Defense begins its case in Zumot trial

Tuesday testimony focuses on Zumot's location on the evening of the fire

The timeline of Bulos Zumot's actions on Oct. 15, 2009, continued to take center stage at Zumot's trial Tuesday (Feb. 1) as the prosecution rested its case and the defense began to call forth its witnesses.

Mark Geragos, who is representing Zumot in the arson-and-murder trial, is seeking to prove that his client could not have gotten to the Addison Avenue cottage by 6:39 p.m. -- the time the fire was called in -- and then enter his hookah lounge less than 10 minutes later.

Police believe Zumot had killed his girlfriend, Jennifer Schipsi, earlier that day and then drove to the cottage, started the fire, and proceeded to his place of business, Da Hookah Spot, on University Avenue.

Ahmed Alaghbash, who worked at Da Hookah Spot in late 2009, testified Tuesday morning that he saw Zumot at the hookah lounge shortly after 6:30 p.m. Alaghbash said he was getting in to work at around 6 p.m. when he got a call from Zumot, who asked him about routine lounge-related business.

About 30 minutes later, another hookah lounge employee, Gehad Al-Bataeneh, arrived at Da Hookah Spot. Minutes later, Zumot arrived and sat down to smoke a hookah, as is his custom, Alaghbash testified. He said Zumot was acting normal that day.

"Same thing. Like always," he said through an interpreter.

Alaghbash, who spoke Arabic, said he noticed a fire truck passing by on University about 5 to 10 minutes after Zumot arrived. After the truck passed, the phone at the lounge rang. Zumot picked it up and ran out of the building.

Alaghbash said he received a call from Zumot about a half an hour later.

"He called me and asked me about Jennifer," Alaghbash said. "He was crying."

Under cross-examination, Alaghbash said he remembers what happened that evening, but acknowledged that he couldn't recall exactly how much time passed between each event.

Last week, the jury saw surveillance videos from Da Hookah Spot showing a fire engine passing and Zumot entering the lounge about a minute later, at 6:47 p.m.

Another witness who talked about Zumot's actions on Oct. 15, 2009, was Ziad Zumot, the defendant's third cousin. He testified that he received a phone call from Bulos Zumot that afternoon, shortly after 2:30 p.m. Minutes after the call, Bulos Zumot stopped by Ziad's Mountain View store, Earthly Delights Gourmet Food.

He also said he received no indication from Zumot's demeanor that anything was amiss.

"It was nothing special, nothing wrong," Ziad Zumot testified. "I didn't see anything."

The trial will resume Wednesday morning.

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Like this comment
Posted by Laura
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Feb 1, 2011 at 10:27 pm

I've been following this trial in the papers and decided to pick up a copy of "We the Jury: Deciding the Scott Peterson Case". Very interesting book, Scott Peterson was being represented by Garegos. One of the jurors describes what was perceived as distraction tactics by Garegos's team, apparently there were ladies working for him who dress provocatively and tend to get up and walk around during important parts of the prosecutions questioning. I heard from observers that similar activity was going on in court at Zumots trial.

Like this comment
Posted by Ladrome
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2011 at 11:09 am

Ladrome is a registered user.

Thank you Laura. Scott Peterson and Zumont seem to have a lot in common.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

Yes, there are currently distraction tactics going on, perpetrated by Geragos. A friend in the legal field told me that a lot of men swing by the court room to check out the "hot associates" of Geragos that he uses for distraction.

While the timeline the day of the fire seems a bit troublesome, I think that the gas can evidence is compelling.

Like this comment
Posted by Fleur de Lis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 10, 2011 at 10:26 am

Fleur de Lis is a registered user.

Hopefully, as the jury deliberates, they will think through what both lawyers arguments are, all the witness testimony heard and any pieces of evidence presented, weigh the law, and consider what makes sense and what seems unlikely, and stay focused on that rather than any in court distractions, whether done on purpose or not.

No one wants to wrongly convict an innocent man, nor let a guilty man go free, so hopefully members of the jury and the public will keep an even head in this instead of jumping to conclusions, as people so often do. I think it would be hard to decide on this one, when so much looks bad for the defendant from what I have read, but is there any reasonable doubt to be looked at such as the white car, or the timeline of things, the gas can or the sniffer dog, and cell phone tower information, or whether Zumot would leave the burning cottage and go speeding around the block (away from the direction of downtown) to get to his work downtown, as a witness in the neighborhood suggested? What about the fights they had and witnesses who saw all that, and what about the Ghanmas? I assume there is a lot of evidence that we, the public, don't know about (the case) that isn't presented in the media.

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