Defense counsel Alison Triessl next to her client
Lois Goodman at her first court appearance.
Photo credit: Nick Ut, AP.
Friday, August 24th, 2012
I got the E-mail notice about 10:30 AM that 70-year-old Lois Goodman, professional referee for the US Open would be arraigned today in Department 100 at the Van Nuys Courthouse. Lois Goodman is charged with felony murder in the death of her husband, Alan Goodman. Alan Goodman died in his Woodland Hills home on April 17th, 2012. I had predicted to my friends Katie and Matthew that I thought Goodman would be arraigned at the Van Nuys Courthouse, but I didn't think it would happen until next Monday. There was no time included on the District Attorney's E-mail, other than it would not happen before 11:30 AM. I was still in my jammies and rushed to get dressed and drive the couple miles to court.
As I’m exiting the parking structure behind the Van Nuys Courthouse, I see about five media vans parked in parking slots on Delano Street. Taking the short trip up the walkway to the front of the courthouse brought back memories of attending the Robert Blake trial back in 2004-2005. After I cleared security, I took the escalators to the third floor.
In the rotunda on the third floor were several video photographers. I wondered if they drew straws to see who would tape the proceeding. Once inside Department 100 I saw the famous Associated Press reporter already there, sitting on the far left side of the gallery. Maybe they received an advance tip to make it out to Van Nuys so quickly.
I've been in Department 100 back in 2009, when I attended a couple of hearings in the Hossein Shirazi case, which looked like an interesting case to follow. Shirazi was accused of the murder of his brother, whose body had never been found. I dropped out of following it and Shirazi eventually pled to involuntary manslaughter.
Dept. 100 is large modern courtroom, with about 150 seats in the gallery. The judge's bench and all the paneling is in a very light, golden oak color. There is no jury box or witness stand. To the left of the bench is a large desk/area for the court clerk that sits slightly lower. There are many photographs on the wall behind the clerks desk area that I remember seeing when I was last here. To the bench right is another slightly lower desk area for the court reporter. There is a long continuous table in front of the bench for the defense and prosecution. The gallery seating is separated into three sections by two long aisles.
In the far left area of the well is a glassed-in, defendant holding area. There is a door with what appears to be a glassless window opening and metal bars over it. Over on the right side of the gallery, there was a video camera set up and quite a few reporters on that side of the room. I took a seat on the center left aisle, because I wanted to hear the defense attorney if she stood by her client to speak. The plaque on the bench indicated it was Commissioner Mitchell Block presiding over Van Nuys Dept. 100, who was not currently on the bench when I walked in. Jane Robison from the District Attorney's office was talking to a reporter when I walked up and got a copy of the DA's charging document.
At 11:32 AM Commissioner Block took the bench in another case and then quickly left the bench. A tall slender man sitting at the defense table, clearly knows the AP reporter. He gets up and goes over to them and gives them a book. I can see the book cover from my seat, Democrats Big Day.
While the commissioner is off the bench, the courtroom gets a little boisterous with the chatter from the gallery and the well. I feel quite like a fish out of water since I don't recognize any of the other reporters except photographer Nick Ut, with the AP.
Two women enter the courtroom and I can immediately tell they are defense attorneys. The AP reporter appears to recognize one of them. One of the defense attorneys (that I later find out is Alison Triessl), comes back to the gallery and speaks to the woman who was sitting directly in front of me. Seeing that I had a notepad in my lap, when she speaks to the woman, she is very careful to cover her mouth with her right hand as she speaks into the person's left ear. The woman in front of me was about my age, I believe wore glasses, had very short cropped hair with a touch of gray, and was wearing a blue and dark greenish horizontal striped polo type shirt.
Two DDA's enter Dept. 100. One is a beautiful, slender woman with medium length hair and dark skin. She's quite attractive. I could swear the other DDA was James Garrison, the tall, stunningly handsome man who channeled the voice of criminalist Lloyd Mahaney in the Stephanie Lazarus case. Did Garrison get transferred from JSID? Apparently he did. He is now the Assistant Head Deputy of the DA's Van Nuys Office.
Just a few minutes before noon, Commissioner Block takes the bench and calls the Goodman case.
DDA Lisa Tanner goes on the record as for the people. Alison Triessl and Kelly Gerner for the defense. Triessl asks that the the arraignment be held over until next Wednesday, August 29th, if that's agreeable to the people, so that the defense can file a formal bail motion on that date. The people have requested in their charging papers that bail be set at 1 million.
Commissioner Block asks Triessl if she plans to present witnesses. He states his courtroom is very busy and not set up to take witness testimony. If she has witnesses, verses just moving papers and argument, he would need to move the case over to the preliminary hearing department. Triessl states she is just going to present moving papers.
The motion is granted to holdover the arraignment and bail motion to next Wednesday at 8:30 AM. Goodman is remanded to custody of the LA County Sheriff's until that date. And that was it. The bailiffs kick everyone out of the courtroom because it's past noon. The prosecution and the defense are going to make a statement to the press outside on the plaza. As the reporter's make their way down the escalators, everyone was very helpful, exchanging notes with each other on the correct spelling of the defense counsel's names.
One reporter asked me if my news organization ever sent me out to the Van Nuys Courthouse. I told them that I'm not with anyone, I'm independent, and that I happen to live close by.
Jane Robison and the young, attractive DDA Lisa Tanner get in front of the cameras to address the media. Robison speaks first and tells the press that there's not much that they can talk about since it's an ongoing investigation, but they will answer a few questions. Then Lisa Tanner answers a few questions. She smiled quite a bit, and seemed a little nervous. One reporter asked her to explain what just happened in court. (I'm wondering to myself, did that reporter sleep through the hearing?) DDA Tanner explains that the defense asked for the arraignment to be postponed for time to prepare a motion on the bail hearing. Tanner was asked what the murder weapon was. Smiling, she replied, "A coffee cup." The coffee cup was broken and sharp pieces were still attached to the handle and Alan Goodman was stabbed. "He died of lacerations," Tanner added.
After the prosecution, defense attorney Alison Triessl spoke. She states that she is representing Goodman along with co-counsel Kelly Gerner and Robert (Chin?). "As you will learn when (this unfolds in court?) these charges are outrageous, and completely unfounded. (snip) The LAPD should be ashamed for arresting a woman in New York when she lives in Los Angeles. (snip) She made herself available (to police?) at every point in the investigation. (snip) She had been represented by counsel. (snip)" She cooperated fully with police.
Someone in the press asked if she was still in civilian clothing while in LAPD custody, and Triessl stated Goodman was. (Sources tell me that the LAPD does not put defendants in orange or blue jumpsuits. Those are courtesy of Sheriff Baca.)
Triessl continues in a very passionate voice about her client. "She is distraught! This is outrageous! She is in shock." The press asks if her daughter and family are rallying around her. "That is correct," Triessl responds. And that was it. It was over pretty quickly.
One of the reporters asked Nick Ut if she could see the photo Nick was able to get of Goodman, through the bars of the window in the door of the holding area. Nick was crouched down on the ground, and I was able to look over his shoulder at the screen on his camera and see that he got a pretty decent shot of Goodman's face through the bars.
Earlier, taking the escalator down to the lobby, I asked Triessl if she would identify what members of Goodman's family were in the courtroom. She declined at that time. Via the AP the Washington Post reported that it was her sister and daughter who were in the courtroom.
Since the Clerk's Office on the second floor also closes at noon, I walked across the street to have lunch at the Chinese restaurant the Cowboys affectionately call "Dead Chicken," and update Matthew on what happened. At 1:30 PM, I head back over to the courthouse and pay $5.00 for a copy of the search warrant. At the time I started this story, I did not see where any other news organization had put search warrant or the DA's charging document online, so these might be a first for T&T. I called the Coroner's office to try to obtain a copy of the LA County Coroner's report on Alan Goodman, but alas, a security hold has been placed on it which means they won't release it.
A bit of info about where Lois Goodman slept last night after she was flown back from New York. It’s a tiny jail in the basement of Van Nuys Police Station. I've never seen it personally, but it was described to me. There’s a little reception area with a wooden bench with a half-dozen or so handcuffs attached to the bench. I believe there’s a women’s section and a men’s section. I'm told it’s usually quite busy during the evening hours on the weekends.
DA's CHARGING DOCUMENT
New York Daily News
The Los Angeles Times
CBS Video Report from the hearing 8/24