Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Samuel Little Pretrial Hearing 1

Samuel Littel, March 4, 2013, via ABC News.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
I was rushing this morning. I got out the door late and I got into downtown Los Angeles about 8:15 AM. I had to park at the Catholic Diocese, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Temple, (an expensive parking lot) because I was worried I wouldn't make it to the 9th floor on time. It's a toss up if the lines to get into the building will be long, or how long the wait will be in the elevator bay.

Samuel Little is charged with three cold case murders: Carol Alford in 1987 and Audrey Nelson and Guadalupe Apodaca in 1989. Here are a few mainstream media stories that give some background on Samuel Little. Little appears to have criminal records in quite a few states. He was a suspect for murders in two other states. (The ABC report includes a short interview with LAPD Cold Case Detective Mitzi Roberts, Detective Rick Jackson's old partner.)

1/07/13 LA Times - LAPD Arrests Serial Killer Suspect from 1980's
1/07/13 LA Times - Copy of Complaint
01/17/13 LA Weekly - Samuel Little 3 Cold Case Murder Charges
4/7/13 Fox News - Timeline retraces the steps of a career criminal, alleged serial killer
04/07/13 Fox News - Cold Case Arrest Prompts Mulitstate Probe
04/12/13 ABC -Alleged Serial Killer Suspected in Murders Nationwide (inc. video rpt.)

I was interested in following this case because 1) I've had a life-long interest in the psychology of serial killers; 2)DDA Beth Silverman is prosecuting and 3)Retired Cold case detective Rick Jackson worked the case. Back in 2009, I was following a case of Silverman's at the Van Nuys Courthouse but the defendant eventually pled. I've heard many wonderful things about how sharp a litigator Beth is and I wanted to sit in on one of her cases for a long time.  

I was under the impression that the Samuel Little case was assigned to Judge Perry, Dept. 104 (that's what the LASD web site said Little's next appearance was) but the DA's calendar said Dept. 107. Back on July 11 last year, I knew the case was assigned to Dept. 104 from Dept. 100. If in fact, the case was in Dept. 104, I had to be on time because Judge Perry starts his day right at 8:30 AM.

I'm in luck clearing security and getting an elevator.  When I get to the 9th floor, there's a sign on Dept. 104 that the Judge Perry's courtroom is dark this week and all filings are being handled in Dept. 103.  I head down the hallway to Dept. 107, Judge Lomeli's court.

8:34 AM
Two sheriff's deputies arrive at Dept. 107 and one of them asks the other, "What time is it?" Since I have my laptop open at the time, I tell them the time is 8:34 AM.  They then unlock the doors to Dept. 108 and Dept. 107. I decide to stay in the hallway so I can be on my laptop a bit longer.

A few minutes later DDA Silverman arrives with another attorney and a young man I'm assuming is an intern or clerking for the DA's office.  I don't recognize the male attorney with Silverman. Beth gives me a quick smile and I follow everyone into Dept. 107.

8:45 AM
Judge Lomeli is standing behind his desk but he is out of his robes. As soon as counsel arrive, all three are discussing the case and scheduling. Judge Lomeli warns counsel that he is stacked four cases deep, meaning, there are four cases already lined up on his calendar.  The parties mention a few dates to come back and argue motions. March 21 to return, with the intention of starting the trial May 9th. That's changed to May 9 for a status and May 12th to pick a jury.  Now Silverman is going over motions she intends to file.  The ease at which Silverman and the defense attorney are communicating is refreshing to see.

I believe there is a discussion about using a jury questionnaire. Judge Lomeli asks counsel if there's been a lot of interest in the case. I believe the defense attorney states there was interest back when Little was arrested.  Lomeli tells the parties he's inclined not to use one.  I believe the Judge asks when Little will be brought out and his bailiff states he's in a wheelchair and he will be up momentarily.

Silverman is now going over her witnesses she's going to call with the defense attorney. It's all quick, and amazingly efficient. The conversation is very amicable between them. I hear that the prosecution will file an 1101b.

8:52 AM
Little is brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair via the front doors. Little is 73 years old. He's stocky, but he appears to be sunk down into the chair. There is a white blanket over his shoulders.

I remember another time when a defendant was brought in through the front door in a wheelchair for a pretrial hearing. It was  during the first Spector trial in Fidler's courtroom. The defendant had something covering his mouth and a female sheriff was filming the defendant the entire time he was being moved. Whispers flashed among the press that the defendant was a killer with HIV. The mouth guard was because he would try to spit at the jailers.

As soon as he's put before the defense table, his attorney starts speaking directly into Little's right ear.

8:52 AM
Judge Lomeli takes the bench. Counsel are asked to state their appearances for the record. Michael Pentz for the defense. Judge Lomeli starts out by addressing the defendant. He tells him, "Your attorney is still preparing for trial. ... several motions that have to be filed ..."

The court reporter interrupts Judge Lomeli to tell him she had a problem. It could be with her equipment. She gets it fixed and Judge Lomeli continues. "... once ... prepared for motions ..."

DDA Silverman tells the court she will be filing a 1101b motion and a third party culpability motion. (I believe People v. Hall is the case that is usually used to guide opposition to admitting third party culpability evidence.)  Judge Lomeli asks if she's filing a third party culpability motion. Silverman clarifies that she will be filing an opposition to admitting evidence to third party culpability. If I'm understanding correctly, it apears Silverman is ahead of the defense and already anticipating a defense third party culpability motion, before they've even filed it.

Judge Lomeli gets all the prior agreed upon dates on the record. March 21st for the next pretrial hearing (where I think motions will be argued).  May 9th for a last minute status hearing and May 12th for trial.   The defendant is asked if he agrees to postpone his case until the next hearing.  He pauses for a moment and then nods his head. I don't hear him answer but he may have.  Judge Lomeli asks the defense, "Counsel join?"  The defense joins. The defense also agrees to give a potential continuance for the people, because Silverman has another case in another courtroom that may interfere with the May 12 start date. And that's it for the hearing.

Outside the courtroom, I introduce myself to Little's defense attorney for the correct spelling of his name.Mr. Pentz is with the public defender's office.

It's my understanding that at some point in the case, the prosecution filed a 170 motion (I don't know under which sub-heading.) to get the case moved out of Judge Perry's court and in front of another judge.  This is why the case is no longer in front of Judge Perry. I also understand that the DA's office is going for life without parole (LWOP)  instead of the death penalty because of the defendant's age.