The closing arguments were given Thursday in a case involving a Santa Clarita Valley Water board member accused of domestic violence.
While the prosecution focused on the statements given by Dan Mortensen’s wife and daughter on the night of the incident — statements they ultimately backtracked on while on the stand this week — the defense argued that the prosecution had failed to prove Mortensen’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Despite their going back on the statement they had given on the night of the incident, prosecutor Jessica Lansky recounted during her closing statements that both Morgan Mortensen and her daughter Claire Mortensen knew what happened that night when they told deputies that Dan Mortensen had hit his wife.
“Everyone told you that she’s a smart girl, she gets good grades; she’s not someone who just randomly jumped to conclusions about her incredible father, right?” Lansky asked the jury, referring to Claire on the phone confirming that night that her father had struck her mother.
Lanksy stated that Claire, 15 years old at the time of the incident, had said during her 15-minute-long 9-1-1 call on April 12, 2020, that her father had gotten in a less-severe fight with her mother once before, but he had not gone to jail for that incident.
Additionally, Lanksy reminded the jury that the responding law enforcement officer that night, Deputy Edwin Flores, had testified that on the night of the incident, Dan Mortensen’s wife, Morgan, had told him that her husband had punched her in the head.
Based on her husband’s height and size, Flores testified, it was possible that a strike from Dan caused Morgan to be found face down in her own blood in their bedroom.
Expanding on the lack of blood found on Dan Mortensen that night, Lanksy argued that Mortensen should have had at least some blood on him after discovering his wife, whether that had been from bending over to help her or dressing her wounds.
“If someone really cares about someone so much,” Lanksy asked the jury, “why isn’t he actually caring for her when it matters?”
As has been previously reported, Lanksy stated that Morgan Mortensen, when she took the stand, could remember the events both before and after she sustained her injuries but not what caused the injury itself. But on the night of the incident, despite admittedly having a few drinks before the incident, she could tell her daughter not to open the door, to call Claire’s grandmother, and was able to communicate effectively with responding deputies.
Finally, Lanksy returned to Dan Mortensen, saying that every single person who testified on his behalf had “something to gain” based on his acquittal. And when approached with cross-examination, Mortensen — even regarding his 2016 vandalism arrest that he was never charged for — said that everyone, from his daughter, to his wife to the responding deputies, had it wrong or made a mistake.
“He’s blaming absolutely everyone else and taking no responsibility for his own actions,” said Lanksy. “Everyone else is lying; everyone is setting him up.”
Mortensen’s defense attorney, Lou Shapiro, began his defense by acknowledging a number of things brought forth by the prosecution: that Dan and his wife had been drinking that day, that the pictures in the case were disturbing, and that Claire Mortensen had made a “logical assumption” during her 9-1-1 phone call that day.
However, Shapiro then turned to the evidence, saying that the assumptions made by the state were just that: assumptions.
The defense attorney stated that there were a number of plausible answers to why the events of the night unfolded the way they did, including Mortensen not taking his wife immediately to the doctor due to COVID-19 just breaking out and how mistakes could have been made in the relaying of the deputies’ report due to them not recording the statements made by Claire and Morgan.
Shapiro then laid out his “14 reasonable doubts” for the jury to consider when they head to deliberation, ranging from the lack of motive for Mortensen to hit his wife, to the lack of sense in someone punching someone and then getting them ice, to there being a possibility that the cuts and injuries were caused by a fall, to there being no previous history of domestic violence in the home.
“If you can draw two or more reasonable conclusions from the circumstantial evidence, a bump into furniture versus battery… and one of those reasonable conclusions points to innocence and the other one does not, you must accept the one that points to innocence,” Shapiro said.
The case now goes to the jury for deliberation.