Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Phil Spector Retrial Day Five of Voir Dire

Monday, October 27th.
I thought I had just made the 8:29 train, but what happened was, they scrapped the 8:29 train and held it over until 8:39 am. When I boarded, there were a few people standing and I was lucky to get a spot by the door where I could lean against the back of a seat row. When we finally left the station, our car was packed like a tin of sardines and all I could think about was, "Well, if a crash happens, I'll be padded by all these tightly packed bodies."

When I enter 106, I see Spector's adopted son, Donte, sitting to the right of Rachelle. Spector's bodyguard is also here. Just about everyone is here; AJ, TD, Weinberg, most of his staff and the jury consultants. The young man who has been sitting to the left of Weinberg enters the courtroom and as he passes Rachelle, I believe I hear her greet him. "Hello Richard," she says.

As we wait I try to tune out the conversation that Rachelle and Donte are having but it's hard. Donte gives Rachelle his phone number. I see AJ, Do and the court reporter chat a bit. Approximately 9:32 am, Wendy brings in the jury. The attorneys and Spector stand as they enter.

I see Spector drop his head a bit as they wait, then he clasps his hands in front of him. Spector lifts his head and watches the jurors enter the courtroom. The waiting group fills the first two long bench rows on the left and four people are in the third bench row. The numbers in the gallery have continued to dwindle.

The bailiff asks Spector's bodyguard to step out of the courtroom for a moment to speak to him and they both enter the little ante chamber between the courtroom and the hallway. Just a few seconds later, they both return to the courtroom.

Juror #6 raises his hand and states he would like to make statements about his job and financial situation. He asks Judge Fidler if he can state them in open court.

Fidler replies, "No you may not. Approach the bench."

Juror #6 says, "I've discussed with my employer..." And that's all I hear. Fidler listens intently to the juror. His left elbow is on his desk and his chin rests in his left hand.

Fidler says, "I appreciate your..." and that's all I hear. He then reads the papers the juror has brought. Juror #6 leaves the bench and counsel confer with the judge. The Judge then calls a brief recess for about 10 minutes and all the jurors and potential jurors exit the courtroom.

The defense confers together in a group with Spector. AJ & TD confer with their jury consultants. Spector is still standing, but now he slowly wanders around a bit in the well area. His head is down and he heads over to where one of the defense's jury consultants is seated.

Spector then leaves the well and comes over to Rachelle. I overhear him say to Rachelle and Donte, "I knew that guy was going to..." and then I miss the last words. His voice is very raspy as he tries to whisper to them.

The clerks from the DA's office assigned to this case stand near the well on the prosecution's side of the room.

I then hear Spector say, "Now we've got to bring..." and that's all I get of that statement.

I observe Spector, who is standing by Rachelle who is seated, hold her left hand and start to gently swing his right arm a little bit. He stands there next to her for a short time, continuing to hold her hand and swing his arm.

"If the judge orders him to stay he won't be angry at any one of us..." Spector says to Rachelle.

She replies, "Oh, of course."

I observe counsel enter Fidler's chambers.

"This is his last chance. He's been sworn in already," Spector says to Donte. "I mean this guy is unhappy and he's got very important work. [...] He should never have been allowed to come back when this first came up and he said, 'Judge I can't serve.' "

The AP reporter is here.

About this time, Rachelle introduces Donte to Spector's bodyguard. I see Weinberg's paralegal, Susan, come over to the AP reporter and speak to her. Spector goes back to sit in the well area. Spector and his defense team confer. Rachelle and Donte chat. As we wait for Judge Fidler and counsel, Specter wanders over to the gate as if to enter the gallery. I see that he has his hands clasped together in front of him and they appear to be shaking slightly.

Weinberg's assistant, Richard, comes over to speak to the AP reporter about Las Vegas. (The AP reporter covered OJ Simpson's robbery trial.)

Pat Kelly from the PIO, enters the court and goes over to Fidler's clerk, Wendy, and drops off papers and picks up others. She stops to chat a bit with the bailiff, and then says hello to the AP reporter. When she sits beside me in the back row, I write her this note: #6 has made another plea to be excused from service.

I don't have it in my notes who calls it, but I believe it's Judge Fidler who announces that the court will take a half hour break; it also could have been Wendy. I leave the courtroom to call donchais to give her the breaking news, and then go right back in.

Rachelle and Donte continue to chat. I see Spector emerging from the jury room. Most likely, he was using the bathroom. Spector wanders around the room a bit. It could be just nervous walking while everyone is waiting.

Two young ladies had entered earlier and are sitting in the chair row in front of me. The bailiff comes over to ask them, "What are you here for?" Donte gets up from his seat to talk to Spector at the well. Weinberg is at the defense table with Susan and Richard. Jennifer is at the end of the table. Donte returns to his seat. Spector comes over to Rachelle and she digs into her purse for something.

Spector and Rachelle and Donte leave the courtroom and stop in the ante chamber. Their bodyguard is with them. I observe Rachelle take two photographs of Spector and Donte together. I hear the noise of the camera take the two shots. Right afterwards, I wonder if they got approval from the court, first.

Inside the courtroom, the AP reporter says something to Weinberg and he responds, "It's a legal conundrum." I leave the courtroom for a moment to update donchais on the delay.

It's 10:35 am, and we're still waiting. Wendy addresses Mr. Weinberg and says, "Just so you know they're not being rude, they did call me and ask for a couple more minutes."

10:45 am. The people's jury consultant Howard Varinsky enters the courtroom. The prosecution team is a minute or two later. I've been admiring the suit Truc Do has on today. (Every time I've seen her, I've noticed that her outfits look perfectly tailored.) Today, it's a form fitting black jacket with a matching skirt that has a flare pleat in the back. I can just see a hint of the white top that has a deep vee neckline in the front, underneath her suit jacket.

Although Truc is a new addition to this case, she has been with the Major Crimes unit for a few years. The attorneys that make up the staff of the unit are the best of the best of the DA's office and have years of experience. Ms. Do and co-counsel Bobby Grace successfully prosecuted the Black Widow case. And in May 2007, she also obtained a conviction for serial murder Chester Turner who killed at least thirteen women. She prosecuted her first murder case with Steve Barshop, now retired.

At 10:55 am, the attorney's enter Fidler's chambers again with the court reporter. Rachelle gives something in a flat paper bag to Spector that he takes back to the defense table. Not long afterwards, the court reporter comes out of Fidler's chambers, although the attorneys are still in there. I then see a few senior members of the DA's staff enter the courtroom. One is a tall slender man with glasses, a senior member of the DA's staff who's name escapes me at the moment and the other is Pat Dixon. Another clerk from the DA's office enters. Pat Dixon speaks to AJ and Varinsky.

AJ says to Wendy, before the jurors come in, could we put something on the record? People move around in the courtroom while we wait. Court is called to order a moment later.

AJ addresses the court. "I thought we would come to the conclusion and put something on the record before the jury comes back in." Fidler responds, "I'm going to talk to the juror at the bench, first." AJ apologizes to the court. Wendy collects the jurors and they file in.

Juror #6 is at the bench and Fidler speaks to him. Afterwards, he takes his seat back in the jury box. I'm surprised. I thought for sure they would excuse him. After the ruling Pat Dixon and the other gentleman leave 106.

I leave the courtroom for a moment to call donchais and update her on the ruling. When I get back in the courtroom, at 11:16 am, a new juror has already been called to replace empty seat #14 and she is at the bench being interviewed for a privacy issue.

After the bench conference, Weinberg has no more questions for the juror.

I don't have it in my notes, but I believe it's AJ who steps up to interview the potential juror. She works for a credit card company, reviewing applications for credit. People call her up, apply for credit, ask for a change in their credit card contract, what APR they can get, etc. Depending on a set criteria, she makes the decision for that request. She looks at people's history and based on their history she makes a decision. She believes that looking at the individuals history is an important part of the decision process. She had never heard of Phil Spector before, and she's never been on a jury.

AJ asks her about her thoughts about the concepts of beyond a reasonable doubt. She doesn't have anything to say about the court process. "Does it seem like a fair system? Do the attorneys appear fair?" Yes, she answers. "Does the Judge appear fair?" Yes, she says. "Would you place an undo burden of proof upon the defense? No, she answers.

AJ gives her some examples of direct verses circumstantial evidence and asks her if she would have and problem bringing back a guilty verdict "...if the prosecution proved it's case beyond a reasonable doubt?" No, she answers. She would give each type of evidence the same weight.

Number 16 raises her hand and says she has something to tell the court. This morning, her firm told her that they will be merging with another firm and that one of the attorney's in the other firm is connected to the case. She rattles off the name of a firm with the last name "Daily" or "Daly" in it. Judge Fidler says, "I know what it is about. Counsel approach. Fidler then addresses #16. "Do you deal with anyone with that [other] firm? "No. I don't even know who Mr. Daily is."

The peremptory challenge is with the people and juror #14 is excused. A new number is called, 066, and Fidler gives this new female juror his standard questions. The juror claims two areas of privacy.

DW: Are there any issues that you've heard us discuss that you have any difference with?

#14: No, not at all.

She doesn't have any opinion about the criminal justice system. "It is what it is," she answers.
She did say on her questionnaire, that she would expect a defendant to testify.

DW: Do you still accept that?

#14: After listening to the conversation the past few days, I understand now why that decision is made.

DW: Do you feel the prosecution is committed to the law any more than the defense?

#14: Um, no.

Although she wrote that she had reservations on her questionnaire, she now says she should be "okay" looking at graphic photos. She thinks she will be okay, even though she's never been subjected to anything like that. She does say that she would have sided with the prosecution in the first case. It's based on what little things she saw on TV and not that she "followed" the case.

DW: Are you confident that you can listen to the evidence and be fair to both sides?

#14: I think so.

Ms. Do gets up to interview for the prosecution.

The juror goes to different companies and does technology analysis. She has worked in the entertainment industry. At one time, she pursued voice over work. She had a few jobs, but nothing substantial. She says no one would recognize her work. She used to have a blog, but not for a few years. She would blog about her daily activities. It was open to the public and a lot of people read it. She's never seen crime scene photos before. She doesn't like scary movies.

TD: Like Mr. Jackson said previously, no one will be forced to stare at photographs.

#14: I will try but hopefully, not for long.

The juror also reveals that her father was convicted of a crime when she was about 10 or 11 years old for transporting drugs from the US into Canada. She didn't blame anyone. "It is what it is." She says her father thought the verdict was unfair, but "I think it was fair." She says she would not hold any bias against the prosecution, even though his conviction was in Los Angeles County. "There are consequences to peoples' actions," she says. She doesn't remember when it happened.

She has had some experience with depression, and she has two friends, also in their 20's who have dealt with depression.

TD: What type of things did they go through?

#14: Cheated on. Divorce. Lost their jobs. Just a lot of different things. They talked to her and went to therapy [was how they dealt with it].

She now talks about her own depression. It had to do with her father, and relationship problems she had. She didn't go to therapy. She talked with friends and dealt with it herself. Her doctor gave her medication to help her sleep, but she discontinued it after a short time because she didn't want to become dependent on it.

TD: Did you ever get concerned for your safety?

#14: No.

TD: Did your friends ever become concerned for your safety?

#14: I don't think so.

I have that the peremptory is with the people and they pass. Then the defense passes; it's back to the people. I know someone is excused, but I don't have who it is. Ah! I found it later in my notes. Juror #15.

The lunch break is called and I head over to the underground city to sit outside and eat my seared salmon and peas Mr. Sprocket fixed for me.

1:27 pm. I'm back inside the courtroom. Not everyone is here yet. Weinberg emerges from the jury room and sits at the defense table. Mr. Weinberg turns around and looks directly at the back of the room. I could be imagining it, but I thought he was looking directly at me.

AJ enters right about 1:30 pm with Ms. Do. He's pushing the cart with all their case materials. His clerks assigned to the case are with him, as well as the jury consultants.

We wait for the jury. Ms. Do chats with the consultants. Wendy asks Mr. Weinberg if we are waiting for Jennifer and he says no. Wendy then gets the jurors. A new number is called, 031, a woman.

She works for the State of California as a corporation examiner. She specifically reviews escrow accounts. She goes to their offices to review their trust accounts to make sure the laws are being followed. It sounds like she had a similar job to what I had in the banking industry well over 20 years ago. An auditor.

She said when she first filled out the questionnaire, she was not thinking about the questions. (So there was a bit of confusion there with the questions.)

Weinberg goes over in detail with juror #15, to ensure she has an understanding of the law. There are quite a few questions and answers back and forth.

Weinberg asks, "Do you agree that people have the money to hire better lawyers?" Yes, she answers. "There's nothing wrong with that is there?" No, she says. "If you were on trial would you be satisfied to be tried by members of your peers who were like minded as you?" Yes, she says.

AJ steps up to question the juror. She confirms that she doesn't like to speak in public.

A sheriff enters the ante chamber and hangs out there.

The juror confirms she is an accountant at the state level and she performs audits. I was very close. She is an accountant who performs audits. She deals with numbers and everything is precise.

AJ: You wouldn't have the same level of exactness for this case because we deal with human beings?

#15: No.

This is her first jury experience.

AJ: At the end of this trial, we're going to stand here and ask you for a guilty verdict. If we prove our case with a preponderance of the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, would you be able to give a guilty verdict at the end of the case?

#15: Yes.

The next peremptory is with the defense. They pass. The prosecution excuses juror #18.

DW: Before the juror leaves, may we approach?

TD, AJ and Weinberg have a bench conference.

One of the DA's clerks enters and sits by the other clerk. #18, a black man is excused.

021 is called, a female. Fidler gives her his standard questions. She has two areas where she claims privacy.

In her jury questionnaire she stated she already had strong opinions about the case. She felt that the defendant should have to defend himself. She followed the first trial and formed an opinion. Based on what she saw, Spector is guilty and anyone who doesn't agree is wrong. After Weinberg verifies that those were her words, she states that she still thinks she can't be fair.

DW: Based on what you know, in your heart you can't be fair? The juror agrees.

#18 I never watched it on TV. Just on the news. Her friends all thought he was guilty.

DW: If that's your opinion...

Ms. Do passes on questioning the juror and thanks her for her time.

#18 is removed for cause. A new juror number is called called. 290.

The new #18 offers additions to her juror questionnaire. Says she knows people in law enforcement; a family member. She's had to call LE on people for, I believe, a minor issue. Her brother owns a gun and she doesn't claim any areas of privacy.

She is a customer service representative "lead." She supervises a large group of 25 people for about six, seven-eight years. She has been with the company for 20 years. She is not involved with hiring or firing. She only sees the LE family member once a year. Her son's friend recently become a sheriff.

DW: Do you believe it is more important that one guilty person is convicted or more important that one innocent person is not convicted?

#18: More important that an innocent person is not convicted.

She reveals that her brother committed suicide with a gun. It came as a complete surprise to her. She had no idea that he was on the edge.

DW: If you were on trial, would you be comfortable with a jury of your peers with your mind set?

#18: Yes.

DW: You have no reservations about being fair to both sides? No, she says.

Do gets up to question her about the court system and thoughts about the system being more fair to the guilty verses innocent.

#18: We have a system that strives to be fair.

She explains that she doesn't like to be confrontational. This is in regards to what she doesn't like about her job. Her son had a DUI. She felt the court system was fair in his case and she had no resentments toward the court system.

Regarding the brother who committed suicide, he was younger by approximately one year. He was going through a divorce and his daughter was getting married. There is a bit of detail here that I miss, regarding the upcoming wedding and who was invited and whether he was going to go, as well as the specifics of who said what to whom regarding the niece and her mother and some information that they relayed to her.

She states her brother was having difficulties with the divorce.

TD: Was he open or closed? [Was he a private person?]

#18 All three of us are private.

She reveals that he was alone. He was a paramedic, and he planned the suicide. He called the coroner in advance to let him know what he was going to do [and I believe, where to find him]. He left her a letter. She thinks that, even with this event in her life, she can still be fair to both sides.

Peremptory is with the people and they pass. The defense passes and it goes back to the people. AJ confers with Varinsky for a moment then tells the court, "We accept the panel." Weinberg accepts the panel also. We have a complete jury with alternates now!

The six alternates stand and take their oath. Fidler addresses the gallery. "There's a selective sigh of relief from the panel in the gallery," he says. He thanks them for their service, [and I think patience] and tells them how important their service is. He then directs them to turn in their badges and that they are done for an entire year. The group in the gallery file out.

Fidler then reads from a set of instructions to the jurors about how they will try the case. They are to report back on Wednesday morning for opening statements. Someone in the group asks a question as to the time and Fidler says, "9:30 am to 10 am."

"You are not allowed to discuss the case until deliberations [...] Do not do any research yourself. Do not use the dictionary or the Internet or other materials to search [...] If you overhear anything about the case, don't tell anyone else. Tell the clerk or a bailiff [...] You may take notes." Fidler then explains reasonable doubt and presumption of innocence. These are lengthy instructions and at the beginning he assured the panel that they would get copies of these instructions. Fidler then gives his thoughts on the jury being allowed to ask questions. Some judges do; some don't.

"I don't let jurors ask questions because, 1.) it causes a disruption in the process; 2.) I find that the juror then becomes an advocate for one side or the other [and if the question isn't asked they then feel they know who objected to their question]. So you will not be allowed to ask questions."

The judge now instructs the jurors to step into the jury room, and tells them they are to report by 10 am, Wednesday morning. Everyone stands while the jury files out.

It's now that the Judge states on the record that there is a pending request to put a "web cam" in the courtroom without a camera operator of some kind. Allan Parachini is handling the details, and he doesn't have all the information to rule on that yet. There possibly is going to be a still camera [I'm betting in the gallery] just for opening statements. Not a camera on the wall. There will be a still photographer [from the AP]. (See my last entry for an update on courtroom cameras.) After that, Fidler leaves the bench and goes into chambers.

Weinberg comes over and tells Rachelle he wants to talk to Spector for a moment. Afterwards, AJ speaks to Weinberg in the well about the numbering of the exhibits and how it got totally out of control in the first trial. He then mentions an exhibit that Dr. Lynn Herold will be talking about. It's a diagram that the defense already has, and it's [has markings on it] about distance of Lana Clarkson's head and those points all marked out. Weinberg asks if it changes her opinion at all and AJ says that it doesn't.

And that's it for court. As AJ and the rest of the prosecution staff passes me he asks, "Are you going to be here Wednesday?" And I tell him, "Yes I will."

I had asked Mr. Sprocket on Monday if he would go to opening statements with me on Wednesday. At first he declined, but today he said that he would go. We will probably take the train, depending on whether or not we can get out the door on time.


John said...

Leave it to the BBC to report.
Here's a current video!


Damsel said...

Great coverage Sprocket!!! Thank you. :-) I'm looking forward to opening comments this morning.


Anonymous said...

Great job Sprocket and interesting read, John!

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know why Pat Dixon isn't on the prosecution team this time?

Anonymous said...

Sprocket, what do you think of the jury ? Any engineers amongst them?

Thanks for the coverage.

PS I'm glad you have respect for Linda D. IMO she lacks objectivity.