The notes handwritten by Dr. Xavier Caro broke a night of horrors into a simple, eight-part, step-by-step chronology.
Projected on a Ventura courtroom wall, the first entry consisted of just a few terse phrases: "Lights on; kitchen clean; quiet. Cora down; hair in face; vomitus (frothy blood) seen; call 911." The words were accompanied by a simple diagram of Xavier Caro's route from his garage to his master bedroom, where a prone stick figure represented his wife, Socorro Caro, bleeding from the head with a gunshot wound to the brain.
Subsequent entries in a similarly spare shorthand described the physician's discovery of his three young sons, fatally shot as they slept in the Caros' Santa Rosa Valley home. Charged with three counts of first-degree murder, Socorro Caro has pleaded not guilty, later amending that plea with one of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Her attorneys contend she was framed by her husband.
During their third day of cross-examining Xavier Caro on Thursday, they again tried to chip away at his credibility, suggesting he had minimized the depth of an affair with a female employee at his Northridge medical office. They also hinted that he may have washed blood from his hands on the night of the killings, and that his notes reflected plans to give carefully rehearsed testimony.
Xavier Caro made his notes on the back of a transcript of his frenzied 911 call on the night of Nov. 22, 1999. The transcript was among at least 1,000 pages of documents given to him by prosecutors for his review, he testified.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Cheryl Temple argued unsuccessfully against use of the notes in court, contending it would be "misleading and prejudicial to suggest these notes are indicative of crafting testimony."
But Socorro Caro's lead attorney, Assistant Public Defender Jean Farley, prevailed, asking Xavier Caro whether he had compiled the notes in an attempt to match the statements he was to make in court with what he had read. "They were for my personal use," he said, explaining that he was trying to "better organize" the material in the transcript.
Under questioning from Farley, he broke down several times as he described the discovery of his boys, ages 5 to 11, and his futile attempt at resuscitation.
Still, police tested his hands for gunpowder residue and assigned an officer to keep watch over him outside the house. Talking with his mother-in-law that night, he expressed concern that he could be blamed for the children's deaths, he testified.
Telling a police officer he had to go to the bathroom, Xavier Caro said he wasn't allowed back in the house. He was accompanied by the officer to the backyard, where he relieved himself, rinsing his hands at an outdoor faucet.
Farley underscored that incident for the jury. Several times during the trial, she has suggested to the panel that crucial evidence at the scene was mishandled or, in this case, was possibly washed away.