Inspiration Point, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, 120 ft. cliff
In the photo, the right side edge/point of the cliff, is where
4 year old Lauren Sarene Key fell to her death.
Thursday, July 11th, 2013
I left my house late and I arrived into downtown Los Angeles late for Cameron Brown's hearing. When I sit down inside Dept. 107, a little after 8:40 AM, Judge Lomeli is on the bench and he asks me what I'm here for. I tell him, "The Brown hearing." Judge Lomeli says he's not going to be here until 9:30 AM. "I just sent the DA out." "Thank you, your honor," I reply.
I have about 45 minutes to find something to do. I traveled light today and didn't bring my laptop. I remembered there was another hearing today for a case I was interested in, but I couldn't remember the case or the courtroom. I call up Mr. Sprocket to get on my computer and check my email for the DA's calendar for July 11th. He starts reading off cases. When he comes to Samuel Little, Dept. 100, I knew that was it.
I've written about Dept. 100 before, back when I thought I might follow the Alberd Tesergyan case. I head up to the 13th floor, where Dept. 100, the master calendar court is located. It is my understanding this is where cases end up that cannot be settled or the preliminary hearing court cannot take the case. The master calendar is where those cases are assigned a new courtroom.
When I arrive in Dept. 100, the judge hasn't taken the bench yet. I take a seat in the second row of the back center section. I make a note of the name plate on the front of the judge's bench, because it's not the same judge that I remember from the last time I was here. Judge Charlaine F. Olmedo. On Judge Olmedo's bench are stacks and stacks of case files.
The courtroom is filled mostly with attorneys. There are a few people from the general public, or defendants waiting to be called, but most of them are in the very back rows. There isn't a jury box in this courtroom, but there are about 12 comfortable chairs in the area where a jury box might have been. Mostly there are DDA's sitting in that area, reading papers, checking their phones or sipping on coffee or tea. Up high on the wall to my right are photographs of past Criminal Court Supervising Judges. There's always a lot of activity in this courtroom, which is why I've previously referred to it as a "schmooze fest." People are chatting each other up and greeting people they haven't seen in a while.
Even though the room is filled with attorneys, I don't recognize anyone right off. I keep checking around the room and I don't see Beth Silverman. After a standing attorney moved out of the way, I could see over in the comfy seating area, DDA Daniel Akemon busy checking his smart phone. It's the only familiar face I recognize.
When Judge Olmedo takes the bench, I note she's quite attractive. She has thick, past her shoulders dark hair. A former LA County DDA and US Attorney, Judge Olmedo was appointed to the bench in August 2002 by then Governor Gray Davis.
The first case Judge Olmedo calls is assigned to Department 112. The second case the defendant is a no-show. The defense counsel tells Judge Olmedo that she informed her client about the hearing. The next case has a defense attorney I've seen before, Louisa Pensanti. Pensanti is co-counsel on the Lonnie Franklin, Jr., case, aka "The Grim Sleeper." Her current defendant's case is transferred to Dept. 128.
I then hear Judge Olmedo call for the bailiff to bring Samuel Little out. That's the case I'm waiting on, however, it's getting very close to 9:25 AM. That's the time I set for myself to leave so I can get to the 9th floor and clear security in time for the Brown hearing. Judge Olmedo then announces to the room, "We do not have enough courtrooms to set all cases to trial, so cases will be going out of the building today."
About 9:25 AM, I catch DDA Akemon's eye and he gives me a smile and a quick head nod. Little hasn't been brought out yet and it's time for me to go. As I'm walking down the 9th floor hallway to Dept. 107, I see DDA Craig Hum and a tall, pretty associate heading my way. I ask him if I missed the hearing. Hum tells me that the hearing is postponed until 11:45 AM. Seeing my notepad, the pretty associate asks me if I'm a journalist. I tell her I'm an independent journalist. When she asks me something to the effect of why I'm not using a laptop, I guess that she's probably a law student clerking for Hum's unit. I tell her, "It depends on the judge."
So now I've got two more hours to try to find something to do, and no laptop. I'm kicking myself because I could have used the time to get caught up on my entries that are behind. I thank Craig and decide to head back to the 13th floor to see if I missed the Little hearing. Right after I exit the elevator for the 13th floor, Akemon and DDA Silverman are rounding the corner from Dept. 100 into the elevator bay. I ask them if Little was assigned to a courtroom yet. It's Judge Robert Perry's courtroom, Dept. 104. I say goodbye to Silverman and Akemon and head down to the cafeteria to get something to eat.
I quietly enter Dept. 107. Judge Lomeli has a trial in progress. Brown's defense attorney Aron Laub is sitting in the last row and I give him a smile hello as I join him.
There is a single DDA at the prosecution table and a police officer witness on the stand. It sounds like he is under cross examination. There are quite a few people at the defense table. Two of the individuals are wearing headphones in seats directly behind defense counsel. I'm not positive, but it looks like there are two or three defendants. Those with the headphones might be listening to an interpreter but that's just a guess.
Several deputies enter Dept. 107 and stand by the entry door. At precisely 11:45, Judge Lomeli tells the jury that he has another matter he needs to address and they will break for an early lunch. He orders his jury back at 1:30 PM. I think the extra deputies are there to take the current case defendants back into custody. The jury files out. DDA Hum enters the well of the court and stands by the jury box. I notice that he is holding in his hand what look like a few sheets of paper, folded in half.
DDA Hum asks Aron Laub, "What are we doing Mr. Laub? Why are we here?" I miss Laub's answer but I get Hum's next statement. "I thought he was going to go pro per?"
Brown is brought out and the bailiff points to the chair that Brown is allowed to sit in. It's the chair on the end, not directly beside the seat that Laub has taken. It's the only chair at the table that doesn't have wheels. Judge Lomeli calls the case and asks counsel to state their appearances for the record.
Judge Lomeli then states for the record why we are here. Apparently, Laub has filed a 1368 declaration under seal. Under seal means, only the judge reads the document and the prosecution doesn't get to see it. Neither does the public. What I believe Laub has done is make a statement to the judge, telling the court his concerns over his client's competence. I believe this has to do with Brown's previous statements in court, wishing to represent himself. Judge Lomeli tells Laub that he's read the document. After reading Laub's declaration of doubt to the defendant's competence, Judge Lomeli states, "The court is inclined to agree with counsel." The document Laub presented to the court is five pages long. Judge Lomeli continues, "The court is inclined to declare 1368 and suspend the criminal proceedings." The court states two mental health competence doctors will be appointed, one for the defense and one for the prosecution, to evaluate the defendant. Judge Lomeli states that usually, the next hearing would be for 30 days, but in his experience, that's not enough time for the mental health evaluators to complete an evaluation and a report. Judge Lomeli recommends they put the case over for 45 days from today.
Judge Lomeli tells Brown directly, "I know you have an issue .... of wanting to represent yourself." Judge Lomeli asks Brown if he still has the waiver paper that he gave him last time. Brown states he lost it. The sheriff's searched his cell and confiscated it. What he has now, what looks like an older form that the jail gave him. I believe Brown wants to address the court, but there is a problem with that at the moment. Brown is not allowed to communicate his problems directly with the court when he has counsel to speak for him. The court tells Brown they are not going to address that issue now because they need to have a Faretta motion before Brown can do that.
Counsel agree on August 28th at 8:30 AM for the next Brown hearing. Both counsel discuss a choice for the mental health doctor, choosing Kory Knapke, MD. Hum adds that Dr. Knapke has seen the defendant before. During the last trial, there was a cursory evaluation. As a result of that evaluation, Dr. Knapke made some finding as to the mental state (of Brown) but at that time he ruled it didn't affect his ability to understand (the proceedings?).
There is some discussion back and forth among counsel about the fact that Dr. Knapke will get to read Laub's 1368 declaration, but DDA Hum will not. The court states he doesn't want to jeopardize the declaration that is under seal. Hum tells the court, "There may be some point ... if his opinion is based on the declaration .... that we can't see .... the prosecution may request some other relief."
Judge Lomeli states that if the doctor finds Brown competent, it's a moot point. If he's found incompetent, the declaration may play a role. The court states that he doesn't see anything at this point, to compromise the declaration. I believe it's Hum who recommends the defense file a second report that doesn't compromise the defense (strategy? for trial?) and then the prosecution could know about the nature of the declaration.
Laub suggests that the court consider, if the prosecution and defense can agree, his decision (Knapke) becomes something that we can live with, then rely on his opinion. Laub then muses that it may be appropriate to appoint two doctor's now. Judge Lomeli counters, that if one doctor sees the declaration and one does not, then we would be in the same position. Judge Lomeli tells Laub that at this point, he doesn't see a problem with the declaration, but that the defense may, from their strategy, see something the judge doesn't.
My notes are not clear at this point who says this. "It sounds like in response to 1368 procedure, Mr. Brown would like to make comments to the court against counsel." (The problem is, before there is a Marsden motion, they must make sure the defendant is competent.)
Brown speaks up, over his attorney. He wants to let the court know what his attorney said to him in their last meeting together. "... just wanted to .... he's trying to block it. ... I told him I wanted to go pro per. ... He said, 'I'm going to block you.' "
Judge Lomeli tells Brown that in the declaration, he never used the word "block" but he alludes to that. Brown tells the court that he wants a copy of Laub's declaration to the court. Judge Lomeli tells Brown that he's not inclined to give him a copy at this time. Brown then tells the court, "I'd also like to speak to you about books. ... They're banning my books on pictures. ... I can't get any books anymore."
Laub explains to the court that he's having difficulty getting his client books. He tells the court that on June 12th, he ordered books for Brown from Amazon.com. He lists the books. The titles I catch are a book on hiking and another is described as a world almanac. Laub tells the court on June 18th they were confiscated.
My notes are not clear, but I believe Judge Lomeli asks one of the senior deputies, a Sargent Lewis (sp?) standing in the well of the court about the books. It's a jail issue (in a?) housing unit. The other senior deputy (Kyles?) tells Judge Lomeli that when he was there (many years ago) detainees at the jail can't have more than five books at a time.
Laub also brings up another issue. Brown is in a cell that has no natural light. For the past month, there is a night light (it's not clear if it's outside or inside Brown's cell) that has been out. Brown is currently being house on a "disciplinary" ward. It's not clear why that is. "There's no natural light in that cell," Laub tells the court. "The light that should be on in that cell (for so many hours of the day?) ... he's in total darkness for the majority of the day."
There is also an issue that Brown has requested to see a doctor. Judge Lomeli signed an order, however, there may be a problem with Brown not receiving his medication.
The August 13th court date is vacated and the next court date is August 28th.
The deputies tell Judge Lomeli that they are going to look into the book and light issue at the jail.
And that's it.
Cameron Brown Third Trial QUICK LINKS