, this is what actually happened. Artie was working the night of Janet’s murder. His wife called him and told him what happened to Janet. Like any family member would, he rushed up to the house, quickly parked, and tried to run into the house to see Janet. The police grabbed him and they fell. Artie later realized that he lost his keys when the police grabbed him. That’s why he was looking for his keys."

Seems to be just as likely as anything else (applying the internet story grain of salt to the claims of being directly involved family from the poster), since there was no evidence beyond hearsay that Mr. Ortiz was involved at all.
The following quotes come from a link in a previous comment: "Gina Mahoney often observed Ortiz entering the house in Downing’s absence. Items in the house disappeared and were moved. Ortiz taunted Downing by handing her a book that he had taken from her bed stand.
The night of the murder, the cab that Ortiz drove was parked next to the Downings’ house and blocked in by emergency vehicles. A panicked Ortiz told Mahoney that he’d lost his keys. They were subsequently found in Downing’s yard." (emphasis added)

"Viginia Reckley, who lived in the apartment that shared a wall with the Downings. Reckley had heard a commotion in the Downings’ residence at a point during the short time window when the murder could have taken place, but when witnesses established that Eddie was elsewhere. Nor did police interview Artie Ortiz."

From what I have read Ms. Downing had demanded that Mr. Ortiz no longer live in her basement because he had been dealing drugs. He never returned the keys. Given that this was (at the very least) a strained relationship, is odd that he would be that concerned about her. It is also strange that he apparently got there more quickly than emergency vehicles (otherwise how did he get blocked in).

"The DNA on what the prosecutor alleged to be the murder weapon was identifiable, and it was not Eddie’s. The prosecutor chose not to identify the DNA under Janet Downing’s fingernails, as well as other DNA and fingerprints found at the scene."

I have discussed at greater length and given citations in the JonBenet Ramsey and Mark Lundy threads that foreign DNA underneath one's fingernails is unusual and does not persist for long; therefore, it has probative value in many criminal cases. There are several published studies in the forensic DNA literature which support the notion that fingernail DNA has value as an investigative tool. For example, Nurit and collaborators (Forensic Science International: Genetics 5 (2011) 532–537; PMID: 21216213) wrote, "We present a retrospective study of 137 DNA profiles genotyped from fingernail samples of homicide victims and suspects, collected at the Israeli National Center of Forensic Medicine. The majority of the samples produced single source profiles (n = 107, 78%) that matched those of the donor’s. DNA mixtures (n = 30, 22%) were found in increased frequency among victims (n = 25/100, 25%) compared to suspects (n = 5/37, 13.5%). Mixtures were sub-divided into high level (n = 15, 50%), low level (n = 9, 30%) and residual (n = 6, 20%), according to the number of the foreign contributors’ alleles. Thus, this distinctive group of homicide victims was found to express both elevated frequency of DNA mixtures together with highly informative value of the secondary foreign profiles, as compared to other studied populations."

I do not have a strong opinion as to who committed this murder yet, and my views are not fixed. However, if the DNA on the murder weapon and fingernails were identified as coming from a single individual, it would point strongly to that person's being the murderer.
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Old 17th November 2019, 05:37 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Chris_Halkides View Post
The links I have provided so far indicate that Mr. Ortiz is a plausible suspect.
Maybe he is, but the court testimony that supports that theory was hearsay. Was the judge wrong to exclude it?

Quote:
On the other hand an old newspaper means very little.
I agree. If I was on the jury I would have considered this evidence for 'frame of mind' weak, and the defense's rebuttal made it even weaker. If it is true that he saved it for a sports trading card show announcement then the prosecution's evidence was indeed neutralized.

Quote:
In both instances I disagree with the decision of the appeals court. YMMV.
In the first instance I can't see how anyone could disagree, unless you think hearsay evidence is OK.

The second instance depends on how competent you think juries are. Having been on a few myself I concede that you might have a point. But I still think jurors should have the opportunity to make their own decisions based on legitimate evidence for and against - and if they do it badly that should be on them.

Quote:
I used the WM3 case as an example of how what the judge lets in or excludes from the trial has important consequences with respect to its outcome
I see. So you found the 'apposition' of the two paragraphs 'interesting' because they both could have affected the outcome in the same direction? Well I don't. How likely is it that the defense would appeal court decisions that favored innocence?

I guess it might be a valid strategy though - "the court bent over backwards to give my client the benefit of the doubt, and yet he was still found guilty. Unfair! We appeal!".
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Old 17th November 2019, 08:52 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Roger Ramjets View Post
In the first instance I can't see how anyone could disagree, unless you think hearsay evidence is OK.
Exceptions to hearsay rules may be granted when the witness is unavailable to testify. I am not a lawyer, but I found a number of examples with a bit of Google fu, and the witness in question was as unavailable as it is possible to be. Do you disagree with exceptions per se?

Suppose a person says words to the effect, "If anything happens to me, please investigate so and so..." and something does happen to that person. If I were on the jury, I would want to know.
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Old 23rd November 2019, 11:41 AM   #19
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blood transfer

This link has a summary of the case and lists some news reports. I am not an expert in blood transfer, but neither of the two individuals named in this thread have been reported to have large amounts of blood on their clothing. Mr. O'Brien had either no blood ("The attack was so vicious that there was blood across the stairs and walls, pooling at the floor. However, Edward had no blood on him.") or only small amount IIUC, but one expert thought that the quantity or quality did not match the crime, if my memory serves me correctly. If one or the other had sufficient time to clean up and to change clothes, then my opinion would change. To help answer these and other questions, I decided to pick up Margo Nash's book on this case The Politics of Murder. I will mention any useful information that it has when I read it.
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Old 24th December 2019, 01:31 PM   #20
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The Reckley family

I have just started reading Margo Nash's book. The Reckley's were the other occupants of the duplex in which Janet Downing also lived. Virginia Reckley and her daughter heard a thud around 8:15 and Virginia noticed a drop in water pressure close to 9:00 (there was a faucet that had been left on in the Downing's portion of the duplex). Both times are before the police say that the murder took place, and Eddie has an alibi at those times. The police did not interview them.
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Old 24th December 2019, 02:35 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by Chris_Halkides View Post
...Reckley had heard a commotion in the Downings’ residence at a point during the short time window when the murder could have taken place, but when witnesses established that Eddie was elsewhere. Nor did police interview Artie Ortiz."...
And yet, from the OP link:
Quote:
On the night the Downing, 43, was killed, a cut and bleeding O’Brien phoned police from a nearby convenience store and reported that he’d been mugged.
So where was this "elsewhere" and what was the time of that vs the time of the phone call?
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Old 24th December 2019, 02:46 PM   #22
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Porch

I just have time for a quick answer, and I am still learning about this case. At 8:15 Eddie was on his own porch. The police say that the crime happened about an hour after that. I am not sure about the time of the call.
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Old 30th December 2019, 03:05 PM   #23
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Ed claims to have been in the house after the murder

I finished reading the book The Politics of Murder, and I will try to write a number of small comments about what I learned, time permitting. One of the most important things to emerge from the book is that two weeks after the murder, Ed O'Brien indicated (at least to his parents) that he had been in the house and had touched Janet's lifeless body. According to him their was a man wearing a stocking who told him that he would harm/kill Ed and his family if Ed went to the police. Ed did not recognize the man.

Ed's lawyer Robert George did not want this story to go in front of a jury. It is not clear to me what Mr. George's rationale was, but taken as a whole Ed's story sounds improbable but not impossible. The author of the book Margo Nash was Ed's guardian ad litem, appointed to advocate for Ed's best interests, because Ed was 15 at the time of the murder, and the prosecutor had indicated a desire to call Ed's father as a witness. She is also a lawyer, and she is very hard on Mr. George's performance. Although I think that she is sometimes too critical, I think that her point, that the story needed to be put in front of a jury, was correct. There was forensic evidence of Ed in the house that needed to be explained.

I also understand Mr. George's decision that it was best not to put Ed on the stand (IIUC Ms. Nash agrees with it). Ed comes across as fifteen going on fourteen in the book. That does prompt the question of how his story could have been made clear to the jury, but Ms. Nash thinks that it would have been possible to do so. Taking that as a given, I would say that Ed received ineffective assistance of counsel.
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Old 30th December 2019, 03:12 PM   #24
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knives and knife wounds on Janet and Ed

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in knives or knife wounds. IIUC there were a pair of knives, one with a red handle and one with a green handle. Ed had inherited them (from his grandfather?), and he that he thought might have value to a collector and showed one to at least one person in the days before the murder. The red one was recovered from the O'Brien house, but where it was found is in dispute. The prosecution claims that a knife hilt found at the Downing house belonged to the other one. Some of the wounds were deeper than the length of the alleged murder weapon. One might expect that if a knife were plunged to its full depth and compressed the tissue, that there would be bruising from the hilt, which was not observed. There was some testimony to this effect.

Ed had two wounds on one hand. When I first heard about them, I took their existence as inculpatory (I have heard that a person wielding a knife for the first time might lose his grip cutting himself), but after seeing the drawing and reading a portion of expert testimony, I am not sure. They look more like defensive wounds caused by a double edged knife than a single edged knife, which is what the alleged murder weapon was.
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Old 30th December 2019, 03:26 PM   #25
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alternate suspects

There were twin brothers Ryan and Paul Downing. Ryan was a close friend of Ed O'Brien's. Paul was in the house when the neighbors heard a loud noise, circa 8:15. Margo Nash's opinion is that he had both motive and opportunity. Let me question the first assertion. Paul is gay and had become sexually active with older men prior to the murder. It seems as if this caused tension between him an his mother. They may have argued that night, and there is reason to believe from the observations of others that Paul felt guilty on the night of the murder. However, I cannot see family tension as a motive for murder without a good deal more information.

Artie Ortiz seems to have both motive and opportunity. Neighborhood witnesses could have documented his stalking behaviors in ways that would not have been subject to the question of hearsay, discussed briefly above.

One problem that has never been satisfactorily discussed for Ed, Paul, or Artie is how they would have cleaned up after the murder. The problem is especially acute for Ed and Paul; the timeline was incredibly tight for Ed, and Paul was in a car with other people circa 8:30 PM. One would have to know more about Artie's whereabouts between 8 and 9:30 to say more. It is possible that the running water in the Downing duplex was from the killer's cleaning up.
EDT
IIRC there was at least one unidentified bloody fingerprint in the house. Therefore, I would not rule out the possibility of an unknown assailant at this time.
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It is possible both to be right about an issue and to take oneself a little too seriously, but I would rather be reminded of that by a friend than a foe. (a tip of the hat to Foolmewunz)

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Old 1st January 2020, 12:20 PM   #26
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a confusing incident regarding the newspaper

I found Ms. Nash's account (pp. 151-161) of the Boston Herald newspaper to be difficult to follow, and I apologize for any mistakes in the present comment that may follow from my confusion. There was both a newspaper and a photograph of a newspaper (or possibly just the front page), and Eddie O'Brien's lawyer challenged them as evidence, but did so in a contradictory way.

Ms. Nash wrote, "What George did not argue was that the front page [district attorney] Reilly was offering wasn't the item depicted in the photograph. The police never seized the actual newspaper. This violated two rules of evidence for allowing for the exclusion of this document." Ms. Nash also wrote, "He [attorney Robert George] seemed not to understand he should move to exclude the exhibit because it had nothing to do with Eddie's room or the search."

From what I gather, a newspaper was not actually seized from Eddy's room. A photograph of a newspaper was taken, but it was not identical to one that Eddy had. In other words the photograph was staged. If I understand Ms Nash's point of view correctly, the first of the two problems with the newspaper is that it has at best dubious relevance to Eddy's state of mind. The second problem with the newspaper was that it was not the "best evidence."
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Old 18th January 2020, 06:15 AM   #27
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The curious incident of the dog in the night

It is odd that all that the duplex neighbors heard was a thumping noise possibly coming from the stairs. Is is much stranger that the Downing family dog (a golden retriever IIRC) did not bark at an intruder. He did take a policeman's hand by the mouth and lead them to Janet Downing's body.
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