Witness reveals undisclosed information during Abou-Arab trial
A cloud of uncertainty now hangs over the State of Ohio's case against Ray Abou-Arab, the Oregon man facing arson and murder charges for his alleged role in a 2014 fire that killed two Toledo firefighters, after a witness testified that Abou-Arab previously failed a polygraph or lie-detector test.
The method is almost always considered inadmissible in court due to questions of reliability.
The revelation came Wednesday afternoon as defense attorney Peter Rost was cross-examining Det. Sgt. Keefe Snyder of the Toledo Police Department. Snyder testified that he spoke to Abou-Arab while officers executed a search warrant during the initial investigation. Snyder recalled asking Abou-Arab why he lied to investigators during previous interviews.
Rost asked Snyder, who testified that he had a limited role in the investigation, how he came to the conclusion that Abou-Arab lied. Snyder said he viewed surveillance video but never watched or sat in on police interviews.
"I never saw video of him making statements to police at all," he testified. "I never viewed any of his interviews."
"So how do you know he lied to the police then?" asked Rost.
It was immediately thereafter when Snyder revealed information that the jury was not supposed to hear.
"I did have knowledge that he obviously failed a polygraph," said Snyder.
Judge Stacy Cook, after a brief exchange with Rost, excused the jury to another room.
For more than two hours, attorneys from both sides were in and out of Cook's chambers.
The court reconvened momentarily during the 5:00 p.m. hour but only to excuse the jurors for the day. They were ordered back at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.
"We've been doing some additional research on a matter," Judge Cook told the jury.
About an hour later she sent everyone else home for the night.
"(We're) still in research stage due to some extenuating legal concerns that need to be looked into."
The courtroom drama wrapped up an eventful day of proceedings.
Early in the morning, the jury was shown autopsy photos that detailed the severity and nature of burns suffered by Jamie Dickman and Stephen Machcinski, the two men who died in the January, 26, 2014 fire in north Toledo.
Deputy Coroner Cynthia Beisser testified that both men inhaled smoke and carbon monoxide, though not at levels considered to be fatal.
In both instances, she ruled the manner of death to be homicide.
The family of Dickman and Machcinski chose to remain outside the courtroom during Dr. Beisser's testimony, which included graphic information and photos.
The state also called ATF Forensic Auditor David McCabe to the witness state; he testified that Abou-Arab's expenses were, on average, about $1,000 more per month than his income.
While the prosecution is not required by law to prove motive, assitant prosecuting attorney Matthew Simko said in opening arugments that the team would be able to suggest financial hardship and incentive as a motive.
In cross-examination, Rost suggested that because Abou-Arab often collected rent in the form of cash, not all of his income was accurately reported.
The court is expected to reconvene early Thursday morning.
Just a handful of witnesses remain before the State is expected to rest.