UPDATED 8:00 PM Added notation on Gargiulo's appearance.
UPDATED: Added photos
September 25, 2014
Mr. Sprocket came to court today to take notes for me on the Michael Gargiulo case. It’s partly a favor for all help I’ve been giving him, but mostly because he has recently acquired a new client, a series of restaurants and one of the locations is in downtown LA. After court he will introduce himself to the restaurant manager and see what the parking situation is like for the White Whale Work Truck.
For those of you who have been asking, Mr. Sprocket is doing fantastic since his heart attack May 30. He has even weaned himself off of two of his medications. We are both very grateful for all the love and support send our way.
Deciding Where to Start
We first step inside Dept. 108. I greet Gargiulo's two investigators, Chris Nicely and Christian Filipiak who are sitting in the back row. There is a preliminary hearing in progress on another case that Filipiak is assigned. There are several members of the public in the gallery for the prelim. I inquire with Filipiak if Gargiulo will be filing any motions today. Filipiak is not aware of any. It's a good guess that the case will just be continued because of the prelim.
I see DDA Garret Dameron in the well of the court, but I miss catching his eye. DDA Daniel Akemon hasn't arrived yet. I tell Mr. Sprocket to move up to the second row when Gargiulo comes out. He moves up there imediately. I'm hoping he will take good notes, but this is Mr. Sprocket. Note taking is not his forte.
I then leave Dept. 108 for Dept. 107 for the Samuel Little sentencing and the Cameron Brown pretrial hearing. I know that in Dept. 107, I will be allowed to use my laptop for both cases.
Defense attorney Michael Pentz, Samuel Little (Pool photo)Samuel Little Sentencing
I had previously attended a pretrial hearing in this case in January. I was hoping to attend the trial, because I've always wanted to cover one of DDA Beth Silverman's cases. Real life responsibilities meant it didn't work out this year. Silverman is co-prosecuting Lonnie Franklin, Jr., aka the "Grim Sleeper" with DDA Marguerite Rizzo, so there is a chance I may get to attend one of her cases in the future.)
Samuel Little, who accumulated rap sheets in 24 states over a 56 year period, was linked to the murder of three women by DNA. Little was convicted on September 2, 2014, of the cold case murders of Carol Alford, 41, Audrey Nelson, 35, and Guadalupe Apodaca, 46 from July 1987 to September 1989.
Inside Dept. 107. I note there is a new court reporter. DDA Silverman is here. Judge Lomeli is behind his clerk, David's desk. He is not in his robes. There are signs on the rows in the gallery. Second row for media; third row for the public. The victim's families are in the first row.
DDA Craig Hum, who is prosecuting Brown, is chatting with a younger blond woman in the well. I believe it's one of his clerks or an intern. Attractive LAPD Cold Case Detective, Mitzi Roberts is also in the well. Detective Roberts use to be partnered with Rick Jackson, who is now retired.
Now Beth is chatting with members of the victim's families. Some of the women in the first row are wondering if they can show photos of their loved ones. Yvonne, from the DA's office is standing right beside Beth. At some point, Beth is sensitive with the women in the front row. She shows them where they will stand at the podium, and that she will be standing right beside them while they are giving their impact statements.
There are three cameramen in the jury box, one of them being award winning photographer Nick Ut, from the Associated Press. Most judges allow the filming of sentencing, so I'm not surprised that there is a camera here.
There’s a bit of chatter between Beth and a few people in the gallery second row. Another camera operator shows up with his equipment and joins the other photographers in the jury box. The defense attorney comes out from the holding area. Media reports indicate Little's attorney is Michale Pentz, a be-speckled, slightly graying, youngish looking man.
DDA Silverman is now chatting with Detective Roberts, and DDA Hum listens, smiling. Judge Lomeli’s bailiff is giving instructions to a second bailiff. It appears he is pointing out family members to him.
The bailiff gives notice to people to turn their cell phones off. Judge Lomeli comes out in his robes. The defendant is in a wheelchair, in a brown dark green jumpsuit. Court is called to order. People v. Samuel Little. The court indicates the parties are here for sentencing. "I understand there are certain individuals who want to address the court?"
Mr. Pentz informs the court that the defense does not want to be heard. The court indicates they will proceed with impact statements. Little's defense attorney Mr. Pentz had turned his chair around, so that he can give his full attention to Ms. Nelson while she makes her statement. The first woman stands before the podium. She states her name, "Sherri Nelson, Audrey Nelson's sister. ... Audrey's life was taken August 14, 1989."
She pauses. Beth is there to support her. "I never dreamed this would be my sister's story. ... I remember Audrey as a loving and caring sister. ... She doted over me as I was 10 years younger. ... She had a degree in cosmetology. ... She would fix my hair in [braids?]?"
She disappeared, and the family didn't hear from her for over four years. At some point, they learned she was a prostitute. More years passed and they got a call that she had been burned in a fire. 70% of her body had third-degree burns. Audrey recovered and had a daughter, Pearl, that her parents adopted.
Sherri continued, "I received a call in August of 1989, to positively identify my sister. ... She had burn scars I told them ... that matched the coroner's report. ... I cannot image the tragedy that [befell my sister??]."
As I watch Sherri give her impact statement, her left hand, holding her written statement, shakes uncontrollably. She continues to read her statement quickly, and I can't keep up with it. She starts to sob. "This was never supposed to happen. ... I hope to God I never have to bury a child of my own."
She had a conversation with her brother about contacting the LAPD Cold Case unit. Within days of that (conversation?) they received a call that there was a DNA match.
I watch the expression on Beth Silverman's face. She looks quite sad. Sherri thanks the detectives who worked on her sister's case. Tim Marcia, Rick Jackson, Mitzi Roberts. She also thanks Yvonne [Santiago?] "...who without her support, would be impossible."
Ms. Nelson mentions that she is here with her mother, but I'm not sure I see Audrey's mother in court. Sherri states that Audrey ".... was a very agile and athletic child. She took tap and ballet and that she was very graceful. ... She worked on the farm and milked the cows and was very gentle with them. ... Whatever Audrey touched, it turned to beauty. ... Her father went to the grave not knowing who took his daughter's life." Beth Silverman interjects and asks Sherri how old Audrey's mother is. "Eighty-nine," Sherri answers.
Sherri then reads a statement from her brother, whose first name I miss recording. The brother's statement mentions the time they lived on the farm together, and about the wonderful times he had with his sister. "Innocent times, that he will always cherish. Audrey was only one year older." The brother's statement also thanks the detectives by name.
These victim impact statements are painful to listen to, and it's always been difficult for me to remain detached, and not let the tears form in my own eyes. I'm rarely successful.
Sherri is finished and another woman stands in front of the podium to speak. It's Audrey's daughter, Pearl Nelson. "My name is Pearl Nelson. Audrey Nelson is my mother. ... She's a beautiful soul." Pearl then tells the court about her mother. "She had a heart attack. ... She was badly burned in a fire. ... She gave birth to me. ... I was in her arms for a year before she gave me up to her parents. ... she did this to give me a better life. ... I was 13 when the police showed up and that she had been murdered. ... and no one knew who had done this. ... What I do know is that I responded to her and I missed her daily. ... She loved me and I loved her and a reunion had been taken away from me."
I believe Pearl then states that Audrey had two other children that are unknown to her.
"I have a 9 year old daughter who I have named after her," Pearl adds. "I'm here for all the other families like me who are broken, damaged by Samuel Little. ... This brings me closure today, to see him sentenced and to go away. ... And this is a great justice that has been done."
The next woman steps forward and is asked to state her name.
"Lori Burrows your honor. ...I'm one of the few survivors. I didn't have anything prepared today. ...
So many beautiful people who have lost so much. ... I so sorry to everybody here, who have lost so much. ... He will not rob us any longer. ... I claim this back in Jesus' name."
Another woman steps up to the podium. It's Guadalupe Apodaca's niece.
"Diana Flores, from [?] ... I was was the first family member, [?] ... came to me with photos of Guadalupe. ... I didn’t have a clue. I knew her, and she didn’t deserve to die the way she died.
And my nephews didn’t deserve to grow up without a mother."
Diana sobs. (Even as I write this, I am back in that courtroom, listening to the family members cry.)
Diana continues, "But I know he won’t hurt nobody ever again."
Another woman steps forward and states her name.
"Mary Louise Frias. ... The man that that took my godmother, my mother's sister."
I believe at this point, after Ms. Frias tells Little that he has no soul, Little speaks out, "I didn't do it!" I believe Judge Lomeli addresses Little.
Ms. Frias continues, "God will judge you and he will be there. ... Thank you for all the hard work you've done to bring this man to justice. If it wasn't for the DNA ... we wouldn't be here today."
A man steps up to the podium. He states his name is Tony Zambrano and the son of Guadalupe. He looks over at Little and gives him a very hard stare. "I'm here to tell this piece of shit, you fucked up!"
I believe Judge Lomeli admonishes Mr. Zambrano about his language.
Tony continues, "You took something very dear to me. ... Like I said you messed up big time. ...
I’ve been looking for you for a very long time. ... I have friends in prison." Little says something back but I'm not quick enough to get it. Mr. Zambrano yells back, "You hurt my mom! ... Fuck you!"
Little angerly responds, "I didn’t do nothing to your mom!"
More angry words are exchanged between Little and Mr. Zambrano. Mr. Pentz leans in and speaks to his client. It appears Little wants to address the court. I'm not sure who says it, possibly Little, but someone says, "I'm just going to tell the truth." Judge Lomeli addresses Little, "Just read your statement sir."
Little speaks out, "This conviction was brought on by lies, and liars coached by liars." Little then states something to the effect that he didn't get a fair trial because there was evidence that wasn't allowed in. Little also states that he was labeled a serial killer with no bodies. That this was a lynching based on speculation and that there was no proof. Little mentions shoe prints and ring marks along with other evidence that he states was withheld from the trial.
Little's rant is over and Judge Lomeli moves onto sentencing. Little was convicted of three murders and the special circumstance of multiple murders. Judge Lomeli sentences Little to three consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. That, in occurrence with special circumstances, he will compose consecutive sentences. Judge Lomeli reads the rules of the court to explain the continuing circumstances, mentioning the exceptional cruelty that his victims experienced. Judge Lomeli stated there were no mitigating factors. Three consecutive life terms, one for each count.
The court then continues with the fines that Little is ordered to pay and that he is to provide DNA samples. Judge Lomeli and Mr. Pentz go over the credits that Little acquired while in LA County custody. Mr. Pentz has calculated his credits as 624 days. Mr. Pentz states that he has already filed Little's appeal. There's nothing further from either party and the court states that they are in recess.
As Little is wheeled back into the jail area, he raises an arm in defiance. Family members in the gallery applaud as he is taken back into custody. Detective Roberts hugs many of the women and there are smiles and congratulations. Silverman informs the gallery that there will be a press conference on the 12th floor with the families. I'll have to miss that because the Brown hearing is next.
Samuel Little Sentencing Media stories
LA Times - South LA Serial Killer Sentenced (Includes photos of family members)
CBS News - CrimeSider
ABC News (video of some of Little's statement in court, family speaking to the media)
Inspiration Pont, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. A 120 ft cliff
where Brown is alleged to have thrown his 4-year-old
daughter, Lauren Sarene Key to her death, November 2000.
Cameron Brown pretrial hearing
After most of the people file out, Patty Brown, Cameron Brown's wife enters Dept. 107 and takes a seat in the second bench row near me. Patty asks me about the hearing. I give a brief explanation of the Little case and that this was his sentencing. Patty replies, "Well, happy they convicted someone who is actually guilty." I took this as a reference to her husband, whose innocence Patty firmly believes in. Patty, noticing my laptop shows me her laptop in her purse. She notes that mine looks “very light.” I explain to Patty that my laptop is a MacAir.
Aron Laub comes out from the back chamber rooms and take a seat at the defense table. Judge Lomeli's bailiff starts to wheel Samuel Little out and Mr. Laub temporarily moves to the jury box.
DDA Hum grees Laub. "Mr. Laub. How are you, sir? ... What are we doing?" Laub speaks so softly I miss what he replies. The defense investigator, Rick Ross is not here today. It appears Hum and Laub go over their calendars, deciding on a mutual date to return. Judge Lomeli, Laub and Hum speak off the record. I overhear a date. They decide on November 7th. Counsel and the court discuss possibly calling for a jury in late February and having the trial start in March. Three bailiffs are in the courtroom, preparing to bring Brown out. There must be a Sargent present, each time Brown is moved from one place to the next. I then overhear something about picking a Thursday, and then a new date, the second week of March 2015 for jury selection.
Judge Lomeli asks counsel, "How long this thing will last?" DDA Hum replies, "Six weeks." You can see that Judge Lomeli is surprised by the look on his face. "Really! That's a long time." I believe DDA Hum replies, "That how long the last trial..." There is a bit of banter and someone, possibly the clerk states "five-and-a-half" weeks. Hum jokingly replies, "What are you, Judge Perry?" As I saw during the Stephanie Lazarus trial, Judge Perry's reputation for efficiency is well earned.
Judge Lomeli asks if the case will be a "battle of the experts." Hum replies, "Certainly, that will be an aspect." Judge Lomeli asks for a date in November to bring him (Brown) back and to make the November date zero of 60. They will then tweak that, to go into March.
Judge Lomeli and DDA Hum chat a bit about what other cases Hum has in Lomeli's courtroom. Judge Lomeli comments on the defendant he just sentenced and then reminded counsel that they agreed to a pre-screened jury. Judge Lomeli asks Mr. Laub to sign the pre-screened jury document.
Brown is brought out and the cases goes on the record. I believe Judge Lomeli addresses Brown. It's something about a "threat of motion" after Mr. Laub was reappointed to his case. I believe this is in reference to what happened at the last pretrial hearing. The court states that he will deny Brown's motion, because he had already relinquished his pro per status. Judge Lomeli tells Brown that it appears to the court that Brown is trying to manipulate the system, and the court is not inclined to afford you any rights to represent yourself.
Judge Lomeli states that he had planned to go to trial in February, but the defense investigator is not available and won't be available until the second week in March. Court orders March 12, 2015 for pre-screend jury selection.
Brown speaks up. He thought the trial was going to be in April.
Judge Lomeli informs Brown they are going to bring him back on November 7th. Judge Lomeli informs Brown of his rights, that he has a right to proceed to trial in 60 days. "Do you agree for now to bring you back on November 7?" Brown replies, "Before I anser that, I would like to comment on ... I have a right to comment on my attorney." Judge Lomeli asks, "What y do you want to commet on?"
Brown explains, "The reason I went pro per ... the problems I had with the attorney. ...
It feels like I was working on the case more than he was."
Judge Lomeli states that this sounds like a Marsden issue, and he asks everyone to step outside the courtroom. When a defendant makes a Marsden motion, the prosecution and general public are excluded from the hearing.
Everyone moves out into the hallway. I ask Mr. Sprocket to update me on the Gargiulo hearing. Mr. Sprocket took horrible notes, and he's of no help. I'll have to find out what happened from other sources.
Judge Lomeli's bailiff comes out into the hallway and speaks to Hum. Apparently, Brown had to be removed from the courtroom. Patty Brown is confused, up in arms. She doesn't understand what has happened.
Deputy came out and told Hum that brown had to be removed from the courtroom.
Patty is confused, up in arms. She doesn’t understand what has happened. We file back into Dept. 107.
Brown is back in the holding area. I'm not positive, but I believe he is listening to the proceedings over a speaker system. Judge Lomeli is going over some facts. "Based on your representation to the court, Brown removed his pro per status on July 31 and you were reappointed." Laub agrees.
It is also noted, I believe by Mr. Laub, that there was a long period of time where the procedures were suspended due to the 1368 hearing. Judge Lomeli continues, "You said to this court you would be ready to go to trial the second week of March ." "Yes, your honor," Laub replies.
Judge Lomeli continues, "If an attorney seeks a reasonable [amount?] of time to [prepare?] and it is for the defendant's [benefit?] ... a continuance is over the defendant's objection is justified."
My understanding of what may have happened is, Brown was not willing to waive his right to a speedy trial. Brown must have objected to a delay and wanted his speedy trial. Judge Lomeli begins to cite California statutes for his ruling. The court states that in November, if the status is not changed, if the defense still needs the time, then the case will be continued and that the second week in March is a trial go date.
The court asks Mr. Hum if there's anything from him. Hum states that he was not privy to the proceeding. The court responds that it had nothing to do with Marsden. The defendant refused to waive time. Judge Lomeli rules that in order to provide the most effective counsel for the defendant, Mr. Laub can't be ready until March. Based on the cases the court cited, he can't go to trial until March.
I believe Mr. Hum brings up Brown's Faretta motion that was made when he was still pro per. Brown filed a Faretta motion and the court was not inclined to grant the Faretta right to represent himself. In the court's opinion, the defendant is manipulating the system. He's playing games at this point.
The court goes onto explain the Mr. Brown's behavior was disruptive during the private part of the hearing. He continually interrupted the court. He continually interrupted counsel. He failed to obey numerous orders to refrain from interrupting. The court admonished him more than once and informed him that he would be removed.
Judge Lomeli also stated that if this behavior continued, it would be possible that Brown would be removed from the courtroom for even his trial. He would be introduced to the jury but he would have to listen to the trial on speaker from the custody area. Judge Lomeli states they are not near that point yet. Brown has a constitutional right to be here. It was no necessary to remove him until towards the end. But even so, the fact that the court even had to do that is a further reeason for the court to deny pro per status.
Brown failed to obey court orders, further being disruptive. Judge Lomeli will cite other cases to support his ruling. If the defendant behavior is objectionable, the court can deny pro per status. "So that's where we stand at this point," Judge Lomeli adds. "So if nothing changes at this point .... I know Mr. Laub will be working on the case."
Judge will override the defendant's request for a speedy trial. I believe Mr. Laub tells the court that he is familiar with the case and knows what needs to be done.
The court states that they would prefer Mr. Brown be present for his hearings. The court wishes that Brown's attitude will change during the next court date and that he be present.
Hum states that he appreciates Mr. Laub's statements and asks that, if by any chance, the defense is ready prior to the second week in March, to please notify him and the court. Mr. Laub agrees and the court states they would be very thankful of that, if the trial could start sooner.
Hum brings up one more issue, and that's a motion Brown filed before his pro per status was relinquished. Hum states he doesn't know if Mr. Laub has read the motion, he only requests that if he wishes to go forward, to please notify the people on that issue. Hum states that the motion is almost identical to the motion that was made at the end of the last trial. Laub responds that at this time, he withdrawals that motion by Mr. Brown while he was in pro per status. He's doing that without prejudice. The court replies, "Very good." It's now up to Mr. Laub whether or not those issues are viable, and if so, he will refile them. And that's it. Next court date: November 7.
Everyone is getting ready to go and after I close my laptop, Judge Lomeli finally finds the case to cite that he was looking for, People v. Welch, defendant being obstructive.
Correction: The prosecution did not file a motion.
I consulted court sources to find out what happened in the Gargiulo hearing that I missed.
I believe Gargiulo tried to file a motion or brought up to the court about getting his pro per privileges back. Gargiulo no longer has access to the law library or the phones inside the law library to contact his investigators. Judge Ohta informed Gargiulo that this issue is not within his jurisdiction. Gargiulo has to take that up with the jail. Only the jail can give him his law library privileges back.
Judge Ohta gave Gargiulo two more weeks to file a 995 motion to dismiss. Gargiulo is ordered back in two weeks on October 10.
And that's it.
Update 8:00 PM:
I forgot to add that Michael Gargiulo's head is still shaved. It's a reasonable possibility that he shaved his head because of how hot it probably is at the Men's Central Jail. We've had some intensive heat waves here is Los Angeles recently.