Another instance of evidence apparently being withheld from the defense has temporarily derailed the trial of a Mastic man charged with raping and killing a young Medford mother.
The first-degree murder case against Dante Taylor, 20, has already been plagued by numerous law enforcement missteps, which have included an illegal arrest of Taylor, improper withholding of evidence favorable to the defense and destruction of evidence.
State Supreme Court Justice John Collins halted testimony in the trial Wednesday after defense attorney John Lewis Jr. of Farmingdale told him he had not been provided with information about crucial phone records in the case or with detectives’ notes about what a witness reported seeing. Both should have been turned over before opening statements last week, Lewis said.
Taylor is accused of raping and repeatedly stabbing Sarah Goode, 21, in the early hours of June 7, 2014.
Delia McKernan, a neighbor of Taylor’s and also a friend of Goode’s family, was about to testify about how the family became aware Goode was missing. Goode’s phone was on the account of the family of McKernan’s son’s girlfriend.
That family and Goode’s family pulled up her phone records sometime before Goode was reported missing on the evening of June 8.
In the Riverhead courtroom Wednesday, Collins asked Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson when Goode’s family first looked at her phone records. Albertson said that information wasn’t recorded.
“You’re telling me investigators don’t know when? Is that what you’re telling me?” Collins asked Albertson, apparently incredulous. “They don’t know when the family first started looking at Sarah’s phone records?”
Lewis said this episode continued prosecution behavior of blaming the police for failures to turn over required evidence.
“Every time there’s a weakness in the case, it’s always the same answer — it was a bad investigation, or it was a stupid cop,” Lewis said. “But it’s to the detriment of the defense. … When the information benefits them, they have the information.”
McKernan testified briefly, outside the jury’s presence, that after she suspected Taylor in Goode’s disappearance, she watched him and his house and passed on what she saw to her son, who then passed it on to detectives.
But Lewis said he’d received none of the detective’s notes of those conversations. Albertson said that’s because the detective, Joseph Brennan, took no notes.
Collins said there’s no requirement that detectives take notes of what witnesses tell them, but if they didn’t, he said it would be “ripe for cross-examination.”
To be sure that detectives weren’t withholding anything improperly, Lewis asked Collins to review all the notebooks and paperwork kept by the three detectives who dealt with McKernan. Collins said he would do that before deciding whether to permit McKernan to testify before the jury on Thursday.