Sunday, October 14, 2007

MARTIN LEE ANDERSON: Boot Camp Trial Day 7

WMBB News 13 - Florida
Thursday, Oct 11, 2007

Martin Lee Anderson: Full boot camp trial coverage

Panama City, FL - Closing arguments take place today in the case against eight former boot camp employees.

Henry Dickens, Charles Enfinger, Patrick Garrett, Raymond Hauck, Charles Helms, Henry McFadden, Kristin Schmidt, and Joseph Walsh are charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child after the January 2006 death of a juvenile offender.

Martin Anderson, 14, died the day after he collapsed during exercises on his first day at the Bay County boot camp. If convicted, the defendants face up to 30 years in prison.

The defense rested its case as testimony ended Wednesday night about 7:30 p.m.

After the defense rested, Judge Michael Overstreet told the jury they deserved some rest, so he said court would begin today at 10:00 a.m. Closing arguments are the only event scheduled.

Before closing arguments began, Judge Overstreet explained one of jurors had fallen ill, and attorneys had agreed he should be released to seek medical treatment. He also stated defendant Joseph Walsh, who had to be taken to the hospital after become sick yesterday, would not be in court today as a result.

Mike Sinacore began closing arguments for the prosecution. "By 1:52 a.m. January 6, 2006, Martin Lee Anderson was dead. But he really died January 5th. He died at the hands and under the care of the defendants," Sinacore told jurors.

He said this case isn't about Bay County versus Hillsborough County. He told the jury this is about the jury giving their best effort to reach a decision.

Sinacore then proceeded to show the jury clips from the surveillance video of the Anderson incident, including all three ammonia capsule applications the prosecution says helped suffocate the teen.

He also presented a timeline of the incident, along with some of the definitions of child neglect and culpable negligence.

Sinacore was still presenting arguments at 12:15 p.m. "It’s not a coincidence that right at the time ammonia had been applied for 5 minutes, after ammonia had been applied two previous times … that all those things combined, it just so happens that the culmination of one ammonia application after another was that Martin Lee Anderson happened to go into a coma after his first sickle cell collapse. If you don’t believe they didn’t contribute to the death, that’s what you have to believe," Sinacore told the jury.

Court broke for lunch at 12:45 p.m. and resumed at 1:45 p.m. Sinacore spoke for a few minutes, ending by asking the jury to consider all the evidence and find the defendants guilty as charged.

Bob Sombathy began speaking for the defense around 1:50 p.m. Sombathy pointed out that Dr. Vernard Adams, the Tampa medical examiner who says Anderson died from suffocation at the hands of the defendants, admitted under oath that the medical evidence did point to sickle cell collapse, but he used the video tape to come to his conclusion.

Around 2:30 p.m., Jonathan Dingus took over for the defense. "The doctors at Bay Medical and Sacred Heart didn’t even know he had it. If they didn’t catch it, how can you expect these men and this woman to know what exertional sickle cell attack is?" Dingus asked the jury.

Defense attorney Bob Pell, who repesents Walsh, began at about 2:45 p.m. He pointed out the contradictions between Dr. Adams' testimony and that of Dr. Randy Eichner, a hematologist and sickle cell expert who was the defense's last witness.

"Dr. Adams says it’s common sense, if you’re blocking part of the mouth, you’re blocking part of the airway. Dr. Eichner says take a deep breath through your nose, take a deep breath through your mouth. It’s the same volume... That’s a red herring. He could’ve run that with masking tape over his mouth and still gotten air," said Pell.

Schmidt's lawyer, Ashley Benedik, and Jim White also addressed the jury.

Waylon Graham, who represents Helms, then talked about the publicity surrounding the case.

Walter Smith and then Hoot Crawford ended closing arguments for the the defense. Crawford reminded the jury that justice could be served by a not guilty verdict. His closing arguments ended with a video showing clips from testimony given during the trial.

The prosecution was allowed the chance to present a rebuttal closing argument. Prosecutor Scott Harmon said the defendants are not the victims in this case.

"That 14 year old boy is never going to grow up, he's never going to do the thing everyone else has done," said Harmon.

Closing arguments ended around 7:00 p.m. The judge then dismissed the jury and asked them to return at 9:00 a.m. The jury will be given their instructions and allowed to deliberate.

Martin Anderson's father was present for closing arguments. Robert Anderson had been in a group of several people ordered out of the courtroom by the judge yesterday for making comments during testimony. Court officials say Judge Overstreet has allowed Robert Anderson to return to the courtroom for the rest of the trial, but he is the only one of the group allowed to do so.

Former Bay County Sheriff and former Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Guy Tunnell was in the audience today. Tunnell founded the boot camp in 1994 when he was sheriff. Tunnell resigned from the FDLE in April 2006 after it was revealed he made comments about civil rights leaders who were protesting Martin Anderson's death.