Before Joe's trial began, his defense team had planned to use the recorded phone call and transcripts of it to challenge Alfonso's credibility as a witness, as well as the credibility of his signed statement. However, with the urging of prosecution, the judge agreed to label the phone call as “inadmissible hearsay” as it was deemed “self serving statements by the accused.” Defense argued that they were not looking to bring the conversation up to argue the truth of Joe's statements but rather to show the unreliability and impeachable qualities of Alfonso's claims. After all, he did indicate that he agreed with Joe's claims of innocence and never once directly brought up any confession despite being specifically instructed to by police. It was ruled that Joe's lawyers could cross-examine Alfonso, but could not bring up that conversation or any part of the recording or transcript.
The judge did, however, allow a single line of the transcript to be brought up by the prosecution. At one point in the conversation, Alfonso said with no context, “You didn't tell anybody else?” to which Joe immediately exclaimed, “Tell anybody what?” indicating that he didn't know what Alfonso meant. The Prosecution argued that “You didn't tell anybody else?” was Alfonso's indirect way of asking about the confession, and “implied” that he was asking about it. The court allowed this but he judge would not allow the admission of “Tell anybody what?” so the statement by Alfonso was unchallenged and unanswered for the record, and per the judge's original ruling, defense was very limited on how they could question Alfonso on that.
Defense did attempt to discredit him in other ways- pointing out that he had a history of dishonesty and had been convicted of lying about his schooling regarding his application for the Navy, and other previous minor infractions. Unfortunately, their cross-examination had been crippled by their inability to introduce the phone transcript, a key piece of evidence.
The prosecution continued to wave around the statement that they themselves had written and made Alfonso sign as a clear confession. They continually glossed over their overwhelming lack of evidence. They ranted about the bloody shoe print at the scene, all the while parading Joe's destroyed shoes around the court room, despite them not being evidence and their being proven to have nothing to do with the crime. They glossed over how they had no blood or fingerprint evidence at the scene to put Joe there, how all results of testing were inconclusive at best. They did not give a time of death because they could not discredit Joe's alibi, which could be confirmed by his family, and had no way of explaining how he could have made it to the scene.
When results of DNA tests done on the hair under Connie's fingernails came back as not Joe's, prosecutors tried to walk back the test results and say they were actually dog hairs to cover up and keep the story to their narrative. It took questioning under oath during cross-examination to get the truth out again that the hair was long, grey, and definitely human. They could not explain how Joe had no trace or blood evidence on his clothing, or how there could be none in Connie's car if it was, indeed, a getaway vehicle, nor could they say how it got to the Baldwin Green Apartments. The state tried unsuccessfully to prevent Joe's lawyers from recalling Police Commander John Koziol to the stand since he had found the car and stated that Joe couldn't have abandoned it there. Prosecutors also couldn't explain why police allowed Joe, who they had spent so much time portraying as a violent and dangerous person, was allowed to be free for three years without running, changing his story, or coming close to harming anyone.
Anytime they were questioned, they just fell back on having a “confession” and the unanswerable “You didn't tell anybody else?” statement that the judge allowed them to use from the phone transcript, stating that regardless of how little evidence they had, they had a confession and that was enough.
In closing arguments, prosecution stated, “This is what happened. Joe Stock is mad [about the breakup] So he exploded...he goes over there and carves her up,” Defense contended that the reason Joe wasn't arrested for 3 years is because there is no real case against him. “As far as the state's theory,” they said, “evidence linking Joe Stock to this crime, it's non-existent...[their argument is] only, 'He did it, and it was brutal.” They pointed out that with all the blood, the cut cords, the fingerprints, the hair, the clothes, not one piece of physical or circumstantial evidence connected Joe to the crime. Prosecutors simply replied “It's not about a piece of hair. He has confessed to murdering Connie Wagner,” again referencing their one coerced piece of “evidence” that could be entered. With this, the Jury was left to make their verdict.
After over 10 hours of deliberation, the jury returned, visibly looking troubled. They returned a verdict of guilty of first degree murder and Joe was sentenced to 90 years in prison. Defense again reminded the court that there was a gross lack of evidence, telling Judge Fecarotta stating, “There's plenty of reasonable doubt.” Joe continues to maintain his innocence to this day and the holes in the police story still can not be accounted for. He has never changed his statements or stories, and all of the remaining evidence still excludes him.
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