Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sucked into the Vortex of a Murder Trial: Attend at your own risk.

Before I get into my story, I need to make some acknowledgements. Harriet Ryan, the Court TV blogger inside the courtroom got engaged over this past weekend. I would like to extend "Best Wishes" to Harriet and her fiance. Next, a belated shout out to Anthony Samuelson for concentrating his entire Saturday, August 25th entry on me. Thank You, Anthony. And, another very belated Thank You to Mick Brown of the UK Daily Telegraph, for mentioning me in his August 21st piece. I've tried and tried to get a direct link to the article to work, but Blogger is frustrating me at every turn. I'm using the same link that Kim, of The Darwin Exception used for her piece, and I just can't get it to work for me. However, you can go to Kim's entry I've linked above, and get to the article from there.

Second, a big thank you to all the Court TV posters who have been emailing me and sending me private messages (PM's) about my decision to walk away from the trial. Your support has been heartfelt and wonderful to hear, and I apologize that I am now a week behind in answering all my messages you have sent. Please know that I'm not ignoring you, and as soon as I can, I will write back.

Third, a shout out to a great Court TV poster, Dig, who shared with us this oh-my-gawd image of Linda Kenney Baden and Spector at the trial. Kudos to the pool photographer who captured this image. I challenge my readers to come up with the best caption for this photo. There will be a prize: Acknowledgement on the blog as "Best Caption Writer" for the week.

I've been gathering my thoughts for over a week now, to write about what has happened to other public individuals like me, who have attended high profile trials and written about them, either on blogs or the Court TV message board. I found some common themes, and I thought it would be interesting to point them out. I have to say that, unfortunately, not one individual wanted to have their Court TV member name used in this story, much less their real names. I agreed to protect all identities as best I could, just to get this story out there. Please understand that if you decide to leave a comment on the blog about this entry, and you identify a Court TV member hat name or real life name involved, your comment will not be published.

The Scott Peterson Trial
Scott Peterson wasn't any one famous, but the sudden disappearance of his very pregnant wife, Laci Peterson, created a media frenzy that continued long after he was convicted of first degree murder. During the Peterson trial, the Internet crime forums swelled with new members wanting to learn more about this case and talk about it with other interested people. Because the trial was not televised and under a gag order, the pubic could only rely on the media, and other public individuals who vied for one of the coveted seats, and took the extra step to write about what they observed. Many people waited anxiously for any report on the proceedings inside the courtroom, specifically wanting information on how the jurors were responding to testimony as well as what went on in the gallery. The interest that the general public had was so intense, that many people across various crime forums pooled their financial resources to purchase a daily transcript of the trial. It was offered to anyone willing to pay the $10.00 a month subscription. Users were given their own password to read the transcripts on a web site as they became available. The publics' demand for information inside the courtroom, ignited this new and unprecedented form of information gathering and sharing.

At the time, I was not a regular poster on the Court TV forums. There were however, several Court TV posters and a blogger or two, who made the trip to Redwood City several times to try to get a public seat at the trial. From what I've been told, there was a lottery everyday for the public, and there were always more people wanting to get in to see the trial than there were available seats. Interestingly, it was at the Redwood City Courthouse that a regular trial attendee named Valerie Harris, initially met Daniel Horowitz, who first came to prominence as a frequent Court TV legal analyst covering the trial. Harris, who had no legal training whatsoever, later volunteered her services to Horowitz when he was Susan Polk's defense attorney. When Horowitz's wife Pamela Vitale was brutally murdered, Harris stayed on to assist Susan Polk after a mistrial was called in the first proceeding.

There were two beloved Court TV women posters, who went to Redwood City several times to attend this trial and write about it on the Court TV message boards. Whenever they got a seat at the trial, they wrote about what they observed on their laptops from inside the courtroom. They had lots of fans, which in turn brought out many detractors. Both women got sucked into the vortex of that trial, although it was never their intention to be dragged into it. Here's what happened.

In August of 2004, on one trip to Redwood City, neither one of the women got a seat in the public lottery. Instead of a wasted trip, they decided to drive around to the various points of interest in the trial, such as the San Francisco Bay, Scott Peterson's warehouse, and the Peterson home in Modesto. From the comfort of their car, one of the women took many photographs of these points of interest, including several of the house and the driveway. When they got back home from their trip, the 50 plus images were put up on the Internet using a photobucket account, and a link posted on the Court TV forums for everyone to see the photos. In a few of the last images taken, one could clearly see in the driveway, a half used bag of cement. For those of you who think the DA's office or the local Sheriff's don't have the time or the staff to read the message boards, think again. The local Sheriff's office saw the photos and realized that these images were potential evidence that could be used to refute the defense's expert who testified on the cement. This information was passed onto the DA's office. The woman who actually took the photos was subpoenaed for the State's rebuttal case to authenticate the photographs. Gloria Alred, who was covering the trial as a legal analyst, offered to assist her and her friend as their legal counsel pro bono. Alred has made a name for herself by only performing pro bono work.

The women traveled together back to Redwood City for the photo taker's day in court. At the last minute, Mark Geragos, Peterson's lead defense attorney stipulated that the photographs were authentic and taken on the specific date the women said they were taken, thus alleviating the photographer from having to take the stand. Both women were, at times, harassed and threatened by other trial attendees throughout the trial. There were many unfounded accusations that were publicly made about them too, all of which I will not dignify by repeating them. They were completely outrageous. It should also be noted that ever since they were thrust into the limelight of this trial, they were also harassed on the Court TV message boards, and eventually stopped participating there altogether.

The Susan Polk Trial
In the Susan Polk trial, there were several Court TV forum members (collectively known as the "gavel groupies") who attended that trial on a regular basis and posted about it on the Court TV Susan Polk Forum. Once Polk decided to defend herself, Valerie Harris actually sat at the defense table with her. As part of the Polk defense, Harris was continually reading the Court TV message boards and bringing Court TV members post's to Susan. These posts were quoted throughout the trial as part of the defense strategy or, to make accusations towards some of the trial attendees in open court, clearly trying to intimidate them. Harris also participated on the Court TV message boards, posing as an impartial trial watcher trying to sway public opinion.

At one point in the trial, Polk pointed out one of the gavel groupies who had written something in jest about her. Judge Brady permanently ejected the Court TV poster from the courtroom. Brady then informed Polk and Harris that she could not control what the media, the newspapers or what someone writes on a message board. Still, that Court TV poster was just as embarrassed as I was when I was singled out in the Spector trial and falsely accused. Even more outrageous, Harris threatened the Court TV poster personally. Harris also gave a tour of the Polk house to some individuals who attended the trial, some of whom were posters on the Court TV message boards.

The Scott Dyleski Trial
At this time I have only received evidence that a few Court TV posters attended the Dyleski trial, but there may be more. Scott Dyleski was convicted of murdering Pamela Vitale, the wife of Daniel Horowitz. It should also be noted that Daniel Horowitz's current wife, who was almost a juror on the Polk trial, attended at least one of the Dyleski pretrial hearings with Harris. It's been verified by Esther Fielding that there was a public attendee at her son's trial who caused so much of an uproar in the gallery that they were actually called into the Judge's chambers. The consensus is, the individual was admonished for their behavior in chambers, verses publicly in the courtroom.

The Phil Spector Trial
Just in case anyone skipped over the fact, Roger Rosen made the following statement in open court, in a further attempt to try to get the Judge to eject me from the courtroom or, as many believe, intimidate me. This occurred right at the morning break, on Thursday, August 16, after I had already been publicly admonished by the Judge as the first order of business of the day. Special thanks to Court TV poster, kellabeck for the transcription.

RR: 15 seconds, your honor. It's been brought to my attention that some of the individuals who are covering the trial uh have directed some derogatory comments toward Mrs. Spector. And the family has asked me to bring this to the court's attention. The court can handle it any way it seems fit but it just seems to me-- you used a phrase a moment ago, we've got to get beyond this and I think there's just no room for that in this situation.

JF: I think I handled it. I wasn't told what the nature of the comments was. I was simply told that some people were expressing their opinions and that the jurors could overhear it and that's why I made the admonition I did so I think I have dealt with it.

RR: Thank you very much.

JF: If there's anything else, you let me know. We're in recess.

In Summation
I'm sure you can easily see the common thread running through most of these trials that was similar to the situation I experienced. Just like me, Court TV posters attended these high profile trials, wrote about them on the Court TV message boards and were somehow sucked into the vortex of the trial they attended through various means. There is another common thread that connects all of these trials that is not readily apparent to most people. And that is, W attended every single one of these trials. Yep. That's correct. While I was at the Spector trial, it was verified to me by two Court TV employees that W was at both the Peterson and Polk trials. I also received confirmation vial email, that W also attended parts of the Dyleski trial.

It has also been confirmed to me by various Court TV members, that W was a big presence on the Court TV forums that covered each trial, using several different member names on each board. In private messages to dini, W professed to be a personal friend of Valerie Harris. Who knows if that is true, or just W's perception of the relationship, or if this is a total invention to inflate W's self importance in the eyes of others. There are varying opinions as to how this individual was perceived on each one of the Court TV forums that discussed a case. It's also been confirmed to me that W's behavior at these other trials, mirrored precisely the behavior that I observed at the Spector trial. W consistently approached major players in each case, as well as those reporting on the trial. I think I need to point out that I found obvious evidence that under various member names on the Court TV message board, W often adopted the majority's position as to guilt or innocence of a particular defendant. Yet behind the scenes, unbeknownst to some members, there appears to be some evidence that W's allegiance was just the opposite. One has to wonder about the ultimate intent of this type of subterfuge.

You need to look no further than TV, the film industry and the best seller lists to understand that the general public will continue to have a fascination with murder, and murder trials. Like anything else that is reported on by the media, there will be the slightly bizarre characters who will also be drawn to these trials, desperately seeking their own 15 minutes, or gathering material, hoping to write a book and increase their tax bracket. My question would be, how can the courts balance the general publics' right to attend these trials, and at the same time, prevent the fringe element from using a murder trial to possibly disrupt the proceedings for their own self serving agenda.

Special thanks to my dear friend houdini, who helped extensively with the research and writing of this entry.

Update: Friday, August 31, 2:30pm
I was contacted via pm today by a Court TV poster who attended the Dyleski trial, who disagrees with Ms. Fielding about what happened in the courtroom during Scott Dyleski's trial. Thank you very much for contacting me. I received permission to quote the poster:

I attended all three weeks of the Scott Dyleski trial in Martinez. The judge did publicly chastise a court attendee (a retired schoolteacher) for talking too loudly. However, I know of no incident that "caused so much of an uproar in the gallery that they were actually called into the judge's chambers." You should not take anything that Esther Fielding says as the truth. She is the mother of the convicted murderer Scott Dyleski. More than that, she outright lied in court during her testimony. She also destroyed evidence by burning Scott's possessions, instead of turning them to the police.

The retired schoolteacher who was publicly admonished by Judge Barbara Zuniga (a magnificent judge; you would have liked her) did not post on CTV, as far as I know. Also, she was admonished NOT for speaking too loudly in court, but for talking loudly about the trial during lunch in a small restaurant near the courthouse WITHIN EARSHOT OF 2 JURY MEMBERS, both women, who then reported the incident to the sheriff deputy posted to the courtroom.


ctv_warhorse2 said...

Being a very long time member of the CTV message boards I saw all that you have described & can verify that you have written a very accurate account of the events. Since I am also in close contact with many of the CTV people who were covering these trials I know for a fact that the things you described inside the courtrooms happened just as you said. I could also add a few other events that happened. I sincerely hope you attend the closings & possibly the verdict because I miss your commentary of court happenings. And besides if you stay away then Rosen succeeded in intimidating you out of the courtroom. No matter what your decision is you will always remain a great memory of this trial for me.

Sprocket said...

Thank you warhorse! We'll see what happens come closing arguments.

Regarding the story. Because I promised to protect identities, I had to limit my story to I wrote.

Suzi said...

Hi Sprocket,

I appreciate everything you write and your accuracy. What I'd like to know is this: What's in it for W to take the side of the defense in these high profile cases? I can understand someone believing in the concept of not guilty. But come on? Peterson, Dyleski, Polk and Spector - they're all "tragic" victims of prosecution teams gone wild?

Just what is W getting out of this? Is she that hard up for PR type work? The mind reels . . .

houdini said...

my caption:

"sigh....i dreamed about you again last night.....wearing your batman suit!"


ctv_warhorse2 said...

My nominations for the caption for the photo of LKB & PS are----Now Phil, when the verdict comes in remember not to flip your wig.
Phil, don`t wig out on us when the verdict is read.

houdini said...


if i may comment on your question. it's not a matter of whose side she takes as she has been all over the map. the real question is what is SHE getting from any of it?

but she seems to "appear" to take a side so that she gains legitimacy by posing, even while she doesn't really give a flip as to the defendant OR the outcome.

THAT tells me it's really for her personal gain and the trial and defendants are just the means.

my opinion only

leedeebug said...

Hi Sprocket!
I have been a huge fan of your blog for weeks! I thank you for all your efforts and hard work over the past 4 mos.
I found this particular entry rather interesting. Why would she "need" to be visible at all of the trials you had mentioned??? It seems she has some very serious social/emotional health issues. I am glad you had sense to steer clear of her, and i probably would have done the same thing!

re? the "oh-my-gawd image of Linda Kenney Baden and Spector". It seems to me she is whispering to him, " up tour fly"!

Thanks again for tour efforts. I like many others, appreciate all that you have done, and look forward to your next entry!

Scottie said...

Regarding the photo of LKB and PS (I actually wish I hadn't had to see it, but..) "I'll bring the wine and you bring the gun, my tiny little one". Love your blog and look forward to it each day. Thank you for all the brain power and time you put into this.