Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Stephanie Lazarus Pretrial Hearing 10, Conrad Murray & James Fayed Pre-Sentencing Hearing

I am so behind in my real life responsibilities and sewing, I decided to make it easy on myself and combine the coverage of three cases. Sprocket.

September 15th, 2011
Stephanie Lazarus Pretrial 10

As I clear the first floor security checkpoint, I see Mark Overland and his daughter Courtney Overland in the lobby and heading for the elevator bay. On the 9th floor, I see that Lazarus' mother is here by herself. There's an older couple with gray hair sitting in the second row. The man is reading a paper and the woman is working on a crossword puzzle. It's a good bet that they are here for the case that's currently in Judge Perry's courtroom.

One of the detectives comes over to speak to Sherri Rae Rasmussen's mother, Loretta, who is sitting directly in front of me along with her husband, Nels. He tells her he is going to be in her neck of the woods soon and Loretta tells him to call her later. As I'm sitting behind Nels and Loretta, it's hard not to overhear snatches of their conversation. I don't quite grasp all of it. All I hear is, "They found out where she purchased...." and a reply, "Sounds like it." Usually, Nels and Loretta write each other notes back and forth on a little notepad, so this is a rare time that I hear something.

Jane Robson from the DA's office is here. Both parties go back into Judge Perry's chambers for an incamera discussion off the record. I squint and finally can read the first name on the court clerk's plackard. It's Melody. Melody is on the phone with a juror from the current case in Perry's court. From hearing half of the conversation, it appears the juror is feeling ill and feels she can't continue. Melody is telling her Judge Perry has asked that she come into court so she can be excused. She's in the parking lot, but reluctant to come in. She doesn't want to be embarrassed in front of her fellow jurors. Melody keeps assuring her that it's just a formality and that it won't happen in front of her fellow jurors.

Lazarus is brought into the courtroom. She's not wearing her glasses but she does have some type of cloth bag with something in it. I try to note the time on the wall clock behind me but it's wrong. It's about 50 minutes or so slow. Lazarus turns and gives her mother a big smile. There's something different about her hair but I can't pinpoint what it is. She has the long white thermal undershirt on under her orange jumpsuit.

Dateline isn't here. Neither is Greg from CBS. The defense investigator arrives and sits with Lazarus. He tells the clerk Melody, "I have something for you." Jurors for the current case file in and head to the jury room.

Presby and Nunez exit from Judge Perry's chambers along with Courtney Overland, but she quickly goes back in after retrieving something from her files. I believe Presby give some motion papers to Melody. Courtney and Mark come back into the courtroom from Perry's chambers.

Judge Perry takes the bench. "All parties present. (snip) We were in chambers chatting about some matters, part of discover and the investigation still ongoing. We're not going to start the jury questionnaire on the 17th. (October). The court hopes to start the trial on October 24th."

Judge Perry also states he's not confident that is going to happen. All parties will be ordered back on September 28th to check on trial readiness and other issues. Judge Perry mentions something I don't quite hear right. It's a defense "fictitious?" or "pitches?" motion that he is inclined to accept regarding Renay Brawning (sp?).

Judge Perry states both sides are not ready to go to trial on Onctober 17th. Judge Perry asks Lazarus about waiving her speedy trial rights and to set the trial calendar as 0-10 on October 24th. "Yes, your honor," Lazarus replies.

Judge Perry states he's ready to rule on the defense firearm motion regarding the "firearm transaction records." (I believe the records that document when Lazarus purchased the weapon she later reported stolen from her vehicle.). "I don't think it's a protected statement. It's not a violation. Motion denied," Perry rules.

Overland asks if at the Sept. 28th hearing they can talk about the jury questionnaire. "I know the court eliminated some questions..."

And that's all. It's over pretty quickly. I ride down the elevator with Shannon Presby to ask him about the "fictitious" motion and he explains to that it's a "Pitchess Motion." This is where the defense asks to access a police officer's personnel records for potential negative information. The records are reviewed by the Judge and if there is anything relevant in the file, the defense gets to see it.

I get all the way outside the building when I realize that there was a Conrad Murray hearing today and I could drop in and see if anything interesting is being ruled on.

(Note: I totally missed going to the Sept. 28th hearing this morning. I had it in my head the hearing was this Friday, on the 30th. I will update when I know when the next hearing is scheduled.)

Conrad Murray Pretrial Hearing
(The trial is now in progress since I stopped by this pretrial hearing.)

When I enter Dept. 107, Judge Pastor's courtroom, I was expecting a crowd but it's virtually empty. There are a few people in the gallery but less than a handful. I knew Dr. Murray would not be there but I thought there would be a few reporters (I later learn that the MSM had already left after hearing the major news). The court reporter up is Mavis and I smile when I see her. Nareg Gourjian is by himself at the defense table. Over on the prosecution side is the rugged David Walgren and the absolutely stunning Deborah Brazil. (She truly is a gorgeous, sophisticated looking woman. The cameras in the courtroom do not do her justice.)

I believe Gourjian is telling Judge Pastor that the attorney that is handling a specific issue is his co-counsel Mr. Flanagan, who has all documents related to it. Judge Pastor tells the defense that he wants (everyone?) " come back Tuesday or Wednesday and we'll add all the people concerning (to be excused) for cause..."

My notes are not clear, but I believe it's Walgren who asks Judge Pastor if they can come back tomorrow on another issue. Then I think they decide on Monday, the 19th. Also on Monday they will discuss any issues concerning Dr. Pustilnick.

Issues concerning Karen Faye's testimony need to be gone over, and Tim Lopez's testimony. Apparently, Lopez left the country and it's not clear if the prosecution will have to write a motion to introduce his testimony from the preliminary hearing via reading it into the record, or if he will be back in the US and take the stand.

There's also a Dr. Schafer the prosecution wants to call and the defense wants to block him from testifying. Judge Pastor instructs the defense to have Dr. Murray here on Wednesday, the 21st at 2 pm for Jury questionnaire cause issues and voir dire will start at 8:00 am on June 23rd.

I can't remember if it was the prosecution or not, but one side was questioning the 8:00 am start time, and Judge Pastor was firm on that time since the jurors were ordered to be back at that time.

I really didn't learn much at the hearing and besides, the MSM has kept up with every detail of this case. The only thing that surprised me was how Judge Pastor pronounced Gourjian's name. It's totally different than how I was sounding it out in my head. Anyway, the real reason I stopped by was to hopefully inquire with Mavis Theodorou, Judge Pastor's long-time court reporter about getting a copy of a transcript for a day or two of an old trial. She was so generous and kind in helping me make my first purchase of a trial transcript.

September 22nd, 2011

James Fayed Sentencing

When I get up on the 9th floor, I see Jason, the jury foreman and one of the female jurors and a male friend. The female juror tells me she wanted to contact me about my blog because she is writing a book. I tell her that all of my content is copyrighted. She say’s she’s not going to quote anything verbatim.

Then I see Marjorie from the Ventura County Star and I sit to chat with her and find out what she’s been covering. Unfortunately, she will not be covering the trial of the three co-defendants.

Pat Kelly and Arlene for the Public Information Office arrive.

Before we even get inside 109, the Bailiff, Shawn (sp?) tells us it’s not happening today. Lori the court clerk emerges from the bathroom. Several sheriff’s arrive. There is a camera man with large video equipment. Alan Jackson shows up. Alan introduces himself to to the new bailiff’s and there’s a bit of conversation among them.

Eric Harmon apparently is late. Alan Jackson jokingly says, “When he gets here tell him he’s fired”. Locat TV Station KTLA shows up and the camera man sets up in the jury box. Eric Harmon has arrived and is with AJ at the clerks desk. A Dateline producer is here. THe one dark haired woman whom I never met.

A few more people show up, casually dressed. They have lanyards around their necks so they are most likely reporters.

Marjorie and I are set up in the far right corner of the gallery on our laptops. Pat Kelly has given Marjorie a copy of one of the defense motions. James Fayed, case # BA346352. On September 12th, the defense filed a motion for new trial. When Marjorie is finished taking her notes from the motion, I try to type what I’m reading as fast as I can.

In their motion, the defense argues... (Note: Understand, there might be typographical errors and errors in my effort to copy as much of the motion as I could.)

“The court should not impose the death penalty in this case because the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors. James Fayed had no criminal record before this case. He was not the actual killer; his life was one of law abiding productive contribution to society; prior to the Fayeds’ bitter divorce, the family had been happy, and Jim Fayed was by the account of none other than Desiree Goudie a good father and good family man; the jury heard from long long time friends and colleagues of Mr. Fayed that they would be deeply hurt by Mr. Fayed’s death, that Mr. Fayed’s life was worth sparing, and that they could not connect the man they knew with the man who’d been convicted of murder. the penalty phase in this case took two court day to try and a day to argue; they jury deliberated penalty for five days. This fact alone shows that the present case is not “open and shut,” or so unassailably and deservedly a death penalty case that a jury did not even wrestle with what to do; clearly the jury did wrestle ever earnestly, for days longer than it took to try (the case? cause?).

The second reason the court should modify the verdict and impose LWOP is that the death penalty in California is unconstitutional, and Mr. Fayed should not be subjected to it.

California’s death penalty violates the federal constitution’s fifth, sixth, eighth and fourteenth amendment and the corresponding sections of the California Constitution. Although the California Supreme Court has upheld the death penalty against the challenges listed below, the Supreme Court is simply wrong. The challenges are meritorious and should the law change in the future and the Supreme Court come to see the error of it’s ways, defendant Fayed submits the following argument as to the unconstitutionally of the death penalty in this state.

Consistent with the ethical rule which requires counsel to alert the court to the existence of adverse authority, citations to cases overruling the defense position follow the specific challenges are now listed:

Calif death penalty statute does not (meaningly?) narrow the pool of jurors eligible for the death penalty

The breadth of the circumstance of the crime “ aggravating factor (Factor A of Penal code 190:3 results in arbitrary and capricious application of the death penalty. Over ruled by People v Smith (2005 35 cal . 4th 334).

The law unconstitutionally (?) excuses jurors from finding beyond a reasonable doubt that a particular factor in aggravation exists, that the aggravating factors outweigh the mitigation factors and that death is the appropriate (?) penalty. Over ruled by People v. Burgener (?) (snip).

The law unconstitutionally excuses jurors from making written jury findings or achieving unanimity (?) as to the aggravating factors.

Prosecutorial discretion to determine which defendants merit the death penalty renders the statutory scheme invalid.

The jury should not be allowed to consider the unadjudicated criminal conduct in fixing the penalty.

The law unconstitutionally fails to require intercase proportionality be considered by juries and judges.


The law fails to require “intercase” proportionality be considered by juries and judges. Here, Mr. Fayed’s culpability should be weighed against that of his co-conspirators, and the fact that all of the co-conspirators are facing only LWOP, while Mr. Fayed’s was a capital prosecution, should have been admissible and considerable by the jury.

The above is "not" the full motion, but all that I could copy before the hearing started.

9:31 am: James Fayed is brought into the courtroom. He’s in an orange jumpsuit.

Judge Kennedy takes the bench.

JK: Matter of People vs. Fayed. Mark Werksman (for the defense)
Eric Harmon and Alan Jackson for the people.” (snip) Now (the) mater is on calendar for sentencing and motion for reduction (in sentencing). I understand that neither side (is ready)?

There is a motion for a new trial and motion to modify the verdict.

JK?: Counsel joining in requesting us have a hearing on it?

(?) I would be ready to go except everyone needs time.

JK: Mr. Harmon or Mr. Jackson?

AJ: We agree. (snip) We need a little bit more time to respond to the two motions.

JK: (sounding a bit perturbed) I want to remind both sides to your obligation to the record. Within 15 days of receiving (the verdict) trial counsel must file corrections or directs stating... (they agree with the court reporter’s record or they are making recommendations to amend it). (snip) Neither side has done any of those things.

(It sounds like Judge Kennedy is sternly giving all counsel the riot act.)

JK: (snip) I want to emphasize how important that it is for attorneys to go thought the transcript. (snip) The record of this trial, con(versely?) could be dissected over the next 25 or 30 years. Having experts (?) of other cases, and thats assuming that’s a death penalty, but we have to proceed as if that’s whats going to happen in that.

JK: Appeal courts are going to come in here and they are go to come in for a (lot? long list?) of changes to the transcript and they were not present for the trial.

JK: They like to make changes to what they wish, but you are the people that were there. If you don’t take the time to go through the transcript and you’re not (going?) to have any request later on.

JK: And work together for changes and the court reporter has a lot of work to do on that.

And they need to be addressed by (you?) and you.

AJ: We will have gone though the record by the time it comes to argue motions.

(MW:?) We will have those corrections. (snip) But i will now endeavor to complete that particular requirement.

There is some discussion back and forth between the judge and the prosecution as to “when” they have to be ready with their response to the defense motions. October 31st is discussed and then Judge Kennedy moves that date to October 28th. Judge Kennedy was unmoved by Jackson's assertion that he would be out of the country until mid-October. The issue is that the defense has to have their rebuttal motion argument to the prosecution’s, ten days after that, and the court needs to have time to read all motions. That’s why the date is changed to October 28th. The defense response is due November 9th.

The date both sides will be ready for oral argument is November 17th.

Judge Kennedy asks Fayed if he is willing to have the sentencing continue until November 17th. I don’t hear him but he obviously agrees. And that’s it.


Anonymous said...

Sprocket, I have been watching the Conrad Murray trial live today, and had a question for you. I've never watched a live trial so this might be my inexperience speaking.

The defense lawyer, i.e. Mr.Chernoff, seemed very edgy in his comments, questions and retorts to the witnesses and the judge, both in speech and body language. I found it off-putting but wondered if this type of aggressive courtroom behavior so early in the trial has any benefits that will be revealed later...and it may not even be considered that forceful, just how it struck me.


Sprocket said...

Unfortunately, since I did not watch the trial today I did not see Mr. Chernoff in action.

It could be his natural style. I'm not remembering anything that stands out about his cross examination of witnesses during the preliminary hearing.

Understand that it is an adversarial process. The defense attorney's job is to ensure that prosecution witnesses are forthright and not embellishing their testimony. They can challenge them on their earlier sworn statements if it differs than what they are not testifying to on the stand.