Thursday, April 19, 2007

Vancouver Police caught lying at murder trial

False testimony was provided by a Vancouver Police officer Wednesday at the murder trial of Dennis Knibbs in B.C. Supreme Court. We know it was provided by either Constable Mark Naufeld or Constable Eileen Volpatti? Which one was it?

When Constable Naufeld and Constable Volpatti separately testified today about the handling of evidence – a black athletic bag with DUNLOP written on the side containing a shot gun -- which was discovered outside the New Wings Hotel just after two people had been shot in a room upstairs.

Constable Naufeld testifies

When Constable Naufeld, in his 20’s, Caucasian with short, black, wavy hair, arrived at the scene, he saw several VPD officers dealing with “various women” who were exiting the New Wings through the front door. He stopped one of the women. He had observed her carrying a black athletic bag but that was not the reason he stopped her; police were stopping everyone coming out of the hotel. “She was carrying [the bag] by the straps as she exited the hotel.”

Naufeld told her to put the bag down and stand near a wall. She “put the bag at her feet”, he said. “She moved at least 10-15 feet from where she had placed it.”

He later confirmed that she was Lauren Lee Wayne, a native woman in her early twenties, with a “13” tattooed on her stomach. “Did she remain standing at the wall?”, prosecutor Alisha Adams asked. She did, Naufeld said.

“Constable Volpatti then arrived to assist you,” Adams said. “Constable Volpatti showed me what was in the bag”, Naufeld said. He saw “what appeared to be a sawed off shotgun” inside the bag.

Then Naufeld said, “I returned to stand with Ms. Wayne.”

Constable Naufeld contradicts himself

When cross-examined by defense lawyer, Glen Orris, Naufeld started out with basically the same version of events that he had given the prosecutor. When he arrived at the New Wings after the shooting, he had seen Ms. Wayne exiting the front door with “four or five” other women. He told her “to put whatever’s in her hands on the ground”, and she complied. “Then you asked her to move away from the entrance area”, Orris said. Naufeld added that he had “walked her 10-15 feet away from the bag.”

Then what did you do? “I stayed with her”, Naufeld responded. Naufeld asked her to identify herself and then “verified it on the police computer system” in a police car. It was beginning to sound as though he had left the witness unattended at the wall. But he corrected that impression by stating that other police units had begun to arrive so he had asked another officer to check “your witness and mine.” Wayne’s name was punched into the computer and the “The description and photo matched,” Naufeld said. “Then I went back to stand with Ms. Wayne,” he said.

Then Constable Volpatti got your attention, Orris said. “Are you still by Ms.Wayne?,” Orris asks. Naufeld confirmed that he was.

At this point, Naufeld claimed, Constable Volpatti “asked me to look at the evidence.” She “asked me to take a look inside the bag.” He then added, smiling slightly, “I had a peek into the bag” and saw a “sawed off shot gun.” Orris suggested that Naufeld must have separated from his witness to walk 10-15 feet over to the bag to which Volpatti had drawn his attention. “She had the bag in her hand,” Naufeld quickly added. I’m confused, said Orris, seemingly playing dumb. “Constable Volpatti comes over to you and says, ‘Look in the bag’.” Then Orris reminded Naufeld that he had just testified, minutes earlier when questioned by the Crown prosecutor, that he had looked into the bag containing the shot gun “and then went back towards Ms. Wayne.” Naufeld is then nailed down on a claim that Orris no doubt anticipated Constable Volpatti would contradict: “At all times, you where standing within a few feet of Ms. Wayne.” Constable Naufeld responded, “Correct”.

Constable Volpatti contradicts Constable Naufeld

Constable Volpatti, 30ish, white, tall, thin, came to court wearing a black leather sports jacket -- unlike Naufeld who wore his uniform -- with her wavy brown hair in a pony tail. She testified that when she arrived at the New Wings the night of the shootings, she saw five women standing in front of the hotel with police. She began a “safety pat down searches” of these women to make sure they had no weapons.

Behind two females, she spotted the black duffle bag on the sidewalk. She “pulled it to the side of the sidewalk” and unzipped it. She saw a 15 inch “sawed off shot gun” in the bag. Volpatti confirmed that she “looked in it while it was on the ground.”

Defence lawyer Orris: Did you pick it up at any point?
Volpatti: No, I did not.

Volpatti then confirmed that she had asked the women on the sidewalk who the bag belonged to – although she claimed, “I don’t recall raising my voice”, as had been suggested by Orris. She confirmed that the bag was in the “middle of the sidewalk” at this time.

Orris reviewed Volpatti’s testimony one more time: “You see the bag on the ground…pulled it away a couple of feet.” “Two or three feet,” Volpatti interjected. When Orris asked her if she had ever picked up the bag, she responded, “No”. Then he nailed this point down a second time:

Orris: So you never picked up the bag, never touched it again?
Volpatti: No.

So Volpatti didn’t move key evidence, the bag with the shot gun, ten to fifteen feet away for ‘Show & Tell’ with Naufeld, as he had testified. Or did she? Which one of these officers is lying?

This lie is not a casual one. Both Naufeld and Volpatti were thoroughly questioned by Mr. Orris on the movement of the bag containing the shot gun. If either officer couldn’t remember something, they had ample opportunity to admit that – but one of them seems to have chosen instead to give false testimony under oath.

Orris is transparent about his strategy. He explained it in front of the jury on Monday: If he can show that a witness is lying about little things, it can be assumed that they could be lying about bigger things.