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tv   Lethal Beauty  MSNBC  November 13, 2011 12:00pm-1:00pm PST

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if it's sunday, it's "meethe press." 911 emergency. >> has the jury reached a verdict? >> she was a good mother. she was an awesome grandmother. >> a woman in her 50s, seeking to boost her looks, but her beauty treatment was a deadly one. >> oh man, what is this stuff? >> they're called pumping parties. secret silicone injections at hundreds of dollars a pop. a booming illegal business. >> what a way to make money.
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>> so is selling heroin. >> who administered the deadly dose? it's a courtroom drama like you have never seen before. >> i was interested myself in getting my cleavage area enlarged. >> hip and behind. the face. the cheekbone area. >> a window on an underground world. >> it's like a competition thing with each of them. which one will look better than the other one. which one can pass for a female. >> beauty at any price. who would pay? >> do you have sex with men for money? >> it's a battle. it's like going to war. >> for my mother, i will fight to the bitter end. >> in this hour, "lethal beauty." in south florida, people come to party with the pros. the beautiful. the buff. the outrageous. but a little get-together at an apartment north of miami one
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warm night in march 2001 would reach the limits of anything goes parties. one very unlikely guest, vera lawrence, didn't make it out alive. >> she was a good mother. she was a good daughter. and she was an awesome grandmother. >> 53-year-old vera was a busy woman. held down a 9:00 to 5:00 job as a secretary. ♪ >> was active in her church. sang in the choir. and still had a teenaged son at home. when she arrived at cory williams' apartment that night for the party, mark hawkins was already there, eating pizza. >> there was a knock at the door. a lady came in. >> that would have been vera lawrence? >> yes. and she was out of breath, felt very sick. she wanted to go to the powder room. she went in the powder room. she never came back out. >> did something happen to vera before she got to the apartment that made her sick? or did something sinister happen once she went inside? whatever the reason, it quickly
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became a matter of life and death. 911 was called. >> would you send us out a rescue because i think -- someone is here, a friend of mine, probably had a heart attack or something, because she's just breathing and she's not waking up. >> by the time vera's daughter, tangela sirus heard and got to memorial hospital, it was too late. >> grandmother's dead. she didn't make it, baby. and i remember running from myself. right now i still can't put that together. >> the party attended by vera lawrence was described by some as an innocent get-together. for others, it was a gathering so bizarre it defied belief. but there was no quibbling that the fallout from the death of the grandmother would raise the curtain on a secret gender-bending world and demand a criminal investigation. vera lawrence, a widow and mother, spent the last night of her life at a small gathering of
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transgenders, men who live as woman. they come to that apartment not for pizza and companionship but for syringefuls of liquid silicones. authorities said later this had been a pumping party. >> pumping party. do you remember the first time you had heard those two words? >> actually, we have a better name. tupperware for the lips. >> tupperware? >> the pumping parties are the same, except you're selling silicone injections. >> there are legitimate medical uses for liquid silicone injections. tiny amounts are used to fill out small wrinkles in the face. but as chief investigator of unlicensed medical activity for florida's department of health, enrique torres was all too familiar with how the stuff is used by quacks. he showed us evidence confiscated from a woman in another pumping case. >> oh, man, what is this stuff? >> it's like dirty, filthy. there's makeup in here. there's dog hairs. she was injecting silicone.
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>> using these syringes? >> yes. >> at a pumping party? >> we have transsexuals that, you know, that wanted to become more feminine looking and pump a lot of silicone into the breast area and the buttocks to make female-looking breasts and to make their appearance more feminine. >> you won't find them in the yellow pages, but there is an underground community of people in this country with no medical licenses offering everything from implants and tummy tucks to liposuctions. mark hawkins, who'd been at that party with vera lawrence, traveled in a close-knit circle of transgender silicone-pumping friends. what is this thing that drives them? it's so strange to people outside these circles. >> they get a lot of attention, and it's like a competition thing with each of them. which one will look better than the other one and so forth, and which one can pass for a female. >> some of them were pretty proud of their work, weren't they? >> they were proud. they're very vain people. >> but what would vera lawrence be doing at a pumping party?
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a natural, curvy figure that others at the party were paying cash for. >> my mother, beautiful. she's beautiful. and i think anyone that sees a picture of her, or anyone that knows her would say the same thing. >> did she have a secret life? >> no. >> but vera lawrence's body reveals secrets of a life her family never imagined. the medical examiner discovered row of neatly-arranged needle tracks. oozing just below the surface lay vera's killer. silicone. the official cause of death was a pulmonary embolism, a silicone obstruction in the lungs. construction in the lungs. vera lawrence, it seems, was getting pumped with the stuff to enlarge her hips and bottom. >> i feel very sorry for the family because they don't know.
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they didn't even know their mother was going and getting injections. the lady, as it came down, the lady was a very vain lady. >> if vera lawrence wanted a voluptuous body, she paid the ultimate price for her vanity. a few days after vera's death, mark hawkins got in his car and drove home to greenville, south carolina, where hawkins says he cleaned houses for a living. it wasn't long before the police came calling. >> i was home a normal day and they knocked on my door and said i was wanted for murder. >> and you said? >> i was shocked. i said you've got me mixed up with someone else. >> but, in fact, hawkins was at that pumping party. he went with his transgender partner of 15 years, donnie hendrix, a biological man living as a woman. an eyewitness had fingered hawkins and hendrix as more than just guests at a party. they were pumpers, responsible for injecting silicone into vera lawrence the night she died. they were locked up and charged with third-degree murder. >> ladies and gentlemen of the jury. >> and the prosecutor in broward county, florida, intent on getting their convictions, worried the trial would be like the circus coming to town. >> you really went down the
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rabbit hole. found a whole different world, didn't you? >> it was very surprising. very unusual. >> the bizarre silicone murder trial was about to begin. coming up -- >> september 19th, 1998. beretta, breast. it looks like 300. hips, 300. and -- >> a glimpse into the lurid business of silicone-pumping parties. >> does that look like calves to you? >> that looks like cavs, yes, sir, 150. vera lawrence died in march
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vera lawrence died in march of 2001. her body was riddled with needle marks from silicone injections, leaving clues that led to an underground transgendered world of illegal cosmetic procedures.
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mark hawkins and donnie hendrix were being held responsible for vera lawrence's death. partners in life, they were now accused of being partners in crime, facing identical charges of third-degree murder and practicing medicine without a license. the prosecutor was counting on persuading the jury, partly through stories told from the stand by transgendered men, who claimed to know the accused as silicone pumpers. so an open-minded jury was a priority. >> i wanted people who were open culturally. i was very concerned i would have jurors who wouldn't hear the message because of the messenger. >> the prosecutor had reason to be doubly anxious about jury selection. because he decided to hold one trial that would be heard by not one but two separate juries. one for hawkins and one for hendrix. >> may it please the court, counsel, ladies and gentlemen of the jury -- >> in his opening statement, prosecutor schinberg downplayed the right sexuality of his case and portrayed the defendants in a way that was easy to understand. two people blinded by common greed running an illegal
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silicone-pumping business that ended up killing vera lawrence. >> you'll see the big picture about this elicit enterprise, this business proposition that had deadly consequences for vera lawrence. >> how much money are we talking about? >> $3,000 to $4,000 a visit with the substance that i think they were paying approximately $40 for eight pounds of it. >> what a business. what a way to make money. >> so is selling heroin. >> before taking the jury through the night vera lawrence died, the prosecutor first tried to show the court that mark hawkins and donnie hendrix had a long history together, running an illegal silicone-pumping business, practicing medicine without a license. >> can you tell us how many times you were injected with silicone by the defendants? >> countless. >> here were witnesses, men with
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obviously silicone-enhanced bodies and exotic names like china, asia and thunder. they said they'd been repeat customers at hawkins and hendrix pumping parties for years. their presence was riveting. but bringing them into court was a gamble. >> mr. taylor, i had to send him home to get changed one day because his dress just wasn't appropriate for court, but he told the story as best as he could. >> i was interested in getting me cleavage area enlarged. >> eleanor taylor and the other transgendered witnesses first described why they sought out the defendants. >> i've had my hips enhanced. >> the face, the cheekbone area. >> then one after another, they told similar stories not about the night vera lawrence died but descriptions of a typical hawkins and hendrix pumping party. >> did you notice whether or not donnie hendrix was wearing any type of medical clothing or garb? >> yes, i did. >> what was she wearing? >> a white lab jacket.
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>> i thought they were doctors. >> i thought she was a nurse. >> she inserts it in you and mark pushes the silicone in you. >> sometimes it leaks out and they had a towel to wipe it off. >> the more you spend, the more you got. >> i believe it was $500. >> the prosecutors said it wasn't just testimony that proved hawkins and hendrix were pumpers, it was all the evidence detectives found at the defendant's home, starting with the business card of body sculpting by viva. that's donnie's transgendered nickname. they also discovered syringes and latex gloves. tell-tale tools the prosecutors argued of the pumpers trade that would be hard to explain away. >> so far as i'm concerned the evidence clearly showed who did what. the items found in their homes corroborated everybody else who had questionable credibility. >> then there was the substance itself. prosecutors called executives from a company called silicone inc., who said they'd sold silicone on 95 occasions to a customer known as m.d. hawkins. that's mark d. hawkins.
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>> did you take orders from a person identifying themselves as m.d. hawkins? >> yes, i did. >> then they told the jurors that the silicone hawkins ordered wasn't even the medical variety. it was industrial stuff called gi thinner. it sold as an additive in the processing of rubber, never intended for human beings. so they had no legal concerns when they sold the silicone to hawkins. >> its's not sterilized, it's not sanitized, and it's never been designed or marketed for human consumption. >> the search of the defendant's home also yielded something else. a little black book with appointments and phone numbers, including one for vera lawrence. and lists of body parts with prices. >> read to the jury what's in that book. >> september 19, 1998. loretta, breasts. it looks like 300. hips, 300. and -- >> does that look like calves to you? >> that looks like calves, yes, sir. 150.
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>> prosecutors thought they built a powerful case that, in fact, hawkins and hendrix were silicone pumpers. but they still had to prove the defendants killed vera lawrence. so the detectives presented evidence found at the crime scene. >> once i went into the kitchen, i found a trash can which contained needles, some blood-stained swabs. >> the hall of incriminating evidence detectives presented was a precise match to the eyewitness accounts of other hendrix and hawkins pumping parties. it made for a compelling circumstantial case. but the prosecution wasn't done. it had a star eyewitness to the kill shot injection. none other than the person who hosting the pumping party. cory williams, the one-time friend of the two accused, was originally named a co-defendant. now he had been flipped. >> cory williams had culpability in this case. >> you cut him a deal? >> yes. >> exchange for his story, his
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testimony, what? probation? >> sometimes you've got to go to people like that to get that information. >> and i see mark standing over her putting the silicone inside. yes. >> what exactly was he doing what you saw him? >> injecting the syringe, whatever was in the syringe inside of her buttocks. >> and where was the defendant? >> the man first charged as a co-defendant was now an invaluable prosecution eyewitness. williams told the jury he saw mark hawkins pumping silicone into vera lawrence the night she died. but the prosecutor also knew his star witness' credibility would be ripped on cross-examination because of his plea agreement. >> a condition of your probation, number one, not to break any laws, correct? >> exactly. >> and also you are to give truthful testimony. >> exactly. >> when called to a courtroom? >> yes, i am. >> in fact, if you violate that plea agreement, what happens? >> i will be arrested. >> vera lawrence's daughter, tangela sears, suffered through all of the sordid details about pumping parties.
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but then the state called her to the stand to remind jurors of just what was lost in this case. a dedicated mother and grandmother with a very active life. >> we sang in a gospel group, and the night before her death, she was in rehearsal. >> tangela's description of her mom also helped establish an important part of the state's case. that vera lawrence was an active and healthy woman on the day she died. >> any doubt in your mind that if your mother had not gone to that apartment that night, that she'd be alive? >> of course she'd be alive. that's how she died. it was not her time to die. >> prosecutors had been uneasy about calling the transgender witnesses, but they had complete confidence in dr. ariston price, the broward county associate medical examiner, who performed the autopsy on vera lawrence. her testimony was the key to the case. >> her blood had sort of an oily, bubbly consistency. and her organs also had this oily consistency. >> she testified that vera lawrence died from a silicone obstruction in her lungs.
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then added a crushing detail the defense would have to deal with. >> i saw fresh needle marks. i cut into those needle marks and that's when i started seeing the same oily stuff oozing from the subcutaneous tissue of her buttocks and thighs. >> the medical examiner not only determined that silicone had killed vera lawrence. she pinpointed when it happened. she testified that the fatal injections were fresh, still oozing and had been given to vera shortly before she died. the very time vera, mark hawkins and donnie hendrix were together. by the time the state rested, prosecutors had pieced together a compelling portrait of mark hawkins and donnie hendrix as partners in a bizarre medical practice. until one tragic night when they pumped silicone into vera lawrence and caused her death. coming up -- >> something smells rotten in denmark. >> it's a battle. it's like going to war. >> the defense strikes back. >> how many names do you have? >> eleanor. >> eleanor. >> rodney.
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53-year-old vera lawrence died as a result of industrial-grade silicone injections. the subsequent murder trial had quickly turned into a spectacle. one trial with two defendants and a separate jury for each. stories told by silicone-pumped, transgender men with exaggerated feminine figures. it was an unusual atmosphere but the prosecution seemed to have built a solid case. now it was the defense's turn. >> something smells rotten in denmark. everything is not as it appears. >> in the trial of mark hawkins and donnie hendrix, a lot of things weren't as they appeared. not the least of it, the defendants themselves. a couple for 15 years, both men. but one, donnie hendrix, living as a woman. >> she's not an individual who's gender confused. the way she's described it, she's always known she was just in the wrong physical form. >> hendrix' public defender decided to present his client as a woman.
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you had a strange journey by a subworld, haven't you? >> i've had a strange journey in this subworld. it's caused me to re-examine some my opinions. >> each defendant had their own attorney, but the defense teams were united in the claim that hawkins and hendrix had nothing to do with vera lawrence's death. they argued that for years the grandmother had secretly enhanced her body with silicone injections. and was really a victim of just one thing, her own vanity. >> she did not die from anything that happened to her that day. it was her day with destiny. >> eric schwartzreicht represented mark hawkins. >> the best thing we had working in our favor is the assumption of the risk. i don't need to sit here and tell the american public, don't go to a dentist office in the back of a van. don't get these back-alley injections.
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>> from the moment detectives knocked on their door, the defendants declared their innocence. both hawkins -- >> did you kill this woman? >> no, i didn't. >> and hendrix. >> was this gathering at cory williams house, in fact, a pumping party? >> no. >> did you inject vera lawrence with silicone? >> no. >> the defense challenged the charge that hawkins and hendrix were longtime silicone pumpers by attacking the flamboyant witnesses who testified about being their customers. hawkins' attorney ridiculed them as clowns with multiple aliases and felony convictions. people whose testimony could not be trusted. >> your real legal name is terrell bell? >> correct. >> you look very nice today. thank you. >> is that gucci or prada that you're wearing? >> actually it's j.lo. >> hawkins' attorney seemed to relish every moment. >> it's like a battle. it's like going to war. >> you love this stuff, don't you? >> absolutely. i love trying cases. i'm a frustrated actor. >> you are a prostitute. >> yes, i am. >> you are a convicted felon. >> yes, i am. >> i have got people coming into
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the courtroom pointing fingers at my client. i can't make any apologies for coming across in a way where i am defending my client. >> donnie hendrix' attorney followed up with a much gentler line of questioning. >> good afternoon, eleanor taylor. >> how are you? >> i'm fine, how are you? >> good. >> as the two attorneys tag-teamed the witnesses it had the look of a classic good cop/bad cop interrogation. >> how many names do you have? >> eleanor. >> eleanor, rodney. thunder? >> numerous names. >> how many identities do you have? >> one. >> which -- who showed up in this courtroom today? >> eleanor. >> you and hawkins' primary defense lawyer have very different courtroom styles. >> i don't think a single style of presentation as a defense attorney works in all cases. it may have worked to my advantage in this case, because eric was so attacking. >> the defense tried to paint the witnesses as unreliable. but what about the mountain of physical evidence found at hawkins and hendrix' home that suggested they were silicone
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pumpers? the defense had explanations for virtually all of it. like the syringes and latex gloves. >> my co-defendant was on hormones. so he had legal rights to have the needles and that type of thing. and the latex gloves was outside in the yard. we were working in the yard. >> the defendants could even explain why mark hawkins had bought so much industrial silicone. >> mark ran a commercial and residential cleaning business. he used it has a solvent in his business. to this day, that's what i believe it was. that's what i have seen it used for. >> and what about that body sculpting business card? remember viva is donnie's nickname. the defense said it was all perfectly innocent. hendrix worked the drag queen club circuit up and down the east coast as a makeup artist in costuming. body sculpting was all about the costumes. >> i made costumes for them, body suits that were filled with foam. >> so you're saying viva body sculpting doesn't mean viva wasn't going to come shoot you with silicone? >> not at all. not at all. up next, show of hands
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question, how many of you believe that vera had gone to someone else earlier in the day and had received injections of silicone? >> the defense claims to have another suspect. look, every dag more and more energy. the world needs more energy. where's it going to come from? ♪ that's why right here, in australia, chevron is building one of the biggest natural gas projects in the world. enough power for a city the size of singapore for 50 years. what's it going to do to the planet? natural gas is the cleanest conventional fuel there is. we've got to be smart about this. it's a smart way to go. ♪ i took some steep risks in my teens. i'd never ride without one now. and since my doctor prescribed lipitor, i won't go without it for my high cholesterol and my risk of heart attack. why kid myself? diet and exercise weren't lowering my cholesterol enough.
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i'm militia rehberger and ha here's what's happening. protesters were shot. the rally was allegedly organized by the government to show a popular anger on violent crackdowns. and authorities are trying to pinpoint what caused an explosion that flattened a chicago home. two residents are critically injured. it's still under investigation. now back to "lethal beauty." vera lawrence, a 53-year-old
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grandmother, died after receiving a silicone injection. a beauty treatment gone terribly wrong. accused of being the silicone pumpers, mark hawkins and donnie hendrix, were arrested and charged with third degree murder. more than two years after her death, defense attorneys were about to deliver their most withering attack against cory williams, the state's star witness, who testified he actually saw mark hawkins inject silicone into vera lawrence. >> cookie? cookie? >> ms. williams is fine. >> is it cookie? do you go by cookie? >> ms. williams is fine. >> what do you do for a living? >> hair, makeup. >> you're not a convicted prostitute? >> no. >> do you have sex with men for money? is that funny? >> i knew that i had a problem with cory williams, but i knew that cory williams was a convicted felon. did you cut a deal with the prosecutor that you would be on probation if you came into the courtroom and said this man and this woman injected vera lawrence in your apartment that night?
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this was his apartment, and he would do anything he could to save his life and save his face. you cut a deal with mr. schinberg. is that true, ms. williams? so you're not in prison for 20 years in florida state, are you, ms. williams? >> evidently not. i'm here. >> the grilling of cory williams made it clear just how much was riding on his testimony. >> yes. >> here's cory, your friend. >> yeah. >> and what does she do? >> she comes in and lies in court in trial. >> and i see mark standing over her, putting the silicone inside, yes. >> and she dropped the whole 1,000-pound bomb on you. >> exactly. to save herself. >> as far as the defendants were concerned, this was no pumping party. it was just friends getting together to see cory williams' new apartment. but defense attorneys had a startling suggestion about that fateful night. and it came from williams himself. maybe vera lawrence had been pumped by someone named marcos.
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>> you told the police that vera just told you that she just came from marcos' house. is that true? >> she'd seen marcos earlier. >> that day. is that true? >> i told them she had seen marcos earlier, yes. >> and now know marcos is known as a pumper in the transgender community? >> yes. >> she was injected within that hour, left this individual's apartment and had yet again received more silicone injections. >> the mysterious silicone pumper named marcos couldn't be found and never appeared in court. but his presence loomed large. the jury now had a very different version of what happened to vera lawrence in the last hours of her life. now it was time for the defense attorney's hail mary pass. they were saying all along that hawkins and hendrix were innocent of third-degree murder. did not inject vera lawrence. but now the lawyers argued that even if the defendants had injected vera with silicone on that night, that injection was
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not the cause of her death. she had been injected on numerous occasion, prior times, old injections sites. it was a whodunit? which silicone killed her? not my client's silicone. >> what about the medical examiner who had done the autopsy, testified that it was an injection done on march 20th that killed vera lawrence? another defense attorney argued she was in over her head. >> this was so unusual that dr. price needed to do some home work and i don't think that she did. she needed to become an expert on the migration of silicone. how fast does this stuff move? that's where she was lacking. >> this is your first autopsy where you made the cause and manner of death accident and systemic silicone emboli. true? >> true. >> did you read any scientific literature regarding silicone toxicity in the human body before vera lawrence's autopsy? >> no. >> dr. price's admission that she had not read any scientific
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studies to support her findings paved the way for the defense's most important witness. >> mr. hawkins called dr. ronald wright. that the bow tied dr. ronald wright was brought in as an expert witness to challenge the findings of the medical examiner. >> i finished my training at the university of miami. >> we called dr. ronald wright, who was the former chief medical examiner in broward county, who taught dr. price. we thought his prestige, his past, his pedigree, if you will, was superior to hers. >> point by point, he undermined the state's case. he argued that vera lawrence destroyed her body over a long period of time with an incredible amount of silicone. more than six two-liter bottles worth. >> this is the skin that's been cut away. >> he said vera simply could not have died from silicone injections into her buttocks that night, because the stuff moves too slowly, could not have traveled all the way to her lungs.
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>> did she die from an injection she received on march 20th, 2001, the date of her death? >> no, i don't think so. i think she did die of, most probably, the silicone. but it's the cumulative effect of, looks like, months or even years of silicone injection. >> the defense believed dr. wright's testimony destroyed the foundation of the state's entire case. vera lawrence very likely died from silicone injections. but the mysterious marcos and other pumpers in her past were responsible, not hendrix and hawkins, who flatly denied the charges. defense attorneys, confident they'd done more than enough to create reasonable doubt, were ready to give their closing arguments. >> one tragedy should not beget another tragedy. this man should not be convicted. so what happened on march -- >> closing statements lasted
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more than four hours. lawyers on both sides argued one last time about the strange and sad death of vera lawrence. prosecutors said the defendants killed vera. >> the team of donnie and mark had an elicit, illegal, frankenstein erik enterprise. >> the defense told jurors to hold vera herself responsible. >> now vera lawrence made a choice to change her body. always wanting more injections. and on who will you place responsibility for vera lawrence's choices? donnie hendrix is not guilty. >> the lawyers debated evidence, science and the law. but it was no surprise that there was also a tough parting shot for the transgender witnesses who'd made the trial such a lurid curiosity. >> the witnesses that mr. schinberg called, the convicted felons and the transvestites, this became the greatest show on earth.
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and he called some clowns in that circus, because every circus has a clown. >> cookie clown. asia clown. lying clowns. >> now the two six-person juries who'd observed the trial together were sent their separate ways to deliberate. one jury for hendrix. another for hawkins. >> pumping parties, is that a new word for everybody? >> yes. >> completely new word. >> we spoke with four hawkins' jurors and four hendrix jurors, about the strange new world they were finally allowed to discuss during deliberations. >> you had to extend yourselves, didn't you, to understand their lives, their values? >> you basically have to keep your personal opinions out. >> tough to do that? >> absolutely. >> for some of the jurors, the defense's tough cross-examination of the transgender witnesses -- >> is it cookie do you go by cookie? >> ms. williams is fine. >> may have actually backfired. >> the only thing that was offensive is one of the attorneys was particularly rude to the witnesses. >> very, very rude. >> how did you guess? >> these people initially were
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not rude back. they eventually dished it out which i was glad they did. >> do you have sex with men for money? is that funny? >> like i've told you, in the past, when you and your wife have sex, do you give her money? do you buy her nice things? >> i'm asking the questions here, cookie. >> the jurors had no trouble accepting the story these controversial witnesses were telling. hawkins and hendrix had a long history as silicone pumpers, and that made it easier for the jury to believe cory williams' damaging testimony about the night vera lawrence died. >> we know that donnie and mark were there that evening. and they weren't there to just see cory's new apartment. they were there to do business. >> marcos. >> but what about cory williams' admission that vera lawrence may have been injected by the mysterious marcos just hours before she died. >> show of hands question. how many of you believe that
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vera had gone to someone else earlier in the day and had received injections of silicone? >> the whole thing gives that these people disappeared. >> marcos disappeared. >> in a case where things could not be taken at face value, the jurors were able to fully agree on one thing. the prosecution had done a good job of making vera lawrence real to them. >> she was from a gospel choir. she was healthy, vibrant and sounded like a real personality that people connected with. >> the defense thought jurors might blame vera for choosing to get the injections that killed her. but the sympathetic figure she became in court would make that a hard sell. >> small capillaries in the skin. >> for both juries, the toughest issue to deal with turned out to be the competing medical evidence. did a silicone injection kill vera one fateful night or was it the case of long-time abuse?
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you have two medical experts? >> yes. >> one performed the autopsy. the other was the person who taught her how to do it. >> exactly. >> the jurors spent the bulk of their time debating the testimony of the medical experts. it was all coming down to dr. wright for the defense versus the prosecution's dr. price. >> was she a credible witness to you? >> terrifically credible. she's making a lot of sense. then they put wright in there, dr. wright, he has a whole different outlook. >> i felt he was more knowledgeable. >> he's not the one who did the autopsy. >> it was the straw that broke the camel's back, is basically what we were saying, and we had to determine with what we were provided with whether it was or it wasn't. tremendous dilemma. >> as deliberations continue, the defendants, lawyers and vera lawrence's family anxiously waited. then at almost the same time,
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[ male announcer ] help protect your family at [ beatboxing ] mark hawkins and donnie hendrix were on trial for the murder of vera lawrence. accused of giving her a lethal injection of silicone. their fate was about to be determined. as the two juries deliberated, their decisions came down to the contradictory evidence provided by two medical examiners. one for the prosecution and one for the defense. was this a death resulting from an injection administered by the defendants, or was it caused by long-term abuse of silicone? mark hawkins and donnie hendrix each faced the possibility of 30 years behind bars if found guilty of third-degree murder. defense attorney eric schwartzreicht was confident that wouldn't happen. >> there was not one witness that i did not feel that we did not cross-examine or tear apart.
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i really felt that we showed up and that we were going to win this case. >> remember, each defendant had his own separate jury. the hawkins' panel returned with a verdict first. >> the defendant is guilty of murder in the third degree as charged in the information. so say we all -- >> hawkins, guilty. >> count iii comes back, and i'm shocked. >> are these your verdicts? >> vera lawrence's daughter tangela so bitter an atmosphere she says the defense created at her mother's trial was overcome by the verdict she so badly wanted. >> they were out of control in the courtroom. but the jury dealt with the evidence. >> i'm glad we got them. >> it wasn't her time to die. >> the hawkins' verdict was not a good omen for co-defendant donnie hendrix. >> i was blown away by their verdict of guilty on the murder charge. >> throughout the trial, prosecutors declared time and again that hawkins and hendrix were a team, each equally responsible in the eyes of the
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law for what the other did. >> the one thing that upset me throughout the trial was this "they." as if mark and i were connected at the hip. >> now it was time for donnie hendrix to find out if he'd be joined at the hip to mark hawkins as a convicted murder. >> the defendant is not guilty. >> hendrix not guilty of murder in the third degree. two separate juries had reached unanimous but opposite verdicts on virtually the same set of facts. hendrix allowed himself a hint of a smile and mouthed "thank you" to his attorney. >> jury forepersons, how do we reconcile this? same room, same crime, is it fair? >> i think it's unfair for people to question us coming in, saying, oh, my gosh, they don't have the same verdict. of course not. we came up with a different verdict, which i think human nature would say you can't guarantee the same one. you just can't. >> the second jury didn't let hendrix off scot-free. they found him guilty of practicing medicine without a license. but even if they believed
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hendrix did pump vera lawrence, they just couldn't go the extra mile and say that that was the injection that killed her. >> three or four of our jurors, including myself, think donnie hendrix is guilty. including myself, think donnie hendrix is guilty. the law didn't ask us what we think. the law asks us what's been proven to us. >> when the verdicts were read, mark hawkins sat silently, but one of the jurors who convicted him started having terrible misgivings that she voted the wrong way. did you feel you were confused about it or what's the issue? >> i never thought he was guilty of third-degree murder. i agreed because we had to read the law, and i had to follow the law i was given. >> outside of the courtroom, hawkins' juror marlene brana told defense attorneys she was confused during deliberations and didn't mean to vote guilty. suddenly the verdict seemed in doubt. >> to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? >> i do. >> in an unusual hearing a few weeks later, the jurors became witnesses. but all of the jurors, even the the one who said she voted the
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wrong way, said they'd done their best to follow the law. the judge ruled there would be no jury do-overs. the consequences of the two verdicts became a stark reality. donnie hendrix was sentenced to five years in a florida state prison. his partner, mark hawkins, got 30 years. >> i don't have words to describe how i felt when they read mark's verdict. mark is the most loving, kind-hearted, generous individual you would ever know. and for him to be found guilty of something, to be charged with murder and convicted of murder -- >> is this good justice? >> no. >> i have my faith and hope in knowing that if you didn't do something, you can get out of it. you can prove that you didn't do it. >> attorneys for both hendrix and hawkins immediately got to work appealing their convictions. >> isn't this game over, the points are on the board? everybody have a safe drive home? >> no. it's never over.
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two separate juries deliberated the fates of mark hawkins and donnie hendrix. both faced the same charges in the death of 53-year-old grandmother vera lawrence. now the verdicts were in. hawkins guilty of murder in the third degree, hendrix, innocent of the very same charge. hawkins' attorney took action without delay. >> the defense did not rest. immediately filed an appeal on behalf of mr. hawkins. >> in june 2006, an appellate court determined that critical testimony about the cause of death was inadmissible. medical examiner price testified
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that silicone from injections given by the defendants quickly moved to vera lawrence's lungs, killing her. the defense argued that the silicone that penetrated vera's lungs had come from dozens of injections over a period of months. >> one of our strongest issues was the issue of dr. price being able to give her opinion on the way that silicone migrates in the bloodstream. we argued to the fourth district court of appeal that we had several issues. >> the appellate court agreed with the defense's argument, deciding that dr. price was unqualified to render an opinion regarding silicone migration in the body. hawkins' conviction was overturned. >> what the court said was that this was an error by the trial court and because it was an error by the trial court, it's not necessarily insufficient evidence. and because of that, the state of florida should be able to have a retrial. >> hawkins was recharged and the jury selection process was about to begin. >> we were prepared to go
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through a retrial, but we got an offer which came to an offer of time served. instead of rolling the dice and stepping up to the plate, we took the option to go to the door of freedom and mr. hawkins accepted a plea and is now a free man. >> schwartzreicht asserted it would have been difficult for the state to find a qualified medical expert to sustain its earlier argument about the cause of death. >> i don't really think there are many experts out there that can opine in the way silicone migrates in the bloodstream. and if there had been, the state of florida wouldn't have been so quick to offer us time served and would have found another expert other than dr. price on the retrial. >> mark hawkins, living with family in south carolina, agreed to speak to us only by phone. he expressed concern about appearing on camera again because he's trying to rebuild his life. since his release, he's gone back to landscaping and cleaning offices. and says he no longer wants any part of the life he used to lead. >> i don't engage in conversations about it anymore and i just, you know, it's not,
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you know, a lifestyle i just really don't want to be involved in again and i don't have anything to do with it anymore. >> mark hawkins will never go back to something like this for money. we've had a long conversation about that. i'm sure he's out of the picture forever. >> and hendrix, released from prison in november of 2005. donnie is no longer living as a woman. >> if i'm still -- we'll remain friends. the fact he was assaulted in prison and the things that happened to him and he's no longer living as a woman. >> donnie hendrix had silicone injections, the lips and the face and looked more like a woman and was being housed with male inmates. so, i think that -- i believe that donnie hendrix had a more difficult time in jail than mark hawkins did. >> he's doing quite well. a manager of a department store, and he's really moved on with his life and is doing well. >> and what about the missing marcos, the man who allegedly pumped vera lawrence on the day she died?
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>> i heard he's back in florida, changed his name and back to doing what he was doing before. >> for the defense attorney, the silicone murder trial is one he says he will never forget. >> i've tried a lot of cases, high-profile cases, and this one is one of the most bizarre, most exciting cases i've ever tried. i've always thought about vera lawrence and why did she do this to herself? i understand vanity. i'm a defense lawyer. i'm a lawyer. i understand ego. but i always wonder about vera lawrence, deep down if she was happy. >> for her daughter, the legal battle may be over, but she's still struggling with her grief. she's determined to have her mother remembered for the way she lived, not the way she died. >> i'm tired. but for my mother, i will fight to the bitter end. >> the bitter end of a strange south florida party that was


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