Thursday, August 14, 2008

David Onstott Whispers May Never Be Heard In Trial Concerning Sarah Lunde's Murder


A seasoned old trial attorney once told me on the court house steps, "Beware of jailhouse confessions." Many years later I still struggle to understand the full implications of his wisdom. However, the advice is probably just as applicable to the defense as it is to the prosecution. Take David Lee Onstott as an example. Jurors may soon hear an alleged taped conversation in which David Lee Onstott seems to whisper "I killed her." The conversation was with his mother and Onstott's dispute the validity and authenticity of the tape.


For those keeping score, David Onstott is the 40 year old man charged with attempted sexual battery and first-degree murder of 13 year-old Sarah Lunde. Lunde was murdered in 2005.
The tape is close to inaudible. If Onstott's attorney selected a jury with hearing difficulties, the tape may be worthless. We know his attorney claims that his client never made the statement. Perhaps he is right. Prosecutor Sean Keefe apparently disagrees.


The prosecution theorizes that Onstott came to the house looking for his girl friend (Sarah's mother.) Sarah's mom was not home and for some reason the suspect allegedly strangled the teen. Sarah was found a week later in an abandoned fish pond near her home south of Tampa.

Without the tape, the prosecution's case appears weak. There appears to be no physical or forensic evidence linking Onstott to the murder. A beer bottle that might link hold clues to the murder has apparently not been found.

Onstott's attorney is represented by attorney John Skye. Skye has told the jury "...that somebody did commit homicide on her, and it had nothing to do with David Onstott." Keep in mind there is a difference between facts and evidence. A taped statement in which Onstott allegedly confessed was ruled inadmissible because Onstott was not given access to an attorney. (Keep in mind readers, improper means never justify the end!)
If convicted of first-degree murder, Onstott would likely be sentenced to life in prison. The jury will not know that Onstott was convicted of sexual battery in 1995 as that would be too prejudicial. One could argue that Onstott has not gotten all of the breaks. For example, his arrest may have been influenced in some degree by the highly publicized rape and murder of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford by John Couey, a convicted sex offender in Florida. Couey was convicted last year and is on death row. Whether that has any real effect on Onstott's trial is yet to be determined.
As always, all suspects are presumed to be innocent unless otherwise convicted.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

If guilty, I hope he gets the death penalty.

ralph said...

I have no sympathy for men who prey on women or children. If he done it, I suggest the state do him with an electrocution.

Ralph.

Anonymous said...

Not keeping score, but if the allegations are true, this man should have no defense.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps evidentiary issues are a reason lawyers get a bad reputation. In E. St. Louis there is talk of mysterious lawyer deaths. For the second time in less than a year, an attorney who worked at the same firm as a lawyer killed in an unsolved murder has died.

Vincent H. Venker II, 51, died Sunday at his St. Louis home. Venker was a member of the law firm where Ernest Brasier worked. Brasier and was found shot to death Dec. 19, 2006, at his desk. No arrested were made.

Brasier, 57, and Venker worked together at Boggs, Boggs & Bates in Clayton. The firm is now named Boggs, Avellino, Lach & Boggs.

The St. Louis medical examiner's office said the cause and manner of Venker's death have not yet been determined. There was no evidence of external injuries.

Another attorney who worked with Brasier at the law firm, Daniel Bennett, was found on 9-20-07. Bennett, 48, apparentlty died of natural causes associated with hypertensive heart disease.

Anonymous said...

lawyers are also presumed innocent...

Anonymous said...

legal pub


Wow. Interesting stuff

Anonymous said...

Look out Onstott. Your future is not bright.

Seeker

Ms Calabaza said...

"A taped statement in which Onstott allegedly confessed was ruled inadmissible because Onstott was not given access to an attorney. (Keep in mind readers, improper means never justify the end!)" -LP

So, I guess the jury will never get to hear the confession? If this guy did it and admitted it and then got off on a technicality it would be really disappointing. If he did it, he needs to pay big time.

Anonymous said...

True

Anonymous said...

Yes, but we have rules and the rules ensure our freedoms. We want to err on the side of innocence because we do not want an innocent person to ever go to jail.

Anonymous said...

Rules are made to be broken when it comes to pervs!

Joel A. Brodsky said...

The issue of voice tapes is something I have had to deal with over the years. To a great extent the relevance and the accuracy of what is on voice tapes depends on the credibility of the people making the tapes and the motivations and biases of those processing and transcribing the tapes. The fact remains that there is no silver bullet in a criminal investigation. Everything is open to question, and should be questioned.

Anonymous said...

YOu may have some more voice tape issues to deal with real soon, J.B.

Anonymous said...

how do you know daniel bennet and vincent venker died of natural causes?

Anonymous said...

More likely cause of death undetermined.