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[UPDATE] Hilton Trial: Guilty Verdict

By: Julie Montanaro; Amy Long Email
By: Julie Montanaro; Amy Long Email

UPDATE 2-16 10:37pm

Gary Hilton appeared in court in a blue jump suit and shackles today- a far cry from the suit and tie jury members saw him in when they handed down a guilty verdict in the murder and kidnapping trial of Cheryl Dunlap...

The defense and prosecution are gearing up for the sentencing phase of his trial, which begins Thursday at 9am.

Hilton smirked at the camera as he was escorted out of the courtroom and back to the Leon County Jail to wait for the penalty phase of his murder trial..

Tuesday- jurors unanimously decided on a verdict of first degree murder, kidnapping and theft of Cheryl Dunlap- Now the same jury will have to choose either a life of death sentence for the convicted murder.

Circuit Judge James Hankinson says,"The condition of the corpse is probative and I think that's certainly fair to say."

Hilton's attorneys told the judge they hoped to present 7 recordings; audio and video and expect four experts to take the stand- one who will will be giving a more detailed look into Hilton's personal life- including the death of his mother... all in an attempt to keep him off death row.

Robert Friedman- Defense Attorney "Any acts committed on the body after death are not to be considered as a heinous, atrocious or cruel aggravator.:

"heinous, atrocious or cruel and cold, calculated and premeditated, at this point in the trial it's hard to separate those."

Prosecutor's say they will finally be able to tell jurors about Meredith Emerson, the Georgia hiker that Hilton has already been convicted of killing.

"The defendant voluntarily talks about all types of things in the 4.5 hour interview he made statements such as, and she's talking about the Emerson case, he makes statements like "when you take them, you got to kill them or you'll get caught."

The penalty phase is shaping up to be drastically different than the trial- the state says they will only need about an hour where the defense says it will be the better part of two days for them to plead their case to keep Hilton off death row.

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UPDATE 2-15 4:19 pm

Gary Michael Hilton has been found guilty on three of four counts including first degree murder.

Hilton was found guilty of first degree murder, kidnapping and grand theft of more than $300.

Hilton was found not guilty of grand theft auto.

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UPDATE 2-15 4:16 pm

Gary Michael Hilton has been found guilty on three of four counts including first degree murder.

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UPDATE 2-15 4:14 pm

Gary Michael Hilton has been found guilty of first degree murder.

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UPDATE 2-15 4:05

During the recordings some jury members were cupping their ears to hear better, some jury members were sitting with their arms folded staring at Hilton while watching and listening.

During the tape and movie, Hilton was looking in the direction of the jury and appears to be smirking at some points and looking at his shoes and smiling.

In recess.

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UPDATE 2-15 3:49 pm

The jury has been deliberating for about three hours and 15 minutes-

Jury requesting to see home-videos that was dubbed 'Totally Tucker' and the 'Transport' audio.

Defense renewed all objections including the "killing b*tches" quote that Hilton says during one of the recordings. Judge says this is not the time to renew objections, but only present new objections.

Jury now watching videos.

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Feb 15 12:310pm --

The jury is now deliberating in the Gary Michael Hilton case.

In her final rebuttal, prosecutor Georgia Cappleman played snippets of a video recorded on Hilton's camera two days after Cheryl Dunlap disappeared. Cappleman urged jurors to listen to Hilton's own words, not his attorneys. On the tape, Hilton appears to say "I killed those* itches."

Cappleman said Dunlap died an" unimaginable" death. She said, "We don't know if he raped her because her body was completely riddled with maggots when he found her," but Cappleman clearly suggested that Dunlap may have been sexually assaulted before she was killed.

The jury was sent back to deliberate at 12:30 and the two alternates were asked to return for the penalty phase if necessary later this week.

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Feb 15 12:30PM --

Jury is now deliberating in the Hilton case

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Feb 15 Noon --

It could only be a matter of hours before we know the fate of Gary Michael Hilton.

Jurors will now have to decided his innocence or guilt based on the evidence they've seen laid out in 7 days worth of testimony.

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Feb 15 11:50am

"They contaminated the evidence in this case," defense attorney Ines Suber said.

Suber reminded the jury that an anal swab tested by FDLE was contaminated by a supervisor in FDLE's lab. Despite wearing gloves, masks, and special suits

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Feb 15 11:15am

Defense Attorney Ines Suber says there is no known cause of death in this case, just "undetermined homicidal violence."

"It's all could it be's, which are not good under the law," Suber said of the state's suggestion that Dunlap could have been beaten, stabbed or strangled. "Simply speculation," Suber said.

Suber also asked why Dunlap's car was searched three times before anyone found 16 beads on the floor.

She said two beads found later at Hilton's campsite and one more found in his bag could have been conveniently planted.

Suber also said there is no proof that the head and hand bones recovered from a fire pit in the Apalachicola National Forest belong to Dunlap. No DNA and a forensic anthropologist who cannot even say whether they belong to a woman or a juvenile male, she pointed out.

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Feb 15 10:30am

Defense Attorney Ines Suber says all of the evidence in this case is circumstantial, "absolutely no direct evidence that Gary Hilton committed murder," she said.

"No prints" on the car or any of the items collected from the campsite, Suber said.

Suber called DNA evidence in the case unreliable.

Suber told the jury that the testimony of Celeste Hutchins, the woman who testified she saw Gary Hilton rummaging through Dunlap's car on the side of Crawfordville Highway, will go "down the drain."

She said Hutchins originally picked a different man out of a photo line up.
"Where is this gentleman today? What do we know about him? We don't have to prove a thing," she said.

Suber also said there is nothing to tie the bayonet to Hilton. There were no fingerprints on that bayonet and no DNA," Suber said.

"Firearms were his specialty," Suber said about the FDLE analyst who linked Hilton's bayonet to the slash mark on Dunlap's tire. "This was his first bayonet case," she said. "Did he use the same tire or one of the other three inflated tires? No."

"Are you to rely on his training and expertise when he had zero?" Suber asked the jury.

Suber pointed to the testimony of defense witness Dr. Adina Schwartz who called his analysis "unreliable."
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Feb 15 10:15am

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman described a trail of artifacts that stretched from Cheryl Dunlap's car to Hilton's campsite to a dumpster in Georgia and ultimately to Hilton's van.

She pointed to Hilton's hiking boots, a pair of blue pants and a sleeping bag which had Dunlap's DNA on them. "What are the chances the DNA is not Cheryl Dunlap's?" she asked pointing to the sleeping bag. "One in 11 trillion occasions. There are not a trillion people on the face of the earth."

The defense is now poised to start its closing argument.

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Feb 15 9:30am --

Prosecutor Georgia Cappleman told the jury that the Gary Hilton sitting in court is not the real Gary Hilton. She said the real Gary Hilton was a fit woodsman and proficient bayonet hunter who was not hunting deer or birds, he was hunting Cheryl Dunlap.

Cappleman says we may never know how Hilton abducted Dunlap, possibly offering to let her pet his dog or asking for a jump for his van.

Cappleman argued to the jury that Hilton held Cheryl Dunlap captive for at least 30 hours when he made his first withdrawal using her ATM card. "How else would he know if the PIN number she gave him was correct?"

Cappleman says Hilton told a fellow inmate that he held Dunlap captive for days.

"She spent 48 hours with that man wondering what was going to happen to her next," Cappleman said.

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Feb 15 9:05am --

The judge is now reading instructions to the jury. He is explaining the elements the state must prove in order to find Gary Hilton guilty of murder, kidnapping, grand theft, and car theft.

There are 12 jurors and two alternates in the jury box. Among them are a realtor, a kindergarten teacher, a gun salesman and a retired state employee.

The judge has ordered bailiffs to lock the doors of courtroom 3A so there are no distractions for the jury during the upcoming closing arguments.

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Feb 15 8:55am by Julie Montanaro

A verdict could come today in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton.

Opening arguments are scheduled to begin at 9am and the jury could begin deliberating by lunch hour.

The judge told jurors to bring an overnight bag in case they are not able to reach a verdict by the end of the day. If that happens, jurors will be sequestered in a local hotel and brought back tomorrow to continue their deliberations.

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UPDATED 2.14.2011 6:45pm by Julie Montanaro

Gary Hilton's future will soon rest in the hands of the jury as the defense rested its case today in his kidnapping and murder trial.

The defense called just one witness to the stand Monday before resting its case and then the judge called on Gary Hilton to answer a few questions.

Gary Hilton stood up and told the judge he would not be taking the stand in his own defense.

"You're the one on trial. You're the only one that can decide if you should testify or not. Do you understand that?" Circuit Judge James Hankinson asked.

"Yes," Hilton replied.

"Anybody pressured you in any way to get you not to testify?"

"No."

"Do you wish to testify?"

"No," Hilton answered.

Those one word answers are the most anyone has heard from Hilton since the trial started one week ago.

The defense called just one witness to the stand, an expert in tool mark identification literature, and she appeared via video on a big screen.

"The tire in question ... the marks were made by stabbing," said Dr. Adina Schwartz in testimony that was recorded in New York the week before the trial started.

Dr. Adina Schwartz was highly critical of the FDLE agent who testified that it was Gary Hilton's bayonet that punctured the tire on Cheryl Dunlap's car.

She stopped just short of calling that type of tool mark identification junk science.

"I know it when I see it and what I see is in my mind's eye and you don't see it because it's in my mind's eye. That's not a standard," Schwartz said, "That's not a protocol."

Yet under cross examination, Schwartz admitted she is not trained in tool mark identification and never examined the tire or the bayonet in the Hilton case.

She also said she was paid about $9,000 for her testimony.

The judge let jurors decide if they wanted to begin deliberations late Monday or start fresh Tuesday morning. They opted for Tuesday morning.

They'll be back in courtroom 3A for closing arguments at 9am.

The jury has not been sequestered during the trial, but will be sequestered once deliberations begin.

The judge told jurors to come to court Tuesday morning with an overnight bag packed in case they are not able to make a decision by the end of the day.

In that instance, they will be taken to a hotel for the night, the judge said, and be brought back the next morning to continue their deliberations.

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[UPDATE] 2-14 11:30AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Jurors decided that they want to listen to closing arguments and begin deliberating Tuesday morning.

Attorneys are still in court hammering out details of jury instructions.
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[UPDATE] 2-14 11:10AM -- by Julie Montanaro

The judge is now asking Gary Hilton directly if he wants to testify. He said no.

Both the state and defense say they are ready to proceed with closing arguments this afternoon.

The judge says if jurors begin deliberating this afternoon they will have to be sequestered starting tonight.

He says he will let the jury decide if they want to move forward today or come ready for closing arguments and deliberation tomorrow.

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[UPDATE] 2-14 11AM -- by Julie Montanaro

On cross examination, Schwartz said she had not examined the knife or the tire in this case.

Schwartz said she was paid about $9000 for her testimony.

The defense has rested its case after calling just one witness.

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[UPDATE] 2-14 10:15AM -- by Julie Montanaro

Dr. Adina Schwartz says 'I know it when I see it' is not a standard and not a protocol."

Schwartz says FDLE Analyst Jeff Foggy's contention that the slash mark in Cheryl Dunlap's tire was made by Hilton's bayonet is "subjective."

She questioned why he didn't make test marks in the same tire or even the same type of tire, and pointed out there is no way to account for variables such as the composition of the tire or the angle of attack.

"The tire in question ... the marks were made by stabbing," Schwartz said.

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[UPDATE] 2-14 10am -- by Julie Montanaro

Dr. Adina Schwartz is now testifying via video on a big screen in the courtroom.

Attorneys on both sides questioned her on January 26th from an office in New York.

Her videotaped testimony is expected to last about an hour.

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[UPDATE] Feb 14 9:30am by Julie Montanaro

Attorneys are now arguing over the admissibility of one of the defense's key witnesses.

The defense argues that Dr. Adina Schwartz should be allowed to testify because her testimony will help the jury better understand tool mark identification. Schwartz does not need to be a tool mark examiner in order to be an expert, Paula Saunders argued, her research and education qualify her to give her opinion on the issue.

Prosecutors say Schwartz does not have any information that is relevant in this case.

Defense attorneys argue Schwartz did review the protocols and standards that FDLE Analyst Jeff Foggy used when he examined the bayonet and the puncture mark in the tire of Cheryl Dunlap's car.

The judge ruled that Schwartz can testify.

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Feb 14 8:45am by Julie Montanaro

The defense is about to begin presenting its case in the kidnapping and murder trial of Gary Hilton.

Defense Attorney Ines Suber has moved for a judgment of acquittal, especially on the grand theft auto charge, but the judge denied it.

Suber also moved for a mistrial citing previous objections to the admissibility of evidence including bone fragments from the fire pit, beads found in Cheryl Dunlap's car, and the testimony of several witnesses. The judge again denied the motion.

The defense is poised to call Dr. Adina Schwartz to the stand. She is an expert in tool mark identification literature. The state has already objected to her testimony, saying she is not a tool mark examiner nor a tool mark expert.

Previous story can be found at the link below


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