Secret police recordings heard in courtroom - East Valley Tribune: News

Secret police recordings heard in courtroom

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Posted: Tuesday, December 9, 2008 8:56 pm | Updated: 3:45 pm, Wed Jun 19, 2013.

Out of the soft fuzz and hiss of background noise came a voice, rough and deep. "It now brings the total to six," the man said, talking about news reports of a spate of recent killings throughout the Valley.

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"It's higher than that!" said another, his voice higher-pitched and louder. "What about the guy I (expletive) shot at twice at 27th Avenue in the yard?"

Jurors on Tuesday in a downtown Phoenix courtroom heard the garbled recordings of two men boasting and cheering about the Serial Shooter killing spree, which in reality had left eight people dead by that point.

Dale Hausner, the man heard with the higher-pitched voice, was only a few feet away in the courtroom, sitting stone-faced and listening as prosecutors and police said it helped prove that he and the other man, Samuel Dieteman, were responsible for the killings.

In all, prosecutors played about a dozen snippets from more than four hours of secret police recordings made on Aug. 3, 2006, just prior to midnight when they arrested the pair at their Mesa apartment.

The audio recordings were some of the most-anticipated and explicit evidence to be presented by Maricopa County prosecutors as part Hausner's lengthy murder trial.

Dieteman, believed to be the accomplice, has pleaded guilty to two murders and agreed to testify against his former roommate in the coming weeks.

The recordings, played publicly for the first time, revealed that Hausner and Dieteman talked almost obsessively about media coverage of the Serial Shooter killing spree, which had been going on since May 2005.

In one snippet played for jurors, they talked about a news report that mentioned a "new" detail that the Serial Shooter often roamed and circled around certain areas of the Valley looking for victims.

"You think?" Hausner shouted on the recording. "You dumb (expletive.) It took you a year-and-a-half to come up with that? Wow."

In another snippet, the men talked about their individual techniques.

"I try to wait to the last second when somebody's getting near me," Dieteman said. "I don't even think I get it level. I just get it to where it's pointed at somebody."

Hausner was heard mumbling something inaudible in the recording, then mimicking a gunshot. "And bam!"

All of the snippets were recorded using small listening devices that were secretly planted in the men's apartment near Main Street and McKellips Road in Mesa about 24 hours before their arrest.

Two Phoenix police detectives testified that investigators also placed a device in Hausner's car, as well as listening in on Dieteman's cell phone calls.

Little obtained through those recordings, however, appeared to be relevant to the case.

While many of the recordings were hard to hear because of the background noise, jurors were given transcripts prepared by police and prosecutors to help them follow along.

The content of the recordings will likely be hard for the jury to ignore. There was a point earlier this year, however, when the recordings almost didn't make it to the trial at all.

Beginning in 2007, Hausner's defense team tried to get the recordings thrown out, saying they were illegal because they were obtained without a search warrant.

At issue was the somewhat unconventional way authorities got approval to plant the bugs.

Instead of going to a judge and getting a warrant, police went to Maricopa County's chief prosecutor, Andrew Thomas, for what's known as an "emergency" wiretap.

Under state law, an elected prosecutor can OK the secret recording if somebody's life or safety is in danger.

Once it's approved, a judge must sign off on the already-planted bugs within two days.

Hausner's attorneys basically said the procedure was unconstitutional and forced a series of hearings on the recordings, which peaked in April with dramatic testimony from Thomas himself saying he approved the emergency wiretaps to "stop the killing."

In June, Judge Roland Steinle ruled the recordings were legal and would be heard by the jury.

One of the more dramatic snippets played for jurors on Tuesday came when Hausner could be heard putting his young daughter, who was staying with him that night, to bed.

The girl sounded too young to understand what was being said or to respond.

"Don't kill anybody, OK?" Hausner told the girl at 8:34 p.m. "Don't kill anybody."

He then instructs her to say good night to Dieteman. "Say, 'Bye, Sam. Be careful.'"

The young girl mumbled something back. Then the recording stopped.

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