Wesson jury asks to listen to tape

Judge denies requests for headphones, magnifier

Fresno Bee/June 8, 2005
By Pablo Lopez

Jurors deliberating the fate of accused mass murderer Marcus Wesson on Tuesday asked to listen to a witness' secret recording of the child-custody dispute that led to the killings of nine people in March 2004.

The panel also asked for headphones to better hear Louie Garcia's audio recording, but Fresno County Superior Court Judge R.L. Putnam denied that request.

Putnam also denied the jury's request for a magnifying glass to better view crime scene photographs.

On the third full day of deliberations, jurors gave Putnam a list of requests, including a need to inspect the weapon allegedly used in the killings, a bent bullet and Wesson's knife.

Putnam told jurors to wear rubber gloves when handling the gun, knife and bullet and reminded them not to "experiment" with the evidence. Deliberations will continue today.

Wesson, 58, is charged with killing nine of his children inside his central Fresno home on March 12, 2004. He also is accused of sexually abusing his daughters and nieces.

Wesson has pleaded not guilty.

Testimony revealed that Wesson was the father of the slain children. The mothers include his wife, Elizabeth; daughters Kiani and Sebhrenah; and nieces Rosa and Sofina Solorio and Ruby Ortiz.

The slayings were sparked when Sofina Solorio and Ortiz went to reclaim their children from Wesson, testimony has revealed. In their quest, the women brought along several relatives and friends, including Garcia, who carried a digital audio recorder in his shirt pocket.

Early in the deliberations, jurors asked for Sofina Solorio's testimony to be read back to them. Now, Garcia's tape recording is drawing attention.

Prosecutor Lisa Gamoian in closing arguments said Wesson either shot his children, aided and abetted in the killings, or conspired in a murder-suicide plot.

Defense lawyer Ralph Torres, however, argued that Garcia's tape shows that Wesson's daughter Sebhrenah shot the seven youngest victims in a rear bedroom while her father stood at the front door.

Once Wesson went inside the home, he had roughly 20 seconds to stop Sebhrenah from fatally shooting her sister, Elizabeth, and then herself, but he failed, Torres told jurors.

Torres played segments of tape during closing arguments, which allowed him to point out sounds that he said were gunshots.

Also Tuesday, Putnam said Wesson's family, as well as members of the Solorio family, can be present when the verdict is read, as there is room in the courtroom and they are able to control their emotions.

Previously, Putnam said the families could not be in the courtroom because the family members could be witnesses if the trial moves to a penalty phase.

If Wesson is convicted of at least two murders, the trial would move to a penalty phase, in which the jury would determine whether Wesson should get life in prison without parole or the death penalty.

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