Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Alan Jackson Says Goodbye to the DA's Office

UPDATE Jan 21st, 2013 Alan Jackson will be on Headline News (HLN) at 6PM PST with Dr Drew discussing the Jodi Arias case.

On February 6th, 2013, the Los Angeles Times reported:
Alan Jackson, a veteran Los Angeles County prosecutor whose bid to become district attorney ended in defeat in November, is leaving the district attorney's office to join a private, downtown firm that practices civil law.

Jackson, 47, said his last day in the office he sought to lead will be Feb. 15. He will pursue a career as a civil litigator with Palmer, Lombardi and Donohue, whose three partners were political supporters of his election campaign.
I was quite sad to read the news.

I'll never forget the first time I spoke to Jackson.  It was in the evening, August 16th, 2007, months into the first Phil Spector murder trial. Spector was on trial for the murder of Lana Clarkson and it was being televised on CourtTV.

 That day and the day before had been two exceptionally stressful days for me in Judge Fidler's courtroom.  When I left the trial that day, I swore I wouldn't go back.  I was in my kitchen and I got a call from Dominick Dunne, who tells me he's at the Dodger game in a private box.  He's with the entire prosecution team on the Spector case and having the time of his life.  Dominick tells me the topic everyone is talking about at the game is the admonishment Judge Fidler gave me on the record. (I was accused of being the individual who spoke so loud in court that the jury heard me.) Dominick then tells me he has someone who wants to speak to me. The next voice I hear is DDA Alan Jackson.

I don't remember everything he said in that first conversation, but I do remember him telling me that he would talk to the judge. That this judge was a fair judge and he would like for me to come back to court on the next scheduled court day, which was a Tuesday.  Because Jackson took it upon himself to go to the judge, I got an apology from Judge Fidler on the record. Because of Jackson, I was vindicated.  That event was the catalyst that eventually developed into a friendship with Alan.

After the debacle of the first Spector trial, Jackson and I stayed in touch.  T&T got it's start during the first Spector trial and, I made a point to try to cover cases that Jackson was assigned.  Jackson was a brilliant prosecutor, a charismatic orator, and I wanted to follow his career. I wanted to experience first hand, his skills in the courtroom and write about the cases he prosecuted.

When Kazuyoshi Miura was arrested in Saipan,  I started to go to the hearings.

Robbery Homicide Detective Rick Jackson, left, 
Kazuyoshi Miura, right

Kazuyoshi Miura was convicted of the 1981 shooting death of his wife, Kazumi, on a downtown Los Angeles street in his native country, Japan. Ten years later, a higher court overturned the verdict and he was released. In February 2008 Miura traveled to Saipan, a US territory, where was arrested on an outstanding 1988 warrant. He was held in Saipan while attorneys in Los Angeles argued whether he could be brought back to the US and tried for murder, again.

It was a complicated legal issue.  Miura's defense attorney, Mark Geragos, argued that bringing him back to the US and prosecuting him again would be double jeopardy. The court transcripts from Japan had to be obtained and translated. A expert witness in the Japanese language testified to the accuracy of the translation and the meaning of specific words. It was difficult to follow each side's arguments as to which aspect of the Penal Code should apply.

Because of the arguments presented by Jackson and his co-counsels DDA Ricardo Ocampo (now Judge Ocampo) and DDA Phyllis Asayama, Judge Van Sicklen ruled: “Although the murder charge is barred by double jeopardy, the State may proceed on the charge of conspiracy to commit murder because there is no evidence that Miura was previously acquitted or convicted of the same offense in Japan." Unfortunately, the case ended when Miura committed suicide within 24 hours of touching down on US soil.

When Spector's retrial finally came around in November 2008, I knew I would dedicate myself to attending every single day of the case.  I wasn't going to let Spector or his trial bride try to eject me from the courtroom again. There were no cameras this time and Jackson had a new co-counsel, DDA Truc Do (now with Munger Tolles & Olson).  It was during the retrial that Jackson opened up more, and insisted I keep him informed of any intimidation tactics the Spector's or their supporters threw my way.

Alan's strategy for the second trial was tighter, more focused, presenting fewer witnesses than the first trial.  Alan and Truc Do's opponent this time was not a large defense team, but a single counsel, Doron Weinberg, a crafty and difficult adversary. From the very start, Jackson and Weinberg had difficulty getting along.  To me, it appeared that Weinberg used every delay tactic he could not to turn over discovery.   Even Judge Fidler commented outside the presence of the jury that it was "evident" Jackson and Weinberg couldn't stand each other.  Weinberg was able to convince Judge Fidler to let him present an expert on suicide and an expert on memory. Despite these obstacles, Jackson's cross examination of many of the defense witnesses was a pleasure to watch.  The most memorable were doctors Werner Spitz and Vincent DiMaio. Spitz lost his temper more than once on the stand and could not answer the most basic questions about his billing practices.  I remember that defense expert Dr. DiMaio complimented Jackson on an excellent cross examination when he stepped off the stand.

Alan was the first person I asked for advice when a Spector fan posted my personal information online and he willingly gave it.  No matter what the question was, Alan always found the time to respond.  During the second trial there were many times that people in the gallery would ask the prosecution team questions before court started.  At one point, I asked him if he would ever consider going into private practice.  At the time he responded in a very strong tone, "Never!"  Jackson's message was clear. He was a career prosecutor. Prosecuting criminals was his life's work.  But things happen in our lives that we can't always foresee.  As everyone knows, Spector was convicted of second degree murder on April 13th, 2009.

Spector booking photo, post conviction

Over the next several years, I was fortunate to attend many court hearings and one more trial where Alan was involved in the prosecution: the  Lily Burke, preliminary hearing, the James Fayed, trial and pretrial hearings for Kelly Soo Park and Alberd Tersargyan.

No matter the case, attending a trial or a short pretrial hearing where Alan was the prosecutor was always time well spent.

James Fayed, sentenced to death

I'll never forget during the James Fayed case, when Alan brought some of the seized gold bars and gold coins into court.  He passed a $50,000 gold bar to Judge Kennedy and the jurors, so they could feel the weight of it.  After that day in court, I asked him what it was like.  He was astounded at the experience of having over a million dollars in bullion sitting in a box at his desk that morning (with a FBI agent in tow, guarding the bullion), as well as holding a single gold bar, the cost of a brand new Lexus, in his hand.

In May 2010, Alan received his second prosecutor of the year award. By this time he had already been promoted to Assistant Head Deputy of Major Crimes.  Even though my trial coverage took a back seat to my real life responsibilities, I tried to report on the various projects Alan was involved in and keep in touch with him by email. 

When Alan announced in December 2010 that he was making a run for the District Attorney's Office, I immediately signed up on his campaign web site.  I didn't think twice about it. It didn't matter than we were members of opposing political parties because I knew Alan personally.  I felt he had the integrity and skills to lead the DA's office.

Even though the DA's office is non-partisan, politics is still a major factor in this race. I knew Alan would have a tough road to climb in a mostly democratic county. Even though I had never written about this type of subject, in support of Alan, I attended many of the debates for district attorney and blogged about them.

When Alan was defeated on November 6th, I was hoping that things would work out at the DA's office. Sadly, that was not to be.  Back in May 2011 during the Fayed trial, I asked Alan, "What are your plans if you don't win?"  At that time, he told me he didn't have a "Plan B" and I was very worried for him. Fortunately, he did eventually get a plan in place.  Alan joined the civil litigation firm of  Palmer, Lombardi & Donohue.

There's no question that Alan is a brilliant trial strategist, highly respected by his peers.  The clients that chose him, will get a tirelessly dedicated attorney that will fight the hardest for them.  Even though Alan has moved into civil litigation, I hope to continue following his career by dropping in on the cases he takes on.  Best of luck to you Alan.  I hope to see you inside a courtroom again, soon.

Vanity Fair, Domick Dunne 'Legend With A Bullet'

About Alan Jackson, (From Vote Alan Jackson website)

LA Times, DA's Rival Has A New Post

LA Times Opinion, Lacey's Definition of Lateral

Phil Spector convicted of the murder of Lana Clarkson
James Fayed convicted of the murder for hire of his wife, Pamela
Kelly Soo Park is charged with the first degree murder of Juliana Redding
Alberd Tersargyan is charged with four murders
Kazuyoshi Miura, convicted in Japan of murdering his wife, Kazumi. Verdict overturned.


Starbright said...

Sprocket you are right, he was a pleasure to watch. I hope he will be happy and satisfied in his new role. You are lucky to know him personally.

Sandy said...

A really heart-felt testimony to someone who was committed to doing a job well... like you!

ritanita said...

Alan Jackson is someone who has been dedicated to justice his whole career. He will be sorely missed by those who followed his trials with you here.

I wish him the best in his new position and am sure he will continue to shine.

Tezi said...

Thank you for sharing! I think he is one of the best prosecutors I have ever watched.