Thursday, November 14, 2013
Last I heard, Gerhard Becker was scheduled for a pretrial hearing this morning. The case was listed on the District Attorney's weekly calendar for this week. However, when I received the daily calendar late yesterday evening, the Becker case wasn't listed. It was too late to call the courtroom or the court's public information office. So this morning, I thought I would go to court just in case the hearing was still on but not listed on the calendar.
While I was trying to grab an elevator in the lobby, I waved hello to DDA Beth Silverman, who with her tiny figure was able to squeeze into a packed elevator.
I didn't get up to Dept. 104 on the 9th floor until 8:30 AM. I did not see Mr. Becker or his defense attorney Donald Re in the hallway, so I peeked inside Judge Perry's courtroom. I didn't see anyone inside the courtroom either. I could tell that there were counsel in the well setting up for trial. I asked Judge Perry's clerk, Melody, if Becker had been rescheduled. She informed me the case was rescheduled about two weeks ago to December 3rd. She didn't know the reason. I thanked her and then headed out to the hallway to decide what to do next.
On the drive into downtown, I had heard Eric Leonard of local radio station KFI give a report on the Andrea Spaccia trial, part of the larger Bell City Counsel public corruption scandal. Spaccia, who has been charged with 13 counts, was Bell's former assistant city manager. Eric's report indicated that after four days on the stand under direct, Spaccia would be under cross examination today.
When I get down to that end of the hallway, I see beautiful DDA Deborah Brazil quickly enter Dept. 102 with a large set of files. I wish I had asked her which case she was working.
Local CBS 2 on air reporter Dave Lopez told me that the Spaccia trial resumes at 9:30 AM. That meant an entire hour to wait. I'm still debating on whether to stay when more of the mainstream media start to show up. I see the lovely Miriam Hernandez from local ABC 7, and Terri Keith from City News Service. Although it would be interesting to see a defendant under cross examination, I decided not to attend the hearing because I am not adequately familiar with the case, or the charges against Spaccia, to cover it.
Before I leave the courthouse, I log into the LA County Sheriff's inmate web site to check on Cameron Brown's next court date. During the last hearing, Judge Lomeli ruled that Brown would be brought down to the courthouse to meet with Dr. Knapke, but that date had not been set yet. Brown's next scheduled date is November 15, 2013, so I'll be back down here tomorrow.
Huffington Post Article on Brown Case
Hunter Stuart of the Huffington Post has written an extensive article on the Brown case. This Saturday, November 16, 2013, marks ten years that Brown has been in custody. I agreed to let Stuart use one of my photos I took of Inspiration Point for his article.
There are a couple of issues Stuart's article mentions that I will expand upon.
Although Brown had two trials that ended in hung juries, it should be noted that every juror in both trials voted for guilt. What the jurors were unable to agree upon was the degree of Brown's guilt.
In the first trial, two jurors voted for first degree, eight jurors voted for second degree and two jurors voted for involuntary manslaughter. Not a single verdict form was completed.
In the second trial, the jurors were deadlocked six to six. Six jurors voted for second degree murder and six voted for involuntary manslaughter. I was in the courtroom when Judge Pastor questioned the jury foreman. The jury foreman told Judge Pastor that not a single juror voted for first degree. Although on the surface, it would appear as if the jury found Brown not guilty of first degree murder, that is not the case.
In California, jury instructions are very specific as to how jurors are supposed to fill out the verdict forms, and in what order they are supposed to do it. Each juror has a copy of these instructions with them in the jury room.
Jurors are instructed that they must decide on the most serious charge, first. That would be first degree murder. They have to unanimously decide whether or not the defendant is guilty or not guilty of first degree murder. If they decide the defendant is guilty, then they fill out the first degree verdict form, sign it and their job is done. However, if they decide the defendant is not guilty of first degree murder, they still have to fill out the verdict form, indicating the defendant is not guilty of that charge and sign it. After that, they are to decide whether or not the defendant is guilty or not guilty of second degree murder. If the jury finds the defendant not guilty of second degree murder they complete the form and move onto the involuntary manslaughter charge.
In Brown's second trial, it is my understanding that although the jury foreman told the court that no one voted for first degree, the first degree verdict form was not filled out and signed. So legally, the jury never made a decision on that charge.
My understanding that the reason Brown has not been allowed bail, is because of the special allegation that Brown murdered his daughter for financial gain. Defendants who have this special allegation added to a first degree murder charge are not eligible for bail.