Bob Bianchi discusses the trials of Bo Dukes and James Scandirito on Law & Crime Network with Aaron Keller and Misty Marris.
The Daily Debrief – Bo Dukes & James Scandirito Trials
March 23rd, 2019
Aaron Keller: Good evening everybody. Welcome to the Daily Debrief, Bob Bianchi, Misty Marris in the house. We’ve got a lot to talk about. Damaging testimony, in the case of a Georgia man accused of helping burn the body of a beauty queen in his family’s orchard. Bo Dukes is charged with concealing the death of teacher and pageant competitor, Tara Grinstead. Dukes is further charged with making a false statement and hindering apprehension in Wilcox County, Georgia. He faces other charges in another county. A codefendant is charged with Grinsteads actual murderer. Testimony in this case is pushing into the evening, so let’s take you right back live to that court room in Georgia.
Judge: Well, these instructions and that is that you’re not to discuss the case with anyone. Don’t allow anyone to discuss it in your presence and your hearing. No discussion until I give you instruction to do so. Now let me just say this. When you’re going and coming from the jury room here in the courthouse, just be careful.
Aaron Keller: All right. As the day has progressed, they decided to end, right the second we decided to bring you there into court. We thought this was going to push very late like it did yesterday. So let’s move along with the Tara Grinstead case. Late yesterday, Prosecutors revealed for the first time that they found some of Grinstead’s charred remains, but that it took two searches to find the right spot. Here were some of the Prosecution’s opening statements.
Prosecutor: When they moved her body, they went out to the orchard where they moved the body. They moved her body and then burnt it down to bones and ashes. They say that they killed her and burned her body. Garland being one of their friends in their peer group [inaudible] You’ll hear evidence, about murder, but that’s not what we’re here to do. You’ll hear that [inaudible] left his gloves outside of Tara’s residence, that has his DNA and Tara’s DNA, on that glove. You’re going to see blood that was left on Tara’s comforter. But this case is not about her murder, this case is about lies. This defendants lies, this case is about his secrets, his denials, that is what this case is about.
Aaron Keller: The State was careful to tell jurors that a codefendant is charged with the actual killing. The defense did the same but also said the defendant’s conduct did not violate the strict letter of the law, as charged in this case, the defense urged jurors to pay close attention to testimony, to separate accusation from fact. The mother of the defendant’s girlfriend testified that Bo Dukes confessed to her that he was involved with the crime. That discussion came after some family turmoil.
Kim Sheridan: We wanted to see our daughter if we wanted to celebrate holidays, if we wanted to be around her, we had to allow Bo back in the house because those were her stipulations that that was the love of her life. And, um, he was a part of her life. And if we didn’t want him in her home, she would not come into our home.
Attorney: What did you ask?
Kim Sheridan: Basically, was what Brooke told us true? Had he helped to dispose of Tara’s body? And he said yes. Um, why didn’t he tell people? And he said that he had told people over the years, but not necessary, not law enforcement. Um, and I asked him specifically why Ryan killed her.
Attorney: What did he say?
Kim Sheridan: He said he never asked him why.
Attorney: Did you ever ask him why he was responsible for the Tara instead?
Kim Sheridan: Um, maybe not in so many words, kind of like, are you sure that’s all there is to it? Um, it was just so hard for me to fathom the whole thing anyway. It was like living in a surreal bubble. But, um, but he assured me otherwise.
Attorney: And you said earlier that you essentially told you were true, what was his response to that?
Kim Sheridan: Was that it was true, things that he told me where that he had helped to dispose of the body that had, they had burned it in the Pecan Orchard, um, that he had, uh, been there that night when it all happened, where we know when, when they burned the body. Um, and that it had been his truck that was used to transport the body.
Aaron Keller: According to the testimony. Bo Dukes was confessing to pretty much everybody, including to an army buddy.
John McCullough: I had mentioned something about seeing a billboard and it had a really, really pretty lady that was on it. And I was like, man, that’s crazy. You know, what, what’s going on with that? He had brought it up and said, you remember that billboard that you had seen? And I was like yeah. And he was like, I know what happened. And then I was like, kind of shocked with that and was like, what? And he said that his friend had showed up and said man I fucked up. And I said, what do you mean? And he said, well, he continued to tell me that he had, you know, messed up. And, uh, he needed his help. He needed his truck.
Attorney: And his friend needed Bo’s help, is that right?
John McCullough: Yes sir. He had said, uh, that he had technically killed terror to him. Um, the friend had said that he had, that he had beat her and accidentally strangled her and killed her and he didn’t know what to do. So, he needed his truck to be able to move her body.
Attorney: And did Bo Duke’s tell you if he loaned his truck to his friend?
John McCullough: He said that he had went with his friend and he used the truck. He said that they went and recovered the body and they continued to take it to the middle of his grandpa or the Hudson Macon orchard. And the exact location didn’t tell me, but had made the comment of, you know, we took her to the middle of the pecan orchard and burned her body. And if I can roll back a little bit, whenever I was in basic training, he had made the comment, which now it made sense of the sense of, hey man, it takes more than 1200 degrees to burn human bones.
Attorney: When he said that they burned her body, in the Macon Orchard, who was this with Bo Dukes and his buddy?
John McCullough: Yes sir.
Attorney: And did he tell you, uh, how long they burned her body?
John McCullough: No sir, he didn’t disclose that no.
Attorney: Did he tell you anything else about that.?
John McCullough: Uh, just the sense that they burned her body and let it burn as long as they could. And whenever they were satisfied, they buried the rest.
Aaron Keller: The brother of codefendant Ryan Duke testified he heard something similar at a party.
Attorney: So, you said you were at a party., do you recall that? It was just cold?
Stephen Duke: It was just cold. I just remember having a fire.
Attorney: Where was that? What was the address?
Stephen Duke: It was a, at a friend of ours house, a mutual friend.
Attorney: Who was that friend?
Stephen Duke: [inaudible] their house.
Attorney: And, it’s your testimony that after Mr. Duke’s told you that your brother Ryan Duke’s had killed Tara Grinstead, you didn’t have any further questions?
Stephen Duke: No sir, I just thought he was joking, kidding, trying to get under my skin.
Aaron: My guests tonight are the dean of criminal Defense Attorneys, Bob Bianchi, himself and the preeminent Misty Marris both here, so it seems to me this guy’s going down. Okay. We’ve got witness after witness after witness saying this defendant. Talk to me about being present, being involved here.
Misty Marris: Yeah, I have to agree with Aaron, there seems like there’s multiple people coming forward with the same type of story. Now if you had one person saying it, that’s one thing, but you have multiple people the same thing. It’s going to be a problem, but I do think from a defense perspective, exactly what you said was highlighted in the opening statement. You have to separate this from the Ryan Duke’s case and that’s from the Ryan Duke case and that’s really the only shot the defense is going to have here.
Aaron Keller: Bob, what do you make of it?
Robert Bianchi: Yeah. One of the interesting things here from a legal point of view is that you can’t use the Ryan Duke’s statement in this case because he has a right to remain silent and that would violate the confrontation clause in the Bo Duke case. But like Misty said, you have so many random people coming up with the same story where they don’t really seem to have a motive to lie. Anything that had a motive to protect the people that were telling the story, that’s going to make a very difficult case for the defense.
Aaron Keller: Yeah, I mean, but again, I mean we’ve got the State having her remains, it took two searches, but they eventually found the remains of Tara Grinstead so they have evidence to back up what this defendant was telling his buddies he was involved with. You’ve got statements to multiple people. You’ve got physical evidence. This was a strong case for the States.
Robert Bianchi: Yeah, no, definitely. I mean every, every, every time you have a statement case, you always got to worry about the motivation, the jury charge that the judge gives, Aaron, at the end of the case, which typically is that you got to take oral statements. If people very suspect because a change or nuance in a word or the way they say it is one thing, but when you have corroborating physical evidence, that doesn’t lie, that backs up that statement. That’s pretty darn good.
Aaron Keller: I know I’m jumping ahead to the next trial here, but Misty, how does someone accidentally strangle someone?
Misty Marris: Well, that’s something that I’ve been trying to figure out. I don’t know that.
Aaron Keller: All right. We’ve got another case to move along to now. The Florida man accused of murdering his father, chopping up the body and burying it on a golf course today, took the stand in his own defense. James Scandirito Junior faces the charges, but just not face the death penalty. Prosecutors say the defendant took his father’s money, had two passports, lined up, a private plane, the defense, however, says Scandarito and his father who used to be a judge, were dealing drugs. The defense wants the jury to believe the father died after taking drugs and the James Junior merely chopped him up so that authorities wouldn’t find out about the drugs. The defendant himself described how he claims he cut up his father’s body
Attorney: And you decided in your mind what you were going to do.
James Scandarito: Yeah.
Attorney: And what would that be?
James Scandarito: That I am going to have to dismember my dad to be able to move him out of the house. I rolled the Dolly over, um, when I am, um, until you need dismembering of the extremities. There’s a, there’s a space in front of the, of course you’ve seen it many times, in the front of the refrigerator, um, when you come out of the garage on the left side. And they were looking at another set of a space there. So, I had laid a clear tarp, the Dolly was on top of the cart on top of the tarp, and then I had another tarp that went over, uh, over the top of the Dolly in, in plastic tarp that was underneath the Dolly.
Attorney: So, when you were actually cutting him up, what were you using?
James Scandarito: A saw.
Attorney: An electric saw or a hand saw?
James Scandarito: No, it was a hand saw.
Attorney: And, when you were actually cutting him you are doing it underneath the tarp?
James Scandarito: Yes.
Attorney: And why is that? In line.
James Scandarito: Um, because I can’t look at what I’m doing. I just can’t.
Aaron Keller: Is the jury going to believe this at all? Next, the defendant talks about the mechanics of cutting up his father’s body. Remember he claims his father died after taking drugs.
James Scandarito: I’m going to take a garbage bag and I kind of cover that’s the, the, the, the, the parts that is the, um, dismembered. Um, so when did the arm, let’s say finally dismembered, it’s, it’s kind of falls into the garbage bag.
Attorney: And those garbage bags, individually, what did you do with them?
James Scandarito: Well I, uh, ended up, eventually ended up putting them all into three suitcases, maybe it’s not, you know, physically strenuous. Um, but you know, it wasn’t, it was not something that I, it was a quick, it was a long time. I would take frequent breaks to go out and go out the garage door to the outside of the house, inside the house, a cigarette, smoke cigarettes and just you know, you still wish that this was, this nightmare wasn’t happening.
Aaron Keller: A DNA analyst yesterday testified that the victim’s DNA was on a box in his own garage earlier on. In this case, police testified about finding that box in a suspiciously clean portion of the garage and how several items in the area tested positive for the presumptive presence of blood. DNA results on two suitcases, Police watched the defendant throw into a dumpster, were either inconclusive or it could not exclude the father as a contributor, not as strong or match as authorities had hoped on the suitcases, but the defendant basically connected the dots. Back to Bob Bianchi and Misty Marris on this one. Big question here, Misty not much emotion from this guy. He had a couple of random sniffles in there, but this was choreographed. It seemed to me.
Misty Marris: Absolutely as I was sitting here watching this, Aaron, I was thinking to myself if there was any possibility his story was true, how could there be such a calculated response without, without emotion. I don’t think the jury is going to buy it.
Aaron Keller: Bob Bianchi were you buying any of this?
Robert Bianchi: No, and I think that they made a big mistake and I said this before, like yesterday when we were analyzing this case, I knew this guy would take the stand because he’s got that megalomaniac, narcissistic personality issue. He wanted to be chatty, chatty, chatty with the police, but the defense scored major points on the medical examiner yesterday. He goes, there’s no doubt he chopped his father up. No, that’s not the issue. The issue is whether he killed him and the medical examiner got crushed in my opinion and when you stand well stand still, he got up on that stand. He gave the prosecution good facts. He came off really creepy and odd and I don’t think he made a very positive impact. He may have reversed; really said I grabbed a defeat from the jaws of victory.
Aaron Keller: Exactly. Okay, so is it a sound legal strategy to try to beat a murder charge by basically pleading to dismemberment and then hoping the jury likes you?
Robert Bianchi: Yeah, I really, that’s a great question now, because the only best argument, the prosecution has in this case, especially in light of the medical testimony is it makes no sense that you would have choose to chop him up and go through all that effort rather than getting rid of the drugs that you were worried about. Him getting up there and doing what he did today did not make him likable or believable.
Aaron Keller: Misty Marris, where’s the head?
Misty Marris: That’s what I was asking. And when I would be thinking though, I’m in the jury out back, I’d be saying. The fact that he puts all of these body parts into the shed obviously wants to hide them, but then take special care to put the head somewhere else. What does that mean? Is there blunt force trauma? Is there something? Is that Undercut the natural causes?
Aaron Keller: I can’t wait to see the rest of this roll out. Testimony in this case, continuing tomorrow and still ahead tonight here on the Debrief, a possible plea deal for the NFL owner being accused in Florida of soliciting prostitution. Also, a sons police interrogation on charges he murdered his mother. We take you back inside the courtroom in just a moment.
Aaron Keller: Prosecutors are offering a deal in the prostitution case against the owner of the New England patriots. Authorities in Palm Beach County, Florida has a reportedly offered Robert Kraft a prosecution deal. Here’s what it means. If Kraft pleads, no contest, he would have to complete an education course, a hundred hours of community service, undergo STD screenings, and pay court costs. That would be the penalty. A spokesperson for Kraft, however, has denied he did anything illegal. The defense now has the case of an Iowa farmer accused of murdering his mother over money. Prosecutors say Jason Carter killed Shirley Carter and then staged the scene to look like a robbery. The defense said during openings that friends and family would testify that Carter loved his mother and that the family got along well. That claim seems to have backfired because of derogatory testimony about the defendant from a friend and from his own father, the husband of the victim. Last week jurors heard portions of the defendant’s frantic police interrogation, here he describes finding his mother’s body.
Jason Carter: [inaudible] yeah, I put my hand on her leg and shook her.
Police: Was she cold to the touch?
Jason Carter: Yeah, she was still, oh my god, oh shit, I can’t help her. I can’t help her. There’s nothing I can do. I’m sorry. I can’t get it out of my head, the picture of her laying there. Holy Crap.
Police: How long were you there before your dad came in?
Jason Carter: I don’t know, maybe between five and ten minutes. Poor mama, she didn’t deserve this at all. She didn’t. What the hell happened? And I stepped in looked at the dining room and looked around and said Jesus Christ, your desk and all these papers and the drawers and everything was torn open and thrown around. Geeze, someone could be here [inaudible]
Aaron Keller: Bob Bianchi, Misty Marris back one last time here. Misty. We had a procedural mess in this case. The State just over the weekend turned 121 files over to the, how does the State manage to hold on to that stuff until the middle of trial and then suddenly it materializes?
Misty Marris: That was actually pretty shocking because the defense is claiming that it’s all exculpatory evidence, which has to be turned over right away. Obviously, that’s the type of stuff that a defense is going to use in the course of the trial. So it’s a pretty weird situation. We’ll see what the court thinks about that.
Aaron Keller: Bob, today, the defense called a forensic pathologist to say that the victim, Shirley Carter had probably in that expert’s opinion, had been dead for about two hours before the 911 call. In other words, the defense is trying to destroy the State’s timeline. Saying no, no, no, it couldn’t have been the son because he wasn’t on the property.
Robert Bianchi: Well, that’s a major thing and I want to add to what you just said a minute ago. The discovery violations of the court, allows us to go out, are going to be pretty brutal. It’s not just say we’re denied exculpatory information. They were denied information that could have been using cross examination to attack the credibility of witnesses. And it became very clear that the police were working with the civil team attorneys in violation of a court order in order to try to pin the defendant to this. This thing, Aaron, with all due respect as a former homicide Prosecutor, stinks, stinks, stinks. And the Prosecution can’t get out of it simply by saying, we didn’t know the police had the reports. They’re responsible for knowing. If I were a judge, honestly, based on this deception, I’d throw this case out.
Aaron Keller: Well you know, look, I can see that happening. But a lot of times you see these judges, they just say, okay, well I’ll let it continue and if it results in a conviction, then we can deal with it on the appeals end, but is that really the way it should be done?
Robert Bianchi: It shouldn’t be the way, because somebody has to spend time in jail, be subjected to the things that a conviction brings, have to go through an appeal, spend money, and the families get ripped through all of that too. This is nothing but an egregious violation, Aaron, and we’re it not only should it be dismissed and it’s going to be dismissed with prejudice because it was clear deceptive conduct by the prosecution.
Aaron Keller: Harsh words from Bob Bianchi. Misty Maris, appreciate both of you for joining me on the Debrief tonight. It’s all the time we have today. I’ll be back tomorrow at five o’clock with this live recap of cases nationwide. Good night.