Day 1: People v. Isabel Celis ? Establishing Timeline and Motive

Today began the trial of Isabel Celis, charged with murder with enhancements of using a deadly weapon (metal pipe) and lying in wait (luring Norma to home for purpose of killing her.) The day began when Isabel entered the court room…

She appeared jovial and light hearted. The remainder of the day she seemed uninterested with her eyes closed and her head resting on her hand.

The jury is composed of twelve jurors and 3 alternates; eight men and seven women who all appear of Anglo decent between the ages of 40 and 70 years old. Also in the court room today were two Spanish-English interpreters, the defendant?s attorney (Denton Wilson), the District Attorney (Karen Grey), the lead detective (Mike Wasley), a correctional officer, a bailiff, and two clerks. There was also a multitude of reporters for KSBY, the Tribune and other papers. There were also a few other spectators in the room.

Court began at 10:14am with instructions to the jury by the judge, Christopher G. Money. They were instructed in how the course of the trial would proceed and their responsibilities. The judge is very soft spoken but could be clearly heard. Before being a judge he was a District Attorney, and seems very experienced.

Opening statements followed by both the prosecution and defense. The prosecution, represented by the district attorney, presented the outline of the case with photos, maps, and other visual aids using a Power Point presentation. The prosecution will show that Celis lured Norma to her home, attacked her, and killed her with the help of her son. He then disposed of the body.

The defense produced a very eloquent and persuasive argument, although the story has changed dramatically over the last few weeks. The defense will attempt to prove that Norma threatened Celis with physical harm to give her money and when Celis? son saw this he, being high, drunk, and sleep deprived, killed Norma to protect his mom. Celis tried to stop her son but ran in fear. The defense will try to prove that Celis confessed to the murder only to save her son from a life in prison.

The first witness for the prosecution was Michelle. She did an excellent job, presented herself well and was very professional. She did not seem nervous although she confessed that she was. She testified to a variety of things including Norma?s habits, relationship with Celis, the events of the day she disappeared, and our efforts to find her. The questioning was very direct and the answers were short and to the point. She also testified that Norma had loaned Celis money on several occasions. In her cross examination the defense attorney asked Michelle if Norma was on any medications. The DA immediately said, ?Objection Relevance!? after which both attorneys when to the side bar to discuss the matter with the judge. He sustained the objection and the defense had to change their line of questioning.

Following Michelle?s testimony we broke for lunch. After lunch Phil testified. He also did a good job and testified to similar things as Michelle. He also testified to the aid that Norma and he had given Celis throughout the years including how she would come to the house for bread and the bedroom set, leather chairs, and other furnishings and food they gave her. He testified to how he and Norma had visited the Celis? home the night before Norma?s death and how Celis? was ?not home?. Phil seemed more nervous than Michelle, but towards the end of his testimony he relaxed and made a couple of jokes. The jury seemed to relate well with him and has been very attentive so far.

Rick followed Phil. He continued with the testimony sharing information about caller id and how Celis had repeatedly called Norma trying to talk with her to have her come back over to the house. He also related one instance when Celis called saying that Norma had to bring some cash to the house. Rick testified that the night Norma and Phil visited (the night before Norma?s death) Celis called the house 7-8 times. He also shared information about the money Norma had lent Celis including testimony that when Norma lent money and someone couldn?t repay she would tell them to pay her when they could and that she only lent money to help people and not to make a profit.

Two more witnesses followed, including a sheriff who visited Celis? house on Thanksgiving day and a neighbor who saw her scrubbing her driveway the night before Thanksgiving. The neighbor also testified that a couple days later Celis purchased a number of items at his yard sale with $20 bills she had in a white legal sized envelope that contained a wad of bills about