Good morning everyone. Let me tell you about my day yesterday.
I got up (for me) gawd awfully early at 6 am. I knew there was supposed to be a status conference that morning in the civil case at 8:30 am. I had no idea how bad traffic would be driving to Pasadena so I wanted to give myself plenty of time to get there. I left the house at 7:11 am but I didn't need to worry. There was virtually no traffic and I arrived in Pasadena 20 minutes later. I chatted with donchais the entire way, catching up on the latest news.
I am somewhat familiar with the general area since my sewing machine repair shop is in Pasadena on Colorado Blvd. Still, I got a google map print out of where the courthouse was located. The Pasadena Courthouse is located at 300 E. Walnut, in Pasadena. The back of the building buts up next to Pasadena City Hall and across the street on Walnut is the local Public Library. All of these stone buildings have an old feel to them. The parking lot is about one block away and costs only $7.00 for all day. This is a more reasonable parking fee, reminiscent of the time I spent at the Van Nuys Courthouse attending the Robert Blake trial.
At first, I had trouble locating the exact building. The courthouse is currently under renovation, and I initially drove past it at first because I thought it was abandoned building with all the scaffolding around the exterior. I asked people I saw on the street exactly where I needed to go and found the public entrance with no problem.
This is a small, older court building with six floors. There was no line at the small security station and I passed through easily. The lobby is very tiny, too, more like a doctor's building or small bank branch. There was a free standing three foot square, glassed in display in the center of the lobby with the location of different departments on all four sides. Reading all sides of the display, I found Judge Jan A. Pluim's court. Department P was located on the second floor and I took the elevator up.
Once on the second floor, I had to go down a maize of several corridors before I reached Department P. I think where I ended up, I was in an annex of the building; I'm still not sure. The courthouse was relatively quiet and there was no one in the hall waiting.
When I entered the last corridor, Department P was the first courtroom on my left. The hallway was narrow, similar to an office building and not the wide space I've been used to in the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center. The scuffed, hallway flooring was a light brown square tile and the noticeably worn walls were old paneling. The sprayed ceiling was that old cottage cheese stuff you often find in apartments. The doors to the courtroom led directly inside. There was no ante chamber. When I arrived, there were these little signs hung inside, blocking the tiny rectangular windows that said "Court In Recess."
I took note of the hard sturdy benches lining both sides of the hallway. Imagine the letter H short and squat and the middle cross bar stretched out about eight feet long. That was their shape. The seat was made of three long planks of thick wood approximately 6" wide with the center plank stained a darker color than the rest of the wood. The front edge of the benches were strengthened with wood that looked like two by fours. There were a couple different style benches that were built attached to the walls. You could tell they were there when the walls and floor were finished because the black vinyl trim along the bottom of the walls extended around them.
Outside of each courtroom to the right was a bulletin board and a computer print out of the cases that would be heard that day. All the times listed for each case were the same: 8:30 am. The Clarkson's case was number twenty out of twenty-four listed. I wondered how long that would take to get to their case. As I waited, I read what the printout said to donchais. Product liability case. Motor vehicle. Medical malpractice. Breach of contract. Several of the cases, including the Clarkson case had the following, either PIPD/WD or PI/PD/WD. I'm guessing the PI stands for "personal injury" and the WD might mean "wrongful death." Also beside the Clarkson listing was the original filing date of the claim. February 2nd, 2005. The very last text along the bottom of Clarkson's listing was C/F 12-08-08. 3-03-09. 4-03-09. Those appear to be extension dates since the April 3rd date matched the one on the most recent motion filing by Taylor & Ring, the Clarkson's co-counsel for the hearing for today.
It wasn't until I was already in Pasadena that I closely read the motion and it said, "telephonic Status Conference." So I might be listening to the attorney's speak to the Judge over the phone. All this time, I'm on the phone describing everything I see to my co-blogger donchais. She's been the best friend anyone could have, supporting me through all the ups and downs I've experienced covering both criminal trials.
An older distinguished looking man, obviously an attorney, appears in the hallway. He takes a seat on the bench I'm on and starts to go over some papers. Not long afterwards, unexpectedly, John Taylor rounds the corner and greets me. He tells me Rod Lindblom is not far behind. Taylor knows the attorney sitting beside me and they chat for a bit about the case this attorney is litigating. I hear him tell Taylor that a young man was ejected from an Explorer, landed on the train tracks and the train ran over his leg. He lost his mother in the same accident. The attorney in the hallway said that he has settled with everyone except the train. It's then that I remember reading on the Judge's calendar for today a listing that included the words "MTA."
Taylor and I enter Department P. It's an old looking courtroom. The Judge's bench is located in the back center with the small witness stand to my left. There is the standard California Seal on the wall behind him with the State flag and the National flag flanking each side of the bench against the far wall. The jury box is on the left and seats 12 jurors. The chairs in the jury box look like an older style, padded, high back office chair. There is no door or area I can see where there might be a jury room behind or near the jury box. Along the far right wall I see two door, and the farthest one in the corner says "private." That might be the door to the Judge's chambers. The table for the defense and prosecution is one long continuous table, just like in Fidler's courtroom, but about half that length. There is a large bulletin board in the far left corner behind the jury box.
Off to the right in the well area (but not against the wall like in Fidler's court) is the clerk's desk. There is another desk area in the front right area of the well. The clerk's desk is interesting. It has these wooden sides around it, hiding the top of it from view. The front part of the desk has a ledge and there are about twenty or more colorful stuffed animals on top of that ledge. I can barely see her face from where I'm sitting the the gallery because of the animals.
The gallery has about eighty-five individual white seats. I think the courtroom might be completely square, or a little deeper than it is wide. There are about ten or more attorney's in the gallery. Some are sitting working on papers, others are chatting and still more are coming and going. I notice that everyone in the gallery is wearing black except me. I'm the only one who looks out of place with my casual jeans and pink knit shirt. Taylor is the only attorney not wearing black. He's wearing a dark blue pinstripe suit. Lindblom enters Department P around 8:19 am.
Taylor and Lindblom are at the clerk's desk and I hear her tell them that the Judge is not here today; he's at a conference. The clerk hands them a thick file and they go over it at the long table in the middle of the well. As they look over the clerk's copy of the motions filed in their case, other attorneys are stopping by the clerks desk to get hearing dates moved. I note that there is no projector screen mounted on the wall to pull down. I do see what looks like an older style projection device in the center of the counsel table. Over on the right wall, sort of near the clerk's desk I see three calendars mounted, just like Wendy had behind her desk. From where I'm sitting I can see that they say at the top, "Los Angeles County," so I'm guessing this is a calendar that is standard use throughout the court system. It's very relaxed in the courtroom right now with the Judge off the bench.
Lindblom and Taylor are finished viewing the file and hand it back to the clerk. It's then that I see in big black letters on the front of the file, "Clarkson vs. Spector." A man enters in a light tan suit and goes up to the clerks desk. Taylor and Lindblom chat with the man in the tan suit. I hear him say something to the effect of, ".... made me schlep over here..." but it is quite friendly banter. I also hear him ask "... how long does he have to file a motin for a new trial?" He appears to be a very friendly man and Lindblom and Taylor appear to get along with him well from what I can see. They shake hands and then the man says, "Just call me; let me know." Then Taylor and Lindblom speak to the clerk again and I can't hear what they are saying.
The next hearing in the civil case is moved to Monday, June 4th right after Spector's sentencing. And that's it. I'm back in my car traveling home by 10 am.
The tan suited man was Chris Sheedy, whose office is located in Glendale. Interestingly, Spector did not actually hire Sheedy. Spector's first attorney to handle the civil case was an attorney he used in dealing with settlements he had with Ronnie Spector. After that attorney, another group of attorney's was assigned to the civil case; the same one's Spector used to successfully sue Michelle Blaine. However, Spector did not fully pay their bill in that case. They petitioned the judge and got removed as defense counsel. Spector then tendered his defense to his homeowners policy, to defend him on the wrongful death suit. It was Alstate Insurance who hired Sheedy. Now you have to wonder if this attorney has even met Spector, since Spector did not retain him.
Up until the criminal case came to a verdict, there has been what is called a "stay" on the civil case. That means that the nothing could move forward; people could not be deposed or investigations into Spector's finances were halted. All that has changed now. It's my understanding that Taylor and Lindblom made a conscious decision to step back and let the criminal trial proceed. They did not try to make contact with any witnesses or involve themselves in that case. With the criminal trial over (except for sentencing), their job finally starts.
Although this case was filed in Pasadena, it will not be heard by this judge. Most cases in these tiny branch courthouses only last for a couple weeks, maybe three at the most. his Handling a long case such as this in a branch court would affect the calendar of cases this court usually handles. It's my understanding that once depositions and discovery have been completed, the branch Judge makes a decision and the case is transferred to downtown Los Angeles to the "long cause matters" division. There are Judge's in downtown that specifically handle long cases of this type. The case could be heard in one of two places; the Stanley Mosk Courthouse at First and Grand near the music center, or at the Central Civil West Courthouse on a few floors of an office building. Both of these locations are near mass transit and would be easy to get to. Judge Pluim will handle all the pretrial until then, such as evidentiary disputes to obtain information and depositions. If Taylor and Lindblom are lucky, the civil trial could start around the beginning of 2010.
Many people have speculated that Spector will have to take the stand in the civil trial. That's not necessarily true. As long as Spector has an active appeal in his criminal trial he can take the 5th. He could continually appeal in his criminal trial, keeping that 5th Amendment right in play. There are a lot of things that are dynamic in the civil case right now, and until it moves forward with depositions and discovery, it's still too early to say that Spector "has to" take the stand. There is also the possibility that Spector could take the 5th in his civil trial. However, once he invokes that right, he is forever barred from testifying in the civil case, later.
There is another possibility that might delay the civil case. This is all speculation at this point, but consider this. Alstate Insurance could file an action in another court, seeking to be removed from the case. The argument could be that they don't owe Spector a defense for murder, that murder is not something that they are obligated to cover under his homeowners policy. A slip and fall, broken water pipes, sure; but not a murder conviction. We will just have to wait and see what happens. Maybe Spector will have to use that 1 million bond he just got back towards hiring a new defense attorney for the civil case.
Criminal Trial Aftermath
Meanwhile, back in the criminal case, many of you have asked where there might be more online viewing of the press conference once the verdict was reached. I've not found anything online. The most I've seen was April 14th on Tru Tv where Beth Karas gave three reports; once on Lisa Bloom at the end of the program and also on Jamie Floyd's show at the end. Her report on Banfield and Ford was on towards the end of the first hour of that show. What I have done is transcribe all the text from the clips provided within those three shows.
At the presser, Steve Cooley spoke first and then Alan Jackson. After Jackson, John Taylor, counsel for the family spoke. The jury foreperson addressed the press next and Weinberg went last. I've not found any news organization that aired Steve Cooley's statements. One respected reporter (whom I will not name) actually asked Alan Jackson, "What do you think happened that night?" To me, Jackson appeared dumbfounded for a moment that this seasoned reporter who covered the first case asked that question, then summed his answer similar to his closing argument.
Part of Jackson's statement is as follows:
"Any murder case is difficult. Every murder case, is difficult. We're talking about peoples' lives that are on the line. The, The victim went through something, [pause] very difficult quite frankly. The defendant is facing something very difficult. That is not lost on jurors.
When you impanel twelve people to decide the fate of somebody based on facts, for which they were not privy to until you present them in a courtroom, and the defense has their opportunity to present facts that are sometimes in opposite of that, it's difficult. These are difficult decisions, with, um, broad reaching ramification. That's what I mean when I say this is difficult."
When a reporter pressed Jackson about the cost of the trial from the prosecution's perspective, this is what Beth Karas reported he said. "You know, justice doesn't have a price tag. This office is going to pursue what ever it takes for justice, no matter the cost."
John Taylor, on behalf of the family: "The family is pleased with the verdict. The family is pleased that the jury rejected the distortion and trashing of Lana Clarkson's life, which was a part of this trial, the past trial and (has) been going on now for six years. Actions have consequences. Mr. Spector has to face, the consequences of his acts. There's no joy here today. It's a tragedy, um, but he has to face the consequences of his acts. The family cannot make any statements beyond that because of the ongoing civil case."
The foreperson for the jury spoke next. There were many questions peppered to her by reporters, specifically if there was "one piece" of evidence that stood out. She deflected all those questions by simply repeating that they reviewed all the evidence, and it was all the evidence in total that they considered in rendering their verdict. One out of the loop reporter asked the foreperson Towards the end of the presser, she became emotional and that's the portion of the clip that most news organizations have shown.
"This entire jury, took this so seriously. And I don't think there could have been [pause] another set of eleven people, who really, really listened to everything. [pause] We reviewed everything. [pause] And could not have been more, [pause] painful, [pause] in our decision. And, absolutely, [pause] nothing to do with Mr. Weinberg's ability. (She then turned to Mr. Weinberg and looked at him addressing him.) You were awesome. It just is [a] painful decision and 'til anybody is in our shoes, you have no idea. It's tough to be on a jury. And especially a jury of what we had to decide."
Reporter: Can you talk about why it was so painful and hard (for you)?
"Because you're talking about another human being. [pause] And, um, we all have hearts. We all have people we love. And you try to really, really evaluate another human being. And it's really difficult."
Doron Weinberg spoke next. He was flanked by Jennifer Barringer and their assistant/clerk, Tran Smith.
"I don't think justice was done today. I have an enormous amount of respect for this jury. As I said to them in, in my closing argument. It's hard to imagine a group of people taking a case more seriously, giving it more careful consideration, um, and, trying to do the best, honest job that they could. "
I have no doubt that the jury did that with complete integrity and complete honesty. But I've, in all candor, I think that they came to the wrong result. Not only because I don't believe Phil Spector murdered Lana Clarkson, but also because I'm very, very certain that under the proper legal standard, that, his guilt was not proven, not nearly proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
Questions were asked of Weinberg as to what he was specifically referring to.
"Well, I think, I think the most important ruling is probably the most highly contested ruling in the case and that is the admissibility of the evidence of, ah, um, from the five women who testified. We believe that, analytically, there's absolutely no legal basis for the admissibility of that evidence. But once the framework was set, with those five witnesses, and they were the heart of the prosecution's case, that's what they led off with, once that framework was set, it was extremely difficult for Mr. Spector to get a fair trial."
Beth Karas has indicated during her report that an appeal does not hold up the civil case. There is a possibility that Spector's civil attorney could argue before Judge Pluim that the civil case cannot go forward while there is an active appeal in the criminal case. We will just have to wait and see.
Criminal Trial Media Reports
Here are some more links to media coverage of the criminal case. Here is a report out of Australia. There is a video report also on the page. Just click the link listed on the right. Author Mick Brown is interviewed in this video clip link. The LA Weekly has an unusual piece on Leonard Cohen's Phrophecy contained in his album, Death of a Ladies' Man. If I find any new interesting reports I'll add them here.
I just have an small afterthought commentary on the Associated Press reporting. If you read Linda Deutsch's report, on the verdict and presser, she does not accurately quote the Clarkson family attorney, John Taylor.