Friday, July 1, 2011

Stephanie Lazarus Pretrial Hearing 5 & Kelly Soo Park

UPDATE 6/1/13 correct name error, clarity

June 30th, 2011
Normally, I would tell everyone about my trip into downtown, who was chatting in the hallway and when people arrived. However, this entire morning was a lot of wasted waiting around for attorney's, only to hear that the Lazarus case was set at 0-60 and Kelly Soo Park still doesn't have new counsel. Both cases have been continued until July 21st.

The Lazarus hearing started at 8:30 am with the prosecution and defense entering Judge Perry's chambers. They kept the gallery waiting for 45 minutes. While everyone restlessly waited I observed that Lazarus' brother, Steven Lazarus came today and sat beside his mother in the front row. I couldn't help but notice while sitting in court, Steven hung his sun glasses off the back side of his white shirt collar. Sherri Rae Rasmussen's parents were here. The regular contingent of reporters (Greg Fisher from 48 Hours and Matthew McGough from The Atlantic and a Dateline producer) were here as well as a few new ones.

While we were waiting for the in camera meeting to end, several times Lazarus looked over her shoulder and smiled at her family. A few moments after she entered the courtroom, she politely asked the bailiff if her "investigator" could come up and speak to her for a moment. This was Bert Luper who was sitting a row in front of me and directly behind Lazarus' family. The bailiff let him sit at the defense table. Luper and Lazarus were deep in conversation for quite some time before Luper returned to his gallery seat.

9:20 am: Because of how Lazarus is cuffed to the chair, for about the sixth time that morning, she drops her right shoulder and turning her head, looks over her left shoulder back at her family and smiles.

9:23 am: Judge Perry and counsel finally emerge from chambers and enter the well. Paul Nunez heads directly to the two detectives in the second bench row behind the bailiff to speak to them. Shawn Presby heads toward Sherri's parents, Nels and Loretta to briefly speak to them and then goes over to the investigators to speak to them. (I found out later that the two detectives in court are Dan Jaramillo and Greg Stearns, the LAPD's Robbery Homicide team who interrogated Lazarus in that Parker Center jail area interview room.

When Judge Perry takes the bench he apologizes for the delay and then asks Mr. Overland to meet him over at the clerk's desk. He wants to chat with him a moment off the record. Once this discussion is over Judge Perry takes the bench again. The trial is set at 0-60 today. In chambers, they had a lengthy discussion about scheduling and discovery issues. "We agreed to continue the matter to July 21st, at 8:30 am." At that time, there will be further discussion for the preparation of trial and completion of discovery.

There is a bit of misunderstanding by Mr. Overland. He says something I barely hear, "I thought that day (she would be?) taken to the hospital." That is cleared up and it's over. On July 21st the case will be at 21-60.

As soon as the hearing is over, I rush down to 109 to see if the Park hearing is over. Greg tells me that it hasn't happened yet because all of Soo Park's friends are still in the hallway. He quickly finds out that Soo Park's attorney's did not show up for the 9:00 am hearing this morning and it was moved to 11 am.

In the hallway, a few network producers are waiting. Greg introduces me to Lisa with ABC's 20/20. I also meet Sue, who is with CBS. Not long after we are waiting, Greg slips off alluding to an important meeting. In the hallway are quite a few people who are waiting for Soo Park's hearing. There are about fifteen people here! It's an interesting mix of young and old, white and Asian. At the last hearing, I didn't realize that all the people in the gallery were there to support Kelly. It appears that all these people are here again. Kelly is sitting on a bench next to her mother. At one point while we are waiting, Kelly comes over and greets the producer Lisa I just met by giving her a quick hug. She's very chatty and easily talks to the reporters (just not about the case).

Kelly is wearing black slacks, flat black ballet slippers with a tarnished buckle and a white button down shirt. Over the shirt she's wearing a beautifully woven pink and grayish shawl. I tell her the shawl is lovely. She says "Richard (I don't know who Richard is) brought it back from Ireland."

At 10:46 am, Kelly's two female attorneys Kay Rackauckas and Jennifer Keller, finally arrive in the hallway. Right around 11:00 am, the potential jurors in Department 109 file out for their morning break. Once that happens, everyone in the hall heads down to Judge Kennedy's courtroom.

I see Alan Jackson entering the hallway and heading down to Dept. 109.

Once we are all settled into the gallery, court is called into session. Soo Park's attorney's inform Judge Kennedy that she is in the process of finding an attorney, but she needs three more weeks to complete the process. They would like to put all the motions over to the new counsel. The deposit they were given to take the case is still in their client account. They would like it to remain there until Soo Park has new counsel to address the issues.

Judge Kennedy states her prior orders about the funds will stay in effect. She instructs Soo Park's counsel to not do anything with it; leave it in the trust account. (Currently, Soo Park doesn't have conflict-free counsel.)

There is another attorney at the podium with Jackson, and from what's being said I'm gathering this is someone from the State or US attorney's office, who is ready to seize the funds once they are released.

Jackson agrees that this matter needs to be continued. Soo Park's counsel ask that the date be one week later, July 28th, because she will be in the courthouse on that date. Jackson states that date is a conflict, and Eric Harmon, his co-counsel on the case is trying a case in Van Nuys and he won't be finished by the 28th. Eventually, the date settled on is July 21st, at 11 am. Judge Kennedy asks, "Counsel join?" Everyone agrees and that's it.

Stephanie Lazarus Case Coverage