"Grim Sleeper" Lonnie David Franklin, Jr.,
alleged serial killer on July 8th, 2010. Photo: KTLA.
UPDATE: spelling, clarity
July 11th, 2012
I drove into downtown Los Angeles yesterday morning to attend pre trial hearings in the Kelly Soo Park case, as well as Lonnie Franklin, Jr.'s case, dubbed "The Grim Sleeper" back in 2008 by the LA Weekly's Christine Pelisek. Here is wikipedia's page on Franklin and there is also a web site dedicated to all things 'Grim Sleeper', apparently run by a Brit across the pond. Franklin is an alleged serial killer, who targeted victims in South Los Angeles. Park is charged with the 2008 murder of Juliana Redding. I missed the June 11th hearing in Park's case, however, blogger Lonce LaMon has also been covering Juliana Redding's murder.
My car-- that had a cerebral aneurysm back on February 6th --is finally running like a dream again. An engine shop rebuilt the head and Mr. Sprocket recently overhauled the air-conditioning system. It's so nice to have wheels again and not have to ride in the White Whale Work Truck to the train or bus station.
As I start my walk up Broadway from the budget parking lot to the rear entrance of the criminal court building, I realize how quickly I've gotten out of shape by not going to court and getting in a daily brisk walk. Memo to self, I'm going to have to bite the bullet and get walking again.
As I start to approach the corner of First and Broadway, all the construction walls are down around the LA Law Library and the entire building is now a eye-popping burnt orange. Although I'm across the street, it appears that the half walls around the front entrance stairs on First Street are dressed in dull black stone -- but it could be colored cement; I can't tell. I'm still debating on whether I like the new look of the building or not. The color really makes you step back and go "Whoa!"
Behind the Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, (CJC) construction workers are putting the finishing touches on the new "Grand Park" that extends across Broadway behind the Hall of Records and beyond to Grand Avenue. The previous "court of flags" flag poles are already repositioned along Broadway from their original location directly behind the Hall of Records. The construction screens are down from around the back entrance of CJC and I get my first view of this portion of the new park space.
It's about 8:10 AM, and as I enter the security screening line, I see handsome LAPD Robbery - Homicide Division (RHD) Detective Dan Jaramillo from the Stephanie Lazarus case carrying a thick, heavy looking binder. I smile and give him a little wave, and he smiles back as he walks past me to the entrance for officers. As I reach the elevator bay, the area is packed. There are two elevators that have lights lit up but the doors are closed; a good bet that they might not be working. One could easily wait 20 minutes or more for a crammed sardine space in these ancient lifts. (The elevators in this building are a curse. They are outdated and need to be replaced, but the county is broke and closing courtrooms; more on that in a bit.) With the packed elevator lobby, I quickly see I need to pick an elevator, stand in front of it and just wait. The hope is the elevator you're standing in front of will open sooner rather than much later.
I finally get on the 9th floor and clear security. I make my way down the right wing of the hallway to Department 109, Judge Kathleen Kennedy's courtroom. There are only a few people waiting in the hall and one of them is wearing a juror badge. After a few moments I see Detective Jaramillo standing down by the center of the hallway, directly in front of Dept. 104, Judge Perry's courtroom. Jaramillo is chatting with a man sitting on the bench wearing a dark shirt and the word 'POLICE' in bright yellow across the back. I know that Jaramillo is no longer in RHD's "Homicide Special." He's now in the sister-unit Robbery Special. I'm betting he's here to testify in a robbery case in Perry's court.
As my eyes are wandering around this end of the hallway, I notice that next door to Judge Kennedy's courtroom, there is a newspaper article taped to Judge Lance Ito's courtroom door. It's an article from the Orange County Register with a very large photo of Judge Ito and a sub heading in the article highlighted indicating that Judge Ito's courtroom is closing. With the budget crisis facing the state and virtually every county, the Los Angeles County Superior Court has cut back staff and closed courtrooms. I don't know anything about the Superior Court's decision making process as to which courtrooms to close, but sources tell me there was no private notification given to Judge Ito; there was just a mass E-mail sent out notifying court staff of the closures. I believe his last courtroom day was Friday, July 6th. Although Ito has lost his courtroom and staff, he's still a working Judge. It's my understanding he will be assigned administrative tasks and fill in for a courtroom when there is an absence.
The District Attorney's office calendar notice for today indicated there was a hearing in Dept. 107, Judge Michael Pastor's courtroom (the other end of the long hallway) in the Christian Gerhartstreiter case today. I thought that I might spot a bunch of media down there but that end of the hallway was just as vacant. (Unfortunately, I'm only one person; I can't be in two courtrooms at once.)
An ABC reporter shows up talking on their smart phone. I overhear him mention "Lisa" and I'm betting he's talking about my friend Lisa Tomaselli, a producer with ABC's 20/20. When he sits down beside me I chat with him a bit.
A pretty bottle blond wearing quite a figure revealing outfit of pants and a white linen top strolls down this end of the hallway. She has a pink protector case for the smart phone she's holding in her hand. With her hair pulled back in a ponytail, I know immediately that she's with some news agency, but I've never seen her before.
During the Conrad Murray preliminary hearing and subsequent trial, there used to be signs up every couple yards notifying people no photography allowed. Most are all gone now but there is still one small 8 x 11 sign up at this end of the hallway. The bottle blond gets up from her bench seat across the hall from me, stands in the middle of the hallway and aims her smart phone at the courtroom doors for Department's 101 and 102, clearly taking a picture. I immediately speak up and tell her she can't take photographs. She first responds to me with, "That's only inside the courtrooms." (I will not share the negative thought that went through my head at that moment.) I inform her, "You can't photograph anywhere inside the building." She goes back and sits down on her bench seat and is looking at her smart phone. With my past experience of being photographed in this same hallway and all the drama that surrounded that event, I also add, "You can't publish that." She responds back with, "I know what I'm doing," and I successfully stifle myself from laughing out loud.
Over the last ten minutes or so, several of Kelly Soo Park's supporters show up. Park arrives on the floor around 8:30 AM. Kelly receives hugs from several of her supporters. She's wearing tasteful black slacks and black heels. Her blouse has blue and white narrow pinstripes, long-sleeves with stark white cuffs, collar and placket. Her counsel George W. Buehler and Mark M. Kassabian arrive not long after. The courtroom finally opens and Park and most everyone else in the hallway enters Dept. 109. At first, I wait in the hallway a bit to see who from the prosecution team will be attending the hearing. There was an older black woman on the hallway bench next to mine, who was talking on her cell phone when I first arrived. I overheard her mention that she would be at each and every court hearing for the "Grim Sleeper." I'm betting that she is related to one of his many victims. When the courtroom opened she entered Dept. 109 and took a seat in the second row next to me.
Already inside the well of the court are Franklin's attorney's. The one male attorney I've seen several times in Dept. 30. I'm betting he is not with the public defender's office, but along with his co-counsel, a woman, has been assigned by the court to represent Franklin. (When the hearing was over I followed them out and obtained their business cards: Seymour I. Amster, office in Van Nuys and Louisa Pensanti, office in Sherman Oaks.
As I take a seat in the second row, two more older black women enter and greet the woman who is sitting to my left. It's a good bet these are relatives of Franklin's many victims. Judge Kennedy's same bailiff she had during the James Fayed case is still assigned to her courtroom. Another female bailiff enters and I watch both sheriff's put their weapons inside the wall mounted black security box before they enter the jail area for a short time.
Santa Monica Detective Karen Thompson enters and takes a seat in the well of the court near the podium. Lisa Tomaselli enters the courtroom and greets Park. I catch her eye, she smiles and comes over to sit next to me. I'm happy to see her and we catch up on what's new. Lisa's crew is waiting for their cameraman to show up. They have a formal media request in with Judge Kennedy to film the proceedings. Kennedy is a more modern judge and she signs the order but the bailiff warns Lisa's associate that the camera operator has to be here on time and all set up in the jury box before Judge Kennedy takes the bench. Apparently, the cameraman is stuck either in the lobby or an elevator.
As I look around the courtroom, I see the pretty Dateline producer "Luce" (sp?) in the back row near the door. DDA Eric Harmon enters the courtroom. I'm surprised because I thought he would have been sworn in as a new judge by now. Harmon, Thompson and the defense team leave the courtroom via the door by the jury box. It's likely they are all going to the jury room to speak privately.
More people show up for the Franklin hearing and Lisa and I scoot down to make room for them so they can all sit together. While we wait, DDA Beth Sliverman enters Dept 109 and greets the many people in the gallery. At first, I didn't recognize her. Silverman and her co-counsel, another woman whose name I miss hearing are prosecuting Franklin.
I guess that since the Kelly Soo Park case attorneys are still outside the courtroom, the bailiff's bring out Lonnie Franklin first. Judge Kennedy comes out and takes the bench. She has lost more weight and looks fantastic. She actually looks younger.
Lonnie Franklin, Jr.
Amster starts off by claiming the prosecution's office has not provided the defense with all the discovery they said they did. He tried contacting the prosecutor and asking for the specific page numbers (Bate stamp numbers) but these two were never able to reach a connection. It appears there is a name of an individual that the defense states the prosecution did not give them any documentation on. (The defense says the name is Sharm (sp?) DeSmoki (sp?) the prosecution contends there is a separate murder book for a Sharon (sp?) Demukey (sp?) but I can't find a similar name attached to Lonnie Franklin on the web.)
When one party wanted a call back on a certain date, the other wasn't available. Because of this, the defense now is asking for another month to go back through all their discovery to locate the pages they feel the prosecution didn't give them. There's a bit of back and forth from the defense and prosecution.
Judge Kennedy finally has enough of it and tells them in an I've had enough of this tone, "You're acting like children! (snip) I'm ordering you to go upstairs and work this out. (snip) I don't want this to be a personality driven case. (snip) Leave your ego at the door! (snip) I want you four to get together and figure out who this (person?) is and be back here in half an hour.
Kelly Soo Park
So while this is going on, ABC is in luck. Their cameraman finally shows up. DDA Harmon and Park's counsel are still in the jury room but not long after Judge Kennedy leaves the bench they emerge and have a sidebar with Judge Kennedy. I think I overhear the words "...set a date.."
The case now goes on the record. Judge Kennedy states the defense is making a request for more discovery. I believe Harmon states he's filed his own motion and needs further time to (research? reference?) and see (?)...
It's a good guess that the private discussion had to do with DNA that the defense want to test that the people have control over. Timing is everything. That evidence has to be turned over and I'm guessing, an individual chosen to observe the defense testing, or an outside lab selected that is acceptable by both parties.
My notes don't state who specifically mentions that there are other discovery issues that the prosecution and defense are working out informally (regarding? testing?) and won't need to involve the court.
Judge Kennedy asks how soon the parties can bring this case to trial.
One of the defense attorneys states they have another trial already scheduled for mid November, "But we would target this case after that case...."
I believe the defense mentions a return date of August 17th to keep the case tracked and the calendar set at 0-60 on that date. Judge Kennedy mentions something about more forensic testing if the defense seeks for it to be tested. She addresses Park and asks her if she waives her right to a speedy trial, to return to court on August 17th. Park answers, "Yes."
At some point, Judge Kennedy asks Harmon about the prosecution's readiness, once he is off the case and Harmon informs the court that the prosecution is ready with another attorney to step in and take over. His leaving will not affect the prosecution's readiness to proceed.
And that's it for Park.
Gerhard Becker, Vanity Fair Photo Shoot
I head toward the elevators looking for my friend Matthew McGough who was on the 5th floor in Dept. 30, following the Becker case. I find him in the elevator bay, chatting with Detective Dan Jaramillo, who had just finished testifying in Judge Perry's courtroom in a multi-robbery case. Matthew quickly gets me up to speed on Becker. The preliminary hearing was supposed to start today but that's been set aside. Becker has obtained new counsel, Donald Re. (I could not find a business web page for him. Sprocket.) I take the opportunity to ask Dan several questions about the Vanity Fair photo shoot with photographer Platon (pronounced Plah-tone), who Vanity Fair flew out from New York to take his and Detective Greg Stearns photo. Mark Bowden was not present for the photography sessions with the detectives. I make sure to tell Dan that at least one T&T reader was glad to see the easy on the eyes photo of him.
With his new counsel notification accepted by the court, Becker's next hearing is now scheduled for September 6th, 2012 in Dept. 30.
Lonnie Franklin, Jr., Part II
After saying goodbye to Detective Jaramillo, Matthew and I pass through 9th floor security and back towards Dept. 109 for the Franklin hearing. Interestingly Assistant District Attorney Pat Dixon enters Dept. 109 alongside Beth Silverman. Once Matthew and I take a seat inside Dept. 109, I ask Matthew if he knows the names of the LAPD detectives who are here. Matthew points out RHD Detective Dennis Kilcoyne (pronounced kill-coin) who he believes worked on the Grim Sleeper task force. Matthew also said that Kilcoyne was a detective at Hollywood Homicide with Rick Jackson before joining RHD.
Back on the record, Amster tells Judge Kennedy that after meeting with the prosecutors they believe they will be able to resolve the earlier issue by this afternoon. Amster states they will come up with a procedure to deal with discovery issues and won't have to litigate them in front of Judge Kennedy in the future.
There is some discussion about having the defense investigators meet with the prosecution's investigators. The defense is suggesting a return date of August 29th for the court to monitor the case and time to file additional motions. Silverman states that date is not good since she's out of town. There's a bit of back and forth to pick a new date and August 30th is agreed with the calendar clock set at 0-60 on that date. Franklin is asked if he waives his right to a speedy trial and to return to court on that date. "Yes, your honor," Franklin replies.
Judge Kennedy then asks the parties if they have a realistic estimate as to the length of the trial. The defense first states, "No, your honor." After a few more questions from Judge Kennedy, Amster feels that this will be a six month trial. Silverman's estimate is that it will be a two-to-three month case. Silverman adds that it's a forensic case. There's not a ton of witnesses that are not experts..."
Judge Kennedy asks the parties to seriously consider pre screened jurors and the defense and prosecution agree with that. And that was it for Franklin.
Dropping in on Dept. 104, Judge Perry's Courtroom
Matthew asked if I was interested in dropping in on Judge Perry's courtroom to hear a bit of the case that Detective Jaramillo was involved in. We enter as quietly as we can and sit in the back row. One of the first things I notice is that there are only 14 jurors in the jury box. This tells me that it's not a murder case.
There is a witness on the stand and a video up on the overhead screen of a robbery in progress. It's video from a security camera inside the cash vault/office of a ROSS Dress for Less store. The witness on the stand identifies one of the defendants "Williams" as the one who tied her up (she's in the video) and had the gun. Here's the story I was able to gather from testimony. An (former?) employee of the Ross stores and a (former?) employee of Dominoes Pizza hatch a plan to rob several Ross Dress for Less stores. I believe a total of five stores were targeted on two different days (one on the Fourth of July and the others over Labor Day, 2010). Three robbery attempts were successful. The witness on the stand indicated the tally for the robbery of her store was approximately $45,000.00, a typical amount for a three-day holiday.
The plan went like this. The robbers entered the store wearing Dominoes Pizza uniforms provided by the (former?) Dominoes employee. The robbers enter the store and claim that Ross upper management (knowing the names of several corporate managers via the (former?) Ross employee) has, ordered Pizza's for specific employees (I'm guessing those who were in charge of the office/vault). Once they gained entry to the office cash vault area, they robbed the store. The witness on the stand testifies about picking one of the defendants out of a photo array.
In my opinion, the store employees who were robbed were lucky no one was injured.
When the morning break is called, Matthew goes over to chat with Judge Perry's court reporter, Beth, where the topic quickly turns to the next court staff cutbacks that are expected at the end of the year.
After we say our goodbyes to Beth, we make our way to the back of the building to visually take in the section of Grand Park behind CJC. I'm not impressed with the new space at all. A few small trees, one decent sized tree, a few cement paths, not nearly enough benches. The county did not need a park here. There was plenty of public space around City Hall. What the public needed was an adequate parking facility to service CJC to replace the parking lot that used to be in the same space. Affordable budget parking for CJC is at best two blocks away, up an incline but I guess a "park" looks better that a parking structure.