Defense questions witness’ motives

by Andrew Tellijohn

Rachel Kemptner has provided the state with its strongest evidence against Puiassance Andersen, but when prosecutor Steve Redding finished questioning her, defense attorney Paul Schneck began casting doubts on her reliability.
Kemptner is an acquaintance of Andersen and three other men accused of burglarizing an apartment near Dinkytown last October. Two of the three women who lived in the apartment were raped during the incident.
Kemptner’s testimony capped a day that included testimony by a fingerprinting expert and several representatives of the Eau Claire, Wis., Sheriff’s Office and an officer from the cities of Strum and Osseo, Wis. The officers apprehended Andersen and suspect Antonio Burton in Eau Claire, Wis., after a high-speed chase in a vehicle stolen during the break-in.
Though Kemptner’s testimony against Andersen was damaging, Schneck presented evidence that it was self-serving and not entirely accurate.
Kemptner testified that Andersen, as well as the other men involved in the incident, implicated themselves by things they said while at her apartment the day after the crimes.
During testimony, Kemptner admitted that she accompanied Andersen and Victor Porter, another man accused in the incident, to a pawn shop near her apartment to get a cut of the money. The men planned to sell some of the stereo equipment they allegedly stole from apartment.
The men needed Kemptner to accompany them because she was the only one with legal identification. She said needed money because she was having trouble paying bills.
Redding, however, tried to rescue her credibility by suggesting that she was putting herself at risk by giving the testimony she did against the men. On the stand, she read from the statement she gave Sgt. Cari Gerlicher days after the break-in, where she said she wouldn’t testify in court, fearing retribution from the suspects.
Redding also said that the most important parts of her testimony involved things she heard directly from the men and not from things police told her.
Schneck also accused Kemptner of giving police all the answers they wanted because she didn’t want herself or her boyfriend implicated in the crimes, although she testified that he was already in jail for an unrelated incident the day the break-in occurred.
Schneck noted that she gave police the wrong spelling of her last name when they visited her apartment during investigation, because she had a outstanding on a traffic violation at that time.
Another thing Schneck said indicated Kemptner was not reliable was that she had corroborated several key dates Sgt. Cari Gerlicher asked her about when she gave her statement, even though they were incorrect. When Gerlicher called Kemptner to confirm the correct dates, she again merely agreed with Gerlicher.
Later in the day, William Hinz, a forensic scientist with the Minneapolis Police Bureau of Identification, testified that fingerprint evidence placed suspect Giezwa Andersen, Puiassance’s brother, and Porter at the scene of the burglary.
Porter pleaded guilty to one count of burglary in February, in exchange for making himself available to testify on behalf of the prosecution. He remains a potential witness.
The fingerprinting process involves finding prints left at the scene of a crime and comparing them with prints on file at police headquarters.
Giezwa Andersen’s prints were found on a dresser in one of the bedrooms. Porter’s were located on a torn bank statement belonging to one of the victims, and his palmprint was found on stereo equipment missing from the women’s apartment.
Fingerprinting is considered strong evidence because of the individuality of everyone’s prints. A number of similar characteristics are needed to officially make a match.
“We prefer to have at least nine points (for a suitable match),” Hinz said. “It can be so smudged that it’s unreadable or there may be only two or three points. We don’t make a positive ID with that minimal a number.”
Today Redding will spend time questioning DNA experts. He said he’ll probably rest his case on Wednesday morning. At that point Schneck will begin the defense’s case, but he said he isn’t sure if Andersen will testify on his own behalf.