Michael Thomas Gargiulo, after his arrest in 2008.Usually, June is very gloomy, but for the past few days Los Angeles has been going through a heat wave. Today might be one of the hottest days, with the San Fernando Valley possibly reaching 100+ degree temperatures.
Michael Gargiulo Case QUICK LINKS
UPDATE 7/2: accuracy, clarity; correct 'case' to 'trial.'
UPDATE 7/2: accuracy, clarity; correct 'case' to 'trial.'
Friday, June 28th, 2013
At the moment, I'm on the 9th floor of downtown Criminal Justice Center, waiting for Judge Ohta's courtroom to open for a Michael Thomas Gargiulo hearing. Gargiulo, who is 'pro per' (which means he is representing himself) is charged with the murder of Ashley Ellerin in 2001, Maria Bruno in 2005 and the attempted murder of Michelle Murphy in 2008. I believe he's also been charged with an escape attempt. Gargiulo has also been charged with the murder of Trica Pacaccio back in his home state of Illinois, although that case will not be combined with the charges in LA County.
This may be a long hearing or a short one. It all depends on what Gargiulo's position will be on the prosecution's assertion that they will not use any information about the other Downey murder in this case. They were not willing to change the language of their motion and Gargiulo has the option to stipulate to that language, or file his own motion to compel discovery of the other Downey murder.
Things are very quiet in the hallway this morning, but there are about a dozen people here. Two families that seem to know each other also have children with them, somewhere in the ages of 11 to 14 is my guess. One of the children tried Judge Ohta's door when I arrived so they are waiting for a hearing in Dept. 108.
More people show up at this end of the hallway. Families, attorneys.
There's a media camera here for a pretrial hearing in Judge Lomeli's courtroom. It's was Judge Lomeli who opened his courtroom door. A group heads into Judge Lomeli's court. Later, I found out that there was a pretrial hearing for the defendants in the Brian Stow beating death that morning in Judge Lomeli's courtroom.
Inside Dept. 108. I scramble looking in my purse for a pen that has ink left. People file into the gallery for the other case that was continued the last time I was in Judge Ohta's courtroom.
The court clerk comes and and greets people. I don't know her name, but she is wearing a black dress, black heels paired with a striking lime green jacket, matching green loop earrings and a red leather clutch. It's a great look.
DDA Garrett Dameron arrives. Kudos to his wife or whomever picked out his suit today. It's a silver-gray weave with a bit of a sheen to the threads. He's paired it with a white shirt and a tie with orange-goldish angled lines that also have a shimmery quality. I usually see DDA's wear dark colors and although the suit is gray, it's not drab or muted looking at all.
Several jurors file in and go back into the jury room. A single buzzer sounds around 9:05 AM. It's obvious Judge Ohta has a jury in deliberations.
Judge Ohta comes out of his chambers. He greets counsel in the well and leaves the courtroom. One of the defense counsel in the room goes back to the holding area. There are several conversations going on at once. Dameron and a silver-haired defense attorney are chatting in the well and several in the gallery. DDA Mr. Dean arrives and hads a motion to the silver-haired attorney. They start working on scheduling the next post-verdict hearing.
Judge Ohta returns and goes into his chambers. He returns five minutes later and asks the room where everyone is. Someone informs the court that DDA Dean went to Dept. 103 for another hearing, but the defense attorneys for the other case are all here. A man who was sitting in the first row gallery now comes out from the jail holding area. He must have been consulting with a client. Now the silver haired attorney comes out from the jail area. He tells the room that his client now wants to do a Marsden hearing.
The clerk comes out and asks the room if they have everyone for the other case, not Gargiulo. She's told they don't have DDA Dean.
Judge Ohta's pretty court reporter brings out her equipment and sets up. Judge Ohta takes the bench as he's zipping up his black robe. He tells the bailiff, "Bring out Mr. Baltron and Mr. Alverado."
The bailiff sets up two chairs right beside each other at the end of the defense table. The chairs do not have wheels on them. I've never seen a bailiff set up a chair for an in custody defendant that has wheels on it like the ones the attorneys sit in.
The two defendants are brought out, handcuffed together. The tall defendant with hair waves to people the gallery, the other defendant just smiles. The silver-haired attorney stands in for both defendants. The sentencing hearing is held over to a date in July.
Michael Gargiulo hearing is next. There is a bit of friendly banter in the court among the various counsel left in the well. Judge Doug Sortino and Judge Kevin (McCormack?), former DDA's, are mentioned. The conversation is about how both men are dedicated, principled public servants. McCormack is described as a "hard charger," a stark contrast to how DDA Dameron is jokingly referred to.
Gargiulo is brought out. He has that white, pale pallor, and his hair looks a tiny bit shorter. I note that Gargiulo's sideburns are long, and flair out into wide wedges at the bottom. There is a pencil with an eraser on the desk and I wonder if he brought that with him to court. The case is called. Judge Ohta notes the appearances for the record. Judge Ohta states, "Mr. Gargiulo filed something. ... I'm not sure what this is." He then addresses Gargiulo, "Are you making a formal motion to compel?"
Gargiulo states he wants Judge Ohta to give his opinion about privilege and he wants an in camera view. Judge Ohta tells Gargiulo, "If it's privilege, the DA's office makes that claim. ... You need to file a formal motion to compel discovery."
Gargiulo insists, "They tried to add tricky language. ... Tried to get me to waive my right. They're trying to (get?) me to give up my rights to that case. ... I'm asking for the judge (to give me) an in camera hearing ... and get a decision from that point on to compel."
Judge Ohta asks, "You want me to conduct an in camera to see if you have a valid claim?"
I think Gargiulo responds "No, no, no."
Judge Ohta explains that the prosecution has stipulated that they would not use the (Maria?) Rodriguez case against him, and that the prosecution's position is that the case is not relevant. The court explains to Gargiulo, "There is a quid pro quo..." Gargiulo insists, "They added extra language beyond that."
Judge Ohta seems perplexed. "I don't really understand this. ... What is the sticking point." I believe Dameron answers, "I don't understand." Judge Ohta continues, "What we can do, is hash it out. Go line by line. ... First of all, you are not required to stipulate. If you think you are entitled to it ... you have right to litigate." Gargiulo explains that the prosecution added "all that extra stuff." Gargiulo is worried about waiving his rights in the other case and that's not what the people are asking.
Judge Ohta first states that "we can fine tune it (the language in the prosecution's stipulation) so that language can be verified." Pausing for a moment, the court asks the prosecution if the stipulation is meant only for "this trial." The prosecution replies that was the intent. Judge Ohta then takes a moment, and speaks hypothetically. Let's say, there is a hung jury in this trial. Then, the prosecution could, in a future trial, include that case as part of a retrial.
Dameron tells the court this is a "point well taken" and tells the court that the language in the stipulation can be changed to reflect that the waiver is for this trial only.
Judge Ohta asks when the parties want to return. The court wants the return quickly, but a mutual date can't be agreed upon. Next court date is July 19th and the case will be at zero of 90.
Then Gargiulo speaks up and addresses the court. A few months ago, he filed a motion to get access to the telephone. The library in the jail is closed at certain times. The sheriff's are disciplining the pro per inmates. It has to do with access to the library and the ability to use the phone in the library.
Judge Ohta patiently tells the defendant. When you decided to represent yourself... ... The trial court has no control over the sheriff's ... (or their?) policies ... even your use of the phones." Gargiulo also explains that the law library is closed off when there's a water leak. That was back during the time they were litigating the photographs. "Two weeks ago ... (they) shut us off from the law library because someone got punched."
Judge Ohta asks his bailiff if he knows about any of this at the jail. "No your honor," he replies.
Judge Ohta tells Gargiulo, "Ive never signed such an order, but I'll take a look at it."
And that's it for today. We'll be back here on July 19th.
Continued in Gargiulo Pretrial Hearing 11.....