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You, the jury, Part I

 

1957_0716_schiers_hed

1957_0716_schiers_pixb July 16, 1957
Los Angeles

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you have heard the witnesses and seen the evidence. Now you must decide whether to find Wallace LeRoy Schiers, 34, guilty of second-degree murder in the killing his wife, Lillian, 39, on or about Feb. 12, 1957.

Let me summarize the case briefly:

Wallace and Lillian Schiers (shown at right) were married Feb. 18, 1952. (Mr. Schiers had been married at least once before and Mrs. Schiers had three previous marriages). On the evening of Feb. 11, 1957, shortly before their fifth wedding anniversary, Wallace and Lillian Schiers had been drinking heavily in a bar, then went to their home at 10914 Gaynor Ave., Granada Hills, where they drank a fifth of Scotch, a pint of Scotch and a six-pack of beer.

Mr. Schiers also testified that he and Mrs. Schiers had been working on their income tax returns that evening. Witnesses have testified that Mr. and Mrs. Schiers recently took out a $2,800 loan ($20,062.79 USD 2006) to put a sunken living room in their home and have said that the Schierses frequently argued about money.

Mr. Schiers and Mrs. Schiers kept separate bedrooms. Mr. Schiers, a foreman at the Bendix plant in North Hollywood, testified that he went to bed about 1 a.m. on Feb. 12, 1957, and left for work about 6:30 a.m. without checking on Mrs. Schiers. Mr. Schiers testified that when he went to bed, Mrs. Schiers was in the bathroom.

Two friends, Louise Peterson and Mildred Butcher, described finding Mrs. Schiers' body after she did not answer repeated phone calls. Mrs. Peterson and Mrs. Butcher said they entered the Schierses home about 9 a.m. through an unlocked side door after seeing Mrs. Schiers' car in the garage. They found her nude body sprawled on the floor of her bedroom with her arms outstretched. There was no signs of a struggle and detectives speculate that Mrs. Schiers may have been killed in her sleep.

Detectives said Mrs. Schiers had been beaten in the head with a heavy instrument like a lug wrench or a hatchet. Her bed was soaked with blood and there were blood spatters on the floor and ceiling. Medical experts testified that death occurred about 11 p.m. and was caused by a wound to Mrs. Schiers' left temple 2 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide. 

Investigators did not find any blood residue in Mrs. Schiers' bathroom, but found evidence of blood in Mr. Schiers' bathroom. Investigators also said that tests for blood on Mr. Schiers were positive.

Mrs. Ramona Allen, who lives in the home adjoining the Schierses' property, said that about 7:30 a.m. on the morning of the killing, she found the gate to the fence separating the two lots had been battered down. Mrs. Allen testified that about 3 a.m. that morning, she heard "a lot of commotion as if someone was prowling in her garage. "I heard an awful crash," she said. Her husband went outside to check, but didn't see anything. Mrs. Allen said that dogs in the neighborhood barked for about an hour.

Mrs. Schiers' mother, Mrs. Sally Johnson, testified that when she visited the home after the killing, she noted that two heavy glass candlesticks were missing from her daughter's bedroom and a massive green bottle was missing from the kitchen. Medical examiner Dr. Frederick Newbarr testified that the wounds on Mrs. Schiers' body were star-shaped, the same design as the missing candlesticks.

Mr. Schiers has insisted that he is not guilty of killing his wife and defense experts note that the positive test for blood is imperfect and will also register false positives for a variety of other common substances.

In addition, a polygraph test administered to Mr. Schiers by the Los Angeles Police Department was inconclusive. However, a police officer testified that Mr. Schiers was told that the test showed he was guilty and Mr. Schiers answered that there was something wrong with the machine.

Please recall that the defense objected to police testimony about the polygraph results because they are inadmissible in court.  The judge has instructed you to disregard any testimony about the polygraph results.

Your verdict?

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Comments (2)

Not guilty, It's not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, at least not to me. Unless the crime was committed during a drunken blackout.

Not guilty. Evidence of the blood on the defendant was testified to as having been inconclusive. If they can't prove he had blood on him, they can't prove he lied. He said he was home when the neighbor heard the loud noise, but the state can't prove what that was and she didn't know what she heard. No witnesses, no murder weapon, no provable false exculpatory statement. It's not enough.

Also, if he gets convicted, my ruling from the appeals bench is that his statement regarding the polygraph is not sufficiently probative to outweigh the unfairness associated with telling the jury the background that his polygraph was "inconclusive." The polygraph was and is regarded as a form of junk science as far as the courts are concerned. The jury was told that he didn't pass. From this the jury could infer his guilt from the inconclusive result. The evidence in the case was too close for this to be harmelss error. The judgment of the Superior Court is hereby reversed, and this matter is remanded for a new trial.


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