Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lois Goodman Case: Pretrial Hearing 6

Lois Goodman, November 8th

UPDATED 11/14/12: correct spelling
UPDATED: added link

November 8th, 2012
I have all the good intentions of getting out the door and down to the courthouse and up on the 9th floor early, but it doesn't happen.  When I turn on Tyrone from Calvert, I see Goodman's defense attorney Allison Treissl pull into a lot next to the court house and I decide to park there instead of the parking structure behind the court.  The price is the same $9.00, and the advantage is I don't have to climb down several flights of stairs.  I also see Kelley Gerner pull into the same lot.  As I leave the lot I note that Ms. Treissl lights up a cigarette before she heads toward the courthouse.

As I trek up the long walkway between the two court buildings, I note the weekly Farmer's Market is starting to set up on the plaza. As I get to the front of the court building, I see a long line outside again. It's why I wanted to get here early. I'm worried I won't get up on the 9th floor before the courtroom opens. I want to make sure I get a seat in the front row so I can hear everyone.

Finally up on the 9th floor and waiting outside Dept 122, I see three video camera operators. They don't know who's going be the pool video photographer.  The crews are from local KTLA Ch. 5, local CBS Ch 9 and CNN.  I ask the camera operators if the courtroom is open yet.  They tell me, "No."  So I wait with them.

Defense attorney Triessl is up on the 9th floor, standing away from the press, closer to the elevators.  An older slender man with glasses speaks to Triessl. The only reporter I recognize is "John" from KNX 1090 Radio.  He's a tall, bulky balding man with long hair to his shoulders and a mustache.  Miriam Hernandez isn't here.  She must have been sent on another assignment.

A young, pretty reporter I've never seen before tries the door to Dept 122.  She then sees a female  LAPD officer in uniform walking near the door and asks her a question, most likely about Dept. 122.  (I find that interesting because most reporters should know that it's the Sheriff's that are in charge of all county courthouses.)

Lois Goodman arrives. She smiles and greets her attorney, Triessl.  The defense investigator, Scott Ross (no relation) is standing with Triessl.Even from where I'm standing it looks like Lois had her hair cut very short and styled.  It's combed straight back.  There's no curl at all.  She looks nice.  She's wearing white slacks, a gray blouse and a lighter grayish, creamy toned long cardigan sweater.

Goodman has a few supporters with her, mostly girlfriends, that look to be about the same age as Goodman. It's not the huge crowd that I've seen a previous hearings.  I see Lois reading something on her phone.

The courtroom is finally opened and the press files in.  I take a seat in the front row, left.  Some of the press sits in the center, back row.  There's a bit of chatter in the well.  I hear the court reporter state to a court staff member that they don't know who the DDA will be in the courtroom today.  (There are many courtrooms where a deputy district attorney is assigned to handle many pretrial hearings in a specific court.)

Triessl and Gerner ask the court reporter about a beautiful piece of sculpted (ceramic?) artwork on her desk.  It's like a partial mask of the face, all in off-white.  From the bottom, a finger of a hand comes up that's placed over the lips as if to say 'shush' or 'quiet.' It's about six inches wide by eight inches tall.  From where I'm sitting, I can't tell if the piece is hanging on the wall, has it's own support to sit on the desk or is a part of a photo frame below it.

Triessl is back in the gallery, speaking to Goodman for a moment. Goodman is sitting in the second row on the right, in the seat right next to the wall.  Her body is turned 90 degrees to face into the gallery and speak to her seat companion.  Sitting next to Goodman is a woman about the same age and height with shoulder length jet black hair.  The dark haired woman gets up to speak to the defense investigator Ross.  The prosecution team is not here yet.

At 8:53 AM the defense team leaves the courtroom in mass.  Judge Silver comes out to her bench.  She's wearing a dark blue A-frame print dress.  I can't discern the cream pattern on her dress from where I am sitting. My eyes are drawn to her stunning gold and silver necklace.  The cameraman has set up in the jury box that also has several uniformed officers and suited detectives.  He adjusts his wireless microphone on the court reporter's desk.

Judge Silver exchanges a few pleasantries with a defense attorney waiting in the well.  More counsel arrive with rolling carts and check in with the bailiff and court clerk.

In the jury box, there are now two detectives and a uniformed, female LAPD officer.  One of the detectives comes out to speak to the people sitting behind me.  He tells them they are just waiting for the DA to arrive and then the DA will speak to everybody.  Another detective, a woman arrives and sits in the jury box.

Looking over at the left side of the courtroom, it appears that there are about nine or ten supporters here for Goodman.  A group of about four or five casually dressed black women enter Dept. 122 and take seats in the rows behind me.  More people check in with the bailiff.

In a loud voice, the Asian looking bailiff reminds everyone to turn off their cell phones.  "If you want to use it, step outside," he tells the room.

9:05 AM DDA Sharon Ransom arrives and starts speaking to a defense attorney on another case.  More counsel arrive and try to find space in the well.  Some move to the jury box.

Defense attorney Robert Sheahen arrives.  Gerner greets Ransom. Shaking her hand she says, "Hello, how are you?"  Ransom asks a detective in the well what case they are here on and he replies, "Matthews."  Ransom now speaks to some of the people in the gallery behind me.  She's obviously working on another case.  I wonder if she's been taken off the Goodman case.

The courtroom is very busy now, with more counsel arriving for their cases.  A young, very pregnant Asian woman with several files, takes a seat at the prosecution's table.    She's wearing black slacks, no jacket and an emerald green maternity top that is made of a stretchy nylon or rayon that hugs her frame.  She speaks to the "Matthews" case detective in the well.

Over on the right side of the courtroom, Goodman and her female supporters chat.

The courtroom consists of three rows and two aisles separating the sections.  The rows on far left and right are only four folding seats across.  The center section is long, but it's only three rows.  The back row is not the full length.  The front row is blocked off with yellow caution tape.  So is the front row on the far right.  I believe I know why the courtroom does this.  It's to keep the general public from possibly sitting too close, or getting too close to those defendants currently in custody.  I've seen in custody defendants sitting in the chairs behind the defense table and not "at" the defense table.

The uniformed LAPD officer speaks to the pregnant Asian DDA (Ms. Kwon sp?).  I've a feeling this is the DA that is taking over the absent DDA's calendar in this courtroom.  Another detective arrives and sits in the jury box.

I note "John" from KNX 1090 sits in the center, last row with the pretty, young reporter.

The courtroom is getting a bit noisy and the bailiff shouts out "Quiet down please!"  A hush immediately settles over the courtroom for a moment and then conversations resume in a lowered tone.  Goodman smiles and exchanges whispers with her girlfriends.

Judge Silvers comes out in her robes. The bailiff tells everyone to stand and face the flag.  As everyone is standing, Goodman's defense team enters the courtroom.  After the little speech is completed, Judge Silvers takes the bench and calls a case.  Lisa Tanner is here.  She enters the jury box for a moment then quickly exits the courtroom to answer her phone.

The court is waiting on other DDA's to be ready with their cases.  9:24 AM a brief recess is called.

Another male attorney with short black hair enters and exchanges business cards with Triessl and Gerner.  Lisa Tanner is at the prosecution table going over documents.  Now Robert Sheahen is also intently listening to the attorney talking to Triessl and Gerner.  I can see from where I'm sitting the conversation with the new attorney is intense.  Sheahen is nodding his head as the new guy speaks.  Now Triessl has a serious expression on her face, as she momentarily holds her hand to her face.  Gerner has her hand on her hip as she listens to the new attorney.

I believe my notes say that Gerner then passes Lisa Tanner and says, "December 7th, zero of 30 ... and that's the last..." 

At 9:30 AM, DDA Ransom reenters Dept 122.  I look on over at Triessl, and she's in an animated conversation now with the new attorney, speaking with her hands.  Goodman is still turned 90 degrees around in her seat, her back against the side wall to look into the gallery and chat with her girlfriends.

The co-counsel on the Lonnie Franklin, Jr., the Grim Sleeper case, Seymour Amster enters Dept. 122.  The City News reporter, Fred, enters and takes a seat beside me.  At 9:45 AM the court goes back on the record.  Two defendants are brought out, a man and a woman.  Amster is representing the woman.  That case is held over until December 3rd.

And we wait some more.  The defense counsel left the well when the prior hearing was up.  Judge Silver leaves the bench.  I glance over at Goodman.  She has her elbow on either the chair arm or her lap and her hand is on the side of her face.  Fred tells me he's here for another case, the Justin Bieber paparazzi car chase incident.

Judge Silver retakes the bench and a preliminary hearing begins in another case.  Goodman will get the opportunity to see a short preliminary hearing.  A witness takes the stand and starts to tell the story of out walking his dog at night. A car ran a four-way stop sign. It came around the corner very fast and runs into him; comes at him.  Then the car stopped and then backed into him.  He was walking his dog when the car stopped then backed into him.  The witness testifies he was knocked down by the car when it backed into him and he flew about ten feet.

The witness states he was in shock.  The driver of the vehicle gets out and then hits him.  The driver begins to fight with him.  They were close contact wresstling with each other.  "It became a huggy contest," the witness testified.  Lots of hugging.  Judge Silver asks the witness to just describe the contact with the defendant.

The witness explains, "He had the better of me.  He lifted me up off the ground.  He lifted me up and carried me to the other side of the street then threw me on the ground. ... (For) most of the battle, I couldn't get him off me. ... He was really good with his elbows."  The witness states the attacker elbowed him in the throat.

As the witness is describing the fight, I'm wondering about his dog.  Did he run away? Did he try to defend his owner?  What about his dog?

The witness described how when he walks his dog at night he carries a batton.  (Before the prelim began, the defendant was advised about his rights since the batton he carried is consided an illegal weapon.)  During the fight, the attacker grabbed his batton. The witness states, "The older gentleman picked up my batton and hit me over the head with the baton three times. ... He kicked me twice in the face. ... He would then run to the corner and look around. ... He kept saying (to me) 'I'm LAPD!! I'm LAPD!!!"

The witness is asked if he believed the individual was an LAPD officer.  "Not from what transpired there."  Then the witness tells the court he surrendered.  He had had enough of fighting with this assailant.  He says to the younger man, "Okay. You win."  He laid back on the ground and surrendered.  The guy who was attacking him replied, "No! ... I look up and my dog is still there."

The prosecution asks him if he lost consciousness.  The witness states he did lose consciousness after he saw his dog.  DDA Kwon asks, "Did you ever see the younger one with the baton?"  "No," the witness replies. When the vicitm came to (woke up) at the scene, he remembered the helicopters overhead.  The witness states he had massive lacerations on his body and he thinks possibly a concussion.  I have in my notes that the witness said he suffered "psyciatric dismay."  Judge Silver asks the question that everyone wanted to know.  "What kind of dog?"  The witness replies, "A pit bull."

That's it for direct and cross begins. Fred gets up to check on the Bieber case in another floor of the courtroom.

The defense attorney asks if he had been convicted of a felony.  "Yes," the witness replies.  (For the) "...purchase of rock cocaine." The witness is asked if he was intoxicated while out walking his dog.  No.  There's not much to the cross.

An officer takes the stand. He's with LAPD, Van Nuys division.  I see Goodman is still in the same pose as before.  Her elbow on the arm of the chair and the palm of her hand on her chin.

While a new witness is called to take the stand in the current preliminary hearing, I look over at Triessl and Gerner.  It appears they are looking over a document.  There appears to be a look of consternation on Triessl's face. Her eyebrows are constricted.  Triessl and Gerner and intently conferring over the document.  They now leave the courtroom to continue their conversation.  The new male attoney motions to Sheahen and he leaves the courtroom also.

A Detective Alvarez (sp?) takes the stand in the current prelim.  He's assigned to Van Nuys Division, working CAPS.  At this point, I stopped taking notes on this preliminary hearing.  From memory, it was either this witness or another witness who testifies about a good samaritan who observed the fight going on in the street from inside his home and called 911.  The detective on the stand testifies that this witness saw the younger man hit the victim with the baton twice.   As quickly as it started, that preliminary hearing was over.

The Goodman case is called.  I see that the male attorney that earlier had Goodman's defense team captivated sets his laptop and briefcase down on the prosecution's table.  It's clear the DA's office has assigned a new attorney to the case. He announces his name for the record, "John Lewin."  I'm quite surprised.  John Lewin is with the DA's Major Crimes Division, which now will probably be handling the case. I've heard of him from my friend Matthew McGough. He's a heavy hitter who specializes in cold case homicides and difficult circumstantial cases. Now I understand the meaning of the conversation that I observed he had with the defense team in the well of the court.

DDA Lewin tells the court that the discovery process is ongoing back and forth between the parties.  They'd like to set the prelim pre-setting date over one more month to December 7th, and have the case at zero of 30 on that date.

Defense attorney Sheahen speaks to the discovery issues. "We've received (an additional?) 2200 pages of documents." The defense has provided the prosecution with the results of a polygraph that their client passed.  The defense has received the original notes from a (Detective? McCarty?). They are still waiting on notes from other first responders. Sheahen tells the court they have received preliminary DNA results.  Ms. Goodman's DNA was on her clothing.  Her DNA was not on the cup that is the alleged murder weapon.

The defense is also asking the court if Ms. Goodman can leave her home for 12 hours to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family.

The next hearing will be on December 7th at 8:30 AM and the court calendar is set at zero of thirty court days.  And that's it.

The press files out to see if the defense will speak to them.

The video cameras follow John Lewin as he exits the courthouse.  A few of the reporters yell questions at him.  Lewin stops and thoughtfully tells the press that he won't speak on the record until the case is over.  The KNX reporter throws out to Lewin if he could buy him lunch.  If I"m not mistaken, Lewin throws back a joke and tells the reporter he isn't his type.

Triessl tells the press that she is going to walk her client to her car. She states her client is thrilled she will be enjoying Thanksgiving with her family.

A bit later, Robert Sheahen speaks to the press.  He asks Gerner if she wants to stand up with him but she declines.  I believe she tells him something to the effect, "It's all yours."

Sheahen tells the press that Goodman's DNA was found on her own clothing. It was not found on the coffee cup.   Then Sheahen tells the press that the district attorney has indicated that there is a possibility that Alan Goodman's blood, his DNA was so pervasive that it "washed out" Ms. Goodman's DNA.  They are following up on discovery matters with the additional pages of discovery.  They are waiting on microscopic slides from the coroner. Sheahen also states there is a new DA on the case and that they welcome Mr. Lewin from Major Crimes, a seasoned prosecutor to the case.  Sheahen also tells the press that they have offered to the DA's office to make Goodman's home available to the DA.

Sheahen then states again that the DNA found on Goodman's pants was her own.  The coffee mug, (that DNA on it) all belonged to Alan Goodman. This is consistent with Ms. Goodman's statement that (he may have been?) holding the cup and fallen on the cup.  The visit to the house by the DA will happen before the next hearing.

I ask Mr. Sheahen about the second autopsy performed by their expert, Dr. Michael Baden.  (Baden testified in both Spector trials.) Sheahen states Baden's report will be ready in a couple of weeks.  They are waiting on the microscopic slides from the cornoer for Dr. Baden to review.

And that's it.  I head back to my car and almost forget that there were supposed to be documents waiting for me (a defense filing in this case) at the clerks office.  Elizabeth Martinez of the Public Information Office had kindly arranged that for me. But when I get up there, the clerk at the window didn't know anything about it. I'll have to get them another time.  As I'm leaving the court building, Alison Triessl and I think Kelly Gerner were reentering the courthouse.  Triessl asks me, "Are you the blogger?"  I'm immediately embarrassed that I've been identified.  I usually like to fly under the radar.  I reply, "Yes."  She then tells me, "I love your blog! ... There's so much detail."  Still embarrassed, I thank her several times for her kind words.

I will share my thoughts, my opinion, on the preliminary DNA results that were revealed in court today.  One of the heaver hitters in forensic science coined a phrase years ago, that blood spatter expert, Dr. Lynne Herold said on the stand in the first Spector trial. "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." (No Spector DNA was found on the murder weapon that was covered with Lana Clarkson's blood.)

Just because you don't find something is not indicative that it proves a negative.  And what Robert Sheahen said about Alan Goodman's blood on the cup washing out Ms. Goodman's DNA is true.  I've heard DNA analysts testify about this phenomenon in both Spector and in the Stephanie Lazarus case.  There are instances where, when you have an abundant blood profile with good nucleated DNA cells, that can easily be such a "loud" profile that a smaller profile, from say, "touch DNA" or skin cells with little to few nucleated cells would be "washed out" and undetected with the instrumentation we have today.  It doesn't mean it's not there. It just means it can't be detected.


Rob said...

I knew a detective who was questioned on the stand about a lack of the defendant's fingerprints at a crime scene. The detective explained that if the court room were 'dusted' for prints, and none were found belonging to members of the jury, does that mean the jury wasn't there? That line of questioning quickly ended.