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Defense attorney Premal Dharia made a closing argument this morning in the case against her client, Vasile Graure. Dharia characterized the prosecution’s case a “story.”
“That’s all it is, ladies and gentleman,” she said. “A story. . . . bits and pieces of information cobbled together with a lot of assumptions.” Dharia referred to Graure as “a truck driver. A patron of the Good Guys club. A regular man, just like all of us.” She proceeded to outline the assumptions implicit in the prosecution’s case.
Dharia asked the jury to mind three principles of law in the case—-the presumption of innocence, the government’s burden of proof, and the prosecution’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. “If you think it’s possible that he committed this crime, you must find him not guilty,” she said. “If you think it’s probable that he committed this crime, you must find him not guilty. If you think it’s highly likely that he committed this crime, you must find him not guilty.”
Dharia then asked the jury to look beyond the prosecution’s accounts of Djordjevic’s injuries—-injuries Dharia noted the defense never questioned. “Don’t let them pull on your heartstrings and manipulate you,” Dharia said of the prosecution’s case, which showed photographs, video, and testimony of Djordjevic’s condition. “This is about who caused that fire. Not about injuries.”
Dharia then directed the jury to the case’s “inconsistencies.” Dharia said that the only two witnesses who made a connection between the man kicked out of the club and the man who set the fire did so months after the fire occurred, and that several witness descriptions of the suspect either don’t match up, or were not definitive. Dharia also emphasized the witnesses who failed to identify Graure’s image in photo arrays provided by police, and mediated the dramatic effect of the two in-court identifications of Graure which occurred in the trial. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is not hard to guess who to point to in this courtroom,” said Dharia.
Throughout, Dharia cautioned that the stories of witnesses formed after the fire actually occurred. Dharia suggested that witness testimony, given one full year after the incident, could be the result of rumor and assumption. She said that witnesses may have furthered a story in an attempt to be helpful to officials investigating the case, and in the interest of assigning blame for the event.
Dharia also faulted the government’s case for failing to provide several witnesses—-including three that are listed as complainants in the case, individuals Graure “supposedly assaulted with intent to kill,” Dharia said. Dharia also questioned the government’s failure to recover Graure’s DNA from a brown, gas-soaked jacket recovered from the scene of the fire, and its failure to find Graure’s fingerprints on either the glass he allegedly threw down or the Chevron gas pump he allegedly used to fill the gas can.
“Wouldn’t you like to know whose fingerprints were on the gas pump? Wouldn’t you like to know whose DNA is on that jacket?” Dharia asked. “Woudn’t you like to know what John Pyne III looks like?” she asked, indicating the name of another man who used the Good Guys ATM on the night of the fire.
Dharia concluded that the evidence in the case “doesn’t add up,” she said. “Don’t just take them on their word.”