Friday, January 10, 2014

Cameron Brown 3rd Trial, Pretrial Hearing 14

January 10, 2014

Below are photos I took of Inspiration Point during Cameron Brown's second trial in 2009.

The first photo is taken from the farthest eastern edge of Portuguese Point. Do you think you could see what's happening on Inspiration Point from Portuguese Point?

Below is a zoom in shot of the western side of Inspiration Point from the same area as above.  In the zoom shot it appears closer than it really is.

Below is an overhead shot of Inspiration Point.
The far right edge in the above photo is where 4 year old Lauren Sarene Key's father, Cameron Brown told detectives she fell.

When I received the district attorney's daily calendar for Friday late Thursday afternoon, Cameron Brown wasn't on it.  I then checked the Los Angeles County Sheriff's inmate locator page on their web site. The sheriff's site indicated that Brown had a hearing this morning. So there was a debate in my head on whether or not there really was a hearing this morning.  I didn't want to take any chances on possibly missing a hearing so I drove into downtown LA.

When I arrived on the 9th floor, my first clue that there probably wasn't a hearing was the fact that Patty Brown, the defendant's wife, was not in the hallway.  She's usually here before me, but DDA Hum was here.  From the DA's calendar, I knew DDA Craig Hum had a hearing for another case in Judge Lomeli's court, Patrick Harrian, the UCLA professor charged with involuntary manslaughter, after a fatal laboratory fire killed a student.

While I was waiting for Dept. 107 to open, private investigator Christian Filipiak arrived. When he saw me he came over to say hello and wish me Happy New Year. I ask him what case he is here for. Filipiak is one of Michael Thomas Gargiulo's private investigators.  (Gargiulo, who is representing himself, is facing the death penalty for multiple murders.)  I told Filipiak about the Cameron Brown case. Christian told me he is working on the Cleamon Johnson defense, which is in Judge Ohta's courtroom, the same judge who is hearing Gargiulo's case.  In December 2011, the California Supreme Court tossed the murder and death penalty convictions of Johnson and his co-defendant Michael Allen. (I believe these are old murders; I'm not positive. Sprocket.) The DA's office is retrying the two defendants. The case sounded interesting so I told him I might drop in if the Brown hearing wasn't too long.

When I step inside Dept. 107 and take a seat, the friendly bailiff I first met during the first Spector trial tells me that Brown's hearing had been vacated.  It was moved to February 5, 2014.  I replied, "But I checked the sheriff's web site this morning!" He replied that he knew there was an error.  This was the first time I've ever encountered an error in the sheriff's web site. I left Dept. 107 and entered Dept. 108, taking a seat in the gallery by Filipiak.

The bailiff in 107, had stepped through the connecting jail area between the courtrooms and entered 108. He saw me in the gallery and said, "So you decided to switch courtrooms." I replied that the investigator had explained the case and rather that go back home, I thought I would sit in because it sounded interesting. Filipiak had indicated he thought the case was going to go to trial today, but he wasn't positive.  I thought I would stick around to see what would happen.  After we were in the gallery awhile, Filipiak tells me that he was mistaken. The case is not going to trial today.  Judge Ohta has another case in trial already.  This would just be a hearing to continue the case.

9:15 AM
Judge Ohta takes the bench. While he waits for all the attorneys to arrive in the well, he speaks off the record to those attorneys in the well. He asks, "What do you think of this declaration against penal interest statement?"  He then gives a hypothetical, where there are two defendants who robbed a business.  In the course of the robbery, someone gets killed.  One of the two defendants, in speaking to the other defendant, admits that they both did the robbery, but they never intended to kill anyone. Judge Ohta continues, "There is this element of exonerating one's self from the crime."  There is a bit of a discussion about this among the parties in the well then Judge Ohta clarifies, "The declarant says the non-declarant did the shooting."  There is a bit more discussion about whether the statement can be used against both defendants.

The parties go on the record and I hear a bit more about the case.  One of the motions filed by the defense is asking for discovery. There is a bit of discussion, background information for the motion. I thing I have the gist of what was discussed correct. The defense for Johnson is alleging that one of the state's key witnesses in the original trial (Mr. Witmore {sp?}, who is now deceased) lied on the stand that he witnessed the shooting. The defense alleges that this defendant was in county jail at the time of the murders, and the police investigating the crime knew that but put him on the stand to testify anyway.  There is something about this being said on an audio tape. Apparently, the district attorney has checked with the sheriff's, and the old jail records from that time have already been expunged. There's no way to verify for certain whether or not the witness was in custody at the time of the murder.

Mr. Johnson's counsel tells the court, "I believe they knew the witness lied in order to convict my client."  While he's saying this, I see DDA Scott Marcus give a tiny head shake from side to side while he speaks. Judge Ohta asks whether or not it's disputed that Mr. Witmore was incarcerated.  DDA Marcus tells the court that he can only speak to the information he's obtained. He has Mr. Witmore's rap sheet from the 1990's, and he was sentenced to 300 days in county jail, according to the rap sheet. "How much he served, is unknown," Marcus adds.  Back then, it's unknown what the jail policy was in releasing defendants.

There's a bit more discussion on the case and another motion is discussed.  All defendants were ordered back on Feb 7.  And that's it for court today.