Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Michael Gargiulo: Pretrial Hearing 8

 Michael Thomas Gargiulo, date unknown

Michael Gargiulo QUICK LINKS

UPDATE 5/1: spelling, clarity
April 26th, 2013
Mr. Sprocket had to get up very early to install the Turbo Air door in the bakery that I picked up yesterday, so I got up early as well.  The drive into downtown Los Angeles was a dream, virtually no traffic.  When I get inside the Clara Shortridge-Foltz Criminal Justice Center (aka CJC), around 7:30 AM, it's like a ghost town.  There's hardly anyone here.  I stop in the cafeteria to surf the web on my laptop until about 8:10 AM, since the 9th floor security station doesn't open until 8:00 AM.

When I left home, I thought that I had two competing hearings to go to this morning. Cameron Brown was also scheduled for a pretrial hearing at 8:30 AM today in Dept. 107.

While I was waiting on the 9th floor, I didn't see Brown's wife, Patty so I checked the LA County Sheriff's inmate locator to see if Brown still had a hearing today.  He doesn't.  It states Brown's next appearance is for Thursday, May 2nd. At some point after his last hearing, there must have been an agreement between the defense and prosecution to move Brown's hearing date.  I've never had that happen before with an in-custody defendant I've been following so I make a mental note to ask the court's PIO about that.

8:25 AM I see Gargiulo's investigator, Christian Filipiak arrive and head down towards the other end of the hallway.  By 8:30 AM, there are about 20 people in this end of the hallway, waiting to get into the courtrooms.

The first thing I notice when I enter Dept. 108 is that Pat McNeal is sitting in as the court reporter.  She used to share court reporting duties with Mavis Theodoro right next door in Judge Pastor's old courtroom.  I don't know if this is her new assignment or if she is just sitting in for Judge Ohta's regular reporter.

I note the large container of Red Vines on the clerk's counter is quite full. DDA Daniel Akemon arrived right on time and his co-counsel DDA Garrett Dameron is also here as well. Many people are filling the gallery and I'm guessing it's either for a trial or hearings for other defendants.

8:40 AM Filipiak enters Dept. 108 and gets introduced to Dameron.  Akemon hands over a large stack of papers, easily four or five inches tall to Filipiak.  Filipiak and Akemon appear to discuss the documents.  There are several other DDA's here for another case or cases.  There are several defense attorneys here, a few I've seen before in Dept. 30.  I'm guessing it might be a multiple defendant case that has a hearing, with all the bustle that's going on inside the well.  Attorney's are filing documents with the clerk and there are several conversations going on at once.  I can't hear a single one of them clearly.

8:55 AM More attorneys enter and check in with Judge Ohta's clerk.  Then I see a familiar face enter the courtroom and head over to the prosecution team.  It's someone I've seen testify in three trials now, and who has also worked on this case, LA County Sheriff Detective Mark Lillienfeld. Lillienfeld testified in both Spector trials and the Cameron Brown trial.  I was very impressed with Detective Lillienfeld each time I got to hear him testify. Today, Detective Lillienfeld is dressed casually in jeans and a light blue shirt.  His badge is on his belt.  

Lillienfeld greets Akemon and Dameron.  Then, a defense attorney comes over to chat with Lillienfeld and Dameron.  More attorneys come and go.  The language interpreter with the seeing eye dog enters and sits in the gallery on the defense side.  Now several defense attorneys leave.

It's 9:05 AM.  I continue to keep my eye on Akemon, Dameron and Lillienfeld's chat.  A minute later, Judge Ohta takes the bench.  The judge reads over a document at the bench.  Once Judge Ohta took the bench, I focused on the door to the jail holding area for Gargiulo to emerge, but a defense attorney comes into Dept. 108 and sits right in front of me, blocking my view.  I can't believe it.  It's one of Phil Spector's former attorneys, Roger Rosen.  I slide over a bit so I can still see the holding area door.

When Gargiulo emerges, it appears he has significantly trimmed back his abundant mustache.  Judge Ohta calls the case and states the case is at zero of 90 today.  I believe the people have a response for the defendant regarding police reports.  This is all about discovery.

The judge asks Gargiulo, "Mr. Gargiulo, have you received both of these documents?"  Because of some noise in the courtroom, I don't quite get Gargiulo's response.  I believe there is some discussion about Gargiulo responding to motions or arguing motions. Gargiulo tells the court, "I'm not prepared on that."  Judge Ohta asks, "You wish to litigate but are not prepared?"  Gargiulo gives the court an explanation that he hasn't had enough time to respond. If I'm recalling this correctly, the law library computers were down, Gargiulo being ill, and that's why he hasn't been able to prepare responses yet.

Judge Ohta gives an overview of where the case is at present, addressing Gargiulo.  "Since you have been granted pro per status ... the goal ... get on the same table of information and then move forward beyond that."  (The prosecution?) still making sure of the table, and body of evidence is disclosed to (you/Gargiulo) by 1054. The judge continues, "Now issue of Downey murder as you call it ... (the) people's position, this information doesn't belong to you."

Basically, Judge Ohta is trying to get both parties to be working from a complete set of discovery documents.  That both sides have the same thing, come to the table equally, and no one is at a disadvantage.

I believe Gargiulo responds, "I want to get ... I want to file formal request to compel discovery. ... Computers being down and I've been sick.  ... and other misconduct the prosecution has committed... but (I've) not had time to prepare a formal motion."  Gargiulo has an idea of what he wants to file but...

Judge Ohta asks "How much time will you need?"

With a long delay from Gargiulo, I believe Judge Ohta asks the prosecution and Mr. Filipiak about discovery. "Are we near there?" Ohta asks.  Filipiak states he's received an additional 1,000 pages of documents and a CD.  I believe it's Akemon who responds that this is the last substantial amount of discovery.  His department has gone back and has audited the case file.

There's more discussion as to how much has been turned over and Judge Ohta asks Mr. Filipiak, "Do you think that's accurate Mr. Filipiak?"  Filipiak responds, "Yes, I think we're pretty close. ... I think we're very close to (paper?) discovery."

Judge Ohta then goes back to Gargiulo and asks, "How much time do you need to file (a) motion so that can be litigated?"  There is another pause from Gargiulo and Judge Ohta continues, "Let's do it this way."  Gargiulo then responds, "By May 17th."  Judge Ohta replies, "I'm not here (that day) so lets pick the 24th."

I believe this is about the unsolved murder of a woman named "Rodriguez."

Akemon makes a suggestion to the court, that to move the case along, to increase the frequency to come back to court more often.  Asking possibly come back every two to three weeks instead of every four to five weeks.  Judge Ohta responds, "I'm not sure I'm going to do that but we'll see..."

Gargiulo states he prefers coming back on the 24th of May.  Judge Ohta then discusses with both parties the possibility of coming back more often.  "If at some time I think things are not moving forward, I'll take that action.  I'll be watching out for that.  At this point, (I'm) not seeing it."

Akemon states he has two housekeeping issues.  To date, the prosecution has disclosed 25,250 pages. Akemon refers to one other discovery issue, "...which we thought was ... jail in 2008 ... (the defendant) was put in a cell with two deputies.  ... There's been this idea there was a video of that 30 to 40 hours. ... That operation was not video taped.  That does not exist. (The event) was monitored by CCTV (closed circuit TV) system and that was ... Mr. Lillienfeld did an investigation and is here today..."

Judge Ohta asks the defense, "Do you have (the) audio tape?"  Gargiulo states he as "...parts of it."  Mr. Filipiak states he has the entire audio.

Gargiulo asks the Judge if he will sign a medical order.  I believe that is granted.

Akemon (states?) Mr. Gargiulo issued three subpoenas. He's complied with all three.

1. The radio transmissions: (between LE regarding I believe, Maria Bruno's murder?)  the prosecution gave him that.

2. Jail Policies: He has access to that at jail.

Akemon continues, We basically have given him everything he wants except...  "The (jail) internal staff policies ... which we believe is not discoverable."

Regarding the jail policies, Garguilo tells the court he doesn't have access to them. The ones he does have access to, I believe he states they were issued in 2000, or 2001.  I believe Akemon then hands him a paper or papers on jail policies that were updated in 2011.

Judge Ohta then takes the time to patiently explain to Gargiulo that the prosecution doesn't believe they have to turn over to him, the internal staff policies at the LA County Jail.  Ohta goes onto explain to him what legal recourse is still open to him, that he can still issue subpoenas for those documents.

Judge Ohta is not required to explain the law to Gargiulo, and what avenues are open to him in preparing his case, so it's interesting to see the judge take the time let Gargiulo know that even though he didn't get all the documents he was requesting, there are other options available.  One wonders if this case was assigned to a different courtroom, would another judge go out of his way to guide the defendant to the extent Ohta is doing.

And that's it for this hearing.

My Thoughts
Preparing a case of this magnitude, with over 25,000 pages of discovery would be daunting even for a seasoned death penalty qualified attorney.  It takes quite a bit of thought and research to prepare for cross examination of a witness; to methodically prepare your questions to build upon the next one, to have an artful presentation. Even seasoned attorneys can stumble through cross examination. Where I think this case will get interesting, is when the prosecution files motions to introduce evidence.  As far as I know, Gargiulo doesn't have a college education.  He was an air conditioning service man.  It will be interesting in the months ahead how well he will do in preparing opposing arguments to the people's motions.

Michael Gargiulo Case: Pretrial Hearing 9


Katprint said...

I cringe every time I see a criminal defendant representing himself (or herself.) It's like watching someone who has decided to perform their own c-section or brain surgery. It gives me the same feeling of impending doom as reading books/watching movies where a mistreated POW pulls his own rotting tooth, or a civil war victims has a limb amputated without anesthesia, or an astronaut discovers himself/herself to be infested by a space alien.

Sprocket said...


It's my understanding that Gargiulo was not happy with the court appointed attorney. I don't know what the specific problem was, but evidently he felt this attorney he was given wasn't doing his job the way he felt it should be done.

Gargiulo petitioned the court for a different attorney. The court (over burdened with mounting budget cuts) ruled that he would not be getting another attorney.

At that point, Gargiulo made the decision to represent himself.

Gargiulo, by representing himself and being incarcerated in Los Angeles county jail system, is at the mercy of jail procedures and regulations. When he is able to meet with his investigator at the jail, he is behind two way glass, and both of his hands are cuffed to the table.

There are documents he is not allowed to have in jail, because of the nature of the documents. I don't have an answer to that, but it's because of where he is: in jail. He can't possess bloody, mutilated bodies crime scene photographs while incarcerated.

Should Gargiulo be allowed to have these things to adequately represent himself? I don't have an answer, but courts have ruled in prior cases, that when you make this fateful decision to represent yourself, then there is no going back later, and filing an appeal on the basis of ineffective counsel.

Like I said, it will be interesting in the months ahead to see how he does in preparing arguments to counter the prosecution's motions.

This will be an indicator as to how well he might do on cross examination of witnesses.

Sandy said...

It's one thing to attempt to defend yourself on misdemeanor charges, but a death penalty? I agree with Katprint that it is like watching a replay in slow motion of a bridge breaking apart and seeing the vehicle plunge to the watery end below. Too bad he didn't accept the legal assistance he had and just demand to be more fully involved. Scary.

Amanda Sailsbury said...

This guy is the male version on Jodi Arias. But luckily she was caught after her first victim.

Anonymous said...

I knew one of the victims so I am thrilled that he is representing himself. Insofar as the arrogant Satan he is, he deserves to bungle his own fate.

Sprocket said...

Anon @ 11:01 AM
Would you be willing to write me privately to tell me about your friend? There's not been much in the press about the victims.

I totally understand if you would like to remain anonymous and would honor that request.

Anonymous said...

Possibly. Why would you want to know and how would I go about that?

Sprocket said...

Whatever you are willing to share about your friend, on or off the record.

You can email me at:

sprocket.trials AT gmail.com

I will honor any request for confidentiality regarding your identity and/or anything you'd like to share with me, but not have published.