In what has seemed like a snail’s race to the finish line we are finally finding ourselves on verdict watch for the penalty phase of the Marissa DeVault trial. In a highly anticipated closing to seal this deal for the state or the defense, The Trial Divas were waiting at the edge of our seats to hear both prosecution and defense state their case for the last time.
Alan Tavassoli was up for the defense first, and with that they began to describe to the jury what mitigation means. “Its information that must be provided on the character and previous history of the defendant, as well as the circumstances surrounding the particular offense so you, the jury, can make a better decision.” In Marissa DeVaults case the defense utilized a power point to put up the many mitigating circumstances that have surrounded Marissa since her youth. The defense claims, childhood neglect and abuse, domestic violence, impoverished background, significant trauma, lack of stability, mental health and family history of physical and emotional abuse. Just when you think that was enough Tavassoli hit the slide one more time and we had yet another laundry list of mitigating circumstances to look over. The defense stated that Marissa cooperated with police, has a family history of inappropriate sexual abuse, dysfunctional family relationships, and she has shown genuine remorse for the murder of Dale Harrell. The defense went on to explain Marissa suffered years of abuse at the hands of her husband and was always traumatized by the fact the dad she grew up with wasn’t really her dad after all. Tavassoli expressed to the jury it was Dale and Allen Flores that controlled Marissa and not the other way around. With her tortured past and present state of manipulative, sexually exploitive, and abusive men you would begin to think from defense’s point of view Marissa was the victim. The defense said that while all of this doesn’t excuse Marissa’s actions it explains them, and with that some on the jury had an eye roll and continued to take notes. Marissa’s upbringing according to defense was said to of “shaped her development and growth” therefore giving more of picture to the jury as to why she would hammer her husband to his ultimate death. Allen Flores also became a quick topic as Tavassoli mentioned he was “sitting pretty in his home and had countless child porn all over his computer” but the state gave him immunity in order to “get Marissa.” They also touched on the fact Stan Cook got immunity also and he couldn’t even remember anything, The Trial Divas were very worried he wouldn’t find his car after he testified. To round out this speech given by the defense they added
“The children explained to you, the jury, that Dale broke Marissa’s arm, he even broke the children’s toys, they saw it, and they were there. Marissa isn’t a cold blooded killer, she’s a damaged and abused woman. We aren’t asking you to set her free, we aren’t here to give you an abuse excuse, we are asking you to punish her. No matter what the sentence she will be punished and we hope for life in prison.” With that the defense took to their seats and Marissa DeVault seemed very satisfied with their appeal to spare her life of the death penalty.
The State was up next and it was Eric Basta that gave what The Trial Divas found to be the performance of the trial. He was confident, clear, and very on point. Basta started off by telling the jury he had put into evidence Marissa’s medical records that showed Marissa was injured by a horse and suffered a broken arm and scratched cornea. Contrary to Marissa and the children’s account that these injuries were from a beating from Dale Harrell. Eric also stated Stan Cook verified this was the case when he was asked by investigators. Basta expressed that Marissa not only manipulated everyone around her she would go as far as manipulating her children, and this was yet another form of it to tell them their own dad injured her. Basta hit hard on the fact the defenses experts in the case didn’t verify much if any of the information Marissa DeVault flooded them with. He pointed out they didn’t speak to the step sister of Marissa, and didn’t even ask her if the two sisters were engaged in a sexual experience, reported by Marissa. Basta reminded the jury Marissa told the experts Dale wasn’t employed, but two witnesses took to the stand during the trial who were owners of the company Dale worked for. They explained Dale was employed, made $83,000 a year and was going to be made a partner. On top of that Basta said, “there’s no evidence Dale ever pimped Marissa out and the experts formed their opinion on this stuff.” Basta touched on the internet search for an engagement ring and how Marissa was a married woman surfing for a ring because she wanted to move up the “food chain” so to speak. Dale was the one being controlled according to the state and it was Marissa that was doing it by having her best friend move into the home, keeping Dale from his own family, and spending all his cash as soon as he got it. Importantly, Basta reminded the jury if it wasn’t for forensics Stan Cook would be sitting in the defendants chair because Marissa was manipulating him into thinking he committed the crime. “Marissa preyed on a man that had an accident that left him with a memory problem; Marissa looked at this as an opportunity to pin the murder on him.” Stan took the bait and even went as far as writing a confession letter Marissa and Flores helped edit. The number one question posed to the jury is one that we have all wondered and it went to her character, morals and who she really is. “If Marissa DeVaults mother was this abusive person, why was Marissa satisfied with her raising her three daughters? Wouldn’t her priority be to the safety of her children?” Basta said Marissa had choices, she had a rich “sugar daddy,” that could’ve removed her and the children from this abusive situation with her husband. instead Marissa chose to continually manipulate men, become a stripper, and expose her kids to predators she would parade through her home. When it came to the night of the murder Basta took the jury back to the defense expert testimony that even he didn’t believe Marissa was telling the truth when it came to Dale raping her before she hammered him. According to her experts women tend to pick their moments to kill and “Marissa did, she killed Dale while he lay on that bed sleeping.” Basta pointed back to the cruelty factor, and how Marissa hammered Dale’s head till his brain was exposed. She then knocked him out of bed and on the floor causing his head more trauma so it would fit her story. “Marissa had guns at her disposal and yet used a hammer to kill him but it was crueler.” He explained that Dale was never a jealous man but Rhiannon was sexually assaulted by Allen Flores son. Marissa continued to take Rhiannon and the other children to his home and expose them to that. It made Dale upset and it was a source of why the couple had arguments. Basta went on to point out Dr. Janeen DeMarte was spot on with her diagnosis of Marissa DeVault having Phycopathy and Anti Social Personality. Dr. Demarte’s age and experience was not an issue and Basta noted “an experts opinion regardless of their age is only as good as the accurate information they supply.” Eric Basta ended with, “this is who Marissa DeVault is, she doesn’t see people like we do, and she sees them as pawn and assets for her use. We want justice and we want death. There aren’t any circumstances that call for leniency.” With that the state took their seats, the jury had taken feverous notes, and Marissa DeVault angrily addressed her lawyers.
After the golden lunch hour that the jury loves more than anything and we also highly enjoy, the defense was back up for the last time to address some of the bombs Eric Basta dropped in that courtroom. Tavossoli began by saying that the state threw out a bunch of outlandish claims, one being that how do they know Marissa was searching for an engagement ring? That there wasn’t any proof her hands were on that keyboard surfing the net for her next wedding. “It could have been Stan Cook,” ( keep blaming it on the poor guy with memory issues) Tavossoli says. The defense went on to state, Dale was jealous of Flores and all the lavish gifts he bestowed on Marissa and the children. Marissa wasn’t aware of how much money Dale made and picked up his check only once from his work. They reminded the jury of Rhiannon’s testimony Dale had lipstick on his collar when he would come home and he smelled of another woman’s perfume. Defense stated they talked to Marissa’s mother and she stated she was “heavy handed” but that she came from a different generation. “There’s no evidence Marissa exposed Rhiannon and the other children to Allen Flores son,” they said. The defense explained to the jury that if this killing was a planned event Marissa would have used a gun but it wasn’t. The tried to discredit Dr. DeMarte by saying she was vague and didn’t gather enough information to make a diagnosis. Tavossoli wrapped up by saying “Marissa is a human being and she can love, be useful, she deserves a life sentence.” On that note the jury looked relieved it was over and Judge Steinle gave them some more instruction and sent them on their merry way to deliberate. While nothing was decided yesterday, we are still waiting today for the bailiff to open those heavy wood doors and tell us there’s a verdict. In the meantime, we wait and so does Marissa DeVault on another decision of where her life will take her…will it be death row or life in prison? Until the verdict, The Trial Divas xoxo