Tony Takazato's Lifeless Hand Clutched Key Evidence in Beverly Hills Murder Trial
For more details about the Trousdale Estates murder in Beverly Hills, read the L.A. Weekly story "Did Scott Barker Knife Rich Kid Tony Takazato to Save His Girlfriend from Prostitution?"
www.masslive.com Scott Barker
On Thursday at the Beverly Hills Courthouse, L.A. County prosecutors Amy Carter and Linda Loftfield continued their long slog in carefully presenting evidence at the first-degree murder trial of 25-year-old Scott Barker, whom friends described to one journalist as a charmer.
From police videos to graphic photographs to a bent kitchen knife, this time they offered up a criminalist's analyses of bloody shoe prints and a piece of torn fabric Beverly Hills police had found in the lifeless hand of murder victim Tony Takazato, who may have been some kind of pimp.
During his cross-examination, Bradley Brunon, Barker's wily and high-priced attorney who has worked for such infamous men as nightclub owner Eddie Nash and music producer Phil Spector, brought up questions he'll undoubtedly pursue further when he undertakes his own presentation of the "facts."
The murder trial involves a bizarre love triangle that went bone-chillingly sideways -- and one that the L.A. media has taken little interest in... although it may speak more to L.A.'s dark side of broken dreams and incomprehensible behavior than another Lindsay Lohan bust.
According to the prosecution, Barker, who was 23 years old at the time and not paying his rent as he tried to land work in the entertainment industry, was enraged that Takazato had pushed his girlfriend, then 20-year-old former rhythmic gymnast Chie Alexandra Coggins-Johnson, into prostitution and pornography. Takazato was also abusive towards Coggins-Johnson, the prosecution said.
Coggins-Johnson and Takazato were once romantically linked, but that turned into a "friendship," the prosecutors said. Friends don't usually ask other friends to help pay off their gambling debts by going into the sordid worlds of porn and prostitution, but that's exactly what Takazato asked Coggins-Johnson to do, according to the prosecution. And she continued to live on and off with her buddy in Beverly Hills.
In the early morning of July 20, 2010, all that ended.
According to the prosecution, Barker went to Takazato's Trousdale Estates home in Beverly Hills and stabbed him to death 58 times, leaving Takazato in a pool of blood and with wounds to the face, the arms, the neck, and the back of the head. The fatal wound was a knife thrust to the heart.
Bradley Brunon said in his opening statement that Coggins-Johnson, who worked closely with the prosecution, is a "pathological liar" and Barker did not commit the murder.
On Thursday, prosecutor Carter spent a good chunk of the afternoon going over one detail after another with senior criminalist Christine Pinto of the Los Angles County Sheriff's Department's crime lab.
Pinto was prepared, and appeared to have a deep passion for her line of work. Unlike other witnesses, she seemed to enjoy her time on the witness stand, clearly explaining with an upbeat demeanor all the ins and outs of her findings.
She even brought posters for the 12-member jury that showed her analysis of a pair of Nike sneakers and a mannequin wearing black clothes, the sneakers, a gray scarf, and a black knit cap -- all items, the prosecution says, that Barker wore when he allegedly murdered Takazato.
Pinto said that the bloody shoe prints found at the scene matched the size 10.5 silver Nike sneakers that were found in a Malibu ravine, where the prosecution contends Barker tried to hide them and other condemning evidence.
Pinto also said that a piece of torn black fabric that a deceased and bloodied Takazato clutched in his right hand -- key evidence for the prosecution -- matched a torn section of a black Wicked Quick long-sleeve shirt that police had also found in Malibu. An L.A. County Sheriff's Department search and rescue team found two knives as well, one of which was deemed the murder weapon.
The torn fabric and black shirt "corresponded in every way that I examined it," Pinto told prosecutor Carter.
The question of whether or not Barker wears size 10.5 sneakers, or ever owned silver Nike running shoes, was not answered or asked by the prosecution or the defense so far. Unlike the O.J. Simpson murder trial, where the disgraced football star struggled to pull on a pair of leather gloves in front of a jury, it's highly doubtful that Carter and Loftfield will ask Barker to try on the sneakers in the courtroom of Judge Elden S. Fox.
During his cross examination, Brunon asked Pinto if she saw any blood on the soles of the sneakers. After a little back and forth, she ultimately said she did not, although she pointed out that she saw red stains on the top part of the Nikes.
Brunon also got Pinto to agree that there are hundreds of thousands Nike sneakers like the ones found in Malibu, and that she couldn't say definitively that those sneakers and the shoe prints found at the murder scene were an exact match with no other possibilities.
More interesting, however, was that Brunon made a point that both arms of the Wicked Quick shirt were torn up.
"That shirt looks like it's been involved in a ferocious struggle, correct?" Brunon asked Pinto.
Brunon will undoubtedly make the argument later in the trial that pictures taken of Barker with his shirt off at the Beverly Hills Police Department show no major scratch marks on his arms.
The trial of L.A.'s true noir side will continue on Friday and into next week.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.