In the Court of Common Pleas, a jury heard the opening statements on November 29, 1990, shortly after Thanksgiving. Christopher was dressed in a gray suit and black horn-rimmed glasses, looking, as the papers reported, "studious." He seemed a far cry from the demented killer thought to be running around in Frankford, raping and killing women over the past five years.
Assistant District Attorney Judith Rubino declared that Christopher was a vicious killer who used a "Rambo-style knife" to slash and kill Carol Dowd in the alley behind the fish market where he worked. She admitted she had no witnesses to the actual murder, but she had people who saw things on the street. These witnesses would provide sufficient circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant's guilt. Christopher was seen with Dowd in the alley, and a witness heard a woman scream. He was seen leaving the alley, and Dowd was found dead immediately afterward. He was seen with a knife, and his clothing had blood on it. In addition, he had lied about his whereabouts that night and had made other peculiar statements about the murder.
Defense attorney Jack McMahon told the jury that Christopher was known as a mild-mannered person, was well-liked and had no history of violence. He indicated that since the police were under pressure to solve the case, they might have rushed to judgment.
The prosecutor objected to this, and Judge George Ivins cautioned McMahon not to stray from the facts. McMahon continued with his argument, indicating that there were six cases prior to Dowd's murder that bore enough similarities to be judged the work of a serial killer, but the prosecutor again objected to this line of reasoning. Clearly McMahon was going to go for reasonable doubt by talking about the murder that had occurred while Christopher was in jail awaiting trial.
The judge ordered a sidebar, and the attorneys began to shout at each other, but McMahon was allowed to continue his line of reasoning: "Pressure sometimes presents unreliable results." McMahon said that the police had relied on evidence that, in stronger cases, would have been discarded, and that had been a mistake. The witnesses were prostitutes and junkies, with lengthy arrest records each and nine aliases between them. He could not imagine anyone urging the jury to believe them beyond a reasonable doubt. In fact, Leigh had admitted to lying twice to police about the incident, initially denying that she knew anything because she liked the defendant. But that made her an unreliable witness.
When the police arrested Christopher, McMahon pointed out, there were no injuries on him, and no physical evidence linked him to the crime scene. No murder weapon was recovered, no so-called Rambo knife. There was no reason to view him as a murderer.
But it wasn't as simple as that.