Friday, April 24, 2015
Earlier this month, I did a post about "Takera," who was mentioned in Debbie's police interview and who was quite possibly the last person to see Hae Min Lee alive (besides her murderer). I did the post because (a) I was pretty convinced that "Takera" wasn't this person's actual name; and (b) there seemed to be no other reference to "Takera" in either the prosecution or defense files. As a result of that post, I was given information that led me to believe that I had tracked down the real "Takera."
Well, two days ago, Susan Simpson was able to locate a second reference to "Takera" in the prosecution files. This reference, however, was not to "Takera." This reference was a reference to Takera's real name, spelled correctly. So, what does this all mean?
Let's start with the basics. In the early stages of the investigation into the disappearance and then death of Hae Min Lee, Debbie was presented to the public as the last person to see Hae alive. In her March 26th statement to Detectives Ritz and MacGillivary, however, Debbie contended that Hae and she were not alone. Instead, she claimed that a mutual friend was part of the same conversation, asked Hae for a ride, and was turned down because Hae had to pick up her cousin and had no time to give a ride.
This was not the only reference that Debbie made to "Takera" in her statement. Instead, Debbie later described going to talk to the Crisis Intervention team (after learning about Hae's death) with the following people:
To refresh your memory, "Ayesha" is Aisha, Hae's best friend and a witness for the prosecution. Ms. Schab was Hae's French teacher, and she both (a) gathered information from students about the case; and (b) testified as a witness for the prosecution. Becky was a good friend to both Hae and Adnan, and she testified as a witness for the defense at trial.
Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, "Takera"/"Kera" was never contacted by the State or the defense. In fact, I was fairly convinced that she wasn't anywhere else in the files of the prosecution or defense. But then, Susan passed along the notes from the interview by Detectives Ritz and MacGillivary with Ms. Kramer, who was a teacher for both Hae and Adnan in the 1998/1999 school year. She was also, as the notes make clear, the wife of Homicide Detective Donald Kramer, for whatever that's worth.
As you can see, Ms. Kramer's interview was conducted on March 24th, two days before Debbie's interview on the 26th. Like Debbie, Ms. Kramer had a recollection of the visit from the Crisis Intervention team after learning about Hae's death:
The redacted name is Takera's actual name, spelled correctly.*
When I wrote my prior post, I tried to speculate about a good reason why the State wouldn't have talked to "Takera" if State officials were actually interested in solving the death of Hae Min Lee. One of the few reasons I could hypothesize was that the detectives were unable to determine the identity of "Takera" and failed to follow up with Debbie.
This no longer seems to be a possibility. It's clear that even a rudimentary comparison by the detectives between their notes on March 24th and March 26th would have revealed the true identity of "Takera."** Moreover, that same rudimentary comparison would have revealed her importance. According to Debbie, "Takera" not only asked Hae for a ride right before Hae disappeared, but she also had enough of a connection with Hae to need to talk to the Crisis Intervention team along with Hae's closest friends, all of whom became witnesses at trial. I can now think of no good reason for the State's failure to contact "Takera" if State officials were honestly interested in finding Hae's killer.
What about the defense? I have previously criticized Adnan's trial attorney for failing to ask Becky and Aisha at trial about Hae turning Adnan down for a ride after school because "something came up" and Hae had "something else to do." At the same time, I acknowledged that these might have been strategic decisions if defense counsel's trial strategy was to avoid any reference to Adnan asking Hae for a ride.
But, if that was defense counsel's trial strategy, how can you explain defense counsel's failure to bring up "Takera" at trial? In Debbie's statement, she remembers "Takera" and nobody else asking Hae for a ride. She also remembers Hae saying that she couldn't give a ride because she had no time. Wouldn't testimony on this point have been hugely helpful to Adnan's case?
The other obvious question is: How could defense counsel not seek to speak to Takera? It goes without saying that she could have been the star witness for the defense.
One disturbing possibility is that defense counsel didn't know about "Takera." We've been putting together the second episode of the Undisclosed Podcast, and we wanted to play the audio from Debbie's March 26th statement, but that audio wasn't part of the prosecution or defense files, despite other audio recordings being part of these files.
You might recall a post by Rabia from December in which she featured pages of Debbie's interview up to page 30, which is where her document ended. "Takera" first appears on page 31 of Debbie's interview. The document Rabia had was what was in the defense file; it's what the State turned over to the defense. Rabia did later find Debbie's entire interview, but it was contained in the response to a MPIA request, not in the defense files.
This leads to three possibilities: (1) the State never turned over Debbie's entire interview to Adnan's trial attorney; (2) the State turned over Debbie's entire interview, but Adnan's trial attorney somehow lost everything after page 30 before trial; or (3) the State turned over Debbie's entire interview, and the portion of Debbie's interview after page 30 was lost after trial. I'm not sure whether there's any way for us to figure out which of these three possibilities is reality.
I'm also not sure whether we'll ever be able to figure out whether Debbie and/or "Takera" saw Hae on January 13th. Now that we're sure about Takera's true identity, she can be contacted by Adnan's Private Investigator. We'll see whether she remembers anything.
Debbie, meanwhile, remains a bit of an enigma. I've been trying to pin down what day she's remembering, and it seems clear to me that she has to be remembering parts of different days. In her March 26th statement, however, she seemed pretty clear that she saw Andan with his gym bag and talked to him about going to track practice at "about 2:45" on January 13th before seeing Hae and "Takera" between 2:45 and 3:15. And while Debbie eventually said she could have been remembering the day before or the day after, there was no track practice on January 12th or January 14th.
In fact, prior to January 13th, there were only two other days in 1999 that Adnan was in school on days when there was track practice: Thursday, January 7th and Monday, January 11th. Both of those days, like January 13th, were "B" days, despite Debbie remembering seeing Adnan and Hae on an "A" day. I don't know what to make of Debbie's statement, but I'm not willing to discount what she has to say about seeing Hae on the 13th.*** Hopefully, "Takera" will be able to add some additional perspective and get us that much closer to figuring out who killed Hae Min Lee.
*The triangle is Adnan.
**This is especially the case because the detectives asked for, and received, Takera's last name from Debbie.
***My current position, though, is that Becky was the last (innocent) person to see Hae alive, as Hae was heading to her car at about 2:20 P.M.