Saturday, October 25, 2008

Phil Spector Retrial: Voir Dire Continued

Finishing up my notes for Tuesday, October 21st, Day Two of Voir Dire.

At the end of the court day in 106, I headed down to 102 to see if I could get a feel for the Anand Jon trial that Steve Mikulan is covering for the LA Weekly. Like I mentioned in my update Thursday, Steven introduced me to the writer who is covering this trial for India West, Michel Potts. You can read his latest story, here.

Anand Jon Alexander is charged with several counts of sexual assault. In fact, he was originally charged with more counts but the prosecution dropped several charges to streamline the case and make it easier to prosecute. To me, it looks like Anand Jon has supporters in the courtroom. When I first enter, I note that there are several people in the gallery as well as out in the hallway of Indian descent wearing what appears to be native dress.

This courtroom is an exact copy of courtroom 106 with the jury box and clerk's desk in the same place. There are the long blue cushions on the benches that are absent from Fidler's court. The jurors are out of the room and counsel is in a discussion over an event. There are four male attorneys representing Anand Jon, each with varying degrees of salt and pepper to gray hair left on their heads. There is also a bespeckled man in the back row with a bunch of computer equipment. It appears to be a fax/printer for handling all the document evidence for the defense.

I write a note to Steven, "Are these guys really "high profile" attorneys? Steven nods his head. My immediate take of them is not favorable but it's not based on anything other than a first impression.

Both sides are debating over last minute evidence and going through exhibits. They are substituting photographs of evidence verses the actual physical evidence. I believe I hear one attorney's name as "Mr. Chase." The jury is brought back in and I see they all have these huge three ring binders to reference. The defense calls a private investigator to the stand. Russell L. Greene was hired by the defense. The investigator is talking about an interview he did with Alicia Hannon, whom he first spoke to on October 9th, 2008. He took a full interview from her yesterday [October 20th, 2008]. He made the interview around 4pm in Paso Robles (?) and the subject was in another city. He spoke to her over the phone. The witness says there is a typo in his report. The typo misidentifies a person in the report. He wrote the person's name who he is interviewing, instead of the individual he and the witness were discussing: Britnay (sp?), a woman who worked for Alicia Hannon at Radio Shack, and who was one of the alleged victims of Anand Jon. In cross, the prosecution gets the witness to state that he wrote the report at ". . .3:00 AM this morning and provided it to the court at 11:00 am."

The Judge tells the jury he will have them return at 10:30 am tomorrow. And that's it for this trial for the day. I think the defense rests after this witness and all the attorneys have to do is work out the rest of the evidence that is to be admitted to the jurors.

Out in the hallway, Steven takes a restroom break and I'm approached by a man asking me if I know who Steven Mikulan is who writes for the LA Weekly. I tell him that he will be out in a moment. When Steven comes out, I tell him this is a fan of his. Interestingly, this guy is a member of the Los Angeles County Civil Grand Jury, that Judge David S. Wesley, (who is presiding over the Anand Jon case) oversees. We got an interesting civics lesson in how the Civil Grand Jury is chosen and the type of things they investigate. I didn't get to the Red Line Civic Center station until much later and I was too tired that night to finish that entry. The lesson I've learned from this is I have to try to get out of the courtroom and on my way home as soon as possible after court is over for the day. No more lingering.

Wednesday, October 21st, Day Three of Voir Dire.
Although we left the house on time, Mr. Sprocket is driving me to the Red Line North Hollywood station and we take a different route. The lights on Chandler Blvd., are not timed. Consequently, I miss the 8:29 am train.

When I emerge from the Red Line tunnel, I'm check in with ritanita. As I clear the first floor security, the Spectors' are rounding the area from the "special" scanners reserved for LE, attorneys and employees of the building and are headed directly towards me. I do my best to dodge them and drop into the cafeteria to finish my phone call with ritanita. I note that Rachelle is wearing a long black and white sweater coat and black heels. On the 9th floor, Wendy is calling the bingo roll. I pass her and step into 106 to sit in the same seat as before.

Inside 106 today, I've finally identified what has changed from the first trial. The vibe in the courtroom. It's so different than from what I experienced in round one. It's more sober, subdued. I'm wondering how many Spector fans will show up for this trial? Rachelle is conferring with the blonde counsel who's name I don't know. AJ and Truc are having a conversation with the court reporter. Spector's defense team are all there. We are waiting for the jurors.

This morning I received an email from Mick Brown, alerting me to the article he wrote about Dominick Dunne and I write him back that I will read it as soon as I can.

For a moment Judge Fidler was out of his robes and receiving papers from some individuals who look like detectives. At 9:30 am the jury files in. I note that the row of plastic chairs in front of me is empty. We are slowly losing jurors. There's no one from the PIO's office and there is only one bodyguard again sitting with Rachelle a few chairs away from me. There is one clerk here from the DA's office. We wait for Judge Fidler to take the bench. Six new numbers are called to fill in the people excused yesterday afternoon.

New Juror #13: 098 Male
#14: 148 Female
#15 136 Male
#16 137 Male (This is the individual who was standing behind Spector in the chair row when he uttered his favorite expletive.)
#17 236 Male
#18 202 Female

A man enters late and I don't see a juror badge. I motion him to sit by me until I notice that he takes out a juror badge and pins it to his shirt. I then motion to him to sit up with the rest of the jurors and he moves.

Judge Fidler asks the same questions of these new jurors about completing the questionnaire. Is there anything they want to change, did they claim any areas of privacy and can they follow his instructions, etc.

Weinberg stands up and addresses the new additions to the box. "...Another day of scintillating conversation."

#14: If I heard this correctly, she works (or worked) for the Department of Children & Family Services. She works not only with the families of victims, but the whole process.

DW: Do you think that you might come into this process with a preconceived [bias] towards the victim verses the defendant?

#14: Her prior jury service was harder than she thought. She was the foreperson. It went well; it took a day and a half to reach verdicts.

Her husband is Chinese, and for some time she was a member of a Chinese Cultural Association that promotes Chinese cultural opportunities.

I note that Weinberg's voice is very deep and "commanding" sounding. This is so different than Rosen's whine, Cutler's inflated bravado, Kenny Baden's shriek or Plourd's flat monotone. I have to say it again. Spector has a much better defense team this time.

Two clerks from the DA's office enter the courtroom. One is a clerk I spoke to the day before who sits in the chair row in front of me, and a young woman sits in the back row beside me. After sitting there for a moment, she joins the young man she came with.

#14 states she doesn't know a great deal about the case. She knows a woman was shot at Spector's home and the question was how that happened. She has read one of Dr. Lee's books. She doesn't think he was a great writer. She didn't remember the title of the book but thinks it was Dr. Lee looking at famous cases in the past and how he would have investigated them. She thought it was like a fantasy type book.

She knows people who have committed suicide through her work in a [children's ?] psychiatric facility. Most though, were unsuccessful attempts.

DW: Any reservations [about serving on the jury]?

#14: No.

As she's sitting here, she is now recalling considerable more detail about the first trial, triggered by the conversation in the room. She remembers there was a death at Spector's house and the statement he made, "I think I killed somebody." She agreed with the majority at the first trial, and still holds that opinion very strongly.

DW: So [you] approach the case with a bias?

#14: I think so.

DW: [So the] defense would have a burden; [you would] start off with an assumption of guilt.

#14: I would like to think I could [be impartial] but I don't think I know.

Weinberg speaks respectfully to the jurors and I'm impressed with how he interacts with them.

DW: The question is, everyone comes with preconceived notions, can you put them aside and say this is a new trial?

#14: I don't think I can do that.

#15: This potential juror is a judge clerk for civil and some criminal courts. She has worked for several judges in this building but has never worked with Judge Fidler. She has worked the traffic metro division. She sat for many criminal trials. She has no preconceived [bias]. She's seen it all. Every case is individual.

DW: You have heard and watched the process and you are familiar, you're comfortable with it?

#15: I'm familiar, I'm comfortable, I'm not an expert.

Weinberg asks her about the concepts she knows. She says that she blogs, but it's political, not about cases or her job. She's cynical about the press and what comes out in the press. She doesn't always believe the press [because] there's not enough information. She's never worked with Mr. Jackson or Ms. Do. She knew Dr. Lee's reputation "As a pathologist." She has a criminal justice degree. She doesn't have and preconceptions about Dr. Lee.

She's worked with defense attorneys and prosecutors and they all have to work together to get the case done. She's worked in civil and criminal court. There is an area of privacy that this juror claims and everyone goes to the bench to question her.

As we wait for the questioning at the bench to be over, I note that Rachelle's hair is pulled high up into a ponytail. Right now her eyes are closed and she's leaning her head back against the wall. I see the bailiff is standing and observing the room. I watch Fidler addressing the potential juror. AJ is asking the juror a few questions now. It's 10:05 am and the privacy conference is still going on.

I squirm in my seat. The chairs are not that comfortable but not as bad as the hard benches. I think back to all those months on them and feel for all the jurors that are having to endure. I'm not looking forward to sitting on them either for three months or more. I've been wearing my new New Balance walking shoes to court instead of my red moc's. The advantage is, I don't have any problems going through security and I am able to get from the Red Line platform and across the Court of Flags, faster. The conference is finally over and Weinberg thanks the group for their patience.

#16: He's a research scientist. He is currently working on a project studying a human genetic disease. He rattles off what it is, and Judge Fidler asks him, "Could you spell that for the court reporter?" There's laughter in the court after Fidler's request.

SCA: Spinal Cerabella atacia (?). (As I'm typing this I check google and the correct disease is "spinal cerebellar ataxia.") The animals he's working with are vertebrates and they harvest their eggs and life cycle. If he is chosen to serve on this jury, the other people on his research project would find it difficult. There are time schedules he has to adhere to in feeding and monitoring the lab animals and his research will be affected if he is chosen to serve. Weinberg mentions the days that the court will have off in November and during Christmas and wonders if the juror can work around this.

The juror has served on a civil trial, and he was frustrated with another juror. The case took several days. Weinberg takes this time to talk about "preponderance of evidence" as well as the difference between civil and criminal trials. Criminal trials require a unanimous verdict whereas a civil trial does not. The level of guilt required is not as high as in a criminal trial, too. The juror states that he would give more credence to testimony of LE verses regular citizens. That comes from his civil respect for LE. At this point, Weinberg elicits some laughter in the courtroom from the dialog he is having with this juror.

This juror had an experience with suicide, a coworker. It was someone he used to work with. People that he knows who own guns are more violent. But, as #14 said, "I have head about the case and I thought it was very unfortunate."

DW: Did you form and opinion?

#16: It just looked like an open and shut case. From all that, it doesn't look good.

But we're in the courtroom now and we're going to hear more evidence. (From my notes, I'm not sure if Weinberg said this or if the juror did.)

It's 10:25 and we're still on #16. Oops. Wrong. Weinberg finished with him and is onto potential juror #17.

At first, on the questionnaire, the juror said that they didn't think they could be fair. "I have seen so much information about the first trial I don't think I can be impartial." That's on this jurors questionnaire I believe. But now, having been in the courtroom and listening to all the questioning and arguments presented, the juror now thinks he can. AJ stands up and asks Fidler, "If I may your honor?" He points out to Weinberg that he has the wrong juror questionnaire for this juror. A break is called at 10:30 am and we are to be back here at 10:45 am.

I bolt out of the courtroom as soon as the jurors exit ~ I also don't want a repeat of yesterday, and head down to 102 to say hello to Steven. He identifies one of the defense attorney's to me as Leonard Levine. Apparently, Mr. Levine is a well known, high profile attorney. I tell him a little bit about the witness I observed on Monday. I also learn that the gentlemen who is handling all the defense audio and visual exhibits is Richard Zera. It's a short visit. I say goodbye and head back to 106.

Back in my seat Wendy walks towards the courtroom doors and says, "Lets get this show on the road." At 10:48 am we are back on the record. Weinberg apologies to the juror. He made a mistake and pulled the wrong document. "This will save me time when I do get to the juror who did write that." A bit of laughter ensues after that comment.

#17 states they are missing a burial service today. He is also an administrator of a church. He's made arrangements to ensure his responsibilities as an administrator are taken care of so there will be no conflict with potentially serving. He is also a member of a Public Safety Association for the Little Tokyo area that has an association with the LAPD regarding the security of the community. Through community outreach, he is in contact with the LAPD.

DW: On your juror questionnaire you said you would "Expect a defendant to testify, but he's "not guilty yet." I was struck by that phrase, "not guilty yet" so let's hear from him.

A bit of laughter erupts in the courtroom.

The juror strongly agreed that defendants that don't testify in court, the reason is that they have something to hide.

DW: What about the [possibility] the defendant may have some qualities that make him not able to be an effective witness?

#17: Could be.

DW: You commented [in the questionnaire] about the Simpson verdict. The police were unable to present sufficient evidence. OJ committed a "perfect crime."

(When I hear this, I think this jurors' perception of the OJ murder case is skewed, but maybe that's because I've read quite a few books on the OJ murder trial.)

#17: In explanation, the juror states he was sorry that the better way of evidence collection wasn't done.

Mr. Weinberg moves onto potential juror #18. "You have strong feelings about guilt[?]

#18: She watched the first trial. She thinks she could remember things about [it].

DW: You don't think you could be a fair juror?

#18: Correct.

DW: Thank you for your honesty. With that, Weinberg is finished and AJ steps up to the podium.

AJ: Hello again. Miss me?

There's a small amount of laughter from the jurors.

AJ: Story of my life.

Harriet Ryan from the Los Angeles Times enters the courtroom. I give her a few notes as to where we are in jury selection.

AJ speaks about some legal concepts to the jurors. One of the jurors, #17 speaks up and addresses AJ, answering his question.

#17: It would be inappropriate to take any evidence and put it in a bubble. The evidence needs to be put in context with everything else in the case.

AJ: Number 13, do you agree with that?

All the questioned jurors nod and agree.

AJ: When you evaluate circumstantial evidence, when there is a reasonable explanation and and unreasonable explanation, the judge will tell you that you have to adopt the reasonable and reject the unreasonable. [Do you agree with that?] All the jurors agree.

After addressing juror #13, a social worker, AJ says a few words about his penchant to use the slang, "y'all." "I was under a bet that I couldn't get through the entire panel without saying y'all."

Juror #13 states she is more a processor for her clients to help them navigate the process. She worked with the dependency court. (I believe I have that right.) She loves the law and is fascinated [with it]. It's a process for analyzing social situations. She enjoyed the job but the hours were killing her. (From this, I'm getting that I may have missed something in her earlier answers about her job, and what she was discussing was a prior job and not a current one.)

AJ: You believed Mr. Spector was found not to have killed [the victim]?

#13: She now realizes that it was a hung jury.

#14: This juror states he doesn't think he can put aside his preconceived opinions about the case.

I make a note in my notebook as to how the panel looks at this moment.

1 F; 2F; 3M; 4F: 5M; 6M; 7M; 8M; 9M; 10F; 11M; 12F; 13F; 14M; 15F; 16M; 17M; 18F.

#15: She is a clerk of the civil court. Her experiences have been positive with defense and prosecution. At this point, AJ stumbles and has said "y'all." Looks like he lost that lunch bet.

AJ goes over potential juror #16's prior jury service and asks if he could approach the task to to "look at all the evidence." Some scientists will pull one thing out of the data and focus on that. "Do you know what it is, I guess what I'm saying is, to [use] corroboration? It's to validate other stuff. The juror says he understands utilizing corroboration. Juror #16 claims a privacy matter and they approach the bench to question the juror on those issues.

#17: This juror has had prior army experience from 1951-1953. He was a combat engineer, reconnaissance, maps, intelligence. He was stationed in Germany. He was an alternate on a prior jury case where he "learned a lot." It was a positive experience and he agrees with the process.

#18: With this juror, AJ asks her to "set aside preconceived opinions. She states she thinks she can set aside what she thnks she knows [of the first case]. "I would like to think I could be able to do that. At the time I filled out the questionnaire, I had very strong opinions." [After listening to the questions and arguments in court] she thinks she can be fair according to the judge's instructions.

Judge Fidler now addresses juror #18, and she explains why she has changed her point of view. That at work she has to set aside old ways of doing things and learn something new.

The attorney's approach the bench for a conference.

While the attorney's are in conference, I ask Harriet if the blonde at the defense table is the same woman from the first trial. Harriet nods her head yes. I am totally embarrassed. I did not recognize Jennifer Barringer, who is an attorney in the state of New York. Spector is very lucky that Weinberg was able to get her to come on board for the retrial. Jennifer handled all the defense exhibits for the first trial, was absent from the first trial for only a few weeks and I'm betting she knows the evidence quite well. I also learn that the woman I've been told is named Susan is a paralegal, not an attorney.

When the bench conference is over, juror #14 is excused for cause. A new number is called, 028, a male. The new potential juror #14 tells Judge Fidler that he has an upcoming court hearing her in Los Angeles. Fidler responds, "I can take care of it."

Weinberg steps up to question this new juror. He asks what the hearing is about, if the juror is able to tell us [and not claim privacy]. He responds that it is to get a garnishment off his wages for child support. The attorneys discuss which division might be handling that and they think it's the District Attorney's office. The juror states this will not impact his service on this jury.

Juror #14 is a maintenance supervisor. He does not have the ability to hire or fire. He does admit that he has some reservations about the defendant not testifying. "So you meant on your jury questionnaire, 'Someone that doesn't testify is hiding something?' "

#14: That's a possibility. Yes, somewhat; I agree with that.

The juror expressed [on the questionnaire] some strong opinions about high profile attorneys. They drag the case along and [confuse?] the facts. To him it seems the high priced attorney, has more experience, knows how to ask the better questions to get answers.

DW: It all sounds pretty good to me." "This isn't a contest." The only thing is, does the prosecuton have the evidence? I'm not trying to hide anything, I'm just wrapping myself in the constitution. [I'm] just supposed to raise questions about the evidence and show an alternate possibility. Is there anything wrong with an ability to be able to point to problems with the evidence?

The lunch break is called, and I head down to the cafeteria to find Dr. Adams to sit with him over lunch. Dr. Adams brings me up to date on some people who assisted the prosecution in the first trial, and where they are assigned now. Sudi, who handled the prosecution's exhibits on the ELMO during the first trial is no longer in Major Crimes.

After lunch I head up to the 13th floor snack room, to get a vitamin water, grab a chair and make a call to donchais. There is a high counter there, and the four chairs are high, like bar stools but they are also comfy office chairs. As soon as I sit down I say to the woman next to me, "Wow! These are real comfortable!" She replies, "Yes! I'm glad I found this little place. She then asks me, "You're not a juror in 106 are you?" I then respond to her with my own question, "Are you a juror in 106?" She replies, "I haven't been chosen yet." I then respond, "I'm sorry. I can't talk to you." I then get up and leave the floor to find a more private area to make my phone call. I am constantly hyper vigilant not to have a repeat in this trial of being accused of something I didn't do.

Back on the 9th floor waiting for 106 to be opened, Spector's defense team comes down the hall. Jennifer is with the approaching group. She tells me she "is her," and not a double. Someone in the group says they were discussing this over lunch. I try not to turn beet red and explain to her why I didn't recognize her. "Honestly Jennifer, and this is the truth. You look so much thinner to me and that's why I didn't recognize you."

Back inside 106, I take the same seat and counsel for both sides approach the bench. Not long after I sit down and the questioning resumes, I'm overcome with a wave of exhaustion. Two nights in a row I've had very little sleep and I make a decision to go home and rest. I figured, at the rate the attorney's are going I'm guessing that this will go into next week and I can take a few days off from voir dire and rest. As I head over to the Red Line station, I call Mr. Sprocket to meet me in North Hollywood in about 40 minutes.

3 comments:

Michele said...

I'm thrilled to find your blog again, Sprocket, and catch up with the Spector retrial. It's cool that you've branched out into other cases as well.

I will be a faithful reader. You're an awesome reporter, and I love reading your blog. You probably don't even realize how well you write, and the color you add to the trial.


I agree that this time, Spector hit it out of the park with his defense team. While that doesn't thrill me, as someone who is sympathetic to justice for Lana Clarkson's family, I believe he has gotten more bang for his bucks with this team. We'll see how it goes.

Sprocket said...

Thank you, michele. I am my own worst critic, and do not see myself as a writer at all. At times, I feel like I am just a verbal video recorder, writing down all I see and hear.

Dominick Dunne, Mick Brown, Steve Mikulan, now those guys are "real writers!"

CaliGirl9 said...

Wonder if Harvey's paid for the first defense team yet?

Even with a seemingly more competent team, I pray every night that the jurors have plenty of common sense and come to the conclusion that the prosecution's case is the ONLY logical truth. Adriano's testimony of "I think I killed someone" is plenty enough for me. Those are five easily understood words, even if English is your second language.

Strength to Lana's family and loved ones yet again.