Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Gerhard Becker Pretrial Hearing 6

Gerhard Becker, left, former counsel Chad Lewin right, 
pretrial hearing, April 2012.
© Thomas Broersma 2012 All Rights Reserved

UPDATE 7/14: corrected name of Judge Shaprio, (not Schwartz).
UPDATE 6/19: clarity, spelling
Now that the Kelly Soo Park case is ended, I'm trying to catch up on some cases that have been on the back burner.  Today there was a status hearing the the Gerhard Becker case.  Becker is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of career firefighter Glenn Allen.  You can find more information about the case on the Gerhard Becker Quick Links Page.

I still have not completed transcribing my notes from the preliminary hearing last fall.  I only have the first day of the Becker prelim transcribed. I hope to work on that in between completing my Park trial synopsis.

The 11th Floor
When I arrive on the 11th floor, Gerhard Becker is here. His legs are crossed  and I can see the ankle monitor on his right leg, wrapped around his black sock. A few moments later, defense attorney Donald Re arrives.   He and Becker move on down farther in the hallway to talk privately.

After the preliminary hearing last fall, the case was transferred to Dept. 116, Judge Norm Shapiro's courtroom. I’ve never been in Judge Shapiro’s courtroom before. A majority of the cases I've attended have been on the 9th floor, where most long cause cases are held. There isn't a second security station like there is on the 9th floor.

Today, I’m hoping to hear a tentative trial start date so I can get an idea if this trial will overlap the Cameron Brown trial. The floor isn’t too busy, but there is a juror congregation room on this floor down at the end of the right wing.

A mix of people are here.  Attorneys, people showing up for jury duty, people reading books, casually dressed people here for appearances. The reality is, any floor of this building is an enjoyable day of people watching.

8:36 AM

The bailiff unlocks the door to Dept 116.  I'm wondering if DDA Sean Carney is late or if he's already inside. Re enters Dept 116 and leaves a few minutes later.  He goes straight to the elevator bay.  When Re returns, he goes back into Dept. 116 and I decide to go too.  Inside, I see that Carney is already here.  Becker is already here and sitting in the back bench row.

The layout of this courtroom is almost exactly like several courtrooms on the 9th floor, but there are a few differences.  There is an overhead screen mounted on the wall above the clerks desk. There are 14 seats in the jury box instead of 18.  There are four rows of gallery seats on the far left, and two on the right. The bailiff's desk is not walled in on two sides with Plexiglas, like they are on the 9th floor.  The welcome mat to me is that there are seat and back cushions on the long benches. Those are a nice sight.  

When Carney sees me I say hello and we chat a bit about the Park case.  Carney tells me that DDA Stacey Okun-Wiese was his law clerk. He talks about Okun-Wiese in very glowing terms, and that she's an excellent attorney. Carney asks what other cases I'm following and I tell him about Gargiulo who's pro per and Cameron Brown.  Carney tells me that Hum is known for getting convictions on difficult cases.

The two long counsel tables in the well appear smaller than in other courtrooms.  Judge Shapiro has a huge judge's gavel hanging on the wall directly behind his bench chair.   From here, it looks like it's over three feet long with the hammer end about a foot wide.  The handsome bailiff looks quite young to me. Defense counsel come and go.  One attorney speaks to a client sitting in the gallery.

Carney and Re move over towards the jury box to chat privately.  I can hear snippets of their conversation. It's like two good friends exchanging stories on the latest news.  I hear laughter from both of them.

I notice a large, black and white drawing on the wall between the bench and the clerk's desk.  From where I'm sitting, it's about 24' x 28" and appears to be two judges putting on their robes. The style of the sketch reminds me of an older time in history.

More court staff arrive.  Attorneys, clerks.  People say hello and some introduce themselves to each other.  Counsel check in with Judge Shapiro's clerk.  There are several conversations going on at once.

I see Re and Carney look over dates in their appointment books.  Carney goes over to the clerk's desk to look at the three months of calendar's hanging on the wall. There are days X'd out for when the courtroom is dark.  Carney says to Re, "Don, it's X'd out."  Re replies, "How about the next date?"  Carney answers, "That's fine."

Re confers with Becker for a moment in the gallery then goes back to the well to sit beside Carney in the chairs in front of the jury box.  Other counsel are setting up at the prosecution and defense tables.  Re and Carney continue their friendly conversation.

It's 9:30 AM and we're still waiting.  Carney and Re go over to the clerk again and tell her they are ready.

Judge Shapiro takes the bench a minute or two later.  He's an older white man with silver hair.  He's wearing an over sized burgundy bow tie with his robes.  The Judge greets an attorney in the well.

Judge Shapiro says, "Mr. Becker, come forward."  The case is called. Judge Shapiro makes a joke about Carney. "Some strange fellow wandered in here..." Re tells the court, "I'm working my way up the ladder ... to speak to the supreme commander..."

Judge Shapiro responds with something like, 'The supreme commander is probably someone out in Whittier....'

My best guess is, that Re has been trying to get a meeting with Carney's upper management and it's been unsuccessful so far.  Re would like a little more time to try to arrange this meeting.

The case is put over until July 9th. If both sides can't resolve their differences, then it's my understanding the case will go to trial.

That's about it, Judge Shapiro states Becker has to return on that date, the bond is still in effect. Then Re brings up one last issue with the court.  Becker's house has a lien on it for 2 million, the amount of his bond.   The house is being sold.  When the house is sold, there will be a transfer of 2 million to the county. There is a bit of back and forth about this.

The court asks some questions of Becker, but before he does, he tells him that he doesn't mean to offend him. He asks Becker if he is a US citizen. "No."  He asks if he has a passport. Becker has a German passport, that was surrendered and is (I believe) in the custody of LE or the DA's office.  The DA's office will not change the bond.  There is then a disagreement between Carney, Re and Becker about whether or not Germany has an extradition treaty.  Becker seems to insist there is.

About the bond, Judge Shapiro says, "As long as you two can work it out..."  The case is set at zero of 30 on July 9th.

And that's it hearing over.  Out in the hallway I wait to speak to Carney.  Carney, Re and Becker are in a discussion about Germany and extradition.  I overhear Carney tell Becker and Re that he spoke to someone at the Office of Internal Affairs (in Germany?) and that's what they told him.  There is some more conversation that I don't quite catch but it appears Becker is exasperated about the tracking device.  I think Carney says to him, something to the effect of, he understands his frustration. I believe I hear Re say regarding his client, "He's a good man."

Here is my understanding of what will happen if no plea agreement is reached. The case will be transferred to the calendar of a long cause courtroom.  The case won't be tried in Judge Shapiro's court.  The case could take as long as two months, depending on whose courtroom it lands in.

I don't know if I will be covering this case or not.  It all depends on where it falls in regards to the Cameron Brown case.   I'm still trying to find an interesting case that will go to trial within the next month or two.