Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cameron Brown Pretrial Hearing: June 13th, 2008

I don't take the train today. I need to pick up a bolt of fabric in downtown and driving means I don't have to come back for a second trip. Traffic was quite light and even leaving my driveway at five past 7:00 am, I made it down to the intersection of First and Hill by 7:35 am. What I did miss was my usual phone call to donchais when I drive into downtown. She and ritanita have been doing an excellent job tag teaming, covering the Neil Entwistle trial, so I just left her a message to give me a call when she could. I parked in the nine dollar lot and made my way up Broadway to the back of the criminal court building.

I pass through the first floor security and get off on the 9th floor and there's a surprise. This is the first time I've ever seen the 9th floor security closed up. No one is there and there are two gentlemen waiting (they look like detectives) for security to open. When the sheriff's finally do arrive, I'm the first person in the hallway at 7:52 am. As expected, the place is deserted.

I take the bench that is at the very end of the hall along the back wall. I get donchais on the phone and she fills me in on whats been happening with the Entwistle trial. I see Patty peek her head around the corner and then go back into the security station area by the elevators.

Patty's brother Ted rounds the corner and heads toward this end of the hall. With all the empty benches in the hall, Ted chooses to sit on the bench next to me. I'm talking to donchais as quietly as I can, but not long after Ted takes out his phone and is speaking to someone so loudly in a foreign language that I can't hear donchais speak. I stand up to walk away and Donchais says to me, "Is someone talking to you?" I tell her what's going on and I move to another bench several feet away on the side wall of the hallway. I can now hear my friend and continue our conversation.

Patty emerges from the restroom. She is wearing all black. She has some sort of open toed shoes or sandals on her feet. I did not look closely enought to see if they are the same ones she wore at the last hearing. This end of the hallway is almost completely empty, there's only a few other people standing at this end of the hall and as Patty approaches, she chooses the bench I'm sitting on. I don't know or care what Patty and Ted's motives are with their hallway bench selection. I just want to have a quiet, private conversation with donchais so I get up again and walk down past the elevators towards the opposite end of the long hallway.

As donchais and I consider a new story idea for the blog, I observe the other end of the hall as best I can and just wait for Pastor's courtroom to open. I can't really tell from where I'm sitting, but I figure that when Patty and Ted go in, I will head down to that end of the hall. From my far away point of view, I see Pastor's clerk enter 107. donchais and I chat a bit more about the Entwistle case. The trial has been on a break but it's almost over. After we say our goodbyes, I take the time to write up my observations so far.

After a bit, I get up from my seat and go stand in the middle of the hallway opposite the elevator bay. I keep my eyes peeled on Pastor's courtroom door. As I watch the other end of the hallway, Patty and Ted are still on their chosen benches. They don't appear to be talking to each other, but if they were I wouldn't be able to tell anyway. I see Patty stands up and walks over to Ted for a moment but she doesn't stay more than a few moments then goes back and sits on the same bench. It's 8:27 am. In just a few minutes the courtroom should be open. Then I observe Ted get up and go sit by Patty.

Mark Geragos shows up and I see Patty give him a big smile. They all head into the courtroom together and that's when I head down towards 107. Patty is sitting in the front row on the far left of the long bench, and I also sit in the front row at the opposite end near the jury box. Ted is in the row behind Patty, off to her right a bit. At 8:35 am the Judge is in his robes but he's not really on the bench or calling court into order. Geragos and Craig Hum greet Judge Pastor right beside his clerk's desk, and it's pleasantries all around as Geragos shakes the Judge's hand. The Judge and both counsel stand there for some time chatting. It's all pleasant sounding conversation although I can not get any detail as to what is being said.

The court reporter is here. A suited gentleman in the well (a clerk or an attorney for another case) speaks to the gallery about the Laker upset last night. Ted responds, "What's the matter with those guys. They play like that, they deserve to lose. " There's more chatter about the game but I don't take any more notes on that. I'm still trying to watch the Judge and see if I can ascertain what they are discussing. More people enter the courtroom, a silver gray haired man with a mustache (whom I can't identify) and a younger, bald headed man whom I believe is Nareg Gourjian, an associate in Geragos's law practice. There are a few others who enter and sit in the same general area with them. The gentleman with the mustache appears in a photo montage on the home page of Geragos's web site but he's not identified anywhere.

We are all waiting for Brown to be brought into the courtroom. Pastor's bailiff is here and I notice one of the gentlemen in Geragos's group is speaking to Patty but I tune it out. I'm still watching Geragos and Hum in deep in conversation with Judge Pastor.

Another sheriff, a black woman comes in to chat with Pastor's clerk. The man who was speaking to Patty is now talking to some of the other individuals in the group. I'm betting that the two attorneys and Judge Pastor are hammering out when this trial is going to start. Geragos has the Miura case that still isn't settled. (If you don't know about Miura this link has a short primer. It's a much higher profile case ~ at least in Japan ~ than Brown.) One could easily assume that Geragos needs to get that case over and done with before he puts all his efforts on Brown. Late in the afternoon on Friday, I learned that the next Miura pretrial has been moved from June 16th to July 18th in Torrance, which is where Judge Van Sicklen who is presiding over the Miura matter, is now located.

Ah. The Judge and counsel must have come to an agreement since the attorneys leave the Judge and I overhear the Judge say something to the effect of "... present this to Mr. Brown." A smiling Geragos goes over and greets a pretty young clerk or extern with brown hair and bangs standing behind Judge Pastor's clerk's desk. Hum is over talking to the court reporter. It's 9:55 am and we still wait for Brown to be brought into the courtroom. I see Patty and Ted whisper for a moment. The mustached gentleman passes what looks like a CD or DVD to Patty and Ted. Patty says to Ted, "Check it out."

This could very well be related to the other charge Brown is facing, possession of a weapon while incarcerated. At a pretrial hearing for that case in another court, Brown's counsel demanded that the sheriff's department hand over video tapes or CD's or whatever medium these videos were are stored on. These are tapes of daily activities from the jail that are collected on a hard drive. I don't catch all of Patty's reply back to mustached man which is something to the effect of, "I can't possibly... (?imagine?) ....they must be thinking." Since I'm not really interested in that case and have decided not to follow it, I tune out any more conversation.

Geragos is still having a jovial conversation with Pastor's clerk and the slender young woman. Judge Pastor is in discussion with two other gentlemen, most likely another case.

Brown is finally brought in. He nods and gives a quick smile to Patty and Ted. His hair has been cut very short but his beard is still quite long. Geragos consults with Brown for a few moments and I see the mustached man enter the well and sit in one of the chairs along the low railing behind Geragos. Jurors for another case file along the back wall and proceed to the jury room.

Pastor calls court into order and states that Hum and Geragos are here for the record. There are a few issues that still need to be resolved before they go to trial, and there's scheduling. They are asking for one more pretrial hearing on June 30th, and a trial start date of July 28th, marking that date as a 0-30 count.

The Judge formally asks Brown if he gives up his right to a speedy trial and he first nods his head and then says "Yes," for the record. The Judge formally states that trial will start on July 28th with 0-30 starting there after. On the 3oth, there may be a problem with Hum attending since he may still be in trial in another court. Judge Pastor says that we may do the hearing telephonically, so they may have to facilitate that.

Geragos then asks the court to order the defendant to get a shave. I hear Geragos say, "I want him cleaned up (for trial). Enough of this Taliban look." (That's the word I believe I hear: Taliban.) I glance over at Ted and Patty and I see that Ted has his face down in his arm and his face is beet-red. To me, it appears that Ted finds this statement by Geragos hilarious and is trying to keep himself from laughing out loud in court. The Judge says that he was under the impression that Mr. Brown did not want to get a shave, and he asks Brown what he wants. Brown indicates that since it's closer to trial, he agrees to a shave.

Geragos goes onto say, "They're obviously playing games over there." (Apparently referring to the LA County Jail, and the harassment Brown and his attorneys are claiming he is consistently experiencing at the hands of the sheriffs.') Geragos is mentioning to Judge Pastor now that he and his staff are, "...being made to wait as much as two hours to speak to their client." Pastor appears to be very concerned about this and tells Geragos that he spoke to an officer there. Geragos tells the Judge something to the effect that yes, while he was on the phone with you, but right after he (the officer) said, "No Judge is going to tell me what to do." Geragos tells Judge Pastor, "I'm going to take care of it." And Pastor addresses Geragos, "Handle it properly." Geragos mentions again, "Have to sit for two hours and then for them to say there's no Sergeant available."

The Judge states that he will sign an order requesting that Brown will get a shave. And that's it. I get up to leave as fast as possible. I've got to go get fabric and I've got a client later at 1:00 pm. Ted is right by the door, almost waiting for me to exit and he addresses me. "You know you can talk to us if you like. We're friendly," he says. Although I'm sure an accredited journalist would jump at the chance, I continue out the courtroom doors without responding to him.

I understand that Patty and Ted are standing by Brown and I can respect that. However, T&T has always been a "pro prosecution" blog and it's always been about trial reporting. It's never been an avenue for a defendant's relatives to air their support for their loved one. Patty and Ted have been very vocal in their support of Brown on other blogs and web sites, vigorously defending him against those who think Brown is guilty. T&T is not interested in being drawn into those debates.

I don't know if Cameron Brown did or did not throw his daughter off that Rancho Palos Verdes cliff, Inspiration Point but there is one thing that troubles me about this case. In his first trial, Cameron Brown chose not to take the stand and tell the jury himself in his own words that he is not guilty in the death of his daughter. I understand that when an individual takes an oath to be a juror, they are not allowed to hold that against a defendant. That's a fundamental right of our legal system and it's one of the things that sets the bar higher than the justice served in some other countries. However, I'm not sitting on a jury. I'm in the gallery, observing a trial and observing the defendant. That's one of the things that I'm always interested in: a defendant's behavior pre- and post-incident. I have the question that many T&T readers probably have. Why isn't Brown taking the stand and telling us what happened? Why isn't he telling the jury the story he told investigators? He was there. He is the only witness to this horrific incident. What happened on that cliff, Mr. Brown? How did your daughter happen to fall? From my perspective, if I was innocent and wrongfully accused of premeditated murder, there is nothing that could keep me off the witness stand. I would want to tell the jury myself exactly what happened. Let them hear the story from me, directly.

After court, I drove the few blocks over to my long time canvas and flannel supplier in the warehouse district. Read about that story, and the rooster I saw, on my sewing blog. It should be up later today.