Opinion: Tough call

POSTED: 10/29/12 12:57 PM

The dust is slowly settling on the Vesuvius-trial but the fight is far from over. The prosecution and the defense attorneys have presented their arguments to the independent judge and now all parties are waiting for the seven rulings on November 15.
Attorneys presented a whirlwind of arguments during the past week. One of those arguments was rather special because one attorney used it to prove that his client was not necessarily in a certain location while another attorney used the same argument to prove that her client was in a specific location. Both attorneys claim a certain level of technical knowhow in the field were this argument belongs: telecommunication.
Let’s have a look at the work of the most senior lawyer in the case, mr. Ralph Richardson, who pleaded for Ekron M. The prosecution places M. in the vicinity of the place where Hector Miguel Arrindell was murdered on May 25 of last year based on telecom-data.
M. was that morning in several neighborhoods like Cole Bay, Pelican and Cay Hill because the transmitting masts in those districts picked up signals from the defendant’s cell phone. At least, that is the prosecution’s conclusion.
mr. Richardson noted however that it is very well possible that his client was somewhere else. Radio signals – and where they connect to cell phones looking for a connection – depend on a lot of factors like the height of a transmitting mast, the type of antenna, the level of the radio frequency, the terrain’s topography, vegetation, the location and height of buildings and even the traffic near the antennas. mr. Richardson said that cell phones look for the mast with the strongest signal, not for the mast that is geographically closest to them.
He referred to the infamous Deventer Murder Case wherein a man was sentenced for killing a rich widow. The man had called the victim shortly before the murder; he claimed that he had been somewhere on a highway at a distance of 25 kilometers from the crime scene. He said that therefore he could not have been in Deventer at the time of the murder.
Investigators tested the statement by making phone calls from the location where he said he had been and found that the transmitting mast in Deventer did not pick up the signal. Conclusion: the defendant was lying and he was convicted, also on appeal.
An expert wrote a study based on the case and concluded that under certain circumstances the phenomenon of atmospheric super refraction occurs. Under such circumstances it is very well possible for a signal from a cell phone to reach a transmitting mast over a large distance. The Supreme Court allowed the study as a novum and the suspect was eventually acquitted.
Experts from the Netherlands and from Germany say that brief moments of congestion in transmitting masts along highways are possible, mr. Richardson said. In that case, calls have to look for another mast and that mast is sometimes very far away. The passing of one lorry is already sufficient to knock out a transmitting mast, the experts said.
mr. Richardson took all this wisdom from the Netherlands and Germany and ran with it, saying that it is clear that it is “not factually impossible” that Ekron M. at the time of the murder was not in Pelican or Cay Hill but in St. Peters or even Philipsburg.
And then there was this: M. had several phones: one was in use by a tiler, a second one by his wife and a third one by a man at a carwash. The defendant’s wife and the tiler were that morning at several businesses in Cay Hill to buy construction material for the house the defendant is building.
Now, while mr. Richardson made a convincing case for his client – in the sense that there is no absolute proof that he was where the prosecution says he was – Peggy Ann Brandon, the attorney for Erno L. used telecom data to prove that her client was indeed at one spot and not in another, as the prosecution claims. This information should help the defendant to get off the hook for the attempted murder on Omax Bye on April 20.
These are just two of the arguments Judge Smid will have to deal with in the coming weeks. If he finds mr. Richardson’s argument credible it seems a tough call to accept Mr. Brandon’s argument as credible too.

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