Friday, April 29, 2016

Lonnie Franklin, Jr., "Grim Sleeper" Trial Update

Lonnie Franklin, Jr. 2/5/16
Photo Credit: Pool Camera, Nick Ut, AP

Friday April 29, 2016
Around 3:00 pm today, the prosecution and defense rested their cases. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday, May 2, 2016 at 9:15 am, and are expected to continue into Tuesday.

Although I missed most of this case, I will have a summary recap this coming Sunday night of what happened the last two weeks of trial.

If the jury comes back with a guilty verdict, the trial will continue with the penalty phase, where jurors will decide on the death penalty.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Kelly Soo Park Case Update

Kelly Soo Park, at a pretrial hearing in 2015
Photo Credit: Pool Camera

UPDATE 4/21/16 5:15 AM correction on time of release

The LA County Sheriff's website indicating Park's status has been updated. It indicates Park's actual release time on Wednesday was "22:17" which is 10:17 pm.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

It's my understanding that Kelly Soo Park, one of 15 defendants charged in a massive medical insurance fraud scheme [BA425357] has been bonded out of custody this morning.

On April 12, Judge Kennedy dismissed 20 counts of aggravated mayhem against 11 defendants on the larger indictment. The dismissal of these counts dramatically reduced the bail amount to $1.635 million for each defendant. On Friday, April 15, Judge Kennedy also dismissed 1 count of aggravated mayhem on the smaller indictment [BA435339j] against defendant Tatiana Arnold.

Park's bail was initially set at $18.5 million when she was arrested. At a 1275 bail hearing last year, Park's bail was reduced to 10 million. Park's defense attorney Mark Kassabian was prepared for his client to post bond out on Friday but the hearing was put over until Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning, Park's many supporters were on the 9th floor of the Criminal Justice Center waiting for Park's bail hearing. Bail bondsman Josh Herman, who bonded Park when she was on trial in 2013 for first degree murder of Juliana Redding was also present.

Although the prosecution team for the fraud case was all set up at the people's table to argue the bail hearings, they were asked to leave so the court could continue with the  402 evidentiary hearing from the "Grim Sleeper," Lonnie Franklin, Jr., case. That hearing had started Monday, continued all day Tuesday and is still in progress today.

Before Tuesday's afternoon session began, Judge Kennedy had an informal discussion with DDA Karen Nishita and Kassabian about how much time would be needed for the hearing. DDA Nishita indicated they would need about 1.5 hours. Judge Kennedy had her clerk arrange for Park's bail hearing to be heard by Judge Henry Hall,  Dept. 111.

Tuesday evening, I checked the LA County Sheriff's website. It indicated Park was still in custody .

This morning, inside Dept. 109 before court started, I overheard Mark Kassabian speaking to Judge Kennedy's clerk. I overheard the word "passport" and that it needed to be turned over to someone.  The last thing I heard Kassabian say to the clerk was, "...she just got out."

Although the Sheriff's website is not updated with Park's release time, her inmate information does indicate that her permanent housing was assigned at 8:54 am [a good indicator as to the time she was released], bail amount is reset to zero and that she is bonded.  Screenshots of her inmate information are below.

I will update this post when I get any new information.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Kelly Soo Park [Uwaydah et. al], Michael Gargiulo Updates

The previous post on this case can be found HERE.

UPDATE I 4/18/16  - edited for spelling, clarity; corrected number of counts dismissed on April 12; more coverage of Park case.
Friday, April 15, 2016
Hello T&T readers! After a two month absence, I am finally feeling well enough to go back to court and drop in on the latest Kelly Soo Park hearing.  If my coughing doesn't act up,

While the mainstream media was sleeping, on April 12, the defense in the Park/Uwaydah et. al case successfully argued their 995 motion to dismiss 20 counts of aggravated mayhem against 12 of the defendants. posted this report on that hearing.

The parties are back in court today to revisit the issue of bail. Many of the defendants on the larger indictment were able to get their high bails reduced to 10 million. With the mayhem counts dismissed it will be interesting to see how Judge Kennedy rules on bail reduction for those defendants that are appearing today.

Also on the docket today is a 1368 hearing for defendant Albert Harutyunyan, also known as the "Little Armenia" case. Harutyunyan is charged with four murders. One of Harutyunyan's defense attorneys, Pete Waimrin is here. I believe there may also be third hearing on another case due to the  attorneys I see in the well and gallery.

After this hearing, I hope to stop by the Public Information Office and get a copy of the minute orders on the Gargiulo case .

Kelly Soo Park
8:48 AM
The bail hearings are set for 9:30 am. Park's husband, Tom Chronister just arrived. Defendant Tatiana Arnold is here. Several Park supporters are in the gallery.  A silver-haired woman is sitting with Chronister in the gallery. I believe it's his mother. When I entered the criminal court building, Paul Turley's attorney, Benjamin Gluck was several steps ahead of me.

8:53 AM
More Park supporters arrive that I've seen at previous hearings.

8:59 AM
Terri Keith from City News drops in to get updated.  About two minutes later, Park's sister Kim arrives and takes a seat in the gallery. The first row is almost filled with Park supporters. Park's mother and aunt are here. Co-defense on the Harutyunyan case, Gregory Apt arrives and gives a not to his co-counsel Waimrin.

Prosecutor Amy Ashvanian on the Harutyunyan case arrives. More attorneys shuffle in. Benjamin Gluck is her, chatting another defense attorney up in the well.

DDA Ashvanian and Apt step outside to discuss the latest developments in their case.

9:06 AM
DDA Mathai arrives and heads directly to the prosecution table to sit with the rest of the prosecution team.

More counsel arrive and sit in the well and the jury box. There are two sheriff's sitting near the door to my left. There are two other deputies sitting in the back of the courtroom to my right. Judge Kennedy's regular bailiff is at his desk.

I'm guessing there are about 20 people in the gallery for the Park [Uwaydah] case.

9:17 AM
Counsel on the Harutyunyan case reenter the well.

9:19 AM
One of the defense counsel, Mr. Moss, representing defendant Jeff Stevens is using a walker. He has a protective boot on his foot.

9:20 AM
Marissa Gerber from the LA Times arrives.  Mark Kassabian, Park's attorney arrives.

9:28 AM
Another Case
The bailiff tells counsel to take their seats and all defense counsel to sit in the jury box.
I was right There is a third case on the calendar and it will be up first. The defendant is brought out.

Tony Brooklier arrives. He represents defendant Leticia Lemus in the Park / Uwaydah matter.

Judge Kennedy takes the bench. The case is called. DDA Louis Avila is for the people. I recognize the defense attorney, but I miss his name and the defendant's name.

A stay has been issued by the court of appeals, so nothing can be done on the case until the court of appeals rules.  And the hearing is over quickly.

9:36 AM Albert Harutyunyan

Harutyunyan will be up next. They are ensuring they have an Armenian interpreter.

Now there are three sheriff's deputies to my left.

Hart is brought out. The interpreter is sitting with him, surrounded by his counsel.

The case is called. Appearances are stated. DDA Jonathan Chung is DDA Ashvanian's co-counsel.

Both reports from doctors feel the defendant is competent to stand trial. There is a disagreement whether he is competent to represent himself. Two doctors examined him. One report says yes, one report says no.

Apt: He wishes to represent himself.  Judge Kennedy states she needs to schedule a hearing on that issue.  Different case law is mentioned as to whether there needs to be a jury trial to determine competency as to representing himself.

Judge thinks there are some issues as to whether the defendant is competent to represent himself.

Even if he is found competent, Judge Kennedy doesn't think it is in his best interests. There's the language issue. She knows the defendant is distrustful of his two counsel, and the court system. She is requesting another report, to tip the scales. The court states there is definitely something going on (mentally).

The one doctor who does not feel he is competent, could not pin an exact diagnosis to back up their conclusion.

Defense suggest that they all meet, to suggest someone to interview the defendant for another evaluation.

The interpreter is talking in Armenian, translating what Mr. Apt is saying.

They will return in two weeks to update the court. Counsel will get together to arrange a third doctor. Criminal proceedings will remain suspended until a third doctor's report is received.

Kelly Soo Park et. al
Arnold case will be next. Ellyn Garafalo for the defendant.

[We are in the midst of 995 regarding Arnold and the single charge of mayhem against Arnold. This is on the smaller indictment.]

DDA Chon: There is probable cause to believe that Peter Nelson performed surgery on one of the victims.

[Note: At this point in the proceeding, my laptop died and my back-up battery was not working. I had to revert to hand notes.  I did not have time to transcribe these notes until 4/17. Sprocket]

DDA Chon is continuing with her rebuttal argument that I believe was started on April 12.

DDA Chon references a document submitted in the defense brief. "Based on their [defense] own exhibit, a PA [physician's assistant; Chon is referencing Peter Nelson, who is alleged to have performed surgeries with no supervision] can only perform parts of a surgery he was trained on and that was not the case here," Chon contends.

Judge Kennedy asks, "[She's a direct aider and abettor to mayhem?"  DDA Chon replies, "Let me rephrase. She was a co-conspirator. ... She put her name on shell companies ... laundered money ... restructured companies. ... Rose Kelly testified these meetings would take place while surgeries were going on. ...."

She [Rose Kelly] testified at these meetings they would discuss the medical board's investigation and ways they could hide monies. The goal, as stated by Ms. Kelly was to push people to have surgery and make money.

"Ms. Arnold was a part of that. ... Ms. Arnold had knowledge because Uwaydah was in the meetings ... and [Peter] Nelson performed all parts of the surgery."

DDA Chon then references something in her moving papers and reads that into the record. The people are finished and Ms. Garofalo gets up to rebut the prosecution's argument.

This allegation was in regards to Ms. Pope [victim]. The court has already found that Peter Nelson [did not? specifically?] intend harm. 

Garofalo continues, "Not a witness testified in the grand jury other than Ms. Pope as to who performed the surgery. ... There was no extended testimony introduced at the grand jury to support this allegation [aggravated mayhem]. ... Dr. Brody testified at the grand jury that there was no way to determine when the tendon detached. ... [One] cannot infer aggravated mayhem from this scar. ... Ms. Pope was not referred by a capper ... no expert medical testimony in their grand jury or anything that comes close to aggravated mayhem."

Ms. Garofalo also argues that the co-conspirator theory fails.

Judge Kennedy rules. "As I indicated before where we talked about this count ... [there's] no evidence Ms. Pope was a capped patient.  ... According to her own testimony, she had a shoulder injury. ... The surgery was necessary. ... Apparently it wasn't performed too well and she and Ms. Arnold tried to settle a malpractice claim. ... It is unclear from the record who performed the cutting. Surgery notes say Dr. Uwaydah ... [other names are mentioned as being present] and Dr. Uwaydah was there ... Even though the nurse [stated? testified?] that it was impossible for all those doctors to be in there ... I don't see that testimony as helpful. ... It's not even clear the surgery was fraudulent. ... There no evidence that Ms. Arnold was present in surgery or that she ... Count number 75 is dismissed. ... The other counts remain."

The court asks what they want to do next.

Benjamin Gluck informs the court that the need to at least waive time. They need to address bail.

The court brings up a completely different issue that she feels needs to be addressed first.

Judge Kennedy begins, "You know that, ... lawyers working for the court ... and reviewed a lot of records and [this was done] prior to the case here and filed .... when it was with Judge Fidler. ... Are those records part of discovery turned over to the defense?"

DDA Ma answers, "No. ... Judge Fidler was going to go over that and determine ... nothing was ever told to the people ..."

Gluck responds, "Because the people chose not to disclose the search warrant ... in camera ... he said he would turn over to the defense and let them claim privilege."

[Note: I'm back covering the Lonnie Franklin, Jr. murder trial. I hope to have these notes complete much later tonight. Sprocket]

More to come........

Monday, February 29, 2016

Lonnie Franklin Trial Update & Notes From Sprocket

February 29, 2016
Over a week ago, I came down down with a bad case of the flu. Ten days later, I'm still battling with debilitating congestion in my lungs. I've been left with a chronic, deep cough that is not compatible to sitting in a courtroom while testimony is being presented.

Lonnie Franklin, Jr. Trial

The only other reporter I know that has been at the trial every day is LA Times reporter Stephen Ceasar, who has produced several stories already covering the trial.

During the past week, several criminalists, DNA analysts and at least one detective testified. On Monday February 22, I know that Dr. Lynne Herold completed her testimony about the evidence she collected from victim Bernita Sparks.

On Tuesday, February 23, Stephen Ceasar of the LA Times reported that Supria Rosner, a criminalist with the LAPD testified that DNA found on victims Barbara Ware and Bernita Sparks matched the defendant. Additionally, Cristina Gonzalez, a criminalist with the LA County Sheriff's Department, also testified that DNA evidence recovered from the body of fifteen-year-old victim Princess Berthomieux matched the defendant.

On Wednesday, February 24, the LA Times reported that criminalist Gonzalez continued her testimony to the jury, stating that DNA recovered from the body of victim Lachrica Jefferson matched the defendant. Additionally, LAPD Detective Donald Hrycyk took the stand to recount responding to an alleyway crime scene on August 12, 1986. The victim was later identified as Henrietta Wright.

According to the LA Times article:
About a year later, he began investigating the death of Bernita Sparks, whose body was found in a trash bin in the 9400 block of South Western Avenue.
He noticed similarities between the two victims, he told the court. Both were young African American women who were shot in the chest and apparently dumped in or near South Los Angeles alleys, he said. Neither was found with identification, and both seemed to be intentionally hidden.
 There may be some T&T readers who recognize Detective Hrycyk's name. Hrycyk was Stephanie Lazarus's senior partner in the LAPD's Art Theft Detail unit when she was arrested for murdering Sherri Rae Rasmussen.

Thursday, February 25, Hrycyk continued his testimony. Then the sole surviving victim of alleged serial killer Franklin took the stand to testify. KFI's Eric Leonard reported:
A woman who survived an encounter with the serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper said Thursday she heard and felt nothing when she was shot.
“Everything just went eerily quiet,” Enietra Washington told jurors. 
“Then I saw the blood on my shirt and I thought, he did shoot me,” and said she remembered trying to figure out how to get away.
“When I got ready to reach for the door, he said don’t touch that door bitch or I’ll shoot you again,” she said.
Washington said she was in and out of consciousness after she was shot once in the chest in the front seat of a customized orange Ford Pinto in South L.A. in 1988. 
Below are the reports from several other media outlets that covered Enietra Washington's testimony.

February 25, 2016 LA Times article
February 26, 2015 Washington Post article
February 26, 2016. People Magazine
February 26, 2016 Inquisitor
February 25, 2016 ABC 7
February 26, 2016. KFI's Eric Leonard

T&T readers, I am trying to get well as fast as I can so I can return to court. I'm hopeful I'll get a handle on this cough this week and can return to cover the trial before the end of the prosecution's case-in-chief. That's my goal.

A Sprocket Note
While I'm recovering, I've been watching Mrs. Ficus, a female Allen's hummingbird who built a nest in my potted ficus tree on my back patio. Hummingbirds are amazing creatures that live on the edge of life's existence. The average hummingbird weighs less than a dime.

Four years ago in 2012, a hummingbird built a nest in the same trees, right before the start of the Lazarus trial. An Anna's hummingbird built a nest in the trees in 2013 and now after a several year hiatus, an Allen's has returned to nest again.  Hummingbird nests are tiny. They measure about 1.5 inches by two inches. They are built from plant materials, lichen, dandelion fluff (special, raw cotton that I put out for them) and held together with spider webbing.

I can see her nest from my bedroom patio doors. I discovered her nest on February 6, and watched her put the finishing touches on it.  Can you see the nest in the photo below? It's up high, directly over the edge of the left window.

On February 10, Mrs. Ficus laid her first egg. The eggs are less than 1/2 inch long.

Hummingbird hens will rest one or two days before laying their second egg. Mrs. Ficus laid her second egg on February 12 and egg sitting begins. Hummingbird incubation can take anywhere from 15 to 18 days, depending on temperature and conditions.

February 24, 2016, Mrs. Ficus on her nest.

February 28, I climbed a ladder and checked the nest. One of the eggs had hatched, probably the day before. The other egg looked strange.  It looked like it was cracked on the bottom, but it wasn't moving.

I couldn't see inside the nest very well so I got down off the ladder and got a flashlight. When I came back, the second egg, the nestling was shaking his head back and forth until the eggshell came off his head. That's him, that little black dash just to the right of the broken eggshell.

I put on one of Mr. Sprocket's headlamps and finally got a good light on the nest. The older nestling, Leaf, is on the left. Twig, who just hatched, is on the right.

From hatching, hummingbirds will take about 21 to 25 days to fully fledge and leave the nest.

I hope you enjoyed the hummingbird photo essay. Below are links to two live webcams on hummingbird nests.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sherri Rae Rasmussen 2/7/1957 - 2/24/1986

Sherri at home, December 1985.


Matthew McGough is writing a book about Sherri's life and murder.

Sherri Rasmussen was an exceptional person.

Over the last several years I have interviewed many of Sherri’s family members, friends, and colleagues. Thirty years after Sherri’s tragic death, her absence continues to reverberate in their lives.

Sherri’s life was remarkable for how much she accomplished in her twenty-nine years, and for how humble she was. Sherri was a high achiever from the time she was a little girl. Sherri graduated from high school at age sixteen, college at twenty, and became a nurse the same year. At twenty-three, she earned her master’s degree in nursing from UCLA.

Despite being younger than many of her nursing colleagues, first at UCLA Medical Center and later at Glendale Adventist Medical Center, Sherri’s personal nature commanded trust and respect. Those who worked with Sherri remember her as an extremely competent nurse, always calm under pressure, and a natural leader. Sherri cared deeply about her patients and about the profession of nursing, to which she dedicated her adult life.

Sherri loved her family and friends and was beloved by them. Many people have told me about the profound impact Sherri had on their lives, how she encouraged them to do their best, and how her example continues to inspire them, even all these years later.

Jackie Robinson once said, “A life is not important, except in the impact it has on other lives.” By this measure, it makes perfect sense that Sherri is remembered so fondly by so many.