Arial view of Inspiration Point in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
In the above photo of Inspiration Point, at the far right point at the top of the cliff is where the prosecution alleges Cameron Brown threw his 4-year-old daughter, Lauren Sarene Key, to her death. Sprocket.
Friday, September 20th, 2013
I'm back downtown at the Clara Shortridge-Foltz Criminal Justice Center for a pretrial hearing in the Cameron Brown case. I was here yesterday for a pretrial hearing in the Gerhard Becker case, but I don't have that report finished yet. Hopefully, later tonight or tomorrow.
I arrive on the 9th floor a few minutes before 8:30 AM. DDA Craig Hum is here along with a younger colleague. We are all waiting for Judge Lomeli's courtroom to open. Brown's wife Patty, is sitting on a bench at the end of the hallway with Brown's attorney, Aron Laub. Laub is reading over several pages of a document. Patty leaves the bench and walks towards the center of the long hallway to make a phone call.
The same bailiff who was here last time opens the courtroom and everyone files inside. Before taking a seat, Patty Brown stops to speak to the bailiff about paying for a transcript with the court reporter. The first two rows of gallery seating are still roped off and numbers are attached to the seat backs. Judge Lomeli's dual jury trial is still in progress.
Laub takes a seat at the defense table. Hum paces for a bit in the well while his associate takes a seat in one of the chairs against the well wall. Hum is wearing a grayish suit, baby blue shirt and light green tie. His hair looks a bit different to me today and I wonder if he's had a new cut.
I hear the bailiff on the phone asking for a "video escort." Since Brown has made numerous complaints against the LA County Sheriff's for alleged mistreatment, anytime he is moved from one location to another, it's my understanding he must be video taped.
Hum walks over to where Laub is sitting. I'm not positive, but I believe I hear him ask Laub something to the effect of, what are they going to do today. I don't hear Laub's reply. Hum then goes over to Judge Lomeli's clerk and asks about the dual jury case.
Two deputies bring Brown out of the holding area. Although his hair has been trimmed short, he still has the "ZZ Top" looking beard. I was checking my phone so I didn't see at what time Laub and Hum went back to Judge Lomeli's chambers.
Brown looks around the courtroom, and a few moments later asks the bailiff, "Where's my attorney?" The bailiff responds, "He's in chambers with the judge."
Counsel emerge from chambers. Laub confers with his client and Hum updates the pretty, younger female associate. I watch Brown, but I cannot hear what he and his attorney are saying. Now Laub and Brown both look into the gallery towards Patty. There's something about "documents." I'm not positive, but I believe Patty answers something to the effect that she doesn't have or forgot the documents. Smiling, Brown then tells Laub, "Story of my life. ... Have you ever talked to someone and every time they say they forgot?"
Judge Lomeli takes the bench and asks counsel to state their appearances. Judge Lomeli states that he did receive a fax from Dr. Knapke that he went to the jail to interview Mr. Brown and Mr. Brown refused to meet with him. Because the defendant refused to meet with him, he could not provide the court with an evaluation.
Judge Lomeli addresses Brown. "As long as you fail to cooperate ... you will remain 1368. ... So your cooperation is crucial in this matter. ... Mr. Knapke interviewed you in the past. ... If you don't believe that happened, we can provide you with a copy ... (of his report) ... a (court?) stamped copy .... we can do that."
Judge Lomeli states it's important for Brown to cooperate with Dr. Knapke, and then addresses Brown again. "But as long as you fail to cooperate, you remain in limbo." Judge Lomeli adds that Dr. Knapke, "... found you competent in the past."
Judge Lomeli tells the defendant that the court will provide him with a court stamped copy of Aron Laub's declaration to the court. This is what Brown was asking for at the last hearing, but was denied. Now he's going to get the document he's asked for. He will also be provided with a copy of Dr. Knapke's report from the first time he was evaluated. He will get a copy of those documents today.
Judge Lomeli rules that the case is still suspended until the 1368 issue is resolved. Judge Lomeli tells Brown that it takes about 30 days for a Dr. to do an evaluation, so the case is continued until October 25th. This is a Friday, which Laub asked for. Judge Lomeli asks the parties to get here early because he has additional hearings on that date.
Before Judge Lomeli leaves the bench Brown speaks up and asks for an order to see the doctor. Judge Lomeli tells Brown to have his attorney fill out the proper paperwork and he will sign it.
The bailiff informs counsel that they are unable to keep Brown on this floor. They have to move him back to another area. I believe it's agreed they will not transport him back to the jail until Brown gets the copies of the documents from the court.
Before Judge Lomeli leaves the bench, he has an off the record conversation with DDA Hum about Hum's other case in his courtroom, the Patrick Harran case.
While I was waiting in the elevator bay waiting to go home, an elevator going up stopped on the ninth floor. Inside I saw Cameron Brown's attorney from his first trial, Mark Geragos.
What Will Happen - Opinion
I'm sure many of you are wondering what's going to happen in this case. For Brown to represent himself, (he's indicated to the court, that he wants to go pro per status) he has to get around the hurdle that his attorney has put in front of him, and that is, he needs an evaluation to prove his competency to stand trial to even make this decision. Remember, Laub is trying to block his client from going pro per. Why would Laub do this? My best guess is, Laub cares about his client and feels it is in Brown's best interest to be represented by counsel when facing first degree murder charges.
Being competent to stand trial does not automatically mean an individual is competent to represent himself in a criminal proceeding, especially first degree murder charges. It's my understanding that there isn't that high of a standard for an individual to be ruled competent to stand trial. They must be able to understand who everyone is in the courtroom and assist in their defense. Here is and excerpt of what the California Evidence Code (1367-1376) specifically states:
The examining psychiatrists or licensed psychologists shall evaluate the nature of the defendant's mental disorder, if any, the defendant's ability or inability to understand the nature of the criminal proceedings or assist counsel in the conduct of a defense in a rational manner as a result of a mental disorder and, if within the scope of their licenses and appropriate to their opinions, whether or not treatment with antipsychotic medication is medically appropriate for the defendant and whether antipsychotic medication is likely to restore the defendant to mental competence.Since Judge Lomeli stated the court would provide Brown with a copy of Laub's declaration as well as a copy of Dr. Knapke's prior report (from several years ago), maybe Brown will then agree to be interviewed by Dr. Knapke. We'll have to wait and see what happens at the next hearing.
If Brown is ruled competent to stand trial, the next step would be for Judge Lomeli to determine is Brown is capable of representing himself. It's my understanding there are certain conditions Judge Lomeli would have to determine before he would let Brown go pro per. It's possible that Judge Lomeli could rule Brown competent to stand trial, yet deny his request to go pro per.
To be continued on October 25th.