Attorney Janet H. King has objected to the government’s execution of a search warrant in which footprints were seized from her client, Joseph A. Crisostomo, at the Department of Corrections on Dec. 24, 2013, in the absence of his lawyer.
Arguing that it was a violation of her client’s Sixth Amendment rights, King asked the Superior Court to suppress the footprint evidence.
Crisostomo faces charges of kidnapping and killing bartender Emerita Romero in 2012.
In a motion filed Monday, King said her client has a right to have his counsel present at all stages of these proceedings and during any confrontation by the CNMI government and its agents.
The defense lawyer said that the government seized six barefoot prints of Crisostomo at DOC on Dec. 24, 2013, at 9:15am, using a search warrant issued by Associate Judge Kenneth L. Govendo on Dec. 23, 2013.
King said she was not made aware of the government’s application for the search warrant, until between 9am and 9:15am on Dec. 24, at the time the search warrant was being executed.
She said that Chief Prosecutor Shelli Neal sent her at 9am that day the email message that a search warrant was being executed
King said she called Neal to ask for a copy of the search warrant and the accompanying affidavit but none was provided.
King said the Office of the Attorney General later provided her with a copy of the search warrant and supporting affidavit of police detective Simon T. Manacop, the inventory of the search warrant, an investigative report, evidence/property custody receipts, and a DVD disc.
The lawyer pointed out that Manacop stated in his affidavit that in the first week of December 2013, the government contacted William Bodziak, a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent who has purportedly conducted “thousands of forensic examinations to include foot impressions,” in order to compare the barefoot footprints recovered at the former La Fiesta Mall and a new set of Crisostomo’s footprints.
Manacop further disclosed that Bodziak advised him to obtain these new footprints from Crisostomo. He stated that the footprints collected would then be compared to the barefoot print evidence found within the La Fiesta crime scene, where Romero’s body was found on Feb. 7, 2012.
King said that records of the case shows that prior to securing this search warrant, the government had previously inspected and actually acquired a set of the Crisostomo’s footprints by FBI agents in June 2012.
“Why the Commonwealth chose to seize the defendant’s footprints now when it initially did so in June of 2012, which was approximately four months after it secured and processed bare footprints at La Fiesta Mall in February of 2012, is simply unknown,” King said.
The lawyer pointed out that Dec. 24, 2013, is almost a year later. By this time, she said, the case is now at a stage where the government must file a motion seeking a court order directing Crisostomo to provide another sample of his barefoot prints.
The jury trial of Crisostomo will be start on April 7, 2014. Associate Judge Joseph N. Camacho will preside over the trial.