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ANAHEIM : Court Stay Halts Prom Night Trial

August 27, 1991|MARK I. PINSKY

The trial of a La Crescenta man accused of shooting to death a high school girl on her prom night was delayed Monday after an appeals court decided to review a defense motion over garbled tape recordings.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Christopher J. Evans had just begun his opening statement in the murder trial of Paul M. Crowder when the appellate decision was relayed to Superior Court Judge Theodore E. Millard.

Following a 30-minute recess, Millard said the 4th District Court of Appeal would consider an earlier defense motion requesting more time to study four taped police interviews.

Crowder, 19, is charged with murder in the June 1 shooting of 17-year-old Berlyn Fuentes Cosman of La Crescenta in a darkened room of the Crown-Sterling Suites Hotel in Anaheim.

Last week, defense attorney E. Bonnie Marshall asked for two weeks to 30 days to try to "enhance" garbled tape recordings made by Anaheim police the day of the shooting. Among those interviewed were several witnesses who attended the party, as well as Crowder's mother.

Millard denied the defense motion last week and ordered the trial to proceed.

But after Marshall filed an appeal Monday morning, Presiding Justice David G. Sills ordered the trial stayed until Sept. 4, in order to hear further arguments. Millard then recessed the trial until Sept. 9, pending an appeals court decision.

However, Marshall said later that by then she expected to have completed work on the tape recordings and would be ready to continue the trial.

Evans said later that he was not upset by the delay, calling the appeals court decision "part of our system" and "something to be expected."

In his remarks to the jury, Evans said it would probably take him several days to present his case. He described Berlyn Cosman as a young woman "looking at a bright future at college."

"The evidence will show," Evans said, that Crowder went to the hotel "with the intention to shoot a person . . . with the intention in his mind to . . . fire a gun at someone."

In addition to displaying the alleged murder weapon, a .357 magnum pistol, Evans held up and pumped a 12-gauge "assault" shotgun with a pistol grip that he said Crowder had brought to Anaheim but left in the car.

"As well as arming himself heavily," Evans said, Crowder gave a friend at the party a third weapon, a small automatic handgun.

The defense contends that Crowder shot Cosman accidentally as he stumbled after entering the darkened hotel bedroom where Cosman and others were sleeping.

Before Evans began his opening argument--and while the jury was out of the courtroom--Millard ruled that two photographs of Cosman's body showing head wounds could be shown to the jury.

Marshall had objected to the photos, calling them "inflammatory" and charging that they would be "painful to the family."

Millard, however, said the photos were not "unduly gruesome."

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