TRAVIS COUNTY, TEXAS - Thursday jurors heard from the last few witnesses in the murder trial of Mark Norwood.
Norwood was convicted in 2013 of killing Christine Morton. Morton died before Baker was found beaten to death in her own home in 1988. Prosecutors said the two cases are similar because the women were brunette mothers who were killed with a wooden object while in their beds. Prosecutors have used evidence in the Morton case to connect Norwood to Baker's murder.
Final witnesses will be questioned Thursday. Then, closing arguments will begin. It's possible the jury could start deliberating in the afternoon.
Jurors heard from an inmate Thursday who met Norwood while in jail. Prosecutors asked the media to not release his name for his safety. The inmate testified that while in jail, Norwood said "he would never forget the look on their faces." The inmate went on to say that Norwood said "the handkerchief was his." The inmate said he wrote a letter to the district attorney's office to tell them about his conversation with Norwood. The inmate said he has three daughters and would hope someone would speak up if something happened to his daughters. He also said he did not receive a lesser sentence in exchange for sharing the information.
But defense attorney Brad Urrutia questions the credibility of this type of witness.
"There's a commission right now that's studying inmate testimony for the state and whether that should be used," said Urrutia. "It's precisely for this kind of reason. We get these inmates, or jail house snitches that come and testify and low and behold it turns out that they get a shorter sentence or they get released on bond and things like that. It's a pretty nefarious practice that the DA has been going for years."
But Prosecutor Katie Sweeten said it was important testimony.
"We feel it's very strong testimony because of the specifics he was able to give about the particular crimes that lends a lot of credibility to his statements," said Sweeten.
Austin Police Homicide Detective David Fuggitt testified that he became the lead detective on the Debra Baker murder in October 2011. He said it went from a "cold case to a hot case" after the advances in technology.
He testified about the similarities between the murders of Debra Baker and Christine Morton: young mothers, hit in head with a blunt force object, in bed, appearances of sexual activity even though no semen found at either crime scene, and both women were recently left home alone.
Fuggitt testified that several finger prints found at the home of Debra Baker were tested, none of them matching to Mark Norwood.
Prosecutors asked Fuggitt about the interview between cold case detectives and Mark Norwood in 2011. Fuggitt said the detectives gave Norwood "ample" opportunities to explain why his DNA was in Baker's home.
In regards to the inmate who testified earlier in the day, Fuggitt said he met with the inmate, and confirmed he was housed in the same jail building as Norwood for a period of time.
Thursday morning Jurors heard from several witnesses called by the prosecution. Much of it focused on the DNA testing of the blue bandanna found near the Morton's household after Christine Morton's murder. Analysts testified earlier in the week to finding Morton's blood on the bandanna.
Donna Stanley who worked for the Department of Public Safety in the 1980s talked about collecting "bodily fluids" from the Morton crime scene, as well as bone fragments and a tooth belonging to Morton.
Jurors also heard from Allison Heard for a second time in this trial. She works for DPS and testified that in January of 2012 they compared a DNA sample from "Sonny" Wann to the hair found in Baker's bed, and it wasn't a match.
Heard also testified that they compared the DNA profiles found on the hair from Debra Baker's bed to the DNA profile found on the blue bandanna discovered near Morton's home. She said they not only individually matched Mark Norwood, but also matched each other.
Jurors heard from Huma Nasir, who works as a forensic DNA analyst at a lab in Virginia, and said she performed DNA testing on the bandanna from the Morton case. She excluded Michael Morton, Christine's husband, and "Sonny" Wann from matching the DNA found on the bandanna.
Nasir said the DNA sample from the bandanna matched Mark Norwood. She said the statistics of the match were much great than the population of the world, so their policy is to say that's a match.
Thursday afternoon the defense called an expert witness, Marc Taylor. Taylor owns a lab where they do work like: gunshot residue analysis, crime scene reconstruction, and DNA analysis.
Taylor described a number of ways in which Mark Norwood's hair could have ended up in Debra Baker's home. One example, it was possibly transferred if she purchased an item from a garage sale.
Prosecutors questioned Taylor's credibility.
"We've put forth in front of the jury numerous forensic scientists with accreditation and training, and we want the jury to have faith in those individuals and then they put up a television actor who hasn't been in the lab since the 80s, We really want the jury to trust and compare the experts," said prosecutor Katie Sweeten.
Defense attorneys defense his reputation, and say he provides evidence we haven't heard yet.
"We were simply offering possible viable alternatives of how the hairs and the DNA could have been at the scene," said Norwood's lawyer Bill Browning.
Prosecutors will present a rebuttal witness Friday morning, and then both sides are expected to give their closing arguments.
If convicted in Baker's death, Norwood faces life in prison. Judge Julie Kocurek will then decide if he will serve his sentences concurrently or stacked, which would determine when he would be up for parole.
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