Inspiration Point, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
UPDATED 10/26: 7:00 AM rest of the proceeding added
UPDATED 1:00 PM clarity, spelling
October 25th, 2012
I’m back on the 9th floor of the downtown Los Angeles criminal court building, my ‘home away from home’ so to speak. Already here on the ninth floor is Cameron Brown’s wife, Patty Brown. I see she had one of her legs up on the cement benches, relaxing.
For new readers who are unfamiliar with the case, Brown allegedly threw his four-year-old daughter, Lauren Sarene Key, off a 120 ft. cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA on November 8th, 2000. Prosecutors believe Brown hated the child’s mother and killed Lauren to avoid paying child support. He is awaiting his third trial. His first two trials ended in hung juries. Currently, the criminal proceedings are on a 1368 hold while Brown’s competency to stand trial is determined. A few months ago, Brown informed the court he wanted to pursue representing himself. His current court appointed counsel, Aron Laub wrote a declaration to the court, in an effort to block Brown from seeking self representation.
I see Brown’s defense counsel clear security and head down this way. Laub heads directly to Patty and she hands him some papers that are from her husband.
At 8:30 the courtroom opens and I head inside. I'll have an update later this evening on today's proceedings.
Before court opened, DDA Hum had arrived in the hallway with an attractive, younger assistant. After Dept. 107 opened, we all went inside. It appears there is another case that will be heard. There's a man in a wheelchair with tattoos on each side of his neck, just behind his ears. I don't know if he's a defendant or a witness.
Judge Lomeli comes out and addresses counsel. "We're ready? Let's do it." Laub and Hum head back to Judge Lomeli's chambers. I stand up to peek over the the prosecution table and see that the court reporter's equipment is still inside the courtroom. This tells me the in camera session with the judge is off the record.
Patty Brown is sitting to my left. She turns to me and says, "Excuse me. Do you know what date we were last here?" I tell her I need to check my computer. I open my laptop and look at the Quick Links page. I tell her, "September 20th." "Thank you," she replies.
There are a few counsel who have entered the courtroom. A man from the DA's office comes in pushing a tall, stainless steel rolling cart. He sets it by the prosecution table and then goes to the back of the courtroom to chat with another tall, bald headed defense attorney wearing a black suit and pink tie. At some point, the bailiff brings in a suit that is draped over one of the chairs at the defense table. I don't see any notebooks on the chairs in the jury box, so I'm wondering why a defendant would be getting into civilian clothes if there's no jury. It could be for a sentencing.
Another prosecutor enters and sits at the people's table. Another defense attorney I've seen around the courthouse enters, greets the two counsel by the courtroom door then heads over to check in with the clerk.
Judge Lomeli, DDA Hum and Mr. Laub come out from chambers. Judge Lomeli informs the bailiff to bring Brown out. The bailiff tells the judge that he's on another floor and it will be another ten minutes. Mr. Laub exits the courtroom. Judge Lomeli has a conversation with the prosecutor on the other case where he's reading to make a ruling on one of their motions. Judge Lomeli then chats with the defense attorney in the black suit about a case he has in another courthouse. Judge Lomeli comments, "It's an interesting case."
The man in the wheelchair is a witness. He's ordered back for another date.
Mr. Laub reenters Dept. 107. Judge Lomeli goes on the record in the other case. The hearing is brief. Terri Keith from City News drops in. She had heard there was a 1368 hearing.
Judge Lomeli is having a friendly chat with his bailiff about the bailiff in the adjoining court, Dept. 108, Judge Ohta's courtroom. It appears that Judge Ohta's bailiff is leaving the building and a new bailiff will be assigned. Judge Lomeli's bailiff tells the court he wants to make sure the new guy assigned is someone he gets along with.
On the record with People v. Brown. Counsel state their appearances for the record. Judge Lomeli starts off by communicating directly to the defendant. "Mr. Brown, we have a real problem here."
It appears that Dr. Knapke went down to the jail a second time and Brown refused to talk to him. Dr. Knapke can't make an evaluation without talking to the defendant. Brown's status as 1368 will not change without his cooperation. No one can declare that Brown is competent except the doctor. Judge Lomeli continues, "Without your cooperation you are going to remain in that status. ... To me, you seem to be pretty competent. ... Every time you are in front of me, you appear to be competent and know what is going on. ... What I can do is bring Dr. Knapke, bring him down to court so you can speak to him here."
Brown tells the court that the letter Mr. Laub wrote to the court some months ago is "erroneous. ... It's all false. .... It's all lies." Brown even tells the court that he's never seen this doctor before. (During the second trial.) That was made up also. At some point, I believe Brown states that's a conspiracy.
Judge Lomeli tells the defendant that the doctor is a professional, and only the doctor can make the determination if he is competent or not. The court can't do that. He repeatedly tells Brown that he has to talk to the doctor so the doctor can evaluate him.
Brown then starts talking about what Mr. Laub wrote in his six page declaration to the court. "He says he's going to block me ... going pro per...." Brown filed a complaint against his attorney with the court. He continues complaining to the judge, "I want to go over this with the court." Judge Lomeli replies, "I can't do that. I have no opinion, only a doctor can declare you competent." Brown continues to complain about the six page letter Mr. Laub wrote, "There's different wording ... one filed in court and the one he gave me. ... The wording's different."
Brown then claims that he never met with the doctor that his attorney and the court says he met with. "I never met with him before and he's saying I met with him." Judge Lomeli tells him, "That's correct." Brown replies, "I spoke to my former counsel and he told me he never heard about it." Judge Lomeli lights up. "Who? ... Who was it? ... Who?" Judge Lomeli asks Brown several times which of his attorneys told him he never met with Dr. Knapke. Brown replies, "It's a conspiracy. ... I better not put this on the record." Judge Lomeli replies, "You can't have it both ways." Mr. Laub interjects something about the appointment.
DDA Hum tells the court the prosecution's position on the proper procedure. Brown believes the communication has broken down and wants another attorney, to file a Marsden motion. "But that can't happen yet. The court must make an assessment on 1368 rule first. ... The only way he can make a Marsden motion (is?) if the 1368 is resolved. ... But I do recall, Mr. Harris asked that Dr. Knapke to speak to the defendant. I don't .... Mr. Harris came into court ... I know the appointment order was signed. (Since I wasn't there) I don't know if actually happened. ... The problem (resolved? itself?)."
Judge Lomeli tells the defendant, "I do have an order signed. ... July 30th. ... Apparently he did speak to you in the middle of trial."
(I don't have a memory of this being mentioned in open court in the second trial, but it could have happened in sidebar, at the bench. Sprocket)
Mr. Laub adds, "I believe it was before trial." I believe it's Hum who adds, "If I remember it, it was not a 1368 (to the court). It was a report that was sent to Mr. Harris and not the court." Mr. Laub tells the court, "As far as a Marsden motion goes ..." Judge Lomeli responds, "Counsel (is?) correct. 1368 must be resolved before Marsden."
There is a mention of another doctor, a Dr. (Kareem? Kasmin?) who was possibly also on the case. Judge Lomeli asks counsel to approach the bench.
Brown tells the court. "It's all lies. ... I'll only tell the doctor, it's all lies." That he won't cooperate with the doctor.
Judge Lomeli in a stern voice tells the defendant, "Mr. Brown, I'm going to bring Dr. Knapke down to the next court date. ... It's up to you to cooperate. ... You seem competent to me. ... Only way this (is going to be resolved)." I have a memory of Judge Lomeli telling the defendant that if he doesn't cooperate with the doctor, "I'm going to reinstate criminal proceedings and this case will move forward!" Brown responds, "... line 19. ... It says, (I can?) no longer rationally communicate with counsel..." Judge Lomeli replies, "That may well be, but that can't be heard until Marsden. ... It doesn't matter sir, to even hear that out ... before the issue of that ... competency has to be resolved. " Judge Lomeli adds more and then Mr. Laub tells the court, "Every word of the declaration was filed under penalty of perjury and I would testify to that if called."
Mr. Laub tells the court, "... I believe (what his client is saying), are not lies on his part but are due to his current mental difficulties. ... His ability to rationally cooperate with (his defense) is no longer there." Mr. Laub adds, "(I?) ... don't believe communication has been broken down. ... It's that we are not ..." on the same page as to the direction they need to go. Judge Lomeli tells the parties he'd like one last shot for Brown to meet with the doctor. Judge Lomeli warns Brown, "If you don't talk... " Brown replies that, "I'd rather have it on the record." Brown wants his meeting with Dr. Knapke in open court on the record. Judge Lomeli responds, "You can't have it on the record." The meeting must be in private, in the jail area. Brown asks the court, "You don't think this is a ploy to shut me down?" Judge Lomeli responds, "I can't address that..."
There is discussion among counsel as to how the scheduling is going to go. I believe Mr. Laub is tasked with arranging a date for Dr. Knapke to come down to court and evaluate the defendant at the courthouse. I believe the date that was arranged for everyone to return after that is Friday the 13th, which would be December 13th.
Brown brings up one last issue with the court. "I'd like to know if (anyone?) spoke to you (about?) an incident of this month?" It happened on the 4th. I'm not positive if Judge Lomeli asks Brown what happened, or if Brown just continued talking. "Someone tried to spear me. ... The deputies are hiding it." Judge Lomeli asks, "You mean shank you?" No, Brown is insistent it was a "spear." Judge Lomeli tells the defendant that his attorney needs to file the proper documents for that, "That's not a part of the trial."
The date is mentioned again that everyone is to come back. Friday the 13th. (December).
And that's it for this hearing...