Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kazuyoshi Miura Case: Pre-Trial Hearing April 23rd, Part II

Miura Hearing Coverage Continued:

On the 13th floor, I round the corner and catch the eye of Liz from the public liaison's office. She immediately knows I will want a public seat. I get a ticket and my number is 696782. They are collecting recording devices from the reporters. When I get off the phone with donchais I try to get an internet connection in the hallway of the 13th floor. Nothing I try works. I'm using our data plan, tethering my phone to my laptop, and I've had this problem before. I can get a good connection while in the ground floor cafeteria, sometimes on the 9th floor hallway but I also had difficulty getting a connection within the courtroom at the last Spector pre-trial hearing. I'm coming to the realization that when Spector round deux comes around, I will have to bite the bullet and pay my cell phone service provider for a monthly internet connection if I have any hope of blogging on that trial from the back row of Courtroom 106.

So, I go back to scribbling notes in a notebook. Liz and another cute woman from the Public Liaison's office (I know her by sight from Spector but for the life of me I can't remember her name; Miriam; Marilyn?) start to call off the reporter's names or the news service they are with, and ask them to line up. "Ted Kim; Terry Keith; Channel 7; KNX Radio; Channel 5." I see a video camera operator go in. The Asian camera guy that I've seen at Spector and Robert Blake's civil trial get's called and he picks up his various cameras.

"LA Japanese News; Fox 11." I see Miriam Hernandez is here and she gets in line. Liz and her coworker struggle with some of the Japanese names. Four LA County sheriffs are standing off to the side beside me, watching the entire proceedings. More reporters keep arriving. I go up to Liz and I ask her who will be arguing for the people. Will it be Pat Dixon? I had read in some articles that he had been assigned to this case. Liz tells me a name of a prosecutor who's name has been on most of the motions, but then says, "Don't quote me." I tell her I won't say anything until I see the individual for myself.

One of the sheriff's in the group beside me is a very pretty woman who starts to speak to the Japanese reporters in Japanese. After she is finished, I go up to her and ask her what she told them. She said that she just told them that once they are in the courtroom, they must stay in. There will be no "going in and out." Geragos is finally here and he goes into the courtroom via the clerk/judge's entrance.

The reporter for the LA Times finally shows up and I also see Sandi Gibbons. A cute woman reporter on assignment here has been standing beside me, and I point out Sandi to her and tell that this is the DA's office spokesperson. She also had to get a ticket. I explain to her the process and that it is always like this. To get a reserved seat she has to register with the court's Public Information/Liaison's office. She's quite frustrated because they are now letting in the reporters that are on the waiting list for a seat, and some of them are second and third seats with papers that are already inside the courtroom. They are letting these journalists in before the public. They then start calling numbers and my number is not called. It's at the very end that Alan Parachini decides that there is enough room to let everyone else in the hall inside. If I'm remembering correctly, the reporter mentioned something about moving the hearing to a larger courtroom, and I told her this "is" the largest courtroom. When I finally get inside, the reporter that I was talking to in the hall is in the courtroom a row or two in front of me. I see Sandi Gibbons in the very front row on the far right of the courtroom, the same side I am sitting on.

This gallery is much wider than Fidler's courtroom and it is almost packed but not quite. There is also extra seating in the well area for assistants to sit directly behind the attorneys presenting their case. Alan Parachini is addressing the courtroom and he is explaining the rules of this courtroom. "There are no tape recorders allowed on your person. No cell phones. No trio's, no photography, no blackberries. We have allowed one Japanese news agency to film." I look over and I see that with the camera operator, there are two still photographers also set up. Alan goes onto say that if you are caught using a device that is not allowed such a recorder or take a photograph you will be removed from the courtroom and no one from your organization will be allowed back in to cover this case.

It's official. Alan Jackson and Ric Ocampo will be arguing for the people. I'm estatic. I observe some reporters hand their business cards to Sandi Gibbons. A sheriff now gets up and speaks to the crowd. He asks if there is anyone who did not get a blue envelope package. (It's actually a folder that he holds up.) I'm thinking, "Hey, I didn't get one, lol!" He point's out various papers in the folder with the universal images of cell phones and recorders with the circle around them and a line drawn through them. He basically says the same thing Alan Parachini said a few moments earlier.

In this courtroom, the prosecution is sitting on the right and the defense on the left. It's just the opposite of Judge Fidler's courtroom. It's now 1:35 pm and the judge finally takes the bench. Back in the far left of the well, I see a few ladies standing and one of them is Wendy, Judge Fidler's clerk. The Judge is Steven K. Van Sicklen.

Judge Van Sicklen starts off by saying he "...respects the fact that there is a significant interest in this case. We take the rules that apply to the media very seriously. We've allowed a camera and two still photographers." He stresses what Alan Parachini and the sheriff also said about no cell phones, no recording devices but goes onto to point out that since he has now mentioned this on the record, if anyone violates these rules then they could also be liable for prosecution for violating his directive.

Geragos is on the record for the defense, Alan Jackson and Rick Ocampo for the people. Geragos is presenting a motion to quash the arrest warrant. Van Sicklen states that he has read all of the motion papers that have been submitted, and Geragos is asked to stand up and address the people's response to his motion.

He starts off by talking in California penal code numbers, 656 and 793 and that each one operates differently. Geragos mentions the Martinez case ruling out of San Diego. He also brings up the amended 2004 law, and that there is nothing in there about applying this law retroactively. Specific areas of the penal code are mentioned and I get lost in the details of what he's trying to argue. In Geragos argument, "656 applies not 793."

Alan Jackson gets up to speak. I know he's going to present a great argument. "The reason we are all here is because he committed a murder in California. While we're not there (in trial?) yet, Mr. Miura is glaringly absent." Jackson brings up another section of the penal code 977b and says something to the effect that every proceeding "starts and stops there. It's not a willy nilly procedure." It's mandatory in all cases. The defendant must appear in court. Each time, the defendants body must be in the courtroom. He must come to court to appear or waive his presence. Even to waive his presence he has to appear before the court to waive it. He must be here at all stages of the proceedings. You can't possibly ignore this statue. Overturning these decisions are legion. It's to protect the defendant's right. It's our opinion that ends the argument. 977 begins and ends the argument."

Geragos stands to address the people's argument. "It's just plain wrong. 973 bars the people from prosecuting Miura. They have no jurisdiction. I have a notarized waiver from Mr. Miura."

The Judge asks about the next date in Saipan and it's May 28th. Saipan is waiting to see what happens in California. Van Sicklen addresses Geragos. "Mr. Jackson is correct. Unless we did something to his (Miura) detriment.... when can you litigate it? Can you do it pre-arraignment? Or does it actually have to go to trial? I've been wondering if you can do it before arraignment itself."

Gerago's gets back up and says 973 bars institutions from illegal prosecutions. (Those are not his exact words but it's something to that effect.) Van Sicklen says he agrees with the people's 656 argument, but he doesn't know about 793. When Geragos gets back up to argue, you can tell there is quite a bit of irritation in his voice. "They (656 and 793) were amended in tandem!!" he says with an exasperated tone.

Van Sicklen says something to the effect, "If 793 is an immediate (?) statute, and we have someone thousands of miles away.....what is your opinion Mr. Jackson and why, because of 793...???" Jackson replies that he (Miura) must make arguments in person because of 977. "The defendant can't phone in the defense. He can't say, I don't want to appear because it's inconvenient."

Van Sicklen responds that the extradition is not before the court, and he doesn't really want to discuss that since it is not in any of the motion papers. But that is at the heart of the matter. The motion to quash, the complaint and the underlying warrant all goes to the extradition.

Geragos gets up and argues again the differences between the three statues. Stricklen states that Geragos makes a very interesting argument, and you can see that it appears that he's wavering a bit to Geragos' side. Earlier, I thought he was going to rule in favor of the people, but Geragos has won some ground with the judge at this point. Then Jackson gets up and does what he does best. He explains that the extradition is at the heart of the matter.

Jackson says, "Once the ball starts to roll, it can't be undone." He presents I think three case law examples about extradition between states and also gives an example almost exactly like this case. The judge listens and apparently is swayed. "I don't want to rush into this ruling. I want to be as pragmatic as possible." The attorney's and the judge hash out a return date. Van Sicklen wants the people to address Geragos's 973 arguments. A date of Friday, May 9th at 1:30pm is set to argue this matter again. All paperwork (motions) are due on Monday of that week, which would be May 5th. And that's it.

The reporters slowly exit the courtroom and I overhear that there will be a press briefing on the Temple Street plaza. And I get confused as to where that is and it suddenly dawns on me that this is the front of the building. I've always entered the building from the back, on 1st Street. I step back into the courtroom just as Alan and Ric are at the foyer and I touch Jackson's arm and tell him, "Great argument." He reflexively says, "Thank you," and then a second later, recognizes me. He then tells me, "I was just reading an article about you!" At first I thought, Did I get some bad press somewhere? but Jackson goes onto say that it was the ABA Journal article and then he asks me what did I compare him to a dog or something? I'm struggling with what he's talking about and then I remember. I explain to Mr. Jackson that the ABA article attributed a statement to me that was actually by a guest writer to the blog, Sedonia Sunset. (Here is Sedonia Sunset's story where she compares Jackson and Pat Dixon to Chance and Shadow from the movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.)

The sheriff's call out to Jackson and the rest of the DA's who sat in on the hearing that there's "an express elevator with your name on it," and they all head off to one of the freight elevators. As Sandi Gibbons is rounding the corner away from me she's calling out, "Sprocket! Sprocket! I've got that information for you! It's five!" And I'm totally lost to what she is referring to. (It's not until later in the day that I realize she must have gotten mixed up in what I was asking for. I know that five PBA witnesses testified in the Spector trial; I want to know how many witnesses in total the prosecution presented motions to present. How many, total. I know there were others and I could have sworn someone told me at one time there were a total of fourteen, but maybe what she's telling me is it's five more.)

Down on the Temple Street plaza, (which is just a small walkway area in front of the building) you can see that Mark Geragos glows when he gets in front of the camera. As he starts to speak to the media (and there are quite a few cameras trained on him) I turn to Sandi who is standing right behind me (along with Alan and Pat Dixon) and say, "He wore a nice tie today." That's all that I can positively say about Mark Geragos. While Geragos beams for the camera, Jackson and Dixon compare the quality of the shine on their shoes and I smile as look down to see who's shoes are out shining the other.

My notes are sketchy here, but Geragos statement to the media is something to the effect of, California has no authority in this case. Specific penal code sections prohibit double jeopardy happening. And then Geragos tries to put his interpretation as to what he thinks the people's position is. "The judge can't decide without Mr. Miura here." I write in my notebook here, He loves the camera. "It's a complex issue and there is no case on point," Geragos continues." He mentions the San Diego judge's decision in the Martinez case and behind me, it's either Sandi or Alan Jackson who whispers something that I can barely hear, "It's not final. He can't cite a trial court." From my understanding, that's correct. Geragos needs to cite a Superior Court ruling that hits the law books, not just a trial judge's decision in another case. Geragos then says, "I'm confident the law is clear here." And that's it for him; he hands the stage over to Alan Jackson, who is basically standing in for Sandi.

Mr. Jackson is brief. He states that before summarily deciding is there jurisdiction, those arguments can't be made until he (Miura) is here, before the court. Jackson mentions that the people will specifically be addressing Judge Van Sicklen's request to address penal code 793 that Geragos argued before the court today.

And that's it. Nothing new until the attorney's file new motions before the court on May 5th, and the hearing date on May 9th.

The Japanese reporter I was talking to in the hallway outside the courtroom, we exchange pleasant goodbyes, but I make sure to ask her for her business card and I write down my blog address in her notebook. On the plaza, another woman reporter approached me and asked if she could ask me some questions. She was not able to get into the hearing and wanted my impressions about the hearing as well as wanted to know my opinion about all the Japanese media attention.

I told her a little bit about myself (I'm a semi-retired house wife that takes care of a messy husband; that I have attended a few other high profile trials, I have a blog and that the ABA Journal wrote about my blogging.) I also told her what I thought of the proceeding. I thought the Public Liaison's office did a good job of being prepared for the Japanese press. This media interest isn't much different than the Spector or OJ case here, and the way they handled things today is pretty much how it goes in other high profile cases.

I thought Alan Jackson's arguments were fantastic. I went on to sing Alan's praises as a rising star in the prosecutors office: he's got tons of charisma and juries as well as the public just love him. I mentioned his great skills during the Spector case as well as Jackson's success in the Mickey Thompson case. I said that although the Miura case is big in Japan, there is no interest here in the US. I felt Miura is interesting because in Japan, from my understanding Miura pursued the media spotlight, and his current wife is a noteworthy personality also. She wanted to know about why I was here, and I said it's because it's a murder trial, and I follow murder trials. I've had a life long interest in criminal psychology. As a closing question she said that Japanese like to know people's ages and she asked me how old I was. I had to think for a moment and then told her, "I'm 53." I ask for her business card and write out my blog address for her, too.

Later this evening when I'm trying to write up my entry I dig the two business cards out of my pocket and I realize I am a total idiot. I can't remember which card goes with which reporter! One of the reporters was Mirei Sato, a staff writer for U.S. Frontline News, Inc., and the other woman was Mary Plummer, Los Angeles bureau reporter for the Yomiuri Shimbun. Ladies, I sincerely apologize. I'll put up the photos I took as soon as I download them from my camera.


Ziggy said...

What a very interesting (ABA Journal Article):

referred by this very attention getting (also interesting comment made by "Jackson" to Sprocket) referring to "Bloggers" that have emerged into the scene!

It really amazes me that "Bloggers" are finally getting their "Due" when it comes to finally TRULEY being finally heard! (How So Cool!)


Sprocket said...

Thank you Ziggy.

The writer had contacted me via the blog back in August, right after I decided to walk away from the Spector trial. I debated for hours on whether or not to call her at the time.

I didn't know until over a month later if they were going to go with the story or not and I never mentioned it on the blog.

When we first spoke, she said it was a story idea she wanted to pitch and she would let me know if they liked it. When she confirmed that her editor was going to pick up the story, I didn't know when it would go to press and I still kept mum on the blog.

The article was published in January of this year but I didn't know about it until a few weeks after it came out. That's when I finally wrote a blog entry about the article coming out.

Here's the T&T link:

Ligita said...

Hi Sprocket!
I just wanted to THANK YOU for posting and taking personal time for this trial! I am following this with you! You always write so good! It's like I'm there WITH you! Love it!
I love your comments about Mark Geragos giving the press conference, with the comments by Alan, Sandi & Pat Dixon!! LOL! too much!
Thanks again!