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Did Dirk Greineder Murder his Wife?

Aired May 31, 2001 - 12:30   ET


ROGER COSSACK, HOST: The wife of a Massachusetts doctor is found brutally murdered in a suburban Boston park. Now the well-known physician is on trial for murder. Today on BURDEN OF PROOF: Prosecutors paint a picture of a double life of prostitutes and pornography in the murder trial of a prominent doctor.

ANNOUNCER: This is BURDEN OF PROOF with Roger Cossack and Greta Van Susteren.

COSSACK: Hello, and welcome to BURDEN OF PROOF.

Dr. Dirk Greineder stands trial in a Boston-area courtroom in the murder of his wife, Mabel. Greineder, a well-known physician, was arrested after his wife's body was found near Morse's Pond in Wellesley on Halloween morning in 1999. The couple had been out walking their dog in a neighborhood park when Dirk Greineder claims he left his wife for a few moments to take their pet to the edge of the pond. According to the doctor, he returned to find his wife dead. He immediately called 911 from the phone in his car. Now Dr. Greineder is being tried for the murder of his wife, Mabel, and prosecutors are exposing a secret double life of the accused.

Joining us to discuss this trial, in Boston, Massachusetts, criminal defense attorney Peter Parker. Also in Boston, former Massachusetts prosecutor Wendy Murphy. And from New York, host of Court TV's "Crier Live," Catherine Crier. and joining us here in Washington, Webster Harrison (ph), Liz Freeman (ph) and Jonathan McIlwaine (ph). And in the back, Carey Parker (ph) and Erin Walker (ph).

Well, Catherine, let's go right to you. Tell me about the facts in this case. They're pretty bizarre.

CATHERINE CRIER, HOST, "CRIER LIVE": Well, they are, indeed, Roger. It's an extraordinary case, particularly if you're fascinated with criminal forensics because this case is going to center so much around the physical evidence. You have a well-known allergist, one of the foremost in his field, who apparently did have this double life, although the jury's not going to hear much about it, as we understand, a double life of prostitution, sex over the Internet, all sorts of encounters. The judge, however, has limited that conversation to the week before the crime occurred.

Then, as you said, he goes walking one morning with his wife. Next thing he knows, after leaving her with an injured back or an injured ankle -- the story varies a bit -- he comes back, the dog pulling him back, a la O.J. and Kato, and the dog actually leads him back to the body, whereupon he encounters a couple of joggers looking for a cell phone, runs back to his truck and brings in the police. And then the story really begins to unfold.

COSSACK: Catherine, there's a lot of physical evidence in this case that point to Dr. Greineder as at least the potential murderer in this case. What about some of that evidence?

CRIER: Well, that's what's so extraordinary. You've got -- first off, the doctor is standing over the body as the police accompany him back, and one of the detectives notices his hands are completely clean, although he said he leaned over to see if she had a pulse, and there was quite a bit of blood on her neck. He had spatter marks, which we ought to be hearing about pretty soon during the course of the trial, on his tennis shoes, on his clothes. And as most know, you only get spattered if you are close to a body when the blood emerges, as opposed to leaning over a deceased and checking her out. So that was one of the situations.

Then they find gloves that are similar to gloves found in the doctor's van, that would have covered his hands during the crime -- certainly, the prosecution's allegation -- a bread pan that contained these items, similar to one found at the house. And then they find the two murder weapons, a hammer and a knife, in a storm drain across the walkway from where the body was found. These items are clean -- no prints whatsoever -- of course, indicating that gloves were worn at the time.

COSSACK: Now, Catherine, tell us a little bit about this doctor. I mean, one would not suspect him of -- of leading -- least of which is leading a double life. But more than that, he was a real positive person in the community, very well respected. And then -- and he and his wife had been married a very long time.

CRIER: Certainly. That's the case. And that's why the whole conversation, which is soon to emerge from the prosecution about this double life, will be very, very interesting. In fact, it puts the defense in a box because they requested this not come in, and the judge limited it to the week before.

What this is going to show to a jury is this flurry of frenzied activity with prostitutes -- who we anticipate one or more may testify -- all of this activity on the Internet, when, in fact, the reality is this was over a several-year period. So it's going to look as if this frenzied activity, then maybe he snapped and killed his wife. So you've got -- you've got a difficulty there for the defense.

I think you may even see the defense back off and say, "We want it all in" so that there's this long-term activity on the part of the doctor that then you ask, "Why now? Why would he do away with his wife?"

But there are a couple of interesting elements that have already come out before the jury. The daughter, one of the daughters -- the children are sitting in the back of the courtroom -- came to the police station, went into the detective's office and immediately asked her father, "What happened? Did you and Mom have a fight?" You know, "What -- was there a problem between the two of you?" That was her first reaction. So you've even got a little bit of that.

You also have an interesting element which we've noted, and that is the wife's sister is sitting on the opposite side of the courtroom, away from the three children, away from the doctor. Although we haven't heard anything from her, that's an indication of her feelings.

COSSACK: Peter, Catherine brings up some interesting points. You know, sometimes the defense acts and then all of a sudden finds out that maybe they shouldn't have acted the way they did. And Catherine brings up an interesting point. Apparently, this man, at least the allegations are, had led a double life for a period of time, but is now going to be put in that box where they're only going to be able to talk about his activities for a week. How is that going to come back to help or hurt the doctor?

PETER PARKER, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it may -- it may naturally hurt him, but what I haven't heard or seen in any of the information in this trial yet is any evidence that the wife knew about this double life, so-called "double life." And without that, the prosecution has a pretty weak motive to tie this together.

CRIER: Well...

COSSACK: Wendy, is that you I hear groaning over there, in terms of...

CRIER: No, it's Catherine.



COSSACK: Let me go to Wendy before I -- because I think I know how Wendy feels, too. But Wendy, let me -- let me ask you to go ahead and comment on that.

MURPHY: Oh, you're asking me first?


MURPHY: Well, look, there's no question that one of the best advantages for Dr. Greineder is the fact that he's an upstanding doctor, citizen, you know, can do no wrong. And so to have any evidence at all in the trial about the fact that he was seeing prostitutes and doing stuff with pornography on the Internet and so on -- that's going to help the prosecution, no matter what. It's also going to help the jury think, "Well, you know, he's not so great shakes. We don't necessarily like him. We can think that he's potentially capable of killing."

And in terms of extending it into the years before, when, as Catherine mentioned, he did have an extended involvement with pornography and prostitutes -- I do think it might have helped the defense to let it all in because then the shock of it all wouldn't necessarily come -- you know, come into play as a real motive. I mean, we don't have any evidence that Mabel, the victim, knew anything about this. We're inferring it. I think it's a reasonable inference. But it might have actually helped the defense if, in fact, they said, "Well, look, Mabel knew. This was no great shakes. This was no shock."

COSSACK: Yet isn't there some evidence that there was some problem within the marriage? We may not know exactly what it was, but isn't there some evidence that they were having somewhat of a strained relationship at that time?

MURPHY: There is. And I think that there are two -- two potential arguments about motive. One is that she found out, and she went crazy, and he was afraid that she would expose him, which would undermine his reputation as a fancy doctor, and so on. The other is that she just got sick of it and said, "I'm leaving you. I don't want to be married to you anymore. You're crazy. You're nuts." And then he really got nervous more about the money issue, that if she did, in fact, threaten to leave him, he didn't want to lose half of his wealth. And that may make more sense in this case, anyway, as a more realistic motive.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break. Another knife, another bloody glove, and a husband on trial. Sound familiar? Stay with us.


The mandatory practice of sequestering juries in serious criminal cases in New York was eliminated on Wednesday. Sequestering the jury, a practice meant to keep the jury from seeing prejudicial media reports, will now be at the discretion of the trial judge.



COSSACK: Dr. Dirk Greineder stands trial in a Norfolk County courtroom for the murder of his wife, Mabel. Mabel Greineder was killed at a Boston-area park on October 31st, 1999. Police found several pieces of evidence near her body, including a glove with traces of the doctor's DNA.

Peter, you know, all of us have lived through these DNA trials, and usually this kind of evidence is pretty devastating. What does the defense do about this kind of thing? Also, my understanding is that they were able to trace, at least allegedly able to trace, the gloves to the doctor. The ZipLock bags that were found near the scene were found to be at least matches of ZipLock bags that were found in his home. What do you do?

PARKER: DNA evidence is getting exceedingly tough to deal with. The science is getting better. It's getting more and more accepted in the courts across the country. But in this case, it's interesting because the defense did some of their own DNA testing and found, I think on or near the body of the -- the victim, someone else's DNA, not the -- the wife's, not the husband's, but a third person's. And that, of course, fits into their theory of defense here, which is that somebody else did this crime, not the doctor.

MURPHY: But you know, Roger, he's not answering your question, which is what about the DNA on the gloves, right? The DNA on the gloves kills the defense in this case because it's both the defendant's DNA and Mabel's blood all over these gloves that clearly were involved in the crime and hidden near the crime scene, that happens to be at the end of a path where Dirk Greineder was seen coming away from immediately after she died. And these were gloves -- sort of like Bruno Magli shoes from the O.J. trial -- the gloves that don't exist, except in this one store that happens to be down the street from the Greineder home, and they're not even for sale in any other store on the East Coast. I mean, this is a killer for the defense...

CRIER: Well, Roger...

MURPHY: ... and I don't...

CRIER: That's really damning, but you've also got the DNA under her fingernails. And he excuses this by saying, "Oh, she was giving me a back rub and scratching me hard enough to produce scratch marks and leave skin under her nails," which, of course, is going to match up that there is allegedly some sort of violent incident that would put that DNA there.

MURPHY: That's right. And he offered that up, Catherine, before anybody even asked him about it.

CRIER: Oh, absolutely.

MURPHY: Before anyone said, "Oh, by the way, we found stuff under her fingernails," he said, "Oh, I think you might suspect me and I might even be arrested because"...

COSSACK: All right...

MURPHY: ... "because her -- my DNA is under her fingernails from the back rub."

CRIER: Yeah.

COSSACK: All right, now, listen, you two prosecutors, I feel that Peter -- and I -- I have to jump in here a little bit. Let's talk a little bit about motive. Catherine...

CRIER: I want to talk about...

COSSACK: Well, give me -- give me some...

CRIER: ... motive!

COSSACK: ... motive here. CRIER: I want to bring you in something that's going -- of course, Court TV is covering this live, and we're not sure they're going to get to this particular piece of information today, but it is going to be fascinating. Five days before the murder, the defendant was contacted over the computer from one of his "gals" that he'd been communicating with, including nude photos, and the fact that she wanted some sort of meeting. Well, he responded by sending her a nude photo of himself.

And the day before the murder, he, in fact, contacted a prostitute he'd seen before, that we anticipate will testify. She says he seemed very, very troubled. And we also have testimony that he was walking the dog alone in the park the day before the murder, which would certainly give someone the opportunity to hide weaponry, to hide that loaf pan and gloves and prepare for the event.

COSSACK: Peter, you know, it's clear, it seems to me, at least through these allegations and expected evidence, that the prosecution is going to be able to prove certainly some damning evidence. But obviously, the motive is always something the jury looks for -- looks to. Does the fact that he allegedly led this double life -- is that enough? Does that connect to a murder?

PARKER: I think it's thin. You see murder cases all the time with -- with much stronger evidence about motive and -- and much stronger reasons to kill -- money, a rage over something that just causes you to -- to kill or -- or just cold-blooded murder. But -- but I -- to have the threat of this double life exposed doesn't necessarily make sense to me. And whose interest...

CRIER: Lust and passion and sex is not motivation for murder?

PARKER: Well...

CRIER: We've got to tell Shakespeare to rewrite his stories!


PARKER: Well, sure it is, if you come in -- in -- in- you know, into a bedroom, the classic, you know, manslaughter case, where you come into a bedroom and you see your -- your wife and a lover and -- and you snap. But this is -- this is different. This is killing for the purpose of trying to hide something. And -- and I would ask the question, who has something to gain by revealing this double life? Certainly, the wife didn't have anything to gain by revealing it. and -- and I just -- I don't see this as a motive that makes sense in this case.

COSSACK: All right, let me ask Wendy something. Wendy, you know, you know the sense of Boston. But, you know, you and Peter are in Boston. This guy was a highly respected physician for a number of years. And what the prosecution has to do is -- and the jury's going to know that. And the jury -- convince that jury that, "Look, this man was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This man was a killer, not the person you think he is." That's sometimes tough to do. MURPHY: Oh, no question about it. And you're right, Roger, this is my neck of the woods. I've worked with both Rick Grundy, the prosecutor, Marty Murphy, the defense attorney. They were all prosecutors with me. I know this judge very well. And I've seen trials like this, where the defendant is the upstanding citizen, doctor who lives next door, and juries don't like to think that people like that are capable of killing...


MURPHY: ... because it makes them feel unsafe.


MURPHY: And it doesn't match our picture of what we think a killer looks like.

On the other hand, if the forensic evidence is strong, then it's really difficult, as a defense attorney, to take advantage of what I call that "feel-good prejudice" that does come to the table with people like upstanding, well-known allergists...

CRIER: Particularly once you...

MURPHY: So I'm not sure it's going to give him much.

CRIER: Yeah. Once you put in all of this computer double life events and -- we're talking aberrant sex, not just visiting a prostitute, kind of a kinky lifestyle here, you're definitely tarnishing his image before you ever get to the murder.

MURPHY: And that will be advantageous to the prosecution. There's no question about it. I mean, I think one of the best dramatic advantages for the defense is the fact that the children -- three grown, adult, well-educated children -- are sitting with their father. And it's a hard pill for jurors to swallow...

COSSACK: You bet.

MURPHY: ... that intelligent...

COSSACK: You bet.

MURPHY: ... children, adult children...

COSSACK: And that will come back to play in this case, I bet you, because the jury's going to see the children sitting next to their father.

But I got to get the last word on this segment. Let's take a break.

Up next: Timothy McVeigh is scheduled to executed in 11 days, but has the FBI postponed his date with death?

Stay with us. (BEGIN Q&A)

Q: Why was a former Southern Illinois University student sentenced to a year of probation?

A: For throwing a pie at Governor George Ryan. Dawn Roberts pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and has to perform 100 hours of community service and write an apology to the governor.



COSSACK: Timothy McVeigh's attorneys are meeting with their client today at an Indiana prison. They are expected to discuss whether McVeigh will seek a stay of his execution, which is scheduled for June 11.

Now joining us from Chicago is former prosecutor on the Oklahoma City bombing case Scott Mendeloff. And from Terre Haute, Indiana, CNN's Susan Candiotti.

Susan, tell us what's going to on out there. Are the attorneys meeting with Timothy McVeigh right now?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they've been in there for about two hours. And once they're through, they said they would come outside and talk to us, presumably about getting the green light from their client, Timothy McVeigh, to go ahead and file this motion to request a stay for execution, at least asking the court for more time for them to review all these documents that were belatedly turned over to them by the FBI.

And just before going in, one of McVeigh's lawyers, Richard Burr, told us that Timothy McVeigh, he says, is, quote, "deeply concerned" about the "federal police," McVeigh no fan of the FBI, particularly concerned about the "federal police," as Burr put it, overreaching their bounds, that Timothy McVeigh believes that the FBI, in failing to timely -- in a timely fashion turn over these documents says that this is the kind of thing that happens all the time.

As you know, the Justice Department denies it, says that this was an unintentional error and that the government does now, indeed, have everything.

COSSACK: Susan, do you have any idea when his lawyers are expected out and what the decision will be as to whether or not they're going to ask for that delay?

CANDIOTTI: The lawyers expected to spend a few hours with Timothy McVeigh. They didn't expect it would take much time to discuss the motion with him, but then Timothy McVeigh wanted to spend some time with his lawyers. And they -- we do know that as soon as they get the go ahead from him, that in very short order, the motion would be filed before trial judge Richard Matsch in Denver.

COSSACK: All right. Joining me now from Chicago is Scott Mendeloff, former prosecutor on the case.

Scott, I would say, as a lawyer, that if Timothy McVeigh asks for more time, chances are that he will probably get it from the judge, just based on the fact that the FBI and the prosecutors' office -- no reflection, of course, on you, but I mean on the FBI -- does not come into this thing with the cleanest of hands.

SCOTT MENDELOFF, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Roger, you're a good lawyer. I agree with that. I think that, in fact, it would be -- it would behoove the government to not take a strong position contrary to that request for an extension because I really firmly believe, knowing Jude Matsch, that the government -- that he's going to grant this extension. And given the fact that the government does not come in with clean hands, it doesn't really appear to be handling their power very responsibly if they push too hard for, after all, what is an execution.

COSSACK: Yeah, let's -- let's really, in fact, talk about what it really means. What it means is there would be -- if it was granted, there'd be a stay of a period of time, whatever Judge Matsch felt was appropriate. And the investigation, whatever the defense lawyers wanted to do, would continue. But it's not like, you know, McVeigh's going to be walking the streets free on bail.

MENDELOFF: No, he's not. And this is, after all, as you say, just -- just a delay. I think that, knowing Judge Matsch, he's going to want to give the defense attorneys an opportunity to present their case to him and give himself an opportunity to carefully review what they present...

COSSACK: All right...

MENDELOFF: ... to determine whether or not this would meet the standard they have to meet.

COSSACK: Scott, what -- what should we look for? I mean, we've all heard about this John Doe Number 2 business. Is that something that you think the defense attorneys will be bringing up?

MENDELOFF: You know, I don't know what this evidence is. They seem to be sold on the fact that it's new and different and significant. Of course, we have to factor in the fact that they have a position to advocate. So until there's some indication of what it is, it's hard to say. But if it is the John Doe 2 evidence, I don't think it's going to carry the day for him.

COSSACK: All right...

MENDELOFF: And so...

COSSACK: Let me just interrupt for one second. How fast do you think we will hear from Judge Matsch on their request for more time?

MENDELOFF: I think he'll grant it in short order.

COSSACK: All right, within -- within days? MENDELOFF: Yes.

COSSACK: All right. Thank you. Thank you, Scott, for joining us. That's all the time we have today.

Thanks to our guests. Thank you for watching. And join us again tomorrow for another edition of BURDEN OF PROOF. I'll see you then.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

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