A Catholic priest corroborated yesterday D.C. police testimony that Paul Leon Jordan confessed to the slayings of a child and her baby sitter, testifying that he watched Jordan give parts of his statement the night of Jordan's arrest.
The Rev. Anthony Pinizzotto, a former D.C. police chaplain, testified in D.C. Superior Court that although he could not recall "the exact words," he watched as Jordan "explained" to a homicide detective how he "placed his hands around the baby's throat and began choking the baby." Pinizzotto testified that Jordan later told the detective that he got a knife, stabbed the baby sitter and then sexually assaulted the child.
Jordan, who has pleaded not guilty, is accused of killing 3-year-old Crystin Fletcher, the daughter of two District police officers, and her baby sitter, Cora Barnes, 56, on Jan. 24 in Barnes' home at 4321 Second St. NW. The prosecution has asserted that the killings occurred when the child's cries interrupted Barnes' and Jordan's lovemaking. Jordan, of 1420 Clifton St. NW, is a former neighbor of Barnes.
A key defense contention is that there are vast differences between an oral statement by Jordan, about which homicide Detective Joseph Schwartz has testified, and a subsequent, and much less detailed, videotaped statement that jurors have been shown. It was the oral statement that Pinizzotto said he watched live Feb. 14 on a monitor outside the room where Jordan was being interrogated.
Pinizzotto testified that he was at homicide headquarters that night in connection with his work in psychology. Outside the courtroom, the priest said that he teaches psychopathology and is working for his doctorate in psychology.
The defense has contended that Jordan was debilitated by serious symptoms of alcohol withdrawal during the long interrogation and that he confessed to a crime he did not commit after police used psychological pressure and suggested details of the crime to him.
Yesterday, under questioning by prosecutor Amy S. Berman, Pinizzotto testified that Schwartz did not supply Jordan with information and that the detective's questions were "open-ended . . . as I recall."
On cross-examination, defense attorney James H. McComas questioned the priest's failure to remember details of the interrogation by Schwartz, and Pinizzotto acknowledged that he did not recall hearing several comments that Schwartz has testified that Schwartz made.
"It's hard to remember all the things asked and answered when you don't take any notes, isn't it?" McComas asked Pinizzotto. "Depending upon the material, yes," replied the priest, who said he did not take notes.
"Is it fair to say it's harder to remember specific questions?" asked McComas. "Yes, I think that's sometimes true," Pinizzotto said.
Pinizzotto testified that he watched the interrogation for about a half-hour. According to previous testimony, the interrogation lasted about 2 1/2 hours.
Pinizzotto said that during an earlier interrogation by another detective he saw Jordan perspiring heavily and trembling at times when the child was mentioned. Pinizzotto testified that he sat in the interrogation room watching that interview after the detective, Rocco Cianciotti, asked him to observe.
Under cross-examination, the priest acknowledged that he recalled Jordan first telling Cianciotti that he had been in the Barnes home only once, six months before the killings.
According to Schwartz's testimony, Jordan later said that he often visited Barnes.