Officials did not take notes, lost notes, or did not bring their notes to trial.
Supporters have bandied this claim about for years, but it’s certainly unwarranted in this case. Although standard operating procedure varies, what typically happens is that an officer will jot down notes at a crime scene. Once those notes are typed into formal reports, the written notes may be discarded because they’re simply not needed anymore. There is nothing sinister about this practice, no matter how much defense attorneys try to make it so.
A supporter website has tried to prove Myth 10 by offering only selected excerpts of testimony from the transcript. Some would call it cherry picking. At any rate, they lead the reader to mistakenly conclude that the police were either incompetent and/or involved in a conspiracy to send an innocent mother to death row.
The testimony quoted on the above-mentioned website is in italics to differentiate it from my rebuttal.
David Waddell was the first police officer on the scene of the Routier home on June 6 of 1996. During cross-examination, defense attorney Doug Mulder asked Waddell about a whip-out book that many officers carried around to take notes in. The following discussion transpired and, if it did not pertain to such a serious case, it might almost be humorous:
Mulder: Okay. So, are you taking notes?
Waddell: At this time?
Mulder: Um-hum (Counsel nodding head affirmatively.)
Mulder: Not taking any notes?
Mulder: Don’t you carry a whip-out book?
Mulder: Would you show them what a whip-out book is?
Waddell: A whip-out book is just a little –
Mulder: Can you show them? Take it out of your pocket and show them?
Mulder: Oh, you don’t have it.
Waddell: I have a whip-out book, but it’s –
Mulder: You left it in the car?
Waddell: Well, no, I have it with me.
Mulder: With you right there?
Waddell: Yes, sir.
Mulder: Well, just show them.
Waddell: Well, it’s a small little –
Mulder: Is there some reason you don’t want to show them your whip-out book?
Waddell: Well, there’s nothing in my whip-out book that needs — it’s irrelevant to this case.
Mulder: Well, I’m not going to ask you to read it to them, I just asked — is there some reason you don’t want to show them that it’s just a little spiral book, isn’t it?
Waddell: Okay. (Witness complies.)
Mulder: Now, you had that book with you – that wasn’t so hard, was it?
Waddell: I had a book with me, yes, sir.
Mulder: All right. Not that one?
Mulder: Right. But now, you’re talking to her, and she’s giving you information of the assault.
Mulder: And you don’t take any notes?
Waddell: Not at the time. I’ve got my gun in one hand. And, I’m trying to talk on the police radio too and call for help.
Mulder: Oh, now you’ve got a radio in the other hand?
Waddell: Off and on. I’ve got it in a holder –
Waddell: – and every once in a while I have to pick it up and tell them –
Mulder: Send reinforcements?
Waddell: I called for — I told them we needed an ambulance, and we needed crime scene personnel, and that I needed some more help out here.
It wasn’t long before Mulder and Waddell discussed notes, or lack thereof, again:
Mulder: All right. Now, you talked with – you talked with Darlie, and got the information that you’ve told the prosecutor about; is that right?
Mulder: And didn’t enter it into your notes at that time? I’m not fussing with you, I’m just — is that right?
MR. GREG DAVIS: I’m sorry, I’m going to object to all these sidebars, about him not fussing, or whatever he’s doing.
THE COURT: I think he’s just commenting.
Mulder: I’m just trying to coax an answer from him. I’m just — I’m just –
THE COURT: I understand.
MR. GREG DAVIS: Just ask the questions and let him give the answers.
THE COURT: Gentlemen, please, let’s stop the bickering back and forth. Just ask the questions. I think Mr. Mulder was just asking a question. Let’s go on.
Mulder: I asked the question, would you ask him to answer?
Waddell: What’s your question?
Mulder: I said: At this time you didn’t make any notes in your book, at the time then, and you explained that you had your hands full with a radio in one hand, calling for help from time to time, and you had your gun out in the other hand, in case the assailant came from the garage?
Mulder: Okay. So you didn’t make any notes at that time, did you?
Rebuttal: The following timeline provides a logical explanation as to why Waddell didn’t take written notes at the crime scene and why, had there been a real intruder, it would have been dangerous for him to do so.
2:33 A.M. – Waddell entered the house. For the next 10-12 minutes he was holding a gun in one hand and a police radio in the other, operating under the assumption that an intruder was still in the garage, or possibly somewhere else in the house.
2:37 A.M. – Walling arrived. He and Waddell, guns drawn, proceeded to clear the garage, back yard and first floor.
2:41 A.M. – Paramedics began treating victims.
2:43 A.M. – Koschak took Darlie to the front porch, while Waddell and Walling, guns still drawn, cleared the second floor of the house.
2:45 A.M. – Waddell was stationed at the front door to secure the crime scene.
With the situation finally under control, Walling questioned Darlie and, yes, he took written notes. The two officers had only been in the house for ten to twelve minutes when Darlie was taken to the front porch. They hadn’t even had time to secure the entire residence by that point. Was Mulder seriously suggesting that Waddell should have put his gun down – with a suspect supposedly still in the house – so he could write a note to himself?
When Waddell returned to the police station at 8 A.M. that morning, he wrote a report detailing what had transpired that night. In addition, he returned the next night at 1 A.M. to prepare a supplemental report.
Davis: What was the purpose of you going back, why did you do that?
Waddell: I had remembered some more information that I thought was important, and I thought I would do a supplement.
Davis: Is it unusual to do a supplemental report?
Davis: Do you have a form that the Rowlett Police Department uses that, in fact, says “supplemental offense report”?
Waddell: Yes, sir.
Davis: And, did you then complete a supplemental report that morning?
Waddell: Yes, I did.
(David Waddell, Sec. 359- 362)
On cross-examination, Walling was asked about his notes.
Mulder: Okay. Well, you know then that he was able to walk from the window, and run from the window –both run and walk from the window to the gate without setting off the light?
Walling: I’m not sure what path that he took.
Mulder: Okay. But you were there when that experiment was conducted?
Walling: Yes, sir, I was. I timed it.
Mulder: Did you make any notes of that, or did you just relay the timing to somebody?
Walling: I just relayed it to somebody.
Mulder: Matter of fact, the only note that you made out there was — you carry a little whip-out book, don’t you?
Walling: Yes, sir, I do.
Mulder: Could we see that?
Walling: Yes, sir.
Mulder: Okay. You had a book similar to that, did you?
Walling: No, sir, I had this book.
Mulder: You had that particular book?
Walling: Yes, sir.
Mulder: Okay. Did you — but you didn’t note the time; is that correct?
Walling: Concerning the yard?
Mulder: Yes, sir.
Walling: No, sir, I didn’t. Now, I didn’t have this book, or I don’t know if I had this book or not when you’re talking about the experiment with the light. I had this book the night that I was dispatched to 5801 Eagle Drive.
Mulder: Oh, okay. But you went out there later on, with respect to the experiment with the light?
Walling: Yes, sir.
Mulder: That happened a day or two later?
Walling: Something like that.
Mulder: Several days later, whatever?
Walling: Yes, sir.
Mulder: You didn’t make any notes at that time, you just relayed your information to someone there who was taking notes?
Walling: Yes, sir.
Rebuttal: A few days after the murders, several police officers, including Walling and Nabors, conducted a test with the security light in the Routier’s back yard. They wanted to determine the light’s cone of sensitivity, and how long it would stay lit. Each officer was given a specific task. One moved around the yard, while another took notes. Walling’s job was simply to time the light to see how long it stayed on. That’s all. He was not told to take notes. Sergeant Nabors took the notes and submitted his report to Jim Patterson.
(James Matthew Walling, Sec. 558)
Huff: You indicate in here [your report] that a security light is activated when someone is in the back yard?
Patterson: Yes, sir.
Huff: Did y’all check that out?
Patterson: Sergeant Nabors did. The light stayed on for 18 minutes.
(Jimmy Patterson, Sec. 292)
Thomas Dean Ward
Mosty went on to discuss how Ward had put inaccurate information in his report when he failed to correctly identify the person who picked up the sock from the alleyway behind the Routier home. Ward said he had detected the error the following day when he was handwriting a report using the typed ones.
Rebuttal: Officers Ward and Ferrie found Darin’s sock, with a small amount of blood on it, at around 4:30 A.M. as they were searching the alley. They stood guard over the sock until Officers Beddingfield and Mayne arrived to photograph and collect it. When Ward wrote his rough notes that night, he thought that Beddingfield recovered the sock, when it was actually Mayne. It was an honest mistake, one he freely acknowledged on the stand. The fact is, it was still dark when the sock was found, and Beddingfield and Mayne arrived together. It’s understandable why Ward initially may have misnamed the officer who collected it. In any event, he corrected the mistake on his full report the next day. It was an extremely minor error that had nothing to do with Darlie’s guilt or innocence.
(Thomas Dean Ward, Sec. 1255-1256, 1308)
At one point during the search Ward and lead detective Jimmy Patterson observed knives in one of the yards during a daytime search of the alleyway. Mosty asked if anyone collected the knives and Ward said “no”. Astonishingly, Ward also admitted that no one had taken photographs of the knives. The following was stated during testimony, referencing a lack of notes pertaining to the event of seeing the knives:
Mosty: Did you take photographs of the knives?
Mosty: Nobody did?
Ward: I don’t think there was photographs taken.
Mosty: Okay. And the knives weren’t even of such interest to you that you noted them in your handwritten notes or –
Ward: That’s correct.
Mosty: Or your report or anything?
Ward: There was no question in my mind those knives were not associated with this crime.
Mosty: Just a non-event?
Ward: A non-event.
Three people had been stabbed and cut with at least one knife in a home that bordered the alleyway where the knives were observed and yet when investigators saw knives in a yard they deemed it a “non-event”.
Rebuttal: Two knives were found in the backyard of a home at 5706 Willowbook. They were within two feet of a roll of rubber edging, the kind people use to separate their shrubs from the lawn. One knife was stuck into the ground and the other was lying on the ground; both were covered in mud, with hand/finger imprints in the mud. There was no blood anywhere on either knife. Ward could see this clearly, because it was light by that time. He was also aware that a bloody knife had been found in the Routier home.
Davis: Were there any other factors that led you not to collect these two knives, sir?
Ward: Yes, sir. The — when you find something that is suspicious, it has to be taken into consideration of everything that was found there. Everything. If you find a knife in one place, it is, and another place then it isn’t. I was absolutely positive that those things had not been used.
Davis: Okay. Has your opinion changed?
(Thomas Dean Ward, Sec. 1291)
And Ward was correct, as revealed in the following testimony of Gustavo Guzman and Robert Poole.
Shook: In your backyard, had you and your mother been doing anything out there recently?
Guzman: We were doing gardening, putting some edging around some bushes.
Shook: Were you using any tools?
Guzman: Knives, spoon, and a shovel.
Shook: What did you do with the knives?
Guzman: If the shovels didn’t work then we would use the knives to go deeper into the ground.
Shook: What did you do with the knives and rope?
Guzman: We just left it there.
(Gustavo Guzman, Sec. 1356-1359)
Although the Guzman knife had no connection to the murders, the police did question Gustavo Guzman in the early morning hours of June 6th, and concluded that he had nothing to do with the murders. They later collected the knife from his yard. Robert Poole, a forensic firearm and tool examiner, couldn’t draw any conclusions from the upper wound in Devon’s chest plate, but he definitely excluded the Guzman knives in regard to the lower wound.
Wallace: Let me show you what has been admitted into evidence as the knives found around the Guzman home, Nos. 21 and 22. And ask you if you received those?
Poole: Yes, ma’am, I did.
Wallace: Did you examine those knives to determine if they made the wound in Devon Routier?
Poole: Yes, ma’am, I did. These knives can be excluded, that is, these knives did not make at least one of the cuts in the chest plate of Devon.
(Robert Poole, Sec. 3097-3098)
Officer Steve Wade did not have much to offer in terms of notes either. Greg Davis broached the subject almost immediately during the officer’s testimony:
Davis: Officer Wade, let me ask you, if you would, to look at this piece of paper that I have had marked for identification purposes as State’s Exhibit 34-A. Do you recognize that, sir?
Wade: I sure do.
Davis: Is that a note that you made of the times that you spent on the door that day on June 6, 1996?Wade: Yes, sir, it is.
Davis: Okay. Besides this one piece of paper, sir, did you make any written reports concerning your activities out there?
Wade: No, sir, I did not.
Davis: Okay. I’m talking about either typed or handwritten. Any other notes besides this one piece of paper that has the times?
Wade: No, sir.
Rebuttal: And now for the rest of the story… Steve Wade had no involvement in this case except for a 2 1/2 hour period when he was stationed at the front door, from approximately 3:15 A.M to 5:57 A.M. His instructions were to not let anyone in the house. He followed those instructions to the letter, going so far as to deny admittance to the chief of police. Wade didn’t prepare a formal report for the very simple reason that there was nothing to report. He wasn’t involved in gathering evidence or investigating the crime. His only job was to stand guard at the front door. He performed that duty, and he took notes of the time he spent on the door that day. Nothing more was required or needed.
(Steve Wade, Sec. 1383-1384)
A common defense strategy goes like this: if you can’t discredit the evidence, then discredit the individuals who collected and tested it. Mulder and Mosty used this tactic with the notes to such excess and with such deceit that it did, indeed, become comical – although I submit that the joke was on the defense, rather than the witnesses.
As the trial progressed, and Darlie’s attorneys became more desperate, Mosty employed the same gimmick. In the following exchange, Bevel apparently didn’t specifically write in his notes that there were 3-4 vacuum cleaner tracks on the kitchen floor.
Mosty: Mr. Bevel, during the break, I got, I guess, an update on your notes. If I understand that the sum total of all of the notes that you took in this case consists of 15 pages?
Bevel: I don’t know the number. That’s probably accurate.
Mosty: And of course, you can’t tell us three to four [bloody roll marks from the vacuum cleaner] because you don’t have any notes, do you?
Bevel: No, but we can easily look at the photographs and make that determination.
(Tom Bevel, Sec 3378, 3401)