In his first full day of questioning from a prosecutor, Ernest Scherer III admitted lying to police during an initial interview but reaffirmed his innocence in the 2008 slayings of his parents, Ernest Scherer Jr. and Charlene Abendroth.
Deputy district attorney Michael Nieto began his cross-examination Tuesday by marking columns on butcher paper and writing inconsistencies between testimony from Scherer III and other witnesses. He posted the paper in front of jurors, adding to it as he questioned the defendant.
On Wednesday, Nieto continued to fill the chart with names of Scherer III’s family members, past girlfriends and detectives who investigated the case — all people to whom Scherer III admitted lying.
During one point in the questioning, after adding another name to the chart, Nieto asked Scherer III, “Do you have a credibility problem?”
He answered, “I have a credibility problem with my family.”
The statement quickly drew another question from Nieto: “Just your family?”
Nieto subsequently listed the names of several women with whom Scherer III had dates or relationships, including previous witnesses Arisa Kim, Katie Flash, Adrian Solomon and Pam Watters, all of whom found out that he was a married father during the murder investigation.
Nieto also referred to an e-mail exchange Scherer III had with his sister, Catherine Scherer, on July 10, 2008, in which he wrote, “Yes, I have a credibility problem, no question.”
That statement was made in reference to his extramarital affairs, which by that time police had revealed to Scherer III’s family, then-wife and mistresses, he said.
Nieto also pressed Scherer III on his recollection of specific events, arguing that his memory was conveniently selective. In previous testimony, Scherer III said his cell phone had lost power during his drive home from Las Vegas to Los Angeles on March 7, 2008, the day investigators believe his parents were murdered in their Pleasanton home. Investigators said they believe the gap in cell-phone usage links Scherer III to the crime.
Scherer III said that during a trip to Puerto Rico in January 2008, his cell phone was in his pocket when he was pushed into a pool by William Krause, a friend who confirmed doing so in earlier testimony. After that trip, the battery life began to falter, he said, especially on the long drives he routinely took from his home to Las Vegas and back.
“When you’re driving in the desert the cell phone strains to connect to a cell tower,” said Scherer III, wearing a dark suit and blue dress shirt with a blue tie. “I found that the battery would die a lot quicker when traveling than previously.”
He added that he did not remember when he noticed his battery life had shortened. On March 7, he said he did not see that his cell phone had died until he reached his home.
The statement prompted a question from Nieto: “You have amazing recollections of which films you watched on certain dates, but you can’t recall this?”
The exchange grew heated as Scherer III answered, “I’m human, I have a human memory.”
The bulk of questions during the latter part of the day were dedicated to an interview police conducted with Scherer III on March 16, 2008, two days after his parents’ bodies were discovered. When he took the stand earlier this week, Scherer III said that he began feeling like a suspect during that interview.
Scherer III said he lied to police about being in good financial standing at the time because he felt under duress. In fact, Scherer III was trying to refinance his Los Angeles home to extract cash from it. He also told police that he had no poker debts although he owed tens of thousands of dollars to various players.
“You felt that you were being looked at as a suspect and in your heart you knew you were innocent, yet you lied to investigators who were trying to find your parents’ murderer,” Nieto said. “Why would you do that?”
Scherer III answered, “It was a bad decision. If my financial situation was known to police, they would be more likely to focus on me.”
Also during the March 16 interview, Scherer III told police that the only “contentious business arrangement” he knew his father to be involved in was Scherer Jr.’s ownership of Las Vegas properties.
Scherer III said his father told him that he had several problems with the manager of those properties and that he had met with her in February 2008. Scherer Jr. said they had cleared the air at the meeting and he would give the property manager more time to return payments he was owed, according to Scherer III.
The property manager told sheriff’s deputies that she and Scherer Jr. never met because he canceled the meeting, Nieto told Scherer III.
“All I know is what he told me,” he replied.
The day began with an attempt by defense attorney Richard Foxall to delay the trial so he could question jurors about an article that ran Wednesday in the Oakland Tribune about the upcoming retirement of Sgt. Scott Dudek, who was a lead investigator in the case.
Although the article made no mention of Scherer III or the investigation, it recapped Dudek’s career and referred to several “acts of sympathy,” according to Foxall, who added that Dudek’s “shadow as inspector looms over this case and, given the placement and headline, I am deeply concerned” that jurors would be influenced by the article. Foxall requested that jurors be interviewed individually to determine if they had read the piece and possible biases that it could create.
Nieto said he had no argument for or against the request. Judge Jeffrey Horner denied Foxall’s request, saying that Dudek has not testified in court during the trial and is not expected to. Horner also said that he would remind the jurors that reading such articles should not factor into their verdict.
The trial continues with Scherer III’s cross-examination Thursday.