Sunday, October 26, 2008

Phil Spector Retrial Day Four of Voir Dire

Before I get started I would like to give a big THANK YOU shout out to two other blogs that have picked up my coverage of the Phil Spector retrial. Juror Thirteen and Rose Speaks. I'd also like to point my readers to other interesting writers on my list of Blogs I like To Read, as well as the wonderful Coalition of Crime Bloggers. When you have time, I encourage you to drop in on these blogs and check out what they have to say.

I had decided yesterday that I would not go to court today, but when I opened my email in the late morning I read in several alerts that the initial 12 jurors had been chosen. I felt that there might be a possibility that the complete panel would be seated today, so I threw some clothes together and drove into downtown. I entered 106 at 1:45 pm, just fifteen minutes into the afternoon session.

Looking at the jurors I can see that Juror #1 is the same and that two of the alternates that I remember are now official jurors, #3 and #6. AJ is examining the new alternates. Many of the same questions as before regarding privacy, and the potential juror approaches the bench for questions. I notice that the prior #10, the police officer's wife is no longer on the panel.

The mood feels a bit lighter without as many people in the room. The entire pool now sits in the long bench rows on the left side of the room. There are no jurors sitting on the right side.

AJ looks through his notes to further question #14 and then says he has nothing more. Both sides approach the bench to confer with Judge Fidler. Jurors #15, 16 & 17 are excused for cause. The new juror numbers called are 085, Male; 249, Male, and 283, Female. Judge Fidler asks his standard questions of the jurors and then Weinberg gets up to address them.

DW: Welcome to the jury box.

#15: He was a mail carrier for a couple of years. He also worked at Costco for a year, and another company Geheart Gear Co. (sp?) in the shipping and receiving department.

Weinberg asked him if there is any job that he worked were he was employed for a longer period of time.

#15: I worked for a company in Studio City duplicating CD's. No other job has been for a long time. He watches TruTV like "Cops," and other channels.

(I can see from the questions that follow, that Mr. Weinberg misses the point that the juror likes the specific show on TruTV called "Cops," and not a wide variety of shows.)

The juror states he has not heard much about the case. His accent is a little heavy and I'm having a hard time understanding him.

DW: You're not required to know [about the case], just hope that you tell us what do you know.

I make another note here that it's hard to hear his answers.

#15: He doesn't have strong feelings about celebrity cases.

What follows is a lengthy discussion with the juror where he talks about needing to hear from both sides. On his questionnaire, I have in my notes, Regardless of what the law says, the defendant must be required to prove his innocence.

#15: No, what I mean was, the defendant through his lawyer...

More questions, and the juror says several times, "No, I don't know much about that at all..." It appears this juror is not really understanding that the burden of proof is on the prosecution. He believes both sides should have to prove [their case] so there is a balance. "For me, it should be both ways. It's not enough for him that only one side has to present. Weinberg goes into detail with this juror, trying to get a sense of where he stands in understanding the law. The juror says he still feels comfortable that he could follow the law, regardless.

#16: This is a small business owner who worked for the Fire Department for five years. His business is a sole ownership, but he does hire staff when needed. Weinberg asks abut how he likes to see both sides; "the one that shows the proof of evidence."

DW: That's what I'm concerned about. But in a criminal case, one side and one side only has to present evidence to persuade beyond a reasonable doubt.

#16: Now that you explain it...

This juror checked on the questionnaire that it's more important that innocent people are not
convicted. He has followed celebrity trials but doesn't know anything about this one. When asked why he followed them, he says, "Just because." He followed it because it was on the news. He didn't have strong feelings about the cases. He didn't form opinions about either side.

Weinberg moves on to #17, who appears to be of Asian descent.

DW: You considered it no fair?

#17: I didn't know about the court system. What she's learned; she's now changed her opinion. She strongly disagrees with the idea for the guilty to go free than Innocent people to be convicted. (I think I have that correct.) She now says what she means. She agrees with, beyond a reasonable doubt.

She had a connection to a coworker to attempted suicide. It was her staff member. She had known him for a couple years. She had no idea he was so depressed. He went to the Human Resources manager and told them that he needed help. Before that, no one knew. This juror also wrote in her questionnaire that she was concerned about the type of pictures she might have to look at.

#17: I think I can. I try; but if I see if there's any blood... I try my best.

DW: Unfortunately, there's no other way to try the case.

#17: I'd do it reluctantly, but I think I can.

DW: Looking at that, [crime scene photos] is that going to make you more sympathetic to them [victims] regardless of how they died or why they died?

#17: No.

AJ gets up to question the new group of potential jurors.

AJ: Juror #15, how long have you lived in LA [Los Angeles]?

#15: Since 1993.

AJ: Where did you live before you came to the US?

#15: The Philippines.

AJ goes onto say that he doesn't know about the laws that govern the Philippines, but he asks the juror about what he knows of "our" system and laws. AJ goes over "burden of proof" again. "That also means that the defense doesn't have to 'prove' a negative," Jackson continues.

AJ then presents an example of a stolen pen to the juror for him to consider. "If for instance, this pen was stolen from someones office. And we present evidence that this piece of paper was stolen. One has nothing to do with the other. The defense can stand up and say, 'We are not going to present any evidence, [because nothing was proven that a pen was stolen].' "

AJ then changes the scenario he presents. "Let's say we do present evidence that a pen was stolen, and the defense presents evidence. If you are convinced. . ."

The potential juror still appears confused. He answers, "For me, both." What I believe he is saying is that "both sides" need to present a case for him to consider.

AJ: You would still put some kind of burden on the defense?

#15: If the court told me. I would not [put the burden]. The law is the law.

AJ: One other question and then I'll put you off the hot seat. I'm sure you didn't expect to get a civics lesson.

The juror still believes the defense would need to prove innocence.

AJ moves onto potential juror #16 and he asks #16 if he believes that, too.

#16. No.

He understands the burden and would vote not guilty. He states he wouldn't have any problem voting not guilty if the burden is not met.

AJ then talks in general terms about hardships. "I know that some have been chosen that are going, ~gulp~ I've been chosen for this jury. It's a civic duty, and there is no greater service. Juror #16 has a sole ownership business and AJ wants to make sure that his jury service would not impact upon that.

#16: It's not the only source of [my] income. I won't be starving.

Then potential juror #17 is questioned. AJ asks specifically about the coworker who attempted suicide.

#17: He tried to kill himself first and then the Human Resources Department got him into a hospital.

AJ: How close were you? Did you socialize outside of work?

#17: I socialized with him at work only. Not outside of work.

AJ: You didn't know what his home life consisted of?

#17: No.

AJ talks in general terms to the group about the graphic images. "No one is going to force you to stare at anything that's uncomfortable. No on is saying that you can't attach any emotion. The question is, can you still evaluate the evidence, and can you be fair?

#17: Yes.

AJ then gives a question to #17 that he has given to many of the potential jurors that he has questioned. "At sometime at the end of this trial, I'm going to stand here on this carpet, and ask you for your vote, to vote guilty and convict Phil Spector. After you review all the evidence, beyond a reasonable doubt, can you vote guilty?"

#17: Yes.

Afterwards, Juror #15 is removed for cause.

Weinberg gets up to question this juror and it's revealed that he is a supervisor research attorney for the Los Angeles County Court. (My bet right now is that this potential juror will not last the rest of the day.) He's worked for the court for 9 years and 3 years in a supervisory capacity. He's been self employed and he's worked in law firms. He's been a lawyer for 14 years. His practice did not involve criminal law, and his service for the court is not on the criminal side. It would be hard for him to maintain his anonymity, but "I will do my duty."

DW: Have you considered the possibility hat this could be an embarrassment for your coworkers. . .

#15: No, unless I embarrass myself.

DW: You wouldn't be concerned if the judges. . . .

#15: I no longer work for judges.

DW: It looks like you've thought about it and those considerations are there. Is there anything pressiong that would cause you concern?

#15: His vacation. The role that he plays. He supervises a number of employees who who work on criminal cases.

DW: Do you know their work? Is it anything with criminal? Do you review their paperwork?

#15: I just make sure they show up for work and turn in their paperwork.

The juror stated on their questionnaire that they had strong opinions about celebrity lawyers, but I miss getting the rest of the statements in my notes. In 1971, one of his professors committed suicide. "No one was aware; it was highly ironic." A number of his family have owned firearms. "I don't want to bore everyone."

DW: I think I'll take care of that.

#15: My father has a big passion for firearms. and he thought his children would have it also.

That's all Weinberg has and AJ gets up to interview the juror.

AJ: So if someone was charged with stealing this pen....

The room erupts in laughter.

AJ: I share Mr. Weinberg's question. Should we be concerned... Le me rephrase that. Would you substitute your expertize, for that on the stand and the courtroom?

#15: Because of what I've seen of you and Mr. Weinberg, I can't hold a candle [to either of you].

Judge Fidler: I assume he's now on the jury.

There's a big laugh in the courtroom after this exchange.

In my notes I have this phrase, "...overwhelming urge for a ukulele..." and I believe it's AJ who said it.

The only problem the juror has had with the court system was his brother's marital dissolution and whatever his wife said was taken to be true. He realizes though, that it's part of a system that seems to favor the wife. He does come to the table with more expertize than the average juror.

AJ: You have a predilection for the "ultimate punishment." So, if the death penalty was on the table he might have a problem.

But there is no death penalty on the table, so it is not an issue.

Judge Fidler steps in and addresses the jurors in the box. "You have no involvement with the punishment in this case. That is not your concern.

The juror is asked about the area he works in.

#15: There are 11 districts. I supervise the civil in the desert area, and two other attorneys that work on the criminal court. I believe it's AJ who asks, "Can we avoid the conflict?"

Judge Fidler responds, "All I have to do is order that attorney not to have any contact with #15.

AJ: The people pass for cause.

The afternoon break is called and I head toward the ladies room. There is a short line in the restroom and one of the ladies in front of me asks me if I am a juror in 106. I smile and tell her, "I'm sorry. I can't talk to you." Afterwards, I head back into 106 and take the same seat.

AJ comes over to talk to me. "You're the only one who's been here full time," he says. I tell him that I did miss yesterday afternoon and this morning. I then ask him about the number of "peremptory" strikes each side has. AJ tells me that it's determined by the sentence and on this case, there are 20 per side. There are unlimited strikes for cause. Once the initial 12 jurors are selected, each side will get an additional strike for the number of alternates seated. Since Fidler seats six alternates, each side will get six strikes. AJ tells me he's not positive but he thinks the prosecution used nine peremptory strikes and the defense six in seating the twelve jurors.

I observe the Spectors' chatting. Rachelle brushes lint off of Spector's left shoulder. Spector is wearing a black suit with a white shirt and matching white kerchief in his coat pocket. All of his suits are the long, Edwardian type suits that have been described in the press. I note that Rachelle is wearing today the same greige sweater she was wearing on that fateful day back in August of last year and there is a glittery butterfly clip holding back her hair.

Weinberg comes over to the Spectors. I see Rachelle brush lint off of the side of Mr. Weinberg's pants and he thanks her. I note that members of the defense team use the bathroom attached to the jury room during the break.

Everyone is standing in the well, chatting, waiting for the jurors to come back from break.

Sandi Gibbons, spokesperson for the DA's office enters 106 along with Linda Deutsch. I say hello to Sandi.

Back on the record, Juror #16 is excused by the prosecution. Another number is called to take the #16 seat. #002, a woman.

DW: Are you sure you want to do this?

A bit of laughter erupts in the courtroom. I have in my notes that potential juror #16 replies, "My heart is ready." She tells Weinberg she lived in Alhambra at the time of the incident; however, she "Didn't know where the castle is." Weinberg confirms that she lived in a totally different area of Alhambra than the castle. She paid some attention to it at the time. She heard the statements attributed to the defense and the driver. She didn't form any opinions; it was all just casual gossip at the time.

DW: did you form any impressions?

#16: No. I just thought that I was concerned and felt scared and didn't follow the case. She is an administrative assistant for 2-3 partners at a law firm that deals with election law and local politics. She worked for Mayor Brown for ten years. At lunch, she meets with women who crochet and do scrap booking. It's all about home and family. She's only had casual conversations about the case, and she feels she has no preconceptions about the case.

When Weinberg is finished, Truc gets up to question the juror. Do tells her, "On your jury questionnaire, you didn't fill in your age. Could you list it now?" She hands the paper to the juror who lists it. Do responds, "I'm shocked." She must look much younger than her age.

The juror states she heard about the case on the morning news. She usually has FOX on for background noise. The attorney's in her office are usually talking about government and politics. She comes to the case with very little knowledge.

She did see the defendant at a Chinese restaurant with her in laws. Her sister pointed him out to her. It happened after the arrest, otherwise, she wouldn't have had reason to. There is an area of her questionnaire that Do asks her if she might like to keep private. She says no.

Her mother took her own life when she was three years old. "I was so young, it's just a fact. Nothing that I have any memory of. As a grown up, I tired to probe and ask relatives, details and it's a [delicate? hard] subject for them. [They don't talk about it] just to protect me, to my frustration at times. They all have a sense of guilt that she was very depressed. It was her second or third attempt at the same place as prior attempts; a freeway overpass."

When the attorneys are finished with the questioning, the turn for peremptory goes to the prosecution and they pass. The defense utilizes one of their challenges to excuse juror #18.

Spector's biggest fan enters the courtroom and takes the seat beside me. Interestingly, she is not wearing a Hawaiian shirt today.

The new juror #18 is male and has worked for the MTA for 16 years. He's a mechanical engineer who supervises but does not have the ability to hire or fire. Weinberg says, "I particularly liked you answer to one question about [a point of law]. You said, 'I think it's in place to protect the innocent.' "

I miss any more questions Weinberg has, and AJ steps up to question.

AJ: Tell me what you mean by that.

There's a bit of laughter in the courtroom with this question.

I notice two ladies from the PIO office enter the courtroom.

AJ: Do you think it's also in place to protect the victims?

#18: Yes.

(I have here in my notes this phrase, To protect the memory of those who can no longer protect themselves, and I believe AJ said this, but I'm not certain.)

AJ: Would you have any problem rendering a verdict of guilty? "No." In rendering your judgement of the facts as I've just described? "No."

This potential juror knows a bit of the facts about the case. Basically, from the headlines on the news, that someone died. The juror wasn't quite clear on how she died or where it happened. "I've heard of his name, because of this case." He states he doesn't think he has much experience with the criminal justice system. He sat on a civil trial that had to do with property ownership. The jury never deliberated since the parties settled.

AJ: What is your thought about the deliberation process?

#18: Everyone coming together with their ideas and coming to a conclusion.

This is his first experience with the criminal justice system. The prosecution passes for cause.

At this time, #6 (the research scientist at UCLA) asks for one more time to speak to Judge Fidler for being dismissed. #6 pleads his case one more time. I can barely hear it, but I believe I hear Judge Fidler say to #6, ...for what ever reason, both sides want you on the jury... I do not know if that is an accurate quote or not.

#13 raises his hand to tell Judge Fidler something that he forgot to disclose. He is scheduled for a round of radiation treatments ~ Judge Fidler asks him for what type of cancer, if he's willing to say in open court ~ and the juror says "...for prostate cancer..." in (I think) December. Judge Fidler states that this is something he knows about and it's one of those cancers that delay is not as critical. The juror is willing to talk to his doctor today about postponing his treatment for six to eight weeks.

I believe it is the defense who excuses juror #15, the court attorney, and a new number is called. #262, a male.

Weinberg gets up to interview the new potential juror #15.

He works for a local government, in charge of the building department. He supervises four people. He's been at this job for 18 years, and supervising others for 10. He has input to the hiring and firing. Firing hasn't come up yet but he would be involved in the process.

The juror did not have a positive or negative opinion on whether or not a defendant testifies. "I had followed headlines at the beginning. [...] I had heard of him before." "I didn't know enough about his music, but had heard about him." He had not heard enough evidence to form an opiinion.

DW: Any preconceived ideas?

#15: No, I do not.

DW: Any reason to think you can't be fair?

#15: No.

Do gets up to interview this potential juror. The juror states that he does own firearms, but he doesn't have any expertize about them. He was briefly a member of the NRA, for one year. He says that he finds DNA "...intriguing. I believe it is valid. [...] It's interesting because it's science and I like science."

TD: On your jury questionnaire, you wrote, "...curiosity; no definite judgment or opinion."

#15: I think it is valid; of interest because of the technologies.

TD: Have you researched anything about DNA?

#15: I participated as a helper with my son in a 7th grade project. It was part of his curiculum.

This juror served on three other juries. He says, "It was sometimes interesting and a lot of waiting around." He was the foreperson on two of the juries, back when there was a required 10 day service. One of the trials, the whole thing wrapped in one day.

TD: What did you think about the jury deliberation process?

#15: "...because it was so divided. Six to six. It was an interesting hear other people and their viewpoints.

The juror describes techniques that he used [as foreperson] to reach a verdict in the assault charge case.

TD: What's the thought process you go through as a mechanical engineer in your job?

#15: I don't use my mechanical engineering degree in my job now.

The juror says he's mostly aligned with civil engineering.

I hear a phone start to vibrate very noisily and it belongs to Spector's fan sitting beside me. She gets up and quickly leaves the courtroom to answer it. The bailiff who is standing up and leaning against the wall beside his desk area, doesn't hear it or see her leave 106. After a minute or two, she reenters the courtroom.

The prosecution passes for cause. The defense uses a premptory challenge and excuses juror #14.

It's at the end of the court day and we still don't have the alternates picked yet. All the remaining jurors are instructed to come back Monday morning at the same time. Just then, Spector's fan gets up and sits beside Rachelle Short and starts to talk with her just as the jury is starting to exit the room.

Spector and Weinberg shake hands. Everyone slowly exits the courtroom and I step into the vending machine room by the elevators to write some notes and make a phone call before I head back to the Red Line station.