Federal prosecutors are convinced that Washington attorney Robert Wone was injected with a drug before he was stabbed three times in his chest on the night of Aug. 2, 2006. But they may never get a chance to tell jurors the injection theory.
At a status hearing in the case today, D.C. Superior Court Judge Frederick Weisberg said that he is “most reluctant” to let prosecutors argue that Wone was injected with a paralytic drug if the government is unable to put up more evidence to support the theory.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Martin, a lead prosecutor in the case, said the government has all the evidence it needs: needle marks on Wone’s body and no evidence that Wone was restrained or that he fought back. That Wone didn’t put up a fight or even clutch his chest, prosecutors say, is a sign that he couldn’t move when he was stabbed. Weisberg wasn't so convinced.
Three men are charged with evidence tampering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice stemming from Wone’s murder: Victor Zaborsky, Dylan Ward and Joseph Price, a former Arent Fox litigation partner. The defendants, who lived together in the 1500 block of Swann Street N.W., deny any role in the murder and alleged cover-up. Wone's body was found in a bedroom in the Price-Zaborsky home. None of the men are charged with murder.
Weisberg is presiding over a case where the absence of evidence is, according to the prosecution, the evidence itself. But the judge seems more skeptical: “There’s no indication of a lot of things,” he said in court this afternoon.
The courtroom was crowded, with supporters of the defendants sitting on the opposite side of the room from Wone’s family and friends. Wone’s widow, Kathy, sat next to Covington & Burling partner Benjamin Razi, who is representing the Wone family in a $20 million wrongful death suit against Zaborsky, Ward and Price.
There’s still a dispute about how much evidence—and which pieces—the prosecution will turn over to the defense lawyers to allow their experts to conduct testing. Martin said the government is concerned about the chain of custody. Weisberg was not inclined to keep evidence from the defense.
“Suppose they have a suspect?” Weisberg asked.
“I guess that would be very important for all of us to know,” Martin replied.
The defense lawyers are asking for copies of police and paramedic radio transmissions from the night of the murder. Schertler & Onorato partner Robert Spagnoletti, a lawyer for Ward, said the information on the tapes—specifically any attempt to save Wone’s life—is relevant to the defense.
There have been three additional tests on the one remaining blood sample from Wone since May, Martin said. But the results have not come back. Martin said the government is deciding how far it wants to go in testing for additional chemicals in Wone’s blood.
Thomas Connolly of Wiltshire & Grannis, who represents Zaborsky, looked frustrated, saying that the prosecution and the defense agreed earlier this year that the government should test for every possible paralytic chemical. The defense—including Cozen O’Connor partner Bernie Grimm, who represents Price—did not object to the sample being entirely used up.
Weisberg set a status conference for Nov. 6. Trial is scheduled to begin next May.