Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Derrick Todd Lee, Baton Rouge Serial Killer

Second Murder Trial

In September 2004, Derrick Todd Lee faced his second murder trial, this time for the brutal murder of Charlotte Murray Pace, 22, who had been beaten then stabbed to death with a screwdriver and a knife at her home in 2002. One month earlier at the De Soto murder trial the prosecution decided not to go after the death sentence because they "couldn't prove the required 'aggravating circumstances,' such as a rape committed with a murder, to secure a death sentence," Melinda Deslatte reported in September 2004 AP Worldstream article. However, Lee's second trial for Pace's murder was different and of specific interest to the families of the murdered victims because for the first time he faced the death penalty by lethal injection.

Realizing this, the defense team, led by Mike Mitchell and Nelvil Hollingsworth made every effort to make sure Lee got a fair trial. Initially, they argued to have the trial moved to another location and have the pool of potential jurors tossed out because of concerns that the ceaseless media coverage of the murders and Lee's arrest would bias the jury. However, State District Judge Richard Anderson, who was presiding over the case, rejected the defenses arguments believing that it would indeed be possible to find an unbiased jury. After some delays the trial finally went ahead.

The prosecution team, headed by John Sinquefield and Dana Cummings began their arguments by linking DNA samples taken from Lee with those found at the crime scene. Cummings suggested that DNA, which she referred to as "the silent witness" could actually "identify someone so particularly, so reliably, so exactly" that it was irrefutable evidence, according to an October 5, 2004 Washington Times article. In fact, police DNA expert Julia Naylor took the stand and stated that Lee's genetic profile was so rare that statistically there was a "one in 3.6 quadrillion (or 1,000 trillion) chance that the DNA would match any randomly selected person," Deslatte said in an October 2004 AP Online report. In response to the genetic evidence, the defense questioned the methods used to collect DNA samples and the accuracy of the analysis conducted by an unaccredited lab, finding it inaccurate and unacceptable.  

The prosecution also tried to link Lee to the murders of Pam Kinamore and Carrie Yoder, whose murders bore marked similarities to Pace's. They presented DNA evidence taken from Lee that matched samples found at the crime scenes of all three victims. Moreover, the prosecution revealed that all victims exhibited similar bruising on their arms and hands, as well as neck injuries, which they likely received while trying to protect themselves during the struggle. All three women had been brutally raped before being killed. The defense retorted by questioning other items at the scene that were neither linked to Lee or the victims, suggesting that someone else was responsible for the crime.

Interestingly, the defense did not present their own witnesses to support their arguments but instead relied on cross-examining the prosecutions. One such witness that took the stand was Diane Alexander who allegedly survived an attack by Lee in 2002. She told jurors her harrowing account of how Lee beat and attempted to rape her before being scared off by her son. Even though the defense questioned her memory of the event, Alexander stuck to her story stating that she had never taken her eyes off of Lee and that she clearly remembered the attack.

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