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In the last hours of the criminal trial that’s kept D.C. preoccupied for weeks, defense attorneys Bernie Grimm, Thomas Connolly and David Schertler argued for the innocence of their clients. Despite air-conditioning, the crowded courtroom turned hot and muggy this afternoon as the lawyers took turns trying to convince Judge Lynn Leibovitz that Joseph Price, Victor Zaborsky, and Dylan Ward weren’t guilty of conspiracy and obstruction of justice in connection to the violent 2006 stabbing death of their friend Robert Wone.
The gay threesome maintain that an unknown intruder broke into their home at 1509 Swann Street NW and killed Wone. Prosecutors believe the men know the killer and are covering up to protect him.
Grimm, whose client is Price, protested that the prosecution had “not one single piece of evidence” pointing to the guilt of his client. Grimm then attempted to dismantle the government’s case piece by piece. For instance, Grimm pointed out that although prosecutors are suspicious of the two small spots of blood left on the bed where Wone was knifed, those blood spots weren’t smeared, as they undoubtedly would have been if the defendants had moved the body to the bed from somewhere else.
Grimm also reiterated an assertion the defense had previously made through expert testimony. “He would have been unconscious almost immediately,” Grimm said of a stabbed Wone. The defense believes instant unconsciousness kept Wone from moving during the killing. Prosecutors have said that, according to the evidence, Wone didn’t move when he was gored with a kitchen knife three times—and that that’s evidence he was drugged, likely by the defendants or someone close to them.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Grimm played parts of Price’s police interrogation video in hopes of showcasing his client’s honesty.
Connolly, who’s representing Zaborsky, was up next. Speaking in theatrical tones that sometimes softened to near-whispers, Connolly addressed the judge: “There is no direct evidence, circumstantial evidence, or any other kind of evidence that Mr. Zaborsky knows what happened to Mr. Wone.” Connolly pointed out that his client, who says he was up in his bedroom watching Project Runway when Wone arrived at the house that night, didn’t even cross paths with Wone until after the stabbing. Connolly contended that nothing about the way Zaborsky behaved the night of the murder was suspicious. He brought up the recording of the 911 call that Zaborsky made to report Wone’s murder as ” chilling evidence” indicating Zaborsky’s innocence. “It’s the chilling call of a man who’s frightened and confused,”Connolly said. Connolly added that when emergency workers arrived, Zaborsky had a human reaction: “He implores, he begs the EMTs to help,” Connolly said, adding, “It’s what I would do.”
After about an hour of oration, Connolly decided to characterize his client: “The truth is, he is a kind and gentle soul. The truth is, he wouldn’t cover up any murder, no matter who caused it.”
Next up was Schertler for Ward. Schertler called the prosecution’s case “assumptions, speculation, and innuendo.” He went on, “We don’t know who did what in that house in respect to the murder of Robert Wone. If you can’t prove the true circumstances of the murder of Robert Wone, then you can’t prove these three men lied to the police.”
The government had simply “cobbled together a patchwork of suspicious circumstances,” he said. “It borders on the Kafka-esque. It’s nothing but the government’s imagination run wild.” Shertler brought up the defendants’ police interviews. “These are not tough guys going down to the station,” Schertler said, explaining that the three defendants were interviewed for hours. “They would not, could not stand up under police interrogation unless they were telling the truth.”
Rachel Lieber rebutted for the prosecution. “Kathy Wone doesn’t know what happened to her husband,” Lieber said, “They did,” she said, referring to the defendants. “They lied.” Lieber said the defendants could have invoked the Fifth Amendment when police asked what happened to Wone, but chose to deceive cops instead. “You can’t do that,” she said. “That ‘s obstruction of justice.” Then, riffing off Schertlers’ contention that the prosecution was speculating: “Let’s talk about speculation, some opportunistic ninja assassin intruder ran into the house and stabbed Mr. Wone?”
Judge Leibovitz plans to deliver her decision Tuesday at 11 a.m.