Friday, May 5, 2017

Michael Gargiulo Case, Pretrial Hearing 37

Previous post on this case.

March 17, 2017
I'm on the 9th floor of Criminal Justice Center in downtown Los Angeles waiting for Dept. 106, Judge Larry Paul Fidler's courtroom to open.

Several members of Gargiulo's defense team are also in the hallway deep in conversation.

Around 8:43am, Deputy DA Daniel Akemon arrives with a rolling cart and two file boxes. I'm surprised. Could that really be two additional full boxes of discovery at this late date?

Judge Fidler's courtroom opens and we all file inside.  Judge Fidler is not on the bench yet and some counsel in the courtroom don't appear to be happy about that.

There's a beautiful bouquet of roses on the court reporter's desk. The candy jar at the clerk's desk is almost empty. For the first time, I notice a small desk bell, like you might find at a hotel desk, on the court clerk's counter. 

I have a flashback that over ten years ago, in February 2007 I first entered this courtroom for a pretrial hearing in the Phil Spector trial. The juror's chairs contain spiral notebooks, an indication that Judge Fidler is in the middle of a trial.

The court reporter comes out and sets up her equipment. A man, possibly an attorney, enters the courtroom. He chats with the court reporter, then goes into the back area to get tissues from the restroom.  The court clerk is at her desk. She warns an attorney not to get lost, that she is set to start at 9:15am.

In the well of the court I hear the words, "...four thousand pages of discovery turned over today..." There really is a lot of discovery being turned over today.

9:30 am
Defense counsel and the prosecution are over at the clerk's desk, having a conversation. There are other counsel in the well. There's a female Deputy DA I recognize, but I can't remember her name. Several counsel are wearing green for St. Patrick's Day. DDA Akemon has on a bright, almost neon green tie. It reminds me of his friend, former Deputy DA Alan Jackson's extensive tie collection.

I'm surprised. Deputy DA Paul Nunez, who prosecuted Stephanie Lazarus is here in the gallery. DDA Nunez is the Assistant Head Deputy of the Hardcore Gang Division. The new beard he's sprouted looks good on him. He chats with DDA Akemon. He peppers me with questions about Matthew McGough's book on the Lazarus case. I am sworn to secrecy regarding his work. I just smile and reply, "I can't answer that. You should talk to Matt."

Gargiulo is brought out. He looks much the same as he did before. Completely bald and clean shaven.

Judge Fidler goes on the record. The parties state their appearances.

DDA Akemon informs the court that they have turned over the following pages of discovery to the defense. Pages numbered 31,537 to 35,637. He informs the court that there is still ongoing discovery and they will have an additional two boxes of material ready for the defense next week. The people continue to work on discovery.

DDA Akemon brings up California Penal Code 190.3 the aggravating and mitigating factors that jurors are allowed to consider. The people originally filed a motion to introduce testimony from a crime scene analyst. [This would have been testimony by former FBI Profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole.] In an effort to streamline the trial, the prosecution is withdrawing that motion. I'm a bit disappointed from a trial watching perspective, but understand from a 'streamline the trial' perspective.

The people also filed a proposed jury questionnaire today.

The last issue is the voluminous discovery. There are over 35,000 pages. Some pages are duplicate documents. The prosecution has agreed to come up with an alternate set of documents [I take that to mean with no duplicates] so that defense, prosecution and the court are all working off the same set of documents.

The parties agree to set the case over to June, and set the trial in the fall.

DDA Akemon tells the court that the defense has requested the murder books in three death investigations where Gargiulo was considered [at one time] a suspect but never charged. If they turn over those murder books, they contain confidential information, however, the people feel the discovery obligation "trumps" the confidentiality issues in releasing those murder books.

The court issues a protective order for the confidential information in these files that will be turned over. The prosecution estimates the case will take anywhere from eight to twelve weeks for trial.

Lead defense counsel Dale Rubin tells the court that they are trying to cut down the number of witnesses.

The court asks counsel about pre-screening jurors for that length of trial.

Counsel anticipate coming back on June 9th and setting the court clock at 0/90 on that date. The court asks the defendant, "Is that agreeable to you Mr. Gargiulo?" Gargiulo responds, "Yes, it is." The court orders, "So joined."

I don't have it in my notes, but I have a memory of the defense mentioning something to the effect of arguing some motions on that date. And that's it.

T&T Readers: I apologize for the lateness of this update. Mostly it's been due to real life responsibilities to my own health and Mr. Sprocket's. For those of you following Mr. Sprocket's recovery, he has returned to work full time with a different company.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Robert Durst - 3/15/15 Interview with LA Co. Deputy DA John Lewin

February 28, 2016
For those of you living in a cave, eccentric real estate heir Robert Durst (of The Jinx fame) was arrested in Louisiana on March 14, 2015. His arrest was initiated by a murder warrant out of Los Angeles. Durst was charged with first degree murder in the death of his long-time friend, Susan Berman. Berman was found shot in the back of the head in her Benedict Canyon home on December 24, 2000.

While in the Louisiana jail facility, the day following his arrest, Durst agreed to an interview with LA County Deputy DA John Lewin. Durst spoke with Lewin for about two hours and forty-five minutes. The interview was video and audio recorded.

The video and audio files were released to the public by the LA Co. District Attorney's office on December 16, 2016, via a motion filed with the court. That motion also includes a complete transcript of the recording.

T&T has uploaded the video to YouTube.

The video consists of two parts, a video file and an audio file. The video was made through a closed circuit camera in the interview room at the Louisiana jail. It did not contain any audio. The audio recording was a separate file, made by the LAPD Robbery Homicide Division.

T&T merged the audio and video recordings, which were slightly different lengths. Although the audio and video were in sync at the start of the recording, towards the end they are out of sync. Because of the wide viewing angle of the video, the participant's faces are not clearly visible.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Cameron Brown Appeal Update - Case Fully Briefed

4-year-old Lauren Sarene Key, murdered by her biological father
Cameron John Brown on 11/8/2000.

The website for the California Courts, Appellate Court Case Information indicates that Cameron Brown's appeal for his first degree murder conviction in the death of his 4-year-old daughter Lauren is fully briefed. Below is a screenshot of the last actions appearing on the docket for Brown's appeal.

California Courts, Appellate Courts Case Information,
Cameron Brown appeal docket.

Cameron Brown was convicted of first degree murder in the death of his 4-year-old biological daughter, Lauren on May 13, 2015. He was sentenced to life without parole on September 18, 2015. His appeal was filed the same day. California's Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation indicates that Brown is currently being held at California's Substance Abuse Treatment Facility at Corcoran State Prison, in Corcoran, CA.

Full T&T coverage of Brown's second and third trial can be found here.

With the case fully briefed, it's now a waiting game for oral arguments to be scheduled. That could easily take a year or more. To give you an example, the Stephanie Lazarus appeal was fully briefed on December 13, 2013. Oral arguments were not scheduled until June 11, 2015, eighteen months later. The Appellate Court published their decision on July 13, 2015.