First District Court Judge instructed counsel in the child abuse case against Jennifer Stephenson not to mention "the rope" until he rules on whether it is admissible.
Stephenson is accused of seriously injuring her 2-year-old son by tying him up. She told emergency room doctors that a chest of drawers fell on the boy, but indentations on the child's legs suggested he was tied up for a long time instead.
Prosecutor Dori Smith would not confirm whether a rope was found at the scene. A large chest of drawers tagged as evidence was seen in the courtroom Tuesday morning.
Vigil also hasn't yet ruled whether a beer bottle found at the scene is admissible as evidence. Smith already stipulated that Stephenson's "prior bad acts" would not be deliberately brought in via state's witnesses, including drug and alcohol abuse and previous investigations by Children Youth and Families Department. Vigil said the beer bottle may be relevant as part of the crime scene.
"I still think the scene may be relevant - just that the beer bottles were there," Vigil said.
Public defender Sydney West pointed out that there was only one empty beer bottle, and bringing it up would be prejudicial to her client. The rules of evidence that govern criminal trials consider whether the evidentiary value of a fact outweighs the possibility it may prejudice the jury unfairly against the defendant.
Smith said that the beer bottle was found in a trash can on top of a McDonald's bag and under a dirty diaper. She said Stephenson had gone to McDonald's the morning the child's injuries were discovered, which dates the beer bottle to that same day.
Weather caused a delay in the trial because the court opened two hours late and one juror was stranded at her house. Opening statements will begin at 1 p.m.
Smith tells SFR that she will call Dr. Mayer Best, a CHRISTUS St Vincent Regional Medical Center Emergency Room doctor to the stand first, followed by Stephenson's ex-boyfriend and the child victim's father, Anthony Apodaca. Apodaca originally faced the same charge of first degree child abuse that Stephenson does but reached a plea agreement that will grant him no prison time if he cooperates with the state's prosecution of Stephenson.
Stephenson appeared upbeat in court and had the support of two women sitting behind her in the gallery. She was wearing a black pantsuit and was seen applying makeup and using what appeared to be breath spray.