Death Without Mercy
Oklahoma City Thunder center Kendrick Perkins (5) is defended by San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan (21) during the first half of Game 3 in their NBA basketball Western Conference finals playoff series, Thursday, May 31, 2012, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) (Sue Ogrocki)
And that, the defense argues, was the problem: police never really investigated anyone else -- not even others who had access to rocuronium, like Jimmy's ex-wife.
Stephanie Estel listened as the defense tried to finger her for this murder.
"From what I heard, she was unaccounted between 7:30 and 9:30 and her only other alibi between 6 and 10 were her husband, Dan. You verified all that?" Zimarowski asked Det. Mezzanotte.
"Yes, sir," Mezzanotte replied.
"And you took them at their word?" Zimarowski asked.
"Why wouldn't I take them at their word?" Mezzanotte asked.
"Why wouldn't you take Michelle Michael at her word?" Zimarowski asked.
"Because every time I gave her an opportunity to do that she lied," Mezzanotte said.
Courtroom dramas on television often have dramatic moments when defendants take the witness stand to try to un-do damaging testimony. In real life, it almost never happens; certainly defendants whose repeated lies have been caught on tape don't testify. But with her case in seeming shambles, Shelly rolled the dice and stepped into the witness box.
Her lawyer, Tom Dyer, sympathetically elicits all the reasons she chose to lie.
Asked why she didn't tell the truth about leaving the hospital on the morning of the fire, Shelly testified, "I didn't want my boss to find out. I didn't want to get fired."
As for not admitting her affair to the detective, Shelly said, "I was ashamed of myself -- I just cheated on my husband and didn't want to cause any more pain - make it worse."
The life insurance, Shelly insists, was for the children, though she was the beneficiary. She testified the couple had no debts, and that she had no motive to kill Jimmy.
On the stand, she reiterated that she had nothing to do with her husband's death or the fire at their home.
But prosecutor DeChristopher is merciless, saying Shelly killed out of greed. And she points to her initial 34-page insurance claim to show just how greedy Shelly could be. "You claimed reimbursement for 12 bottles of nail polish, totally $72?" DeChristopher asked.
"I had a big basket of nail polish - actually that's probably an understatement," she testified.
"You requested reimbursement for Jim's dress socks - 30 pair totaling $240, is that right?" the prosecutor asked.
"I guess so if it's on there," Shelly said.
"You put a price on your framed wedding vows - $40," DeChristopher remarked.
"It was Michael's frame - yes," Shelly replied.
Over and over, DeChristopher ridicules Shelly's claim that at heart she really is an honest person. "And in your interviews with Det. Mezzanotte, you lied to him over a hundred times, correct?" De Christopher asked.
"I lied a lot," Shelly said.
Cross-examination was brutal, but Shelly says she had to testify. "I didn't do it and I wanted everybody to hear me," she explains.
The ex-cheerleader who had twirled and charmed her way through life could only hope that when the jurors saw her struggling in the witness box they saw an innocent person.
Asked if she felt that taking the stand helped, Shelly tells Spencer " I don't know if it did or not."
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