Kustok defense: Expert witness practices ‘soft’ forensics
BY BRIAN SLODYSKO Staff Reporter March 5, 2014 8:02PM
Updated: April 7, 2014 1:33PM
Defense attorneys in the Allan Kustok murder trial went after the prosecution’s star witness Wednesday, seeking to discredit the Oregon-based crime scene recreation expert by suggesting he practices “soft” forensics.
“You are a crime scene expert? According to you,” defense attorney Laura Morask said while she paced the Bridgeview courtroom. Then she suggested Rod Englert reached conclusions in the case using “hearsay upon hearsay,” while disregarding scientific practice.
“Your re-creation is incorrect,” said Morask, during the marathon six-hour grilling, which is expected to continue Thursday.
Previously, Englert delivered testimony that indicated Allan Kustok, 63, likely shot his wife Anita “Jeanie” Kustok in the face while she lay in bed at the couple’s sprawling Orland Park home on Sept. 29, 2010.
Prosecutors contend Kustok — a former medical supplies salesman and serial philanderer — was driven to kill his wife to escape a financially troubled and unhappy marriage.
Englert based his findings on crime-scene blood-spatter patterns, which, when coupled with the fatal bullet’s trajectory, suggested a gunman shot Jeanie Kustok at close range while standing alongside the couple’s bed.
Morask, who also is a Maine Township trustee, was having none of it. She ripped into Englert — a former homicide detective who charges $395 an hour for his services — by attacking his methods, ethics and resume. She called his forensic work “soft.”
Englert had testified that Jeanie Kustok did not accidentally shoot herself in bed, in part, because there were no gunpowder marks on pillows or the bedclothes — suggesting the gun was held in the air when fired.
Seizing on this, Morask noted crime scene photos show a black mark on Jeanie Kustok’s pillowcase.
In fact, the mark was enough of a concern to prosecutors before the case went to trial that Englert scheduled a flight layover in Chicago so that he could re-examine the pillowcase, Morask said.
“Did you ever request for the Illinois State Crime Lab to do any testing?” Morask asked.
Englert testified that he did not. Instead, after meeting prosecutors at an airport lounge, he concluded the black mark on the pillowcase was a blood clot.
“Soot can easily be masked by blood,” Morask countered.
Later, Morask tore into Englert’s resume, noting he moonlighted as a for-hire forensics expert while still serving as a chief deputy in the Multnomah County Sheriff’s office in the Portland metro region.
“Does Oregon have a rule or law that allows public servants to have a lab and do that kind of work for defense attorneys?” Morask said.
She also went after Englert because crime scene investigators left the Kustoks’ blood-soaked mattress unprotected in the couple’s garage for a month before gathering it as evidence.
“Did you say … ‘What the heck is this bloody mattress doing up against the wall?’” Morask asked.
Englert agreed that “it would have been better” if the mattress had been taken from the house sooner.
Morask then said that a lead Cook County investigator who worked on the case “clearly flunked forensics 101.”
Throughout the trial, the defense has indicated that Jeanie Kustok had grown paranoid of home invaders in the months before her death — so much so that Allan Kustok said he bought her a .357 magnum revolver as an anniversary present.
On Wednesday, the defense revealed that Allan Kustok claimed to investigators that Jeanie Kustok got the handgun out the morning she died because she thought she heard a noise.
Members of the close-knit family have refuted this idea, testifying that the mother of former Northwestern University quarterback Zak Kustok and sportscaster Sarah Kustok, never spoke of being afraid of burglars or owning a gun.