Murder In Massachusetts: Entwistle Post #6 : Prosecution Wrapping Its Case; Defense Strategy Seems Obvious

For a time yesterday (Friday June 20 2008) it appeared the prosecution may have finished with its last witness, State Police Sgt. Robert Manning, but a technical difficulty preventing the jury from adequately hearing the recording. Because of this, Judge Diane Kottmeyer decided to end testimony for the day. Sgt. Manning was the state police investigator who first called Entwistle at his parents’ home in Worksop, England, to inform him of Rachel and Lillian’s deaths. Manning also spoke to Entwistle by phone on subsequent occasions, prior to his extradition back to Massachusetts.

Highlighting Manning’s testimony, were over two hours of recorded phone conversations he had with Entwistle, after Entwistle had returned to England. The conversations revealed a hesitating, stammering man who, despite claiming he had no involvement with the deaths of his wife and daughter, nonetheless offered no clear answers for his claimed behavior, following what he says was the discovery of the bodies of his wife and daughter at approximately 11:00 AM January 20 2006. The recordings of Entwistle’s voice convey no grief, no shock, no crying, and little to no explanation for why he fled the scene, and the United States, in the fashion he did following the murders. His overall demeanor is anything but what a reasonable person would expect from a man who has not only lost his wife and daughter, but also saw their murdered, lifeless bodies in front of him. In sum, it’s my opinion that this jury’s first exposure to the voice and cadence of this defendant has caused even more harm to the defense’s case. I’ve said before that throughout this whole affair, Neil Entwistle’s own mouth has been one of his worst enemies, and these conversations verify that.

Soon, the defense will open its case – perhaps late Monday. And at this point, it seems obvious what their defense will be: Not that some unidentified, unknown assailant walked in and killed Rachel and Lillian Entwistle without apparent motive, and not that the owner of the murder weapon, Joseph Matterazzo, had any involvement with the murder, either. Instead, it seems clear that the defense’s case-in-chief will be that a depressed Rachel Entwistle killed her baby, then took her own life.

Going forward, I expect the defense will raise the following theories:

• That Rachel was depressed due to her husband’s infidelity or internet sex searching.
• That she was depressed due to leaving her friends in England.
• That she was suffering from post-partum depression, following the birth of Lillian.
• That she was depressed due to financial difficulties, including her student loan debts.

I expect the defense will call relatively few witnesses, concentrating on each of them at considerable length. I would expect their witnesses to include at least one (if not more) experts in the field of female suicide and depression. Those experts could either be psychologists or psychiatrists, they could be researchers or clinicians, but to have maximum impact with the jury, they would need to be specialists in the field of depression and suicidal ideation in women (vs. in men or both genders.) Whether or not these medical experts carry a specialty or sub-specialty designation in female depression and suicide, for maximum credibility they should be either practicing clinicians in the field of treating women who suffer from depression and suicidal ideation; or who teach in this field at a respected university or mental health organization; or who have published peer-reviewed articles in respected medical, psychiatric or psychology journals.

I’ll have more on other possible defense witnesses and strategies tomorrow.