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Testimony becomes heated in second day of Lambert trial


Trish Bennett, Editor

Tara Lambert testifies in her own defense Tuesday in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court. (Photos by Trish Bennett)

Judge P. Randall Knece confers with attorneys (from left) Jayme Fountain, Judy Wolford and James Kingsley during the second day of testimony in the Lambert trial.

CIRCLEVILLE – Tempers flared Tuesday in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court during the second day of testimony in an alleged murder-for-hire plot.

Tara Lambert, 33, is accused of paying an undercover detective she believed to be a hit man last July as a down payment for killing her husband’s ex, Kellie Cooke, and Cooke’s current husband, Shawn Cooke, of Lucasville.

Testimony began Tuesday with a video of Detective Rex Emrick interviewing Lambert at the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office about 45 minutes after the deal had reportedly been struck. In it, Lambert insisted she only wanted to have Mrs. Cooke beaten up, not to have her killed, and that she didn’t understand that slang phrases used by the undercover detective, like “shoot her in the grill” and “bust a cap,” meant “murder.”

The questioning of Emrick by James Kingsley, Lambert’s attorney, became fairly heated at times, with Kingsley accusing detectives of entrapping his client by creating a crime Lambert had no intention of committing and setting up the meeting with the undercover hit man.

“The conspiracy had already been committed when she agreed to do it,” Emrick said.

Lambert also took the stand in her own defense on Tuesday, continuing to insist she simply wanted Cooke injured, not dead, and even though she made a down payment for that to happen, she thought she still had plenty of time to back out of the deal before the crime would be carried out.

As questioning continued by Kingsley, and then by Jayme Fountain, assistant county prosecutor, Lambert appeared increasingly irritated on the stand. Though she admitted she had thought about having Cooke killed, that was not the arrangement she made with the undercover detective in the parking lot of KFC on July 28.

In the midst of Fountain’s cross-examination, Lambert abruptly announced that the video shown in court was not complete and at least two parts of it were missing.

Fountain appeared surprised, then angered by the suggestion that the evidence had been tampered with and chose not to proceed with further questioning.

“We’re done here, your honor,” she told the court.

Kingsley also chose to end Lambert’s testimony and did not redirect questioning of his client following the accusation.

The last witness of the day was Dr. Jolie Brams, a clinical psychologist who testified she had evaluated Lambert and determined she suffered from extremely low self-esteem, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, body dysmorphia and a variety of other psychological problems.

Brams said Lambert suffered developmental damage during her childhood from a lack of parenting, a line of testimony that visibly angered Lambert’s parents who were seated in the gallery. Brams cited the parenting issues as a key factor in many of Lambert’s psychological problems, including her tendency to “act very childish at times” and to be easily persuaded by suggestion.

Upon cross-examination, however, Judy Wolford, Pickaway County Prosecutor, asked Brams if she was being paid to testify in Lambert’s defense, to which she replied she was. She earned $300 per hour to work on the case, she said, for a total of about $5,000 to date.

Brams also told the court she had based her report largely on about a four-hour conversation with Lambert, as well as a few follow-up phone calls and a review of documents relating to Lambert’s history and the current court case.

At one point, Wolford questioned Brams’ testimony about a previous hospitalization for psychiatric issues, which Brams said had lasted from one to two weeks.

“It was one day in 2004,” Wolford said. “It was just one day.”

When Wolford asked if she independently verified any of the information Lambert told her instead of just taking her for her word, Brams admitted she did not.

She did confirm, though, that she considered Lambert competent to stand trial.

The trial is set to continue with closing arguments at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Pickaway County Common Pleas Court. The jury will then begin deliberating the case.

This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal