Defense attorneys George Buehler, Mark Kassabian with
defendant Kelly Soo Park, July 11th, 2012
October 24th, 2012
Two hearings in the same courtroom on the same day: Kelly Soo Park & Lonnie Franklin, Jr., aka "The Grim Sleeper."
Kelly Soo Park
Right when I'm about to leave for court, Mr. Sprocket decides he needs to check some fluid levels in the car. This is why I'm fifteen minutes late for court. I finally get into Dept. 109 at 8:45 AM. I’m a bit discombobulated from being late and trying to get myself oriented to take notes as to who is here.
Virtually everyone is already here. Kelly Soo Park is already in the gallery with, her large support group. Also here are Park’s defense attorneys, and Park's court assigned independent counsel, Franklin Peters, so she can sign away her rights.
Moments after I arrive, Park gets up out of the gallery and goes up to Franklin Peters. He has a single sheet of paper in his hands. He’s going over the document with Parks and she signs the paper. Peters says something to Parks when she’s finished signing the document. She gives him a big smile back and then takes her seat in the gallery.
Prosecutor Stacey Okun-Wiese and the defense counsel are in a polite conversation in the well. There is a new camera crew of two to my right, but it’s not anyone I recognize.
I believe it’s Kassabian who asks Peters, “Ready to go?” Peters replies, I guess so.”
Defense counsel Louisa Pensanti is here for Lonnie Franklin, Jr. I saw her in the elevator lobby earlier. More counsel arrive for other cases. The deputy quickly wolfs down a banana at his desk and then takes clothing for a defendant into the jail area.
More people arrive, stop by the greet and hug Kelly Soo Park and her boyfriend Tom Chronister who are sitting in the row behind me, off to my left.
I think I recognize Ronnie Chase in the gallery sitting beside Tom Chronister, but I'm not positive.
At 8:55 AM, the court reporter starts to set up her equipment.
George Beuhler hands a single sheet of paper to prosecutor Stacey Okun-Wiese. There’s more chatter in the well. Peters and Park’s defense team chat. Okun-Wiese sits in the well chairs directly in front of the jury box. More of Park’s supporters arrive.
The camera crew sets up to film the Lonnie Franklin, Jr. hearing. More Park supporters arrive. The courtroom gallery is a bit more packed than usual. I think there is another case that also will be heard this morning, and that's why I'm seeing so many unfamiliar faces.
Park’s case is called. Kassabian and Buheler and Peters identify themselves for the record. Stacey Okun-Wiese for the prosecution.
Judge Kennedy states she has in her hand a conflict of interest waiver dated today. She identifies the document, stating there are ten items listed and after each one there are initials. She asks Parks directly if these are her initials. Parks replies, “Yes.”
Over and over, Judge Kennedy asks Park a series of direct questions. It obvious from her tone she’s quite concerned about Park signing this document. She asks independent counsel Franklin Peters if he advised Parks about the conflict of interest issues. He answers yes.
At some point Judge Kenned asks Parks if that's her signature at the bottom of the document. She acknowledges she signed the document.
Judge Kennedy addresses Park. “You have the right to have conflict free counsel. ... The conflict is real. ... (It) seems there’s no way around (this).”
Judge Kennedy addresses the issue of Park having counsel paid for by an unindicted co-conspirator. “That conflict exists. ... By waiving (your rights?) you’re not going to be at (?) ... You will not be able to claim conflict of counsel. ... Do you understand?”
Parks answers, “Yes.”
Judge Kennedy asks, “You discussed this with counsel?”
Parks answers, “Yes.”
I believe Judge Kennedy asks who prepared the document. (The prosecution did.) Okun-Wiese tells the court that the defense originally prepared a document. Peters states that the last time he was in court he filed a document. Then he tells the court, “I was confronted with (an?) opposition and that (this document, prepared by DDA Eric Harmon) it wasn’t sufficient and that’s (why the new document is?) what was filed.”
Okun-Wiese informs the court, “The people are not seeking any other documents (to be signed?) ...”
Then Judge Kennedy brings up a prior issue, that the defense will be seeking, a 1538.5 motion to suppress evidence. (I believe this is related to the 1101(b) witnesses, motion of prior defendant conduct, the prosecution introduced at a previous hearing.)
November 27th, 2012 is indicated as a return date to hear that motion and the pending discovery motion by the prosecution.
Judge Kennedy asks if there will be testimony. I’m not sure who responds but I believe the defense states only moving papers will be presented. Judge Kennedy asks how long the defense feels they will need on that date. One of the defense attorneys responds, “Fifteen to twenty minutes. (maybe) ... Perhaps an hour. The court calendar is set at zero of 60 on November 27th.
Judge Kennedy asks Park, “Do you waive time?” Park answers, “Yes.” She’s ordered back on that date.
And that’s it for Park’s hearing, and most of the people in the gallery filter out.
Lonnie Franklin, Jr., aka "The Grim Sleeper"
at a prior court hearing
Lonnie Franklin, Jr.
There are people in the gallery for a sentencing hearing. And I’m wondering if that hearing might go first before Lonnie Franklin, Jr's hearing.
Beth Silverman arrives. She’s wearing a lovely dark gray suit. She hands papers to defense attorney Pensanti. A tall gray haired man looks over Pensanti’s papers. I’ve not seen him before. He could be an investigator.
In the well, Beth Silverman is showing the court reporter some photos that are on her pink cased smart phone. A few moments later, I can hear snatches of conversation Beth is having with Pensanti about potential return dates. Beth then leaves the well and enters the gallery to sit and chat with a handsome suited bald-headed black man.
ABC 20/20’s Lisa Tomaselli arrived late and totally missed the Park hearing. Franklin defense attorney Seymour Amster goes to the back chambers, possibly to use the restroom.
Sitting to my left is a Latino looking man with his mother. He tells me his brother’s killer is being sentenced today.
Beth Silverman checks in with several family members to see how they’re doing. The Franklin case will be held to first deal with the sentencing hearing. The defendant who is going to be sentenced is brought out.
That defendant’s attorney makes a motion for a new trial. The mother of the victim, “Paco,” shakes her head, sighs, as the defendant’s attorney argues points of evidence for a new trial. The prosecutor on that case gets up to counter the defense arguments. This goes on for some time, with questions back and forth between Judge Kennedy, the prosecutor and the defense attorney. Kennedy tells the parties she needs to reread the entire trial. It occurred some time ago and she’s had several trials since. “I’m really concerned about the proficiency of the corroboration (evidence).”
It looks like there won’t be a sentencing today. The sentencing is held over until January 18th, 2012.
Judge Kennedy asks, “Are we ready on Franklin?”
The parties identify themselves for the record. There’s a 1050 (document?) from the defense faxed to the court.
Silverman tells the court her concern is that she’s not convinced (trial) preparation is going on. She explains to the court that there were procedures set up for the defense to test (ballistic) evidence. “None of that has taken place,” Sliverman tells the court. There’s been “...no attempt to start testing the firearm (evidence) in this case.”
I believe it’s Silverman who states that she’s assuming the the defense would want to test other evidence, such as the DNA, in the case. Silverman is also concerned about witnesses, waiting to testify.
(Motions (to?) continue to be filed by the defense under seal to document what they are doing.)
Judge Kennedy asks the defense what’s going on. Amster states that they’ve dropped the ball. That they “...will take responsibility on that.”
Amster mentions what the defense still needs to do, and that it involves not one piece of evidence, but several. Supposedly, they’ve had experts on the case from the beginning on the ballistics. Amster states “The DNA, (we) will be a bit more cautions on (testing?). ... (Currently) doing research on DNA.”
Amster explains that one of the delays that they could not control is the defense’s penalty phase investigator got another job. It was not their fault and they didn’t see this coming. The biggest aspect of their case will be the guilt phase. The defense states they are still getting evidence from the prosecution as far as evidence goes. Not the defense fault this is an old case.
Judge Kennedy asks when is the ballistic evidence going to be analyzed by the defense.
I believe Amster answers, “When people approve the order and will be assigned by the court.”
Silverman responds, “I was informed by the lab nothing had been done.”
I believe the parties discuss the same procedures again for each piece of ballistic evidence to be taken out, the order signed by Judge Kennedy and then that evidence tested by the defense.
Judge Kennedy advises the defense that the DNA testing takes longer than the firearm testing ... She asks Amster, “When Mr. Amster, will you know you will be seeking to retest?” Amster responds, “I know we’ll be seeking to retest .... Will seek to retest in January. ... The delay is caution, and to ensure doing the right testing.”
Judge Kennedy, with a bit of frustration in her voice tells the parties, “I want to move this forward, but (I'm aware?) of a lot of evidence... you know more about that than I do. ... It’s time consuming. ... I don’t want you to ignore that.”
Apparently, the funds for the DNA testing by the county and the analyst assigned by the court is controlled by another judge.
Judge Kennedy continues, “But you need to get moving on that.”
The 987.9 motion, of getting experts appointed, that’s not an issue. The hold up is, the defense states they are being cautious about the testing.
The defense wants to come back in January, on the 25th. Judge Kennedy tells the defense, “We should come back in early December. That’s time enough to get your experts appointed." The next pretrial date is December 14th, and the case will be set at zero of 60 on that date.
Unfortunately, there's also a hearing in the Cameron Brown case on that date in Dept 107. I'll probably go to that hearing because there are several motions that are going to be argued on that date.
That’s it. I make my way back to the parking lot to drive home.