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The attorney for Bulos Zumot, the Palo Alto man charged with killing his girlfriend, Jennifer Schipsi, and setting their cottage on fire, lashed out Tuesday morning against the prosecution's tactics and said he is contemplating a request for a mistrial.
Mark Geragos, who is representing Zumot, clashed with Deputy District Attorney Charles Gillingham over Gillingham's request to limit the number of text messages the jury could see. The messages, which police forensics experts extracted from Zumot's and Schipsi's phones, detail the arguments the couple had on the night of Oct. 14 and the morning of Oct. 15.
Schipsi's body was found in the cottage on Oct. 15. Zumot was arrested four days later.
The text messages have emerged in recent days as a key component in prosecution's case against Zumot. On Monday, Jaber Al Suwaidi, a friend of both Zumot and Schipsi, testified that he believed Zumot had sent him a text from Schipsi's phone on Oct. 15 -- an assertion Geragos vehemently challenged.
On Tuesday, text messages once again caused a disagreement after Gillingham requested that some of the messages found on Zumot's phone be excised from evidence. These include messages Zumot exchanged with Schipsi's mother, Jamie Schipsi, and with his friend, Joseph Martinez, a deputy sheriff at Monterey County Sheriff's Office.
The messages between Zumot and Jamie Schipsi were exchanged on Oct. 14 -- Zumot's 36th birthday. She wished him a happy birthday, told him to "smile all day" and signed off as "mom." Zumot wrote in his response that Jennifer had made it his best birthday ever and told Jamie Schipsi of plans to propose to Jennifer the following weekend.
Gillingham requested that about 20 messages be excised as "hearsay" -- which means they cannot be introduced into evidence unless Zumot testifies in his own defense.
But Geragos said he was previously led to believe that all messages would be admitted into evidence and criticized what he called the "dilatory tactics" of the prosecution and argued that showing only certain messages will give the jury a "skewed view of what has transpired.
"Surely, the jury should have all the messages, rather than the cherry-picked ones," Geragos told Judge David Cena.
Geragos also said that his belief that all messages would be shown to the jury influenced his cross-examination of Martinez last week. He characterized Gillingham's request as an eleventh hour surprise that "renders me ineffective as an attorney."
Though Geragos did not ask for mistrial Tuesday, he said he is considering making the request.
Cena ruled to exclude these messages for now, pending review of relevant cases.
After the decision, the jury saw dozens of messages extracted from Zumot's and Schipsi's phones -- including dozens that were deleted from both phones but later recovered by forensic experts. This included the messages from the night of Oct. 14, when the two got into a fight after his birthday party, prompting Schipsi to walk alone from Da Hookah Spot to the couple's Addison Avenue cottage.
Palo Alto police Sgt. Cornelius Maloney, who organized the messages into a database, testified about these messages and read many of them aloud to the jury. He also cross-referenced these messages with Zumot's and Schipsi's AT&T phone bills to corroborate that these messages had been sent and determine if there were other messages that were sent but could not be recovered. The messages, which were displayed on the projection screen for the jury, portray Schipsi becoming increasingly mad at Zumot as the night went on.
Shortly after midnight, she had sent Zumot a message telling him to "act like a man."
Minutes later, she sent him another message, stating, "Hope this is a bday u never forget. I just walked over a mile by myself, broke my shoe, got harassed down university ave. But was worth it to escape your complete BULL----!!! Cancel my flight to palm desert I refuse to spend another wknd around someone so heartless. Call me in another few bdays when u GROW UP!!!" (sic).
Shortly after 1 a.m., she sent him a series of messages demanding that he pay her money that she said he owns her for damaging her car and other belongings. She also told him not to ever threaten her again or she "will seek ultimate justice." She also wrote him that she would go to the police if he didn't pay her back by 11 a.m. the following day.
Maloney also said that there were two messages that, according to the phone bills, were exchanged but could not be recovered from Zumot's and Schipsi's phones. Many other messages were deleted from both Schipsi's and Zumot's iPhones but were later recovered from Schipsi's phone.
Maloney's testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday morning.