In the beginning, there was only a single fingerprint to link a former firefighter to the murder of Margaret Ann Martinez.
Now, Michael Scott DeCorso will face a substantial train of evidence in his upcoming capital murder trial. Prosecutors have won motion after motion to admit key pieces of evidence. A judge on Wednesday gave them their latest victory.Jurors in the case will be allowed to hear the testimony of a jailhouse informant who became DeCorso's confidant. The panel will also get to see Martinez'sbloody clothing, ruled 3rd District Judge Leslie A. Lewis.
Defense attorney Brad Rich argued the blood-stained bra worn by Martinez during the attack and her torn shirt would inflame jurors rather than inform them.
The judge disagreed, noting the bra provides important information about how Martinez died that couldn't be represented as well by a photograph, for example.
"The bra was the closest call for me - clearly the blood is highly visible. However it doesn't have the gruesome, macabre quality of blood on TV or even in real life," Lewis said, noting it had dried to a rusty-brown appearance.
The judge pointed out that jurors might notice, for instance, that one cup of the bra was blood-soaked, rather than blood-stained. Such evidence coincides with prosecutors' allegations that Martinez suffered puncture wounds to one of her breasts.
That kind of information is important to the state's attempt to prove DeCorso killed Martinez with "depraved indifference." The term is an element of the crime that must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt before jurors can convict the man of capital murder.
The jurors will also hear the testimony of a professional informant, Kenneth B. Dougherty. He was locked up with DeCorso in the Salt Lake County Jail last year and claims to have talked with him about the murder.
Dougherty testified Wednesday that DeCorso told him details of the crime that are not known by the general public or media.
Rich said the informant was not a credible witness because of his previous criminal record and special treatment he received from prosecutors because of his willingness to testify against DeCorso.
Dougherty was awaiting sentencing on two counts of aggravated robbery when he came forward with information about the conversation with DeCorso. A judge delayed sending him to prison until after his testimony.
"He has every reason to lie. He would be in the Utah State Prison with a snitch jacket today if not for his cooperation in this case," Rich said.
A "snitch jacket" is a derogatory label for prisoners who work with authorities. Such a reputation can be dangerous for inmates.
Prosecutors responded that Dougherty knows he will still probably go to prison despite his cooperation. That, they said, makes his testimony more credible.
Other evidence jurors are expected to hear or see includes:
- Color photographs of Martinez's face, which was bound from chin to forehead in duct tape.
- The murder weapon, a blue-handled pair of scissors.
- A chart of the fingerprint found on duct tape stuck to Martinez's pant leg that matches DeCorso's on 16 different indices.
- Former fellow EMTs at Gold Cross Ambulance, where DeCorso worked, will testify they saw him wearing a pair of black "Honcho" work boots with green stitching soon after the murder in February 1994. They also will state he was in possession of the white "Attack Force" tennis shoes.
The boots and shoes are significant to the case because they were the final sales Martinez made before she was killed.
- The employees also saw DeCorso count out about $800 in small bills soon after the crime - the amount that was stolen from the store after Martinez death.
- An employee of C&S Discount, located a few doors south of the Payless store where the murder occurred, is expected to testify that DeCorso approached him a week after the murder and said he was an investigator with Midvale Fire Department assigned to question people about the case.
In fact, DeCorso has never been an investigator with the department, and only detectives from the West Jordan Police Department were authorized to work on the case.
Jurors will also hear evidence of another shoe store crime DeCorso may have committed. Sixteen distinct similarities between it and the Martinez murder and burglary exist, Lewis ruled last May.
The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 9 and last between four and six weeks. If convicted, DeCorso could receive the death penalty.
He also faces attempted murder, kidnapping and rape charges in three other unrelated incidents.