Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Laurie Show

Problems with the Prosecution?

Stewart Dalzell
Stewart Dalzell

According to Dalzell there were at least 25 instances in which prosecutors and police had bungled the case, improperly dealing with evidence and witnesses, entering perjured testimony, and so on. Among the problems that he cited:

  • Prosecutors at first turned over to the defense an edited, soundless tape of the crime scene investigation. Only when the defense finally obtained a full copy did defense learn that it showed that police had found the bag in which Michelle said she'd thrown Butch's bloody shoes.
  • The collection of photos that investigators shared with the defense omitted those that showed blood spatter patterns and footprints that corroborated Michelle's story.
  • Bloody-speckled sweatpants supposedly worn by Michelle during the murder and produced in the trial seemed to have been replaced with another larger and bloodless pair in the hearing with Judge Dalzell.
  • A defense expert in forensic pathology, Isadore Mihalakis had shocked defense lawyers by agreeing with the prosecution that it was possible that Laurie had been able to name her killer despite the extent of her throat wounds. Mihalakis, it turned out, regularly testified for Lancaster County prosecutors, and was making more and more money doing so — and had been interviewed by them inappropriately. New experts Rainville consulted insisted that Laurie's severed carotid artery would have made it impossible for her to speak.

However, the US Attorneys office and state Supreme Court did not uncover prosecutorial misconduct. Dalzell's decision provoked outrage in Lancaster County, in Philadelphia and across the country. Acknowledging holes that damage a case is one thing; pronouncing innocence and forbidding retrial is another. Critics called this an example of an activist judge setting a dangerous precedent. They wondered how Dalzell could be so easily swayed by this manipulative, dangerous young woman, and how he could readily brush away some of the strongest evidence in favor of Michelle's guilt: her co-conspirators.