Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cameron Brown Retrial: Opening Statements Part I

Monday, July 27th, 2009

(For those of you who are unfamiliar with my trial coverage, I often write late into the night and will put up an unedited entry. The entry is edited much later.)

It's always a rush to make the train but at least today I had 30 seconds to spare and I got a seat. The ride into downtown is eerily similar to when I was attending the Spector trial, but not. What's missing is actually something nice. I don't have the little nagging knot in my stomach I would get when approaching the courthouse wondering about what new drama or intimidation tactic the defendant or his wife would try.

On the train, I close my eyes to rest. The next time I open them we are already at the Wilshire/Vermont station and the subway car is packed; standing room only.

Up on the 9th floor around 8 am it's a virtual ghost town. I know the names of some of the people who work in Judge Pastor's courtroom because my friend Dr. Carroll Adams has been watching trials in that courtroom for the past couple of years. At 8:15 am a tall, lovely woman peeks her head out of 107 and says good morning to me and asks which courtroom I'm waiting on. I tell her I'm waiting for Pastor's courtroom and that I'm a friend of Dr. Adams. She introduces herself. She's Mavis, one of the court reporters that Carroll had mentioned. She says, "Give Dr. Adams our best. We all miss him." I ask her if there was a jury questionnaire and she said yes. However, she said that the defense would not stipulate to pre-screened jurors so every day for four days they had a new panel arrive.

Just then a few counsel-looking individuals come up to enter 107. Mavis points out that the attractive Asian woman is Susan Kim who will be sitting second chair to the prosecutor Craig Hum. Dr. Adams mentioned to me that he will be sorry to miss Hum's opening statement because he's such a fine prosecutor.

A very young, attractive looking dark haired woman sits on the bench beside me. I ask her if she is a juror and she says, no, that she is too young. One of us asks which courtroom the other is waiting for. It just so happens that she's waiting for 107 to open also. Regarding the Cameron Brown case, she offers, "It's interesting case because it's murky." I don't respond to that because I don't know all the facts of the case.

8:20 am: Pat Harris arrives and enters 107 and I believe the young woman goes into the courtroom with him.

8:28 am: Hum arrives with a cart carrying his files and what I believe are clerk staff. A detective looking man is carrying a big black binder that says "MURDER BOOK" on the front of it. I find out later that this is Detective Leslie, and he will be sitting at the prosecution table.

As I wait for the courtroom to be officially opened for the public (when a deputy unlocks the exterior courtroom door) I write a few rambling questions. Was Lauren the type of child to run ahead, to pull away from a parent in new, unfamiliar surroundings? Had she ever been to a location similar to Inspiration Point before (a cliff edge)? Did Brown tell Lauren's mother where he was going to take her that day? Had Brown ever take his daughter hiking up a trail like this before?

8:32 am: The courtroom is unlocked and I get to enter. I take a seat in the second row, almost in line with the witness box but closer to the jury box. I see that Mavis is the first court reporter up. Judge Pastor is already seated on the bench. There is some pleasant banter between Harris and Hum. This is totally different than the apparent tension in Fidler's courtroom for Spector.

Pastor's courtroom is a mirror image of Fidlers'. The only difference would be that the courtroom is a bit narrower and there's not as much room in the well area. There are seat and back cushions on all the benches in Pastor's courtroom and that is a welcome relief. Not long after I attended my first pretrial hearing in Fidler's courtroom back in 2007, he had all the cushions removed from his benches.

Since there isn't that much room in the well area, Pastor has his jurors enter the courtroom via the back row and the side gate to the jury box instead of the one that leads into the well area. There are big signs on the back row that state "DO NOT SIT IN THIS ROW."

I note that the Pastor's regular clerk, Sammie Benson is not here and another much younger woman has taken her place. I almost forgot! While I was waiting in the hallway, I got to say hello and chat a moment with Fidler's clerk, Wendy.

Inside 107, I see that the detective looking man is sitting at the table with Craig Hum. You can see a photo of DDA Hum at this link. There is a very attractive, slender female attorney sitting at the defense table with Pat Harris. It's Lara Veretsian, and a member of the Geragos & Geragos law firm. If you go to the link, you can see photos of Harris and Veretsian. Veretsian is wearing a very form fitting white suit for the first day of trial. I'm reminded of the short, very tight jackets that Rachelle Short Spector used to wear, except instead of pants, Veretsian's suit is a matching skirt that shows every curve of her figure.

Brown's wife, Patty is sitting in the front row. She's wearing a bright turquoise jacket and dark blue print blouse and navy pants. There are several people sitting in the second row to my left. I don't know who anyone is at this point but I'm assuming they are all friends of the victim's mother, Sarah. Once I've identified Sarah, I forget to write down what she is wearing. Over at the clerk's desk in the far left corner of the courtroom, I notice there is a model elephant with tusks. From here, it looks like it stands about 10" tall.

Hum has placed a slew of binders on the table in front of him. I take the time to count them. There are seventeen, two-inch green binders and three more exactly like those on the table behind him. The court reporter and the court clerk and setting out pens and big white binders on the jury chairs. I find out later that there is 3-ring, loose-leaf lined paper in the binders for the jurors to write on. While they are getting this set up, I ask Mavis how Judge Pastor numbers the chairs in his jury box. There are a total of 18 seats; two rows of nine swivel chairs and a row of seats in the well in front of the jury box. Mavis tells me that the back row starts left to right jurors 1-6 then alternates 1 through 3. The second row left to right is jurors 7-12 and then alternates 4 through 6. I notice that there is a blue table skirt around the front of the combined defense and prosecution tables that hold three chairs a piece. There are also narrow tables and chairs in the well behind the counsel tables. It's very crowded in the well area.

When Brown enters the courtroom from the holding area, I note that he looks even thinner than I remembered. He's clean shaven, which is different from when I saw him in 2008, and his hair is cut short and styled. While he's sitting at the defense table he's putting on his tie.

At 8:40 am, the courtroom is called into session. There is a stipulation by both parties that if there are any issues to discuss, both parties are to be here. There are some issues that the defense wants to bring up before opening statements begin. The first issue has to do with whether or not the prosecution can mention (through stipulation or through witnesses) that the police made several attempts to interview Brown before he obtained an attorney. It appears that the case law Judge Pastor is leaning on is People v. Walby (sp?). Even from the bench Pastor states that he was having trouble understanding the Walby ruling decision. Pastor eventually rules that this information can come in. Hum agrees with Pastor that the information is not offered for establishing evidence of guilt. Pastor states that there will be a limiting instruction. I believe it's Hum who states there's an offer that the police did a thorough investigation. Pastor asks Hum how many occasions did LE attempt to contact Mr. Brown. Hum replies something to the effect, "....two to three times." And with that, Patty erupts with a comment of her own as to how often the police came.

Pat Harris whips around and in a very loud voice, says, "PATTY!" He says to her something like, "Enough." or "Be quiet." I don't have it exactly. And Judge Pastor erupts also with a very stern, angry warning of his own. He's no-nonsense. He tells her they have a two strike rule here. "Mam, if it happens again, you're out!" He tells her that he would rather that she be here, but if she does this again, she's out.

Harris states something to the effect that it's "very much a misdirection of what it is the defense is stating. [...] The defense states the first night, they accused him of murder. [...] They investigated and came up short. [...] And from that point on they focused on Mr. Brown." Harris goes on to state that LE went to Colorado, Ohio and Hawaii and came up empty. "We're saying they accused him the first night and focused on him from then on. [...] They didn't just come two or three times (to his home) they would come two to three times a day. [...] I would venture it was in double digits. [...] From that point on, the investigation was geared towards him. [...]

Judge Pastor (JP): I don't see why you couldn't enter into a stipulation that LE did investigate....[...] I think that type of stipulation doesn't run afoul of Walby. [...] I think it's highly relevant that LE vigorously investigated. [....] Do you think that's possible Mr. Hum?"

I believe Pastor asks Hum when Brown was arrested. Hum gives a date, but it's not clear in my notes if he says this is approximate or the exact date. November 16th, 2003.

Pat Harris (PT): Based on your ruling, I would be willing to work out a stipulation.

Pastor goes onto to share his thoughts on the probative verses prejudicial aspect. "There's going to be evidence whether by testimony or stipulation," he continues. "There's no Fifth Amendment here. There's no Sixth Amendment here."

The next issue that is discussed is the 'LAX incident.' It's not clear in my notes but I believe it's Hum who states, it's "....adjunct to the investigation, but it also goes to the defendant's attitude to the victim's mother [...] and [...] defendants hatred of the victim's mother to get back and hurt the victim's mother [...] and to get what was most dear to her, her daughter. [...] It goes to ongoing behavior. [...] He tried to get her deported. He tried to get her fired from her job. [...] ...continuing course of conduct towards his hatred of the mother. [...] Not only is it apparent on the taped encounter at LAX [...] (he) goes to the police and makes a false accusation of criminal conduct of the mother. [...] (His) efforts to try to get the mother prosecuted is further evidence of (his) hatred."

PH: Her told her that he couldn't talk to her. [...] He tells her he isn't going to talk to her because he has a lawyer.

More people enter the courtroom that appear to be family supporters. One of them smiles at Hum.

Pat Harris says that what he (Brown) said to Ms. Marer, " we're going to use that silence to show guilt?"

JP: Is there some more ..... falsely accusing Ms. Marer?

Harris mentions previous phone calls where she (Ms. Marer) threatened him.

Pastor voices his concern of the threat on that specific incident.

PH: I'm not going to use the word stalking [...] but if LE used her to continue to harass him [...] and for him to fear for his safety. [...] This is all geared to his attitude toward Ms. Marer. [...] And he lost a daughter, too, and you're going to hear some pretty nasty phone calls and her side, too. [...] (he was) ordered not to come to the funeral. [...] And also some pretty bad things on Ms. Marer's part.

Pastor asks Hum if he has some final thoughts.

CH: The incident at LAX happened two months after the murder rather than three. I would (?) disagree as to conduct.

JP: I agree. [...] It goes to motive, lack of (?) [...] (and) state of mind; the depth of hatred Cameron Brown may have felt towards Ms. Marer. [...] It's not tangential or (?) to the situation. [...] It's highly relevant; 210 [[...] 350. I do not find the the prejudicial outweighs the probative.

JP: Next!

The defense then brings up several "statements" that Ms. Marer is going to testify to that he objects to. He wants to go over all of them and get a ruling to get these statements out. Harris states that the detectives had several interviews with Ms. Marer, and the detectives took extensive notes. A number of things that came out during her testimony (first trial? grand jury?) that were never turned over to the defense. Mr. Hum (stated) that she never told them before. "Despite our objections, they were let in, Harris states. "She was allowed to testify to a number of things, bad character, of Mr. Brown. [...] We don't believe they should be allowed in."

Harris then goes over seven items in detail.

1. Cameron Brown told her a story of a child who died at the bottom of a cliff near Redondo Beach.

JP: When was the story first told?

Harris states the story was told when they were dating.

2. In testimony at trial she had taken a quarter from his car and supposedly Brown said to her (after she told him) "All you want is money from me."

3. Phone conversation incident. He left the phone and walked away and he didn't pick up the phone for forty minutes. Brown supposedly offered an opinion, that just because you get pregnant doesn't mean you can stay in the US.

4. Several comments she states Brown made about his mother. He didn't want her to have a relationship with his mother. Supposedly Brown stated that she was a bitch and a bad lady.

5. The baby swing. She was walking past a store and sees a swing. She didn't have the money to buy it and he was reluctant to help her with the cost of getting the swing.

6. Allegation from her where she was at her place of business and Brown states she was stealing from the company. (?) have witness (testify) who works for the travel agency. It's double hearsay.

#7 He told her the night they met he was a pilot for American Airlines.

Hum presents his counter arguments to each issue.

Child falling from cliff story: There are a number of reasons that will be relevant. That the defendant was aware of the danger of high cliffs and evidence of malice; relevant to child danger on high cliffs.

25 cents: He got angry that she borrowed twenty-five cents to make a phone call. Defendant says all she wants is money. Relevant to motive of case. Relevant to telling victim her mother is going to jail for stealing his money.

Phone call: Defendant left phone off hook for 40 minutes. That led to the break up of their relationship. It was the last straw.

Brown's attitude about his mother: Ms. Key-Marer wanted Lauren to have a relationship with her grandmother. Brown contends his mother is a bitch. It was a source of concern for Ms. Marer and friction between the two.

Swing. It goes to the issue of Ms. Marer only after him for his money. Ms. Marer states he wouldn't let her talk about the baby. He would shut down and not talk and his refusal to help buy the swing.

Stealing accusation to her job. The call to her work. It's not offered for the truth of the matter. It's relevant to Ms. Key-Marer's state of mind.

Harris rebuts the prosecution's arguments and presents points again, arguing in reverse. Regarding the pilot, it's a stretch to show the nature of the relationship. Regarding the call to work, it's double hearsay. The person who received the call is deceased. There are no phone records.

Pastor asks if this was testimony from the last trial and Hum states it was either not objected to or the objection was overruled. One of the reasons she did not contact Brown again was because of this incident.

I watch as a few people enter 107. One person sits in the second row to my right and another person hands papers to Pastor's clerk. Another woman sits with her and I guess that the younger looking woman is Denise Nix since she takes out a notepad. Nix looks much prettier than her photo on the Daily Breeze's Court Tracker web page.

Harris continues to argue the points. He states that Ham repeatedly took Lauren to meet his mother so the alleged comments are totally irrelevant. In regards to the child falling from the cliff, Harris states the witness is bringing this in as a comedy to show that he know children and cliffs could be dangerous.

JP: I think it's a huge issue. [...] (goes to) intent, motive, state of mind, criminal negligence. I've never had one of these conversations [...] then unfortunately have your own child die that way.

Harris gives an example of a drive by shooting, to try to show that the conversation was either irrelevant....

A still photographer enters around 9:45 am. The clerk asks the cameraman to wait outside until the hearing is over.

JP: Eight issues raised. 1. Relevant. Child dying at (?) establishes knowledge of danger. It's relevant to thought process. and implied malice.

Pastor goes down through each issue, and gives his opinion as to why he thinks each issue is relevant and will be allowed in. He states that the call to work and the accusation will not be offered for the truth of the matter and a limiting instruction will be given to the jury.

JP: All subjects are relevant. I do not find individually or collectively they are more prejudicial verses probative. [...] I will have limiting instructions on several issues.

An issue with another witness's testimony is deferred until they get closer to presenting that witness. Pastor issues that all prosecution exhibits, along with their number will also be identified by a green dot (on the back of the document). The defense documents will have an orange dot. Everyone stipulates to the colors.

The Daily Breeze reporter, Denise Nix asks to take some still photographs. Hum has no objection. Harris has not objection. Pastor tells the reporter he does not want to be photographed himself. The photographer is brought in to photograph Mr. Brown and the attorneys. The photographer is allowed to stand in the doorway behind the clerks desk that goes to the Judge's chambers. I thought that was interesting.

Pastor wants to start immediately at 10 am, but there is still another piece of evidence that the defense is objecting to. It's a last minute piece of evidence that Ms. Marer has recently revealed. "Now Ms. Marer will testify her daughter was taken to a pier and she just now remembers this? [...] Here we are again hours before trial and an items gets plugged up." Harris mentions testimony about Ms. Marer remembering that on the night they had sex "the condom broke."

The resolution of this item isn't clear.

Another issue still not resolved is an email sent July 3rd. Pastor asks Hum if he's going to refer to it in his opening statement. Hum says no. Hum's explanation for the late notice to the defense team: "In all honesty, I must have misplaced it." Pastor states he his concerned. "It's definitely admissible."

We now learn that a juror called in late and opening statements won't start until 10:15 am. The defense is now trying to ask the judge to have Ms. Marer not be in the courtroom for opening statements. Pastor rules that she has a right to be here. He addresses the courtroom that he doesn't was faces made. He doesn't want reactions from the gallery. He's very direct and stern in his address to the gallery.

Harris, Pastor and Hum speak at the sidebar area about the lights that Hum wants dimmed during his opening statements for his overview presentation. During this short period I introduce myself to Denise Nix. I count the number of people to my left. It's seven. There appear to be three young people, possibly clerks in the back row. The young girl I met out in the hallway is sitting in the front row next to Patty. The young girl's features and coloring lead me to make a guess that she might be related to the woman who is co-chair for the defense.

Pastor then asks the attorneys to the bench to go off the record and Susan who I first saw in the hallway is sitting at the prosecution table. While the bench conference is going on, I squint to try to see the three county calendars behind the clerk's desk. It appears that August 6th and 7th and 15th are dark days. Court is also dark the last week in August from the 25th through September 1st. I also have in my notes that court will be in session on Fridays, which is unusual and different from Fidler's courtroom.

As we wait for the wayward juror, Hum paces in the well. Everyone else in the well is sitting but Hum is slowly and methodically pacing.

1o:27 am: Pastor announces that we finally have our wayward juror. Cameron Brown enters the courtroom. It's stated for the record that Detective Jeff Leslie is the "I/O" on the case. I'm not sure what that stands for.

Harris objects to Ms. Marer being in the courtroom during the opening statement. Pastor rules that she can remain during the opening but that she will have to leave during the testimony of other witnesses. I'm surprised about that.

When the jury enters I make quick notes as to the make-up of the jury. I won't know if my observations are spot on until I get a copy of the jury questionnaire.

#1. Young Asian man
#2. Black man
#3. Asian woman
#4. Older black man
#5 Older white man
#6 Black woman
#7 White man
#8 Man, race unknown
#9 Young Asian man
#10 Man
#11 Man
#12 Asian man

Alt 1 Man
Alt 2 Man
Alt 3 White woman
Alt 4 Man
Alt 5 Black woman
Alt 6 White man

Craig Hum greets the jury.

Good morning. This case is about the murder of a four-year-old girl, Lauren Sarene Key. (The evidence will show) the defendant took her on a hike in Rancho Palos Verdes and throwing her into the ocean below. The defendant claims it was an accident.

The defendant is Cameron J. Brown. On the day of the murder he was a 39 year old man, and not the old man (shown here).

The mother is Sara Key-Marer, originally from England. And then there is Lauren Sarene Key.

The defendant met the mother in the fall of 1995. In late December (of that year) she discovered she was pregnant. The defendant wanted nothing to do with having a child. He enjoyed living on a sailboat and throwing luggage for a living. He tried to get her to have an abortion. When she stood firm (against that) ..... He tried to do anything he could to have her deported.

PH: Objection!

JP: Sidebar!

Back on the bench, Pastor states the objection is overruled.

The defendant was unsuccessful in getting Sarah deported. Sarah kept the baby. On August 29th, 196, Lauren Sarene Key was born.

Sarah struggled to raise Lauren on her own. The defendant had no contact with his daughter. He knew nothing about her. He knew where Sarah was and where she was working; he had her phone number, but the defendant made no effort to contact her.

When Lauren was nine-months old, she went to the Orange Co. DA's office to get help. It's not until May of 1998, almost two years after Lauren was born that the defendant finally contacts Sarah. He wasts a paternity test. He signs a statement denying paternity. DNA shows that Cameron Brown is in fact the father.

Sarah has to go back to court to order the defendant to act like a father. The defendant is ordered to pay approximately 1,000 a month in order to support his daughter.

The defendant goes to court to try to get the support amount reduced. To get the support reduced, he requests visitation. The defendant requests 33% visitation and joint custody. The same child he had shown no interest in (up to this point).

It isn't until November, 1999 when the defendant first meets his child. She is three-years-old. A first meeting is arranged and he gets to meet her in a park. The first few meetings go alright. Sarah, wants Lauren to develop a relationship with the defendant's mother and they set up meetings.

Cameron Brown begins making disparaging comments about Sarah to Lauren. In February, 2000, Sarah proposes a solution. Her new husband is willing to adopt Lauren. Brown is ecstatic. He immediately agrees. On the next visit, Brown asks how soon can the adoption be done. He just wants out at the end of the month. And around the same time, the defendant makes a request of the court for a reduction in child support. Sarah notifies the court of the defendant's intent to give up his paternal rights for Lauren to be adopted. This angers Brown who tells Sarah Marer, "I'll get you. What goes around comes around."

The relationship between Sarah and Brown deteriorates. The judge denies the defendant's request for a reduction in his child support. Brown makes a sworn statement to the court that he has 50% custody when he has her less than 2.5 hours a week. He also lies to the court stating he doesn't have full pay due to an injury. The court orders Brown to prove the injury; he can't.

Brown then claims to the court that Sarah is an abusive mother. An investigation into that allegation shows that is a lie as well.

Lauren now, is reluctant to visit with her father. Her behavior and attitude changes. What was once a happy little girl is now nervous and timid. Sarah calls the court, she calls her lawyer and she calls the police, trying to find someone to help her get the court ordered visitation stopped.

By October, 2000, the situation worsens. Brown is paying Sarah 40% of his wages to support Lauren. Brown's new wife, Patty, is fired from her job. (
I have in my notes here... Patty presses Brown to adopt...but I don't think that's correct. I think I meant to write that Patty presses Cameron to get custody of Lauren himself. I'm not positive what was said.)

Wednesday, November 8th, 2000. It's a court ordered visitation day. When Lauren arrives at school, she's crying. She doesn't want to go with her father (after school) that day. Most days the defendant's wife would accompany him to pick up Lauren, but not this day. Most visitation days, Brown would take his daughter back to his new wife's condo, but not today.

On this day, the defendant takes his daughter on a hike to a steep cliff. A photo of the area is put up on the bulletin board by the jurors. The defendant pulls his car into a parking lot at Abalone Cove. The defendant and Lauren hike to a playground on the beach below.

Hum states, "The defendant claims the child was bored, that she just took off hiking and that he could barely keep up with her. According to him, Lauren led him along a steep cliff, continuing to lead him on a treacherous path to Inspiration Point."

Lauren was timid, shy and somewhat lazy. Lauren led this man she barely knew out to Inspiration Point. It's an isolated area that can't be seen from the beach below. There were no eye witnesses. The cliff is as high as a ten story building. "The defendant claims that he turned around for a moment and she was gone," Ham says. "The defendant instead, goes down to the nude beach to, he claims, borrow a cell phone."

At 2:58 pm, he talked for five minutes. He never told the 911 operator to hurry. Brown then went to the other side. By going to the nude beach first, he ensure that no one could reach Lauren for ten to fifteen minutes. He went back up the trail and then down the other side. It's 3:15 pm by the time the defendant reacher her body. He picks her up throws her over his shoulder. The defendant gave the first version to the Fire Department. He gave differing versions to detectives. The defendant claimed it was an accident.

Witnesses will testify to Lauren's personality and to her abilities. Witnesses will testify to Brown's hatred of Sarah Key-Marer. You will hear testimony from the coroner and someone from Bio-medical (?) as to Lauren's injuries and how she could and could not have received them.

Of the four years two months and ten days of her brief life, the defendant spent about two weeks (total) with Lauren.

At the conclusion (of this case) the evidence will show Lauren did not slip and fall. The evidence will show the defendant threw her off this cliff.

The prosecution's opening statement is finished and Pat Harris goes up to the podium.

Harris greets the jurors. One of the first things that I always tell juries, is it's what we anticipate the evidence will show. Sometimes, witnesses will get up and say the opposite of what you think. What you will hear is 180 degrees of what you just heard. That's what the evidence will show is (the visitation) that's what he was allowed. He tried to spend more time with Lauren, but Ms. Marer wouldn't.

(My notes here are not clear. I think they state that Ms. Marer would not let Cameron participate in visits with his mother, but I'm not positive.)

Lauren took off. He told them at times she was leading him. Witness testimony will show that people saw her. She was throwing rocks and smiling; happy. They said she went off on a one-and-a-half mile hike. That's not true and the evidence will show that. The evidence will show there's good and bad in (every relationship). They're going to present him as a monster. They have to. So they have to put on evidence to make him appear like that. So they're going to put on witnesses like that. Like that old TV show, (This Is Your Life) ....

The evidence won't show that. Because you're going to see something different about Cameron Brown as a human being. Witnesses are going to come in from Colorado and Hawaii to talk about how he was a very caring human being. Cameron Brown was somewhat of a (naive? human being) and that he never planned things. Cameron Brown, people will talk about him being an outdoors person. (A brief) history of Cameron. Cameron grew up in Colorado. He was a ski instructor in Breckenridge. He moved to California to surf and live on a boat. He married a woman and moved into a condo. (He describes Brown as) outdoors type of person who ran marathons and sat on cliffs for hours.

You will hear about his character. He's not a person who wears his emotions on his sleeve. He was a guarded person, who didn't talk about his life much. He usually asked about other people's lives (verses talking about his own). You will hear him as a parent who didn't care about his daughter and threw her off a cliff. You will see photos of him with Lauren and gifts he gave her. He raised a toast when he (finally) got visitation. He carried her photo in his wallet, the daughter he didn't want.

Ms. Key-Marer kept a journal about his trips. (Visits with Lauren.) Lauren was in Orange County and he lived by the airport. He drove down to see her and pick her up. And this isn't a one way street. This is very important. You will hear testimony of repeated attempts to get more visitation. You will hear friends say, he couldn't wait to take Lauren hiking, surfing.

I look over at Brown and I see him look over at the jury.

(I ?) Admit that Cameron Brown did things that he shouldn't do. Not because he was trying to kill her, but because he didn't know any better.

It's 11:15 am. Harris talks about the "two way street relationship."

She (Ms. Key-Marer) misled. Under penalty of perjury that she met Cam in August when there is a photo evidence she met him in November. They dated two or three times. They and sex. The first time; they had a condom.

Sarah, first told the police when she told Brown she was pregnant, he said, "That's kinda cool."

This isn't someone he didn't like. He did like her. He took her on a trip to Colorado. He met her in a bar one night and they had sex a few weeks later.

Marer came to the US in 1993 and was here illegally. She never paid income tax and you'll hear testimony she's not telling the truth about that.

Harris talks about the abortion issue and the meeting with the counselor at Cam's health insurance, Kaiser. The counselor was advising about everything (all options; not just abortion). Brown asked her to go for counseling. Mr. Brown wasn't even sure it was his child. You will hear a lot of stories about Ms. Marer and her stories. You will hear stories about how he wouldn't loan her money. You will hear stories about how he didn't treat her very well.

The stories all have a common theme. When they interviewed her at first... (she didn't mention them?) All these stories came out only at another proceeding. There are no witnesses to these other stories. All these stories about what Cam said all come from Ms. Marer.

Quickly looking over at the jury, I note that juror #7 appears very attentive.

You are going to hear that she left and that she never contacted him. She leaves, doesn't contact him, so Brown thinks there was another man. So he assumes it wasn't his child.

Child support was never served to him until 1998. He doesn't eve know she's filed for child support. Just so we're clear, and not making light of single mothers, Ms. Marer was married before Lauren was one-year-old. And she had a father. The child has a stepfather.

Harris now moves onto the child support.

That's the norm. When you ask for visitation, support is reduced. That's the norm.

Brown appears to look back at his wife, Patty.

Harris talks about the alleged hatred of Ms. Marer and the child.

The visits went great, in Sarah's own journal.

The (court appointed?) mediators gave both parties information, documentation that children often resist new situations and don't want to go (visit the other parent) and that is the norm.

Witnesses will testify the relationship with Lauren was a loving one but it was hard at first so it was a little awkward.

Harris addresses Cam's relationship with his mother. "Most of the friction was that Sarah would take the child to see his mother and say to his mother, 'Don't tell Cam,' and that was the friction basis."

Harris addresses the "adoption phone call."

Sarah (supposedly?) presented to Cam to let her husband adopt Lauren. That will take away the support and she would still let him see Lauren. But he couldn't be the father.

You're going to hear that's the first time.... (?)

And then she files a court document that he's an unfit father. You're going to hear Cam disputed that. And he was upset that his words were twisted, so he didn't contact her after that. But there's no documentation (by the court mediators?) to support the adoption deal. Cam was upset and told the court he didn't agree to it. After that point, the communication became contentious. Ms. Marer reported Cam to child services. She called the police on him. The contentious relationship between Sarah and Cameron.... communication breakdown.

He (prosecution) says that a crescendo built to this November 8th date. Nothing built up. There were a few accusations back and forth, but it was a typical custody dispute and it was a low level (one).

Cam had filed a motion for reduced support and more visitation in two weeks. You will hear that yes she was crying. But when Cam got there, he spoke calmly to her. She calmed down and wasn't crying.

He didn't take her to a cliff. He took her to a playground, a place that they knew.

Portuguese Point and Inspiration Point. There's twenty-five to thirty houses across the road from Inspiration Point. It's much more in the view of people that Portuguese point. It was that they were just on a walk, and witnesses will testify to that. "Not one person who saw them that day will say that she (Lauren) was upset."

Harris talks about the jury visit and that the site looks a bit different. Harris addresses the rush for a cell phone and the 'no hurry.' "That's the point of calling 911. You shouldn't have to tell them to hurry. [...] He does sound nonchalant and you will hear that he was off by himself." He asked about the election. "He was dazed."

Harris continues to address Cam's demeanor after the child's death. That night, they never took him up to the cliff. He cooperated. He was very cooperative. Detectives Leslie and Smith showed up. Detective Leslie that night waited two hours before he accused him of murdering his child. Detective Smith won't show up in this case. He called Cam's friends "assholes." Good cop, bad cop.

Detective Leslie is very good with a recorder and he tape recorded several witnesses. He didn't tape Cameron Brown. Not one with Cameron Brown..... interesting.

He gets accused that night. He goes home and his family hires him an attorney and he's advised not to talk.

The prosecution tried to find a forensic expert. Again, very charming Dr. Toby Hayes, very charming. He will tell you that if you throw something forward you will go back. They went out to (Inspiration Point) to do tests. They tied a rope around him. To throw a box off a cliff they tied a rope around him to keep him from falling. A defense expert will present evidence of what happens on a cliff (when you throw something).

Far from being the monster...that Cam was a warm human being. He was a godfather to another child and gave her gifts. The evidence will overwhelmingly show that Cameron Brown loved his child. You will hear that Cameron Brown lost a daughter also.

We reach the noon hour and since we started late, Judge Pastor wants to make up some of that time. He tells the jurors to return by 1:15 pm.

To be continued with the first witness testimony of Sarah Key-Marer. I'm almost a week behind in covering this trial. It will be hard to catch up because Judge Pastor holds court on Fridays, unlike Judge Pastor.

On a side note, Pastor runs his courtroom a bit differently than Judge Fidler does. It's an interesting change. He's a totally different personality with his jury and his witnesses. Understand, since this is not a high-profile defendant, there's hardly anyone in the gallery besides the friends of Lauren's family and the defendant.


Ronni said...

Thank you, Sprocket...I've been getting quite a few hits from people looking for news on this trial, so I posted a link to your blog, and one to this entry, specifically.

Sprocket said...

Thank you Ronni!

I hope to have a few more days of trial coverage up on the blog over the weekend.

I plan on being back in court for the afternoon session.

Ronni said...

Yay! apparently, no other bloggers are attending. You have yourself a scoop!

Any clue why there is more interest this time around?

Sprocket said...


The press is notorious for ignoring retrials. Rarely is there a new defense strategy or new evidence.

Look at Spector's retrial. He was a high profile defendant and there was very little press interest in that. Harriet Ryan of the LA Times filed maybe a dozen stories over the five-month retrial.

Ronni said...

So, you think perhaps the lack of news coverage is sending ordinary people to the blogs? I just don't understand why so many hits, when I got next to none during the first trial.

Sprocket said...

Hi Ronni,

I have no idea why you are suddenly getting traffic. Check your stat counter to see where the majority of the hits are coming from.

Ronni said...

It's increased traffic from searches for "Cameron Brown," or "Cameron Brown Retrial," or just "cambrown."

Perhaps I just wasn't included in searches the last time around. I had only started blogging a few months prior to the first trial, and I'm not exactly a "crime blogger." I write about whatever interests me from day to day, and crimes and trials are certainly a part of that.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sprocket for doing this case! I'm very interested in 'what' happened! I too did not follow the 1st trial - did it end in a mistrial?? or what??
Love your reporting!


Sprocket said...


The first trial hung. The jury could not come to a decision on the degree of guilt.

2 jurors voted for first degree
8 jurors voted for second degree
2 jurors voted for manslaughter( degree not determined)

The Acquaintance said...

Thanks for your thorough account. I know Cam Brown through a mutual friend and even met Sarah in early 1996, so I've been highly interested in this case all along. It's difficult to get good information about it.