(Albuquerque) 415 Roma Northwest is where Linda Henning has lived for three years now. 24-hours a day. Seven days a week. But she is quite likely to leave the Bernalillo County Detention Center within days. The question: Is Henning destined for the even stricter confines of a New Mexico prison or is she about to become a free woman?
A jury of 12 men and women will answer that question, possibly on Monday.
That jury began deliberating Friday afternoon, shortly after attorneys finished their emotionally-charged closing arguments.
The prosecution twice quoted William Shakespeare’s murderous collaborator Lady Macbeth, “Out, damned spot!” The quotation intended to draw a correlation with efforts to clean-up blood from inside victim Girly Chew Hossencofft’s apartment, although the pure bleach used in the job never reached four tiny drops of Henning’s blood later found on the skirt of Girly Chew Hossencofft’s couch.
The defense peppered its argument with colorful downhome analogies: “It reminds me of somebody trying to stick chicken feathers on a buzzard to try and make it taste better and telling you it’s chicken!” remarked Henning’s attorney Gary Mitchell when characterizing the prosecution’s case as solely based on gossip, speculation and hearsay.
Lead prosecutor Paul Spiers told the jury that Henning and her then-lover Diazien Hossencofft conspired to kill Girly, comparing the alleged plot to an engine, “So that whine became a roar when it slammed into Girly’s apartment house, 53-D…She’s ambushed and slaughtered in her very own apartment,” Spiers added.
Mitchell began his closing argument, “We are in an American courtroom and deal with two things. What? The facts and the law.”
His tone continued to strengthen as he went through a list of facts. Mitchell reminded jurors that police never noted any scratches or cuts on Henning when she was questioned days after Girly’s disappearance, “Not less than three police officers and perhaps as many as six.”
In addition to the carpet, prosecutors, once again, displayed the tarp which was found with Girly’s clothing along a remote highway one day after she disappeared. The tarp and clothing were stained with blood. This time the prosecution suggested that some of the blood on the tarp seemed to have been left behind by a sword. That angered Mitchell, who contended that if the state wanted to raise that possibility, it should have provided an expert witness on blood spattering. “That is the nastiest of this kind of proceeding, where we ask juries to speculate, guess, conjecture,” said Mitchell as if breathing fire.
Both sides took time to address the testimony of Diazien Hossencofft, already convicted for his role in the murder which he proudly declares he orchestrated. And both sides took turns trashing him.
“Is there any question in our minds that he doesn’t give a hoot about anybody?” began Mitchell. “That he doesn’t care who he walks over, who he sets up, whose blood he plants…of who gets accused of the crime?” Hossencofft testified for the defense and claimed Henning knew nothing about the murder. He says he planted Henning’s blood in Girly’s apartment to confuse police. Mitchell suggested that Hossencofft actually intended to frame Henning. He said Henning is a victim.
Spiers poked-fun at Hossencofft’s claim that he knew that four drops of Henning’s blood were left inside the apartment. Conjuring something that sounded like some sort of scene from The Matrix, the prosecutor suggested that the tiny drops must have moved through the air in extremely slo-motion for Hossencofft to lock-in on the particles which are nearly invisible to the human eye.
The prosecution believes that Hossencofft has made-up all of his stories concerning Henning’s blood in the apartment so that he can save her from a murder conviction. While in custody, Hossencofft has requested and studied the estimated 80,000 pages of discovery in this case. No one doubts he knows the transcripts of interviews, the information in search warrants, all of it…inside-and-out.
Hossencofft, however, testified that he doesn’t care what happens to Henning now. “It is not my concern.” If convicted, Henning could be sentenced to death.
Prosecutor Jack Burkhead contends Hossencofft is trying to pull-off the “ultimate con” to convince a jury that Henning is not guilty. “Mr. Mitchell is selling you the same story that Diazien Hossencofft was selling you from the witness stand,” said Burkhead. “He’s banking-on that you’ll buy what Diazien Hossencofft is selling.”
Mitchell lowered his voice to a near whisper when telling jurors they could be on the verge of making a deadly mistake. “The haunting fear is, ‘What if that sorry bastard (Hossencofft) is right? What if he set her up? Look what we’ve done.'”
The jury deliberated for about three hours Friday afternoon before recessing for the weekend. Deliberations are scheduled to resume at 8:45 Monday morning.
They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know
How tender ’tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.
-Quotation from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth recited by prosecutor Paul Spiers
It reminds me of somebody trying to stick chicken feathers on a buzzard to try and make it taste better and telling you it’s chicken!
-Henning’s Gary Mitchell characterizing the state’s case to jurors