BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — "This is an innocent person. She did not kill her husband," argued Defense Attorney Tony Lidgett during closing arguments of the Leslie Chance trial. "And they assumed so many things and they were shown to be wrong on so many occasions."
Closing arguments finished Wednesday afternoon and after seven weeks of witness testimony, it is now up to a jury of 12 Kern County residents to decide whether or not Chance is guilty. If she is found guilty of premeditated first-degree murder, she could be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Chance, 52, is accused of the 2013 killing of her husband Todd Chance. Todd was found shot to death in the an almond orchard off of Enos Lane and Noriega Road in Northwest Bakersfield.
Prosecutor Andrea Kohler argued Wednesday to the motive behind the case. Kohler argue that Chance had become aware of an affair between Todd and his ex-fiancee, Carrie Williams, and that pushed Chance to kill Todd.
"What really did it, what caused her to want Todd dead," Kohler said, "When you look at those text messages between Carrie Williams and Todd Chance...they are really making fun of [Leslie Chance]. They are taking shots at her expense."
The prosecution also pointed out during this trial that Chance did not keep any photos of Todd in her office at Fairview Elementary. The prosecution alleged this was evidence that she had little to no affection for Todd. Lidgett said this was an incorrect assumption.
"You're suppose to follow the evidence, and when you follow the evidence at the end you just have one decision, did they prove their case? Did they prove beyond a reasonable doubt?" Lidgett told the jury. "There is nothing to support what they're claiming, nothing."
Lidgett pointed out that certain items in Chance's office had sentimental meaning for Todd. For example, Chance had a bell on her desk that was from her and Todd's wedding.
"Ms. Kohler would have no idea, she probably just thought that was some bell," Lidgett said.
Lidgett said that the prosecution's entire case was built on assumptions and not definite facts or evidence. For example, the prosecution alleged that Todd was shot inside his black Ford Mustang, then moved from the car to the orchard where he was found.
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"Mr. Norris wants to say she dragged somebody, but there was no drag marks," Lidgett said.
Lidgett suggested other possibilities for scenarios the prosecution laid out. He pointed out that if there were no drag marks, could that mean Chance carried Todd? Then he pointed out that it would have been difficult for Chance to carry Todd by herself, so Lidgett asked if that meant a third person was involved and never found.
Kohler said during her closing rebuttal Wednesday that they believe it's possible Chance shot her husband inside the Mustang then pulled his body out of the car and left it in the orchard.
As for the lack of blood found at the scene, Kohler reminded the jury of testimony from the forensic pathologist who conducted Todd Chance's autopsy.
"What [Dr. Whitmore] saw from that internal examination was that this was an internal bleed," Kohler said, suggesting this means there would be very little blood at the scene. "In this case that's what happened."
Lidgett also pointed out that during the trial, it was discovered that DNA evidence went untested and interviews with witnesses were not disclosed to the prosecution or the defense. This includes a recording of a conversation between detectives and witnesses who said they did not identify Chance as the person in the video.
"There was some pretty sloppy work. Reports weren't generated, taped interviews weren't booked." Kohler said. "But the DNA evidence was another thing that I would have to call kind of a fail on the part of the Sheriff's Department."
During the trial it came to light that DNA swabs taken from inside the Mustang were never tested. Detectives testified this was due to a miscommunication with the crime lab. The swabs were sent for testing just days before the trial started.
"Well in this case, ladies and gentlemen, you got to hear that evidence," Kohler argued. "You have that evidence to evaluate, it's there. The witnesses were called, the tapes were played."
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Lidgett also pointed out assumptions in the prosecutions thought process for the surveillance videos. The prosecution said the surveillance videos clearly show Chance walking back to her home on the morning of Aug. 25, 2013 after killing Todd.
The surveillance video timeline shows a person walking in front of a Farmers Insurance on Harris Road, behind the Sam's Club around 9:30 a.m. The prosecution said that person was Chance. Lidgett said the timeline did not make sense because Samantha Chance, Leslie and Todd's daughter, testified she woke up and saw her mother watching TV in their home that morning at that same time. Lidgett also pointed out that the person in the video was not caught on any surveillance video from Sam's Club and could not easily be identified in the video.
Jury deliberations are done for the day. They will resume Thursday morning at 9 a.m.