In his best chance so far to dominate Judge William Froeberg's Santa Ana courtroom on behalf of murder defendant Eric Naposki, New York-based defense lawyer Angelo MacDonald spent nearly five hours today working diligently to undermine the prosecution.
At times, MacDonald's cross examination of the lead Newport Beach police detective in the 1994 murder of a local millionaire seemed painfully tedious, but those periods were punctuated with the oral equivalents of espresso triple shots.
MacDonald's most sensational work involved diverting attention from his client to other suspects.
He muddied the victim, William McLaughlin, by implying that he was
involved in an illegal weapons transportation ring operating between Las
Vegas and Orange County's John Wayne Airport. McLaughlin, a wildly
successful inventor, church member and loved parent, owned a plane and a
huge cache of weapons, some of them illegal. The defense lawyer's
questions suggested that someone from that alleged underworld endeavor
might be the murderer.
MacDonald also supplied a second potential
shooter: Naposki's girlfriend at the time of the murder, Nanette
Johnston. Thanks to the victim's will, Johnston became an instant
millionaire the moment six bullets gunned down him down. The wealthy
businessman had no idea that Johnston, his fiancee, was cheating on him
with Naposki, a former NFL player.
Matt Murphy believes that Naposki and Johnston conspired together in the
crime. Johnston will face her own jury later this year. (She's already been
punished for stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from McLaughlin
before, during and after the murder date.) Law enforcement officials
think circumstantial evidence points solidly to Naposki as the shooter.
MacDonald reminded jurors that Johnston's alibi was a South Coast Plaza
Crate & Barrel receipt time stamped at 9:29 p.m on the night
of the murder. The killing occurred 19 minutes earlier near the
intersection of Pacific Coast Highway and Newport Boulevard. The time it
takes to get from the murder scene to the store? Possibly as little as
MacDonald also repeatedly tried to embarrassed
Detective Thomas Voth, now retired, with what he portrayed as sloppy
police work that failed to pursue obvious leads. “No, sir,” Voth
repeatedly replied to questions concerning whether Newport Beach police
detectives performed elementary searches that could have fingered
Johnston as the killer and given Naposki an alibi.
At one point,
the defense lawyer started identifying all the potential suspects rather
than Naposki. The list included Johnston, McLaughlin's adult son,
“mysterious gun characters and a disgruntled ex-business partner.” MacDonald
might have continued but Murphy objected to the grandstanding and
Froeberg ordered him done.
“Did you test the drain of the
woman's bathroom at Crate & Barrel for gunshot residue?” MacDonald
asked Voth. “No,” the detective replied. Police tested Johnston's hands
for gunshot residue on the night of the murder but only after she'd
returned to the crime scene from shopping. Apparently, it's possible to wash off the residue.
The prosecution could
wrap up its case tomorrow or Wednesday. The defense then gets its shot to present its
own evidence. The biggest remaining trial question: Will Naposki, who seemed in a relatively good, relaxed mood all day,
–R. Scott Moxley / OC Weekly
R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.