2007 TrialOriginal InvestigationQuestions

Photographer Groffy’s Actions and Testimony – Pt One

Originally posted at Tick Tock Manitowoc on Reddit by MMonroe54

Part One: Direct Examination

The RAV and how it was handled is, perhaps, the most intriguing and puzzling evidence in this case. From Pam Sturm’s dramatic testimony about how she found it, to the actions of LE at Avery Salvage Yard (covering and uncovering it), to how it was transported, to what happened after it arrived at the State Crime Lab in Madison — it’s a mystery in and of itself.

The testimony of Groffy, the state lab photographer who was summoned Sunday morning, November 6, 2005, to photograph it, is, I think, particularly interesting and somewhat mindboggling. I’ve included excerpts from his testimony, both Direct, by Gahn and Cross, by Buting. I’ve removed the line numbers for greater readability.

Direct examination by Gahn, who is asking Groffy about the photos he took:

A. State’s Exhibit 291 is a photograph of the interior of the RAV4 looking at part of the driver’s side, I guess you would call it, instrument panel, near the ignition switch.

Q. And is this photograph — is that photograph represented up on the big screen?
A. Yes, it is.

Q. Mr. Groffy, I would like to ask you, is there anything about this photograph that you did any further processing of this vehicle with?
A. Yes, the area that shows the red stain, I did a presumptive test on that area.

Q. And what is a presumptive test?
A. This is a presumptive test for the presence of blood. It’s known as phenolphthalein.

Q. Could you describe a little more for the jurors just how that stain appeared to you.
A. It was a reddish color stain on the dash.

Q. You did the presumptive test for blood?
A. Yes, I did.

Q. I’m sorry, sir, what were the results for that?
A. It was positive.

Q. Next exhibit, please.

First, I was shocked that the state lab photographer, who describes his job with the lab as taking photographs or examining images, did presumptive tests for blood. Why? Is this normal procedure? For a photographer to swab stains that clearly look like blood (are red in color) to make sure they are blood before photographing them? I found this incredible. As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s not as if he was in a tiny county with limited resources; he was a state man, attached to the state lab. You’d think they could and would get a lab person in to do these presumptive tests. But the larger question is why do the presumptive test for blood before photographing these stains? Had they not been blood, would he not have photographed them? It seems even more incomprehensible later when Groffy testifies (see testimony below) that while he knows it is a phenolphthalein test, he does not know if it distinguishes between animal blood and human blood. Surely all lab scientists know that!

Groffy further testifies that he was directed to take some photos of blood stain areas by Nick Stahlke, who was the lab’s blood stain pattern analyst. Ken Kratz later refers to Stahlke as the “blood spatter expert,” not quite the same thing… though, admittedly, that may be hairsplitting.

Q. Why, what was in the back of this cargo area of the RAV4 that you wanted photographed?
A. There appeared to be stain patterns that contained blood and he was interested in recording the pattern information.

Q. Could you take the laser point and point out those areas.
A. That would have been approximately in this area here. And then later on, there was also some area in here that he had me photograph.

Q. Did you do any presumptive testing in this area of the vehicle?
A. Yes, I also did a presumptive test in approximately this area and the test was positive.

Q. And positive for what, sir?
A. For blood.

and further in his testimony, still on Direct by Gahn:

A. This would be State’s Exhibit 297. This, again, is another — a closer view of that stained area within the cargo portion area of the RAV4, behind the rear seat.

Q. And could you just describe for the jurors, when you looked at this stain, what did you observe? What was the condition of the stain?
A. It was pretty much what you see on the photograph. It was reddish in color, it appeared to be over a — an area of that particular rear quarter panel.

Q. Next exhibit, please.

I included this part because he verifies that the photos are true representatives of the color of what he saw that day — red stains (as in what we see in the photos today). Not brownish red, or brown, but red. Had the red been from the flash, or from other lighting, or from some oddity of the camera, as some have suggested, would he not have said that? That the color was exaggerated, too red? But he doesn’t; he says it’s “pretty much what you see on the photograph.”

He further testifies that he also took photos of the Grand Am, or their Item B, which was Steven Avery’s vehicle:

A. Yes, sir. And that would be State’s Exhibit 305. This is just a closer view of that middle console area in the front seat. The gear shift knob and some of the surfaces of that console area.

Q. Was there any particular reason to take this photograph?
A. If I remember correctly, I believe Nick Stahlke wanted me to show some stains that were located near or on, that — or that he perceived to be stains.

Q. All right.

But Groffy was not asked if he did presumptive tests on the Grand Am to test for blood, so we can assume he did not. So, why not? Stahlke saw stains; presumably he didn’t know what they were, so why no pre-tests for blood? As they did in the RAV?