Inspiration Point in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Four-year-old Lauren Sarene Key died from a fall off this cliff,
November 8th, 2000.
Friday June 21, 2013
I'm up on the 9th floor of the downtown Los Angeles Criminal Justice Center. I'm here for a pretrial hearing in the third trial of the Cameron Brown case. For those of you not familiar with the case, there is a more detailed synopsis on the Cameron Brown Quick Links Page.
Back in November 2003, Brown was charged with felony murder in the death of his four year old daughter, Lauren Sarene Key. Prosecutors allege that Brown threw his daughter off the cliff because he hated her mother and did not want to pay child support.
There are a little over a dozen people here in the entire hallway. Cameron Brown's wife, Patty Brown was here when I arrived. She's wearing a pink blouse, black slacks and open toed sandals. DDA Hum and Aron Laub are not here yet. I expect this will be another status hearing where the case will be held over for another month or two. Laub has several other clients that are coming to trial all at the same time. He has been assigned to those cases longer than Brown. Brown is his newest case of the handful that Laub is juggling.
The hallway starts to fill up a bit more with attorneys and people her for other courtroom hearings. A family with many children come down to this end of the hall and try the door to Judge Fidler's courtroom, Dept. 106. It's locked.
Aron Laub arrives. Laub is wearing a medium taupe suit, white shirt with a red and gold striped tie. Patti Brown and Laub are going through some papers.
DDA Hum arrives. Hum is wearing a dark suit, medium blue shirt and a red and blue patterned tie. The courtroom door is opened and I follow Patty and Laub inside.
The bailiff who I first saw at the Spector trial is sitting at the bailiff’s desk. Laub goes over to the clerk’s desk to check in. Judge Lomeli’s courtroom is exactly the same as I remember. There are portraits of Washington and Lincoln on the wall behind his desk. On the wall behind the jury box, there are Revolutionary War paintings. The large bronze scale is still on the counter between the judge’s bench and the clerk’s desk area.
I don’t recognize the very attractive court clerk. From the snippets of conversation I overhear, Judge Lomeli’s regular clerk might be on vacation.
Laub shows a file of papers to the bailiff. I’m guessing these are papers he wants to show or transfer to his client. For the first time, I notice a clock is on the wall behind the bailiff’s desk area.
The bailiff tells counsel that it is going to take a bit of time to get Brown down from the upper custody floor. DDA Hum asks Laub about the case he has in Fidler’s court. Laub gives a date in early September that it should go to trial.
At the bailiff’s desk, the deputy rubs his face and squints his eyes. He looks tired. A handsome, slender black bailiff comes out from the jail holding area and the bailiff leaves his desk and goes into the holding area.
Judge Lomeli comes out and speaks to counsel off the record. He asks if the case is at zero of 90 today. Counsel are thinking of a date to come back in mid August. The date of August 13th is discussed and agreed upon.
Judge Lomeli greets Laub and asks DDA Hum about another case he’s been assigned, the “assessor case.” There is a bit of banter between counsel and the court about NBA basketball game, specifically the “Spurs.”
The court then asks the bailiff, “Are they bringing him (Brown) down?” The bailiff replies, “I just need a video camera with him. It’s just standard procedure.”
It’s my understanding that because of the various charges and complaints Brown has leveled against the Men’s Central Jail, every time Brown is moved it requires a sargent to move him and they video tape his movements.
Judge Lomeli leaves the bench until Brown can be brought out. DDA Hum paces in the well. Another DDA enters and greets Hum. He only stays for a moment, then leaves.
An attractive black female deputy arrives and secures her weapon in the black box mounted on the wall by the holding area door before entering the jail area. The regular bailiff reenters the courtroom from the hallway and enters the holding area.
Laub and Hum discuss the case Laub has in Fidler’s courtroom. I believe it’s a multi defendant case with many hours of wiretaps.
Brown is finally brought out from the holding area. The pretty black bailiff is holding a recording device, recording Brown as he’s being led into the courtroom. He’s in the standard Orange jumpsuit. Underneath, he has on the white, longsleeve undershirt.
I believe Laub is discussing scheduling with Brown. Brown got something that was sent to him, I believe from his wife, Patty. I hear Brown mention, “my medications” and something about “lights being turned out.”
Smiling, Laub hands a paper to Patty and says, “He got them.” Hum continues to stand at the prosecution table.
Judge Lomeli takes the bench and the case is called. Counsel identify themselves for the record. Judge Lomeli tells Laub that he expects this case to follow Laub’s case in Fidler’s courtroom.
Laub states on July 1st, he’s starting a case in Judge Ohta’s court. in August, he’s starting a case in Judge Marcus’s courtroom. Fidler’s case is in September and is expected to last three months.
Judge Lomeli sounds a tiny bit exasperated. “You’ve had this case for a while now. We expect the case to to go trial in October.
Laub pleads with the court about his case load. He doesn’t think he can be ready with this case because of the other cases he has, his backlog. He tells the court that he would be ready to try this case in 2014. The case in Fidler’s court is a retrial. He’s had that case for five years.
Judge Lomeli tells Laub, “It’s the first time I’ve heard you say 2014. ... The first time was October. .... And now it’s 2014.
Laub apologizes to the court. He tells the court that Mr. Hum doesn’t have a problem with trying the case next year, and his client doesn’t have a problem with that. Laub explains that he has these other cases he has to prepare for. The court responds, “Everybody has that problem. ... You’ve had this case for over a year now. ”
Laub tries to explain to the court his backlog of cases that are now going to trial. The court is firm about getting this case to trial soon. “I expect this case will occur in the later part of this year ... or it may not.” The court expected this case to follow Fidler’s case.
Laub explains about Fidler’s case, and that it’s not “definite.” It’s a very old, several defendant case. Laub explains, “Judge Fidler already cut off discover from the prosecution and they are supposed to be ready. ... It has to go.”
About Brown’s case, the court responds, “It may go in January, but shooting for the later part of this year.”
There's more discussion about Laub's trial schedule. The court asks Hum about the case. Hum tells the court there have been two prior hung juries. The August 13th date is selected and the case will be set at zero of 90 on that date.
And just when everyone thinks that's it, Brown speaks up very quickly and states either he wants to go pro per or he wants to see the waiver paper to transfer his case to pro per status.
Brown is asking to read (the waiver form)... Judge Lomeli responds, "I'm not going to...." Aparently Brown hasn't really made up his mind yet. He just wants to see the waiver form so he can decide.
Judge Lomeli appears to be caught off guard. "It is extremely ill advised to represent yourself. ... You can't later claim ineffective assistance of counsel. .... I'll expect you to know the rules and protocol of the court." Lomeli sternly lectures Brown on the perils of going pro per status and that he would be going up against an experienced trial attorney.
"I'll let you have a waiver to look at," the court tells Brown.
Brown then responds, "Can I come back in a couple of days to return it?"
Judge Lomeli strongly advises Brown to talk this over with his counsel. He also tells Brown, that he will expect him to be reasonably ready for trial.
Brown responds, "It will take me a while..."
Judge Lomeli turns to Laub. Laub looks as stunned as Judge Lomeli. He tells the court this is a surprise to him, if Brown does decide to go pro per. "We have at least 30 boxes of trial materials to work out with the sheriff," Laub adds.
Judge Lomeli tells Brown he's advised other defendants against this. Brown responds that he would give the court his reasons why he could turn this into a Marsden hearing. But it appears that isn't going to happen at this point.
Judge Lomeli addresses the defendant. "Mr. Brown, if you think you’re going to represent yourself for a while to delay this trial, and then at the last minute ask for an attorney, I’m not going to allow that."
Judge Lomeli tells Brown he will expect him to be ready and have the same standards apply to him as if he had counsel. Judge Lomeli will give Brown the waiver form to look over.
It appears that Laub was expecting to be able to have some time with his client in the holding area and transfer some papers to Brown. The deputy tells Laub that they can't hold Brown for him. They don't have the staff to watch him at the moment. Brown will be returned to county on a bus in about 30 minutes.
Brown is told that if he wants to come back to court (before the next scheduled time), that he needs to call the court. Brown doesn't have the number. The number will be provided to him. He's told the next hearing is August 13th. Again, Judge Lomeli strongly advises him to talk this over with his attorney. "Before you do that, consult with your attorney first," Judge Lomeli advises.
When Brown is moved back into the holding area, the pretty black deputy films his movement.
I will check in with the Judge Lomeli's clerk on Monday to see if Brown will be brought back next week to hand in his signed waiver.
Brown has done this before. He stated at a prior hearing that he was considering going pro per. It will be interesting to see if Brown follows through with his desire to represent himself. It would set the clock back to zero. All discovery would have to be gone through before it could be released to the defendant. I imagine he would also be assigned an investigator, just like Michael Gargiulo, who is pro per.
Why has Brown waited until now (with his trial possibly only months away) to demand pro per status? If Brown does file a Marsden motion, I'll have to get a copy of it to see how well he argues his position.
I take the train back to North Hollywood, and wait for Mr. Sprocket to pick me up.