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Defense gives closing argument to jury in Dante Taylor case

Dante Taylor of Mastic is led out of

Dante Taylor of Mastic is led out of the Sixth Precinct in Selden for arraignment in Central Islip on Saturday, July 12, 2014. Credit: James Carbone

The prosecution of Dante Taylor for raping and stabbing a Medford woman to death is built on both incompetence and deceit, Taylor’s attorney argued Monday to a jury in Riverhead.

The first-degree murder case against Taylor, 21, isn’t consistent with the evidence and is tainted by prosecutorial and police misconduct, defense attorney John Lewis Jr. of Farmingdale said in a nearly four-hour closing argument in Riverhead.

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson will tell jurors Tuesday why they should conclude Taylor raped and stabbed Sarah Goode, 21, more than 40 times on June 7, 2014.

Law enforcement focused on Taylor because the last calls to Goode’s phone before she disappeared came from him. Cellphone data showed him moving toward the Medford area as those calls were made. Her bloody car was found later that day, and her partially decomposed body was found about three-fourths of a mile away in some woods. Prosecutors have suggested she was killed where her body was found.

Lewis said that made no sense.

There was no sign of a struggle at the scene, and no blood there, despite the ferocity of the attack. Even allowing for some rain that fell in the five days it took to find her body, Lewis said it’s not credible that no blood at all would be found there.

“We are not talking about little amounts of blood,” he said. “The district attorney’s theory of what happened is not possible. It’s not consistent with common sense, and it is not consistent with the facts.”

An attack like that would leave the killer covered in blood, yet Lewis said none was found on any of his client’s clothes.

Lewis said there was no evidence of rape or sexual abuse. Taylor’s semen found in Goode’s body is consistent with consensual sex, he said. The lack of genital injuries caused by sexual contact or plant material removed from her during the autopsy suggests there was no sexual attack while she was alive, he said.

Lewis also attacked what appeared to be the prosecution’s strongest evidence against Taylor — his palm print left on the hood of Goode’s BMW in what they say is Goode’s blood. Lewis said “that bloody palm print is not what it’s portrayed to be.”

Forensic scientists took a swab from a streak extending from the palm print and found it was blood matching Goode’s DNA. A second swab taken from the palm print itself more than a year later, however, was found to be negative for blood.

Lewis suggested whoever killed Goode flicked the blood off a hand or a weapon onto a palm print left earlier by Taylor.

Prosecutors still say Taylor’s bloody hand left the print. But Lewis urged jurors to remember that prosecutors withheld so much evidence for so long in this case that state Supreme Court Justice John Collins had to instruct them that law enforcement had violated Taylor’s right to a fair trial.

The same applies to a small bloodstain matching Goode’s DNA found in Taylor’s car, Lewis said. He noted that when three detectives first searched Taylor’s car for two hours, they were looking for blood and found none.

“So 10 days later, how did that swipe of blood magically appear?” Lewis said. “If you’re starting to wonder if you can trust anything that’s coming out of the Suffolk County district attorney’s office, you should wonder.”

Among the evidence withheld were CrimeStopper tips pointing to David Allen, the boyfriend Goode had broken up with just days before she died. One tip noted that Allen’s mother had threatened to kill Goode, and another said Allen did not go to work the day Goode disappeared. Allen has not been charged.

Police also had a threatening, 17-second voice mail message left by Allen for Goode, and they destroyed it. Lewis said they did that because it “didn’t fit the narrative of their case against Dante Taylor.”

Jurors should also think about the “savagery, violence and anger” it took to kill Goode in light of her just-ended relationship with Allen.

Convicting Taylor won’t fix what happened to Goode, Lewis said.

“You don’t correct one wrong with another wrong,” he said.

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