DNA Test Results Still Under Discussion on Eve of Murder Trial
By Wendy Osher
A judge ruled today on whether or not to allow certain pieces of evidence to be presented at the upcoming trial of Steven Capobianco, a man accused of murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Capobianco faces second degree murder and arson charges in the death of 27-year-old Charli Scott, who was five months pregnant when she was reported missing in February of 2014.
Second Circuit Court Judge Joseph Cardoza today granted in part and denied in part motions filed by the defense. A total of four motions were reviewed asking the court to exclude: results of DNA testing; two separate motions on statements made by Capobianco to co-workers; and testimony from a acquaintance and/or girlfriend who allegedly observed Capobianco tip over and set fire to a vehicle in a cane field 6-7 years prior to the alleged crime.
Judge Cardoza denied both motions relating to alleged statements made by Capobianco to co-workers before and after Scott’s disappearance.
In one statement, the defense claims Capobianco was “joking” when he was conversing with coworkers prior to the death of Scott, and asked “How do you get away with murder?”
In another statement, Judge Cardoza noted that the defense also claimed Capobianco was “jokingly” conversing with a co-worker when he made a comment some time after Scott’s death saying, “The guy better not do that to that girl or I’ll have to kill again.”
In the motion, the defense claimed the defendant was being isolated, and made a statement of extremely poor timing that was not intended to be an admission.
In both instances, the judge said it would be up to the jury to decide if the defendant was serious or joking and said the statements are relevant to the offenses charged. The judge also noted that both statements dealt with the subject of murder and were made in a relatively short period of time from when Scott had died.
Judge Cardoza ruled that the proposed testimony relating to prior acts in which Capobianco was allegedly seen pouring two to three cans of gas on a vehicle before lighting it on fire during an incident years ago, was not admissible.
Although Capobianco is accused of setting fire to Scott’s Toyota 4Runner in the current case, Judge Cardoza said the proposed testimony was unsubstantiated in part because it was from an incident that occurred in too remote of a time to be considered relevant. He said consideration of prior acts without the establishment of motive, opportunity or intent are typically viewed with disfavor by the court.
In making the decision, Judge Cardoza said that the court must consider if the acts are similar not only in nature, but in intent. He said the proposed testimony had the potential to arouse jury prejudice and passion and could lead to error.
On the motion relating to DNA lab results from Sorenson Forensics and the FBI lab, Judge Cardoza said an actual “factual record” has not been presented to the court. He said, “This is obviously a very important issue, but all we have is an argument–not the type of record the court should be using.”
Judge Cardoza said there is an argument about how the information unfolded that relates to timing and discovery. He said there is still sufficient time to conduct a hearing on the matter to determine if there is further reason to consider the item.
A cleanly shaven Capobianco entered the courtroom in a Maui Community Correctional Center issued orange shirt and pants.
Family members and friends of Scott were present for Friday’s hearing, with some flying to Maui to be in attendance. One woman wore a t-shirt that read, “Justice for Charli and Joshua,” (Joshua was the name given to Charli’s unborn son).
The trial for Steven Capobianco is set to start with jury selection on Monday, May 23, 2016. The screening of jurors is expected to take at least a week to complete.
Following Charly Scott’s disappearance, family and friends conducted searches in the East Maui area for her remains. Family members say she drove out to the vicinity to help Capobianco, who reported to have car trouble.
Carly Joann Scott was last seen on Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014 in Haʻikū, Maui. According to the Find Charli Scott Facebook page, she would have celebrated her 29th birthday in November, 2015.