“Blood in the Birdcage” (Forensics: You Decide, Discovery Channel)

Investigation_Discovery_300One body. One suspect. Two theories. A laptop. A birdcage. A bloody crime scene. Two trials. Two hung juries. No convictions. One unsolved mystery.

From Investigation Discovery:

"When a beloved music professor -- David Stagg -- discovers the dead body of his long-time partner, Bill Jennings, he claims he's walked into the aftermath of a tragic suicide. But as investigators descend on the scene, they immediately realize that this reported suicide is clearly a homicide. Is it possible the professor is behind this vicious crime, or has he been falsely accused? The forensic experts on each side battle it out. Which side will you agree with?" (60 min. - First aired 9/14/2009 on Investigation Discovery / Discovery ID's "Forensics: You Decide)

Suicide letter, or coverup?

Suicide letter, or coverup?

Friends from the couple's active social group were in total disbelief. Few could imagine David Stagg involved in the murder of his long-time partner. Forensic evidence was inconclusive. Though blood evidence was found throughout the crime scene, no blood or defensive wounds could be found on David Stagg. An unknown set of fingerprints were found at the scene. Computer evidence from Jennings' laptop showed--at least from Jennings' perspective--a tumultuous relationship. But, enough to justify a motive for murder?

There were also a series of suicidal emails and typed letters left by Jennings that charted a history of both love for Stagg, and deep emotional turmoil. And, one final letter--typed on April 24, 2004, the night of the murder--would become one of the most contested pieces of evidence that two juries would have to consider.

On one thing, both sides agreed: Bill Jennings did not take his own life.

The embedded four-minute clip above is edited from the one-hour Investigation Discovery episode dedicated to the Bill Jennings murder, investigations, and trials.

I have worked for both attorneys, Tom Bath and Scott Toth, had many encounters with the Johnson County Crime Lab and the Heart of America's Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory (HARCFL), and kept in contact with other experts from both sides. This case demonstrates that, even when some of the best experts from the most highly technical fields agree on the evidence, it still may not be enough to tell a jury who's responsible.

My entire interview was shot early in the morning on February 28, 2009 in Las Vegas, NV. I was scheduled to meet the crew in Los Angeles the day after I finished a trial in Vegas. The trial ran so long that I missed my return flight and needed to come back to court first thing the next morning. I purchased a razor and a toothbrush on the way to my hotel, and steamed my suit in my shower at the Golden Nugget. The crew from Siren's Media was, coincidentally, in Las Vegas on the 27th interviewing someone else, and seemed overjoyed to stay a little longer.

The B-roll was "reenacted" in the wee hours of the morning before the court opened, in the server room of a client's law office, across the street from the Clark County Regional Justice Center. (No, that is not actual work product in the background.) The interview was shot first--in a quiet space about the size of a walk-in closet. My client--who asked to remain nameless--was kind enough to send someone to let us in before office hours.

In the "credit where credit is due" department: The video was captured to a thumb-drive from live television using a $99 stand-alone Pinnacle Video Capture device. It was edited using Avidemux a free open-source video editing program that I highly recommend. The entire process took about an hour and a half in a coffee shop, from raw MP4 video to YouTube upload.

"Blood in the Birdcage" (Forensics: You Decide, Discovery Channel
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About Jeff M. Fischbach

http://www.twitter.com/FischTech Jeff Michael Fischbach is founder and President of SecondWave Information Systems (SecondWave.com), a consulting firm specializing in Forensic Technology. Since 1994, he has served as a board member and technology adviser to numerous professional organizations and corporations. Mr. Fischbach has been engaged as a litigation consultant and Forensic Examiner, offering expert advice and oversight on matters involving intellectual property, computers, information systems, satellite, tracking and wireless communications technologies. He has advised law enforcement, foreign government representatives, judges, lawyers and the press.
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