Friday, February 27, 2015

Cameron Brown 3rd Trial, Pretrial Hearing 20

View of Inspiration Point, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 
from Portuguese Point. Four year old Lauren Sarene Key, 
fell 120 feet to her death on November 8, 2000.

Exclusive T&T trial coverage can be found HERE.

UPDATED clarity, accuracy
7:35 AM
I got to court early today. Mr. Sprocket drove me on his way to Chino, where he is renting some specialized equipment for a special condenser cleaning job.

Cameron Brown, a former baggage handler for American Airlines is charged with felony murder in the death of his four year old daughter, Lauren. Brown was arrested in November 2003. He's been in the LA County Men's Central Jail ever since. I suspect Brown is currently the longest in-custody defendant waiting trial.

Prosecutor's allege Brown killed Lauren to avoid paying child support. Brown has had two previous trials, the first in 2006 and the second in 2009. Both trials ended in hung juries.

8:00 am

On the 9th floor right after it opens. When I walk down to the left wing hallway, I notice that there is a new Judge in Dept. 105. It’s now strikingly beautiful Judge Charlane Olmedo. Back in December 2013, Judge Olmedo presided over Dept. 100, master calendar court, when DDA Deborah Brazil was sworn in as a Superior Court Judge.

Brown’s wife Patty is not here.

8:17 am

Aaron Laub arrives. He first greets an investigator who is sitting on a bench a ways to my left. This is a totally new investigator. I don’t recognize him. I give Mr. Laub a wave before he takes the end bench seat.

8:22 am

DDA Craig Hum arrives in the hallway.

Marisa Gerber with the LA Times heads this way. She stopped by and said hello. That was nice. I met her during the Barnes/Bolden case. She indicates she's here for a sentencing in Dept. 109. I tell her that's down at the other end of the hall. I tell her which case I'm covering.

Judge Ohta’s pretty court reporter heads this way. She’s carrying a large round tin of Red Vines. She chats a moment with an attorney and DDA Hum before entering Dept. 108.


Inside Dept. 107, I check in with the bailiff that I can use my laptop and take a seat in the second bench row.

There is suited young gentleman in the gallery representing himself on a case. There is another attorney sitting in the jury box. A clerk with the DA’s office comes in and Hum goes over to chat with her.

Laub is at the clerk’s desk. Hum paces in the well. 

A young woman enters and sits in the back row. She speaks to the clerk who is expecting her.  She’s here for the Brown case. She tells the bailiff her name. It’s Ashely York. She tells the bailiff that Judge Lomeli’s clerk invited her.

The clerk comes out and Judge Lomeli comes out to meet the woman. From what I overhear, Ms. York is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker. She would like to film the trial. This would be for public TV, documentary type of things. She gives her credentials to Judge Lomeli, mentioning she teaches documentary filmmaking. After hearing that, I believe Judge Lomeli is swayed a bit.

I believe I hear Judge Lomeli respond, “I don’t foresee a problem ... but let me talk to counsel first.”

Ms. York goes back to sit in the back row.  Two young college age women come in and sit in the back row. After the bailiff inquires, they respond that they are here to observe for a class.

8:55 am
Judge Lomeli’s court reporter sets up.

After more inquiry by the bailiff, the students thought there was a trial in this courtroom today. The bailiff tells them that Departments 104 and 109 have trials. They thank the bailiff and leave. 

More counsel show up and check in with the bailiff or court clerk.

9:12 am
Mr. Laub and DDA Hum come out and set up at their respective tables. Judge Lomeli states he is ready to rule (probably on motions) in another case, People v. Hsiu Ying Lisa Tseng, a doctor who is charged with murder in the overdose deaths of three patients.

To bring Cameron Brown out, the deputy needs a Sargent. Unfortunately there is only one Sargent available today that is currently being utilized in Dept. 106. There is a bit of a decision whether to take the Tseng case first, but Tseng’s attorney is currently back in the custody area with the defendant.  The court decides that they do not need to bring Brown out an will go ahead with the Brown case.

Judge Lomeli on the record in People v. Brown.  Counsel and court met in chambers to set date for rulings. The prosecution is filing two motions. One to view the crime scene and 1101b motion to allow two prior incidents.  Mr. Laub indicated he has been very busy preparing for trial. There’s voluminous documentation evidence, and he needs additional time to not only respond to the people’s motions but also to file his own motions in limine. Parties agreed to file motions by March 4 and the court will rule on all motions on Thursday, March 12.

They also discussed the prosecution's request to use a jury questionnaire. The court is not inclined but will consider it if it’s a brief questionnaire.  The court feels the questions can be handled orally.

DDA Hum states he will pare down the questionnaire, and if Mr. Laub agrees.  The initial jury panel will be for 110 to 120 jurors, scheduled for March 18. They would have them fill out the questionnaire and take hardships that day as well. They would return on March 23, so that counsel has time to copy and review the jurors responses.  The second panel is scheduled to come in on March 20th.  The court is going to find out if the panel can com on the 19th. Even if the date cannot be changed, they plan to do the same thing with the second panel as with the first. They will have them fill out the questionnaire and take hardship. All jurors would return on March 23.

There is a proposed statement of the case that would be read to the jury.

There is discussion about if the court allows viewing of the scene, what that will entail. The court believes it’s a 1/2 mile trail. He asks DDA Hum about the terrain.  DDA Hum replies that the trial is relatively flat.

DDA Hum states that the only difference he has with the court, is that the statement of the case be read to the jurors before the questionnaire. That might save time. I believe the court agrees. The court asks again that counsel get a short statement about the case together and fax it to him so that can be agreed on by all parties.

The court states that the people will submit a witness list sometime today. The court mentions the one witness Mr. Laub is calling that’s an expert. The court asks DDA Hum to highlight those witnesses likely to testify.

The court or Mr. Laub states for the record why Mr. Brown’s appearance was waived. It was because today's hearing is all calendar hearings and there are not any rulings on any points of contention; the logistics of bringing him into court and for the convenience of court and counsel.

Judge Lomeli addresses Mr. Laub, “I highly suggest that you go visit him [today].” Mr. Laub tells the court he will do that.

Judge Lomeli then brings up the issue of the documentary filmmaker’s request. She stands and states her name, Ashley York.

The court states she would like to film the proceedings. Generally, the court allows requests from the media, but this is the first time for a request like this [documentary]. As long as it is not disruptive, as long as jurors are not filmed. Filming is sometimes denied if it will compromise the case regarding identity, but the court doesn’t believe identity is an issue here.

Mr. Laub has yet to file a formal objection. Mr. Laub states that he is not objecting at this time and states he has never been confronted with this before. On the day that they will argue motions then certainly then, but he has never encountered this.

The court informs Mr. Laub that he needs compelling reasons why he would deny this request. The court asks if it would be live viewed.

Ms. York replies “No. It would be a digital video camera, a small camera, but it’s not live.”  Judge Lomeli responds, “If I allow it, which at this point the court is inclined to do, [waiting on Mr. Laub’s response] you will have strict rules to follow and my bailiff will fill you in.”

I believe the court expands on the rules for filming. He may not allow the filming of specific witnesses, depending on how the witness feels about it.

DDA Hum informs the court that they did file a motion for a handwriting examiner but Mr. Laub is entering into a stipulation which makes the motion unnecessary.

The court states something to the effect that everyone here is respectful, and asks that they make it a smooth trial.

And that’s it. Next court date is March 12 for motions.

After the hearing, Ms. York spoke to Mr. Laub.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mary O'Callaghan Trial - Day 2, Jury Selection

T&T full trial coverage can be found HERE.

LAPD Officer Mary O'Callaghan with her attorney Robert Rico
at a pretrial hearing. Photo courtesy KTLA website.

UPDATE 10:30 PM spelling of Judge Bork's name; I blame my dyslexia
UPDATE 8:37 PM spelling, clarity
UPDATE 6:26 PM see below
Thursday, February 26, 2015
10:25 AM
A few minutes after I arrived this morning it appears there has been a big wrench thrown into the trial. At this point, I can't say specifically what it is. The court has had two in camera discussions with attorneys.

As soon as the court goes on the record about what has happened I will give an update as soon as possible.

11:20 AM

Judge Bork apologizes to the jurors. There is an issue that the court is dealing with right now, and I’m asking for your patience. The court tells the jurors they are to return at 2 PM.

This happens sometimes, where the selection process is slowed.  The court then tells jurors about some places they may want to go. Judge Bork mentions Chinatown, Grand Central Market and Little Tokyo, where there are museums and several restaurants where they can get sushi. Judge Brock also mentions the Eli Broad museum west of the courthouse. He also encourages the jurors to walk the new Grand Park. He tells them that the park has a waterfall and Starbucks. “They’re worth seeing,” Judge Brock adds.  He asks them to accept his apologies for the delay and to, “Roll with it. ... Return at 2pm today.”

One juror is asked to stay behind. This juror is excused for just cause.

Once all jurors had left the courtroom, Judge Bork goes on the record. “Counsel approached [this morning]. Mr. Presby brought to the court’s attention that he was notified about other possible evidence out there, if indeed it exists, may be relevant.” The court then tells counsel he will ask them to make a brief record. “Tell me what [it is] you can that’s out there at 1:30pm.  ... What is out there so I can consider if there is good cause to continue or not. ... It’s [hard?] if you know something is out there, as to what it is or how extensive it is in the absence of that evidence. ... Get out there as promptly as you can, find out as much as you can and report back to me at 1:30pm.”

The court then tells DDA Presby to make his record. 

(I have decided at this point, not to mention any officer’s names that were mentioned in court until a decision has been made by the court about this potential new evidence. Sprocket)

DDA Presby states he was approached by Sgt. “A” assigned to a division within LAPD that prosecutes, administrative actions against police officers. Sgt. A advised DDA Presby that there had been a Board of Rights hearing regarding another officer, Officer B (related to the July 22, 2012 event). During the course of the incident, Officer B testified at a Board of Rights hearing that he advised the defendant, Ms. O’Callaghan, after there had been some application of force, words to the effect of, “Stop it, that’s enough, or cut it out.”

Officer B testified he told Ms. O’Callaghan that on the evening of the event. The criminal investigation discovery into the death, by the Force Investigation Division is a separate department. In the criminal investigation transcribed interview of Officer B, those questions were not asked and there were no statements. Sgt. A also told Mr. Presby that another officer, Officer C, testified at another Board of Rights hearing that he heard Officer B say, “Stop it; cut it out.”

DDA Presby tells the court that as soon as he heard this, he directed his IO, Mr. Stone to conduct an interview [with?] about [this testimony?] in front of the Board of Rights. DDA Presby also asked that Sgt. A get those transcripts from the Board of Rights hearings.

After DDA Presby gave those instructions to Mr. Stone and Sgt. A, he saw Mr. Rico in the hallway and informed him of what he just discovered and then brought it to the courts attention.
Sgt. A., who is the person who has access to that material [Board of Rights transcripts] he is attempting to obtain the report of the transcripts of Officer B and Officer C’s testimony, and preparing some kind of statement form with respect to the content of that material or the circumstances surrounding this disclosure this morning.

DDA Presby states that he is going to ask that Mr. Stone contact Sgt. A, that all the transcripts from all the Board of Rights hearings [related to this incident] be provided to the DA’s office so they can then be provided to the defense [via discovery].

In closing, DDA Presby adds, “And as I told your honor, there may be some legal impediments to providing that material. We may need judicial guidance from your honor or another court with production of that material.”

Judge Bork states that before he turns it over to Mr. Rico for his record, he tells counsel, “We are in trial and I’ve got 55 plus jurors to excuse from this problem. I don’t know yet how much of a problem it is and what is out there, and I don’t know what independent or inconsistent statement, or is it ... and it’s hard to judge what’s out there before we have some greater certainty.”

DDA Presby tells the court he will get with the parties to try to provide the material so a decision can be made.

Then Mr. Rico makes his record. He states that around 10:25am he was approached by DDA Presby who informed him about being approached by Sgt. A. Mr. Presby advised Mr. Rico that he was informed that there was a statement made by Officer B at his own Board of Rights hearing, that he had told or made a statement to Officer O’Callaghan to stop or something. Officer C, testified [at a Board of Rights hearing] under oath and that he had supported Officer B of that position and also told her to stop.

Mr. Rico tells the court that in the past 14 months he has been given voluminous discovery. DDA Presby has been more than candid with discovery. My issue is with the due process and the fairness to Ms. O’Callaghan. I know that what ever testimony that has been given [at these Board of Rights hearings] would have been taken down, just like we have a court reporter here and those statements would be transcribed if not already transcribed. 

Mr. Rico’s position is clear, that this is rather Brady, discoverable. It is a prior inconsistent statement to be used for impeachment purposes. Mr. Rico closes with, “I’ll leave it at that, your honor.” I believe Mr. Rico adds that it greatly impacts his clients right to a fair trial. It greatly impacts the jury in this matter. Mr. Rico also mentions something to the effect that it cannot be reviewed overnight. Mr. Rico will ask for a continuance of the proceedings if that evidence does exist.

The trial has until 2pm when jurors come back.

Judge Bork again instructs counsel that he needs their help in determining what is out there. Is the information out there? Is it transcribed? Is it in fact inconsistent statements? How does the court get it into your hands. Judge Bork requests that Sgt. A be present at 1:30pm. I believe the court adds that he knows there are issues as to what can be turned over .... and when personnel protections that must be  made there. The court states he needs to know what is out there, and the defendant has a right to a speedy trial. The judge again requests that Sgt. A be present. If he needs a city attorney, the court is sure one could be present. The court states he needs St. A’s assistance and everyone’s assistance to see if there is a good cause basis for continuance or not.

Counsel ordered back at 1:30pm with as many answers as they can get.

1:35 PM
Back on the record. DDA Presby tells the court that he has received a single page document from Sgt. A. However, because the information contains personal information regarding LAPD officers, he may be committing a misdemeanor if he turns this document over to the defense. DDA Presby is willing to present the document to the court under seal. The court then could read the document to see if the information in the document gives the court guidance on how to proceed. DDA Presby states that the only method to turning this information over to the defense is through Pitchess motions.

There's more discussion that I'll detail later. In closing, Mr. Rico moves for a 1050 motion for a continuance of the trial to preserve his client's right to a fair trial. DDA Presby joins in that 1050 motion. Judge Bork asks the parties to hold on. He's going to consider this for five minutes.

1:58 PM
Back on the record.
Is the matter submitted?  Court finds itself in a most unfortunate situation a panel of 60 jurors sworn, most of whom are out in the hallway so to speak. But it has come to the courts attention there is probative material that cannot be obtained by a simple court order. There is the Pitchess process that must be followed. Based on what has been presented to me, there is evidence that must be disclosed to both parties. It's very possibly Brady evidence. And it must be litigated for it to get to the defense.

As much as I'd like to move forward, I have no alternative but to declare a mistrial, because there is evidence to declare a mistrial and continue the case.  He will excuse the jury first then they will set up a new date.

3:35 PM
T&T readers. I'm back home. Over the next few hours I'll be transcribing my rough notes from the afternoon session and posting in a few hours.

Judge Bork set the next pretrial hearing date in the O'Callaghan case for April 2nd in Dept. 131.

Below are my updated, detailed notes for the afternoon session as promised. Sprocket.

Around 1:30pm I enter Dept. 118. Counsel are already at their respective tables. Off the record Mr. Rico asks the court how he feels about water on the table. Judge Bork replies, “If it’s in a small, discreet container, I’m okay with that.”

 Judge Bork says, “Back on the record. No jurors are present. Thank you for your promptness counsel.”

DDA Presby addresses the court. “I have been provided with a one pager report from Sgt. A, who is also in court. ... I believe I may be committing a misdemeanor if I turned that over. ... I think we need to go through the Pitchess process before we turn this over.  ... While the people may obtain these protective personnel records ... we are prohibited from disseminating those records absent a court order.”

DDA Presby continues that he has a one page memorandum from Sgt. A. “I can provide that to your honor under seal. ... Your honor can review that. ... Maybe that would be enough in respect of the 1050 motion.”

Judge Bork asks, “Are you able to tell me what that is without ... jeopardizing it’s possible confidentiality?” DDA Presby responds, “It is a memorandum to Detective Pete Stone from Stg. A dated today regarding a Board of Rights [Hearing].”

Judge Bork responds, "So your suggestion is that I view it ... that it may give me additional insight whether or not there is discovery evidence out there that would need to be turned over or sought, and could constitute good cause for a mistrial and a continuance?”  DDA Presby replies, “Yes.” 

The court asks but Mr. Rico does not want to be heard at this point.

Judge Bork states, “Since I’m aware of Pitchess and his prodigy as to confidentiality as to personnel records ... I will review that and seal it. ... If I determine that it does not need to be under seal then I will either offer it back to you and or unseal it.”

DDA Presby states, “We offer it under seal.” He also adds that he does believe that it contains protective personnel records.

Judge Bork reviews the document then addresses counsel. “Without revealing what is in the memorandum, there is an indication that there was an attachment.” DDA Presby tells the court that he did not receive an attachment with the single page document.

Judge Bork tells the parties that he is striking through that information on the document that states there is an attachment. “I have not read any transcripts and read the one page memo only,” Judge Bork adds.

Judge Bork addresses DDA Presby, “So your review would state that Board of Rights needs Pitchess?” DDA Presby replies, “Not necessarily for the DA’s office but certainly for dissemination to the defense.”

That hearing could contain Brady material.

The court expresses “great frustration here.” Judge Bork adds, “I’ve got 55 jurors that will be back in 22 minutes and have interrupted their lives for two days. If there ever is a time that we should have information relevant to a defendant ... but we’re faced with the possibility of [continuance?].”

Mr. Rico addresses the court. “I share the court’s frustration. I believe the fair rights of my client and due process supersedes the concerns of both myself, the counsel and the court and believe the 1050 should be granted.”

Judge Bork states, “I have every reason to believe that both counsel are acting in good faith. At some token, it is beyond me how we could have gotten to this state. ... That a person is charged with a crime where that person could go to prison and we don’t have full discovery.”

DDA Presby adds, “I understand the court’s frustration in this area. ... This area is a very complex area and the privacy rights afforded to police officers is a significant challenge to both sides.” Judge Bork replies, “One or both of you, tell me what each of your motions is. But I want to know so our record is clear.”

Mr. Rico puts his motion first. “On behalf of Mary O’Callaghn, to continue this matter according to section 1050. There is impeachment material [that?] exists, and those statements were given at a protective, private hearing, that can only be disclosed via Pitchess. ... [My client] could not have a fair trial if there is Brady material that exists. ... The people have been candid in their disclosure. This has not been at the error of the defendant.” Mr. Rico asks for a motion to continue the case and to declare a mistrial.

DDA Presby states, “The people join in the motion to continue. I don’t believe jeopardy has attached. I don’t know if the proper remedy is to declare a mistrial or to quash the [voir dire?]. ... I do apologize to the court to derailing these proceedings at this point. ... Only discovered [this material today]. ... Given the privileges that are given to the officers and to the City of Los Angeles, they are the only ones that can waive the Pitchess process.” 

Judge Bork asks, “Why can we not get someone from the city attorney’s office to determine if there is a willingness to waive?”  DDA Presby answers, “It has to be on a written motion and it has to be 21 days notice. ... And besides, they are going to gather the material and make any objections themselves. ... The officer that’s involved, Officer B needs to be [involved/notified].”

Judge Bork tells counsel, “We have 18 minutes until our jurors get back. I’ll take [this] under submission for about five minutes.”  Presby then tells the court that he does have the citation where, he could be committing a misdemeanor. I miss getting the correct citation number. Presby reads from the citation, “Hold in essence that disclosure of peace officer police records can constitute a misdemeanor crime according to the government code. ... The proper method to disclosing that material is through Pitchess.”  Judge Brock rules the one page memo be sealed and takes this under submission. He tells counsel, “Don’t go too far.” Judge Bork leaves the bench and goes back into chambers.

It seems like less than five minutes goes by and Judge Bork is back on the bench.

It’s 2pm. The jurors file in. I have to stand against the wall while the jurors take all the available seats. It’s difficult to near impossible to hold my laptop and type, but I do my best.

Judge Bork thanks the jurors and hopes they were able to enjoy the noon lunch hour. He informs the jurors that there is a piece of potential evidence that he can’t get and that counsel can’t get. He can’t move forward with the trial and it’s deeply frustrating. He tells the jurors that everyone has acted in good faith. There is no other remedy but to declare a mistrial. I’m going to excuse the jury. Everyone has done their duty, but we are unable to move forward with the trial. I apologize, but I’m grateful for your service.

Judge Bork then talks about the the jury system in the US.

“For well over 200 years, we have solved our disputes by trial by jury. ... It was brought over from England well over 200 years ago. ... For all that time, rather than fight it out in an alley, ... we ask folks like you to come forward and decide the case. ... But that’s how we solve our problems in this country, trial by jury. ... They know their case will be decided by folks like you.”  Judge Bork mentions the inconvenience that the jurors have endured, and that many of them are not being paid. He then tells the jurors that the only time that we did not have trial by jury was in [1765?] when the sovereign, King George suspended that, then we had the Revolutionary War. ... I’m grateful for your time and patience but my hope is that you will have another opportunity to do that [serve on a jury].”

He tells the group to turn in their orange tags and go back to the 11th floor jury room, not the fifth floor jury room and turn in their other badge to get credited for their jury service.

After the courtroom clears, I get to sit back down on a bench. Judge Bork states, “All jurors have now left and all parties are now present.” The next date on this matter, will be set back to Department 131. Counsel spoke earlier about an April 2 return date. Mr. Rico wants the April 2 date for a return. DDA Presby agrees.

Judge Bork addresses the defendant. “Ms. O’Callaghan, do you agree that we can set your next date as April 2?” She agrees. She is ordered back to Dept. 131 on April 2.

And that's it. I do not know at this time if I will be able to attend any future hearings in this case. It’s my understanding that the Cameron Brown trial is scheduled to start in mid March or early April of this year. I’ve tracked the Cameron Brown case since the second trial in 2009.

Mary O'Callaghan Trial - Day 1, Jury Selection

T&T full trial coverage can be found HERE.

LAPD Officer Mary O'Callaghan with her attorney Robert Rico
at a pretrial hearing. Photo courtesy KTLA website.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
I'm at the downtown Los Angeles Criminal Court building. I got a notice a few days ago that the case against LAPD Officer Mary O'Callaghan was going to trial in a few days.

Mary O'Callaghan is charged with assault under color of authority in connection with the July 22, 2012 arrest of Alesia Thomas. Media reports indicate Ms. O'Callaghan is facing up to three years in state prison if convicted.

While in police custody, Ms. Thomas lost consciousness, went into cardiac arrest and died. The investigative report prepared by the DA's Justice System Integrity Division describes the events and the conclusions that were reached.

O'Callaghan was charged on October 10, 2013 and arraigned on October 15. Interestingly, O'Callaghan waived a preliminary hearing. It is unknown why the defense made this decision. Waving a prelim is not unusual; it happens.

When I arrive at the elevator bay in the lobby, I spot Pat Kelly from the Public Information Office. I ride the elevator up with her to the 13th floor. Pat is handling media requests for another case that is being heard in Dept. 100, the Olivia Cullbreath case. Cullbreath is charged with multiple counts of murder in a wrong-way car crash. I tell Pat I'm here for the O'Callaghan case.

Once inside Dept. 100, master calendar court, I see Deputy District Attorney Shannon Presby in the gallery. DDA Presby and his co-counsel Paul Nunez successfully prosecuted Detective Stephanie Lazarus of first degree murder in the death of Sherri Rasmussen. DDA Presby is sitting with another gentleman, whom I'm guessing is a co-counsel or his investigating officer. When DDA Presby sees me, he comes over to say hello. I tell him I'm here for his case.

I keep checking the gallery for other prosecutors I might know but I don't see anyone. I do see a familiar defense attorney, Kelly Gerner.  Gerner was part of the team that represented Lois Goodman.

Over in the seats to the right of the bench are a couple of cameramen. Pat Kelly heads over to them. They are here to video Cullbreath.

In the back of the gallery on the right side, I spot Ms. O'Callaghan and her attorney Robert Rico. A female friend is sitting beside O'Callaghan.

The O'Callaghan case is the second case called when Judge Scott Gordon, the Assistant Supervising Judge, takes the bench. The case is transferred to Dept. 118 on the 11th floor.  DDA Presby takes the court's case file and packs up. I also head towards the 11th floor. 

Dept. 118 is at the end of the left wing on the right side. On the door it states Anne H. Egerton, but when I step inside a man is on the bench, Judge Terry A. Bork.  Judge Bork has several cases on his calendar. There are two people at the prosecution table and a couple defense attorneys in the well. There are a few people in the gallery.  It looks like the court is quite busy at the moment.

I sit in the third bench row. Behind me are Ms. Callaghan, her friend and her counsel.  The courtroom is almost a mirror image of Dept. 108, Judge Ohta's courtroom. The only difference is, the jury box is slightly smaller. There are only 14 seats in the jury box instead of 18. This means the front row of the gallery seating is longer.

I note something different in Dept. 118 than any other courtroom I've been in on the 9th floor. There are no signs in the front row that say, "Do Not Sit Here" or "No Seating Without Permission."

I've seen seen Judge Bork's clerk before in other courtrooms, but I don't know her name. There is a small plant on the far corner of her desk. She has beautiful hair, that seems like it changes color. I'm really drawn to how the fluorescent light bounces off of her hair. First I think it's light brown, then it looks like it's dark blond, then it looks like there is a hint of red. I have to force myself to check out the rest of Judge Bork's courtroom. The court reporter is a tall, elegant black woman. Her hair is pulled back in a tight bun and she's wearing gold loop earrings. Judge Bork is a white man with balding hair. I'm also struck by the bailiff. He is almost the spitting image of actor Domineck Lombardozzi, who played “Herc” in David Simon’s HBO series, The Wire. The only difference is, this bailiff is slimmer and has a much more handsome cut to his jaw.

9:30 AM
DDA Presby arrives. He hands a witness list to Mr. Rico. DDA Presby heads over to the clerk's desk getting various papers logged in. She is stamping every document and it makes a loud sound each time.

More attorneys file in that I saw in Dept. 100, their cases transferred to this courtroom. One of them is Kelly Grerner.

I overhear DDA Presby and the defense attorney chat about the possibility that they will pick a jury at 1:30 pm. I hear the clerk tell counsel that the Judge will speak to them off the record. I see both attorneys introduce themselves to Judge Bork who shakes both their hands. I hear DDA Presby explain to the court the filings that he’s already made.

After they step away from the judge’s bench, DDA Presby confirms to me that they are back at 1:30 PM. At some point in the morning, DDA Presby told me that the man with him is his investigating officer, Pete Stone, with the LAPD's Force Investigation Division. In the elevator down, I mention to Officer Stone that I met another officer in his unit, Thomas Townsend. Townsend was the IO on the Rafael Martinez case.

I head down to the cafeteria to start writing.  The cafeteria is ice cold so I decide to take a walk outside to try to warm up. I walk to a cafe past LAPD Headquarters to get a cup of tea and find a warm, outside seat where I can write.

1:32 PM
Back inside Dept. 118, DDA Presby sets up his files. I note that there are many seats in the well in front of the jury box and along the dividing wall. The seats all have papers on them. Judge Bork asks counsel back in chambers.

1:50 PM
We're still waiting in the gallery. The clerk is very busy. She's sorting papers and inserting them into various case files.

1:55 PM
Judge Bork comes out and asks his clerk how long it would take for them to get jurors. Then all parties come out. The judge states that he's going to order a panel for 2:30 PM. They will get 60 jurors. Ms. O'Callaghan leaves the gallery and joins her counsel at the defense table. Judge Bork goes on the record. The parties state their appearances for the record.

The court states that the case was transferred from Dept. 100 to this court for jury trial. A panel has been ordered. Trial is estimated to take 10 days.

The judge addresses media requests. An independent journalist requests permission to live tweet the trial via either phone or computer. There are also two media requests to film the trial.  The defense objects to all the media requests due to prejudice to the defendant's right to a fair trial. The defense also objects to the impact the media coverage might have on the jury.

The people's position is no objection to the media coverage. The trial is an open proceeding and there is public interest.

Judge Bork rules on the request from an independent journalist, whose name is Thandi. (Thandi's twitter feed can be found HERE.) The request is granted as long as the laptop makes no audible noise in the courtroom.  I'm surprised. I've never covered a case downtown where the court allowed live tweeting from inside the courtroom. Judge Bork rules there is to be no audio recording and no photography. 

The media requests from KTLA and KCAL are granted but limited to opening statements, closing arguments and verdict. Judge Bork mentions the risk of jurors being shown. The cameras must be set along the back wall of the courtroom.

Judge Bork then makes a disclosure on the record. Prior to taking the bench in 2007, when he was Deputy District Attorney, he spent approximately 1-2 years in the JSID unit. "My time was 16 years ago. ... Then in the late summer of 2007, ... appointed to the bench." Judge Bork also mentions his prior work in private practice. Judge Bork feels his prior assignments do not merit recusal. He believes he can be fair to both sides. He asks counsel if they wish to be heard. No one wishes to be heard on his ruling.  Judge Bork also states that 12-15 witnesses may be called. 

Judge Bork then talks about how voir dire will go. Each side will get 10 peremptory challenges. He explains that he packs the well with 24 potential jurors. They will seat 12 in the box and the rest in the other chairs in the well. Counsel will get 1 minute each to question each juror, after the court has asked some preliminary questions. He tells counsel to budget their time accordingly. The court asks if counsel has a jury instruction draft. DDA Presby has a draft pattern for instruction 149.

The court then explains that once they get their panel today, he will conduct hardship questioning on the first 60 jurors. Tomorrow, they will start with voir dire.

2:15 PM 
There is a break until the jurors arrive. I take the time to contact the PIO to get approval to live blog the trial. After some back and forth, the court clerk comes over to me. I introduce myself and explain what I'd like to do. I agree to no audio or video recording. 

3:05 PM
Jurors arrive in Dept. 118.  The court asks the media to leave the benches and stand against the wall. I try to type with one hand while holding my laptop. 

Once all the jurors are seated Judge Bork tells the jurors about the case and introduces his court staff. He explains that everyone who works in the court takes an oath. Witnesses take an oath, and jurors are expected to take an oath as well.  Jurors are asked to stand and the oath is administered.

Judge Bork explains that if any juror has a question, they are to write it on a piece of paper and give it to the bailiff. He also explains to them about speaking in full words, and the difficulty of transcribing Uh-huh and Um. He also talks about asking and answering questions in a way that's understood.

The court has counsel introduce themselves and then reads the charges against Ms. O'Callaghan. He explains the time frame of the trial and that they will start about 10:30 AM or 10:45 AM each day and end at 4;15 PM. Possibly start even earlier on Friday's, by 10 AM.  The judge then goes on to explain financial hardship excuses. He will only excuse for extreme financial hardship at this time.

He tells the gallery that if they do not want to be heard on financial hardship at this time, then they can leave now and report back tomorrow at 10:30 AM.  If they want to be heard on hardship, they will call each juror one at a time and he will hear them. He then tells the potential jurors that there are media outlets in the courtroom and there may be media interest. He tells them that if they are watching the news and the case comes on, the court requests that they immediately turn the channel. No media, no Internet, no Twitter. He tells them they need to restrict what they hear about the case to sworn testimony and sworn evidence.

The court will now hear hardship cases. About 12-15 jurors hold up their hands to plead hardship. All the jurors exit the courtroom. Those who want to plead hardship line up in the hallway in number order. Eighteen jurors line up and are called before the court one by one.  Judge Bork is not sympathetic to people who state they will have trouble paying their rent or student loans. A few people misunderstood that this was only for financial hardship, and not because they don't understand English very well.  All of those jurors, he orders back. After the last juror is heard, court is adjourned until tomorrow at 10:30 AM.

To be continued in Day 2.....

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sherri Rae Rasmussen 2/7/1957 - 2/24/1986

Sherri Rae Rasmussen, date unknown
Photo copyright: Jane Goldberg; all rights reserved.

UPDATE: corrected Sherri's title, clarity, factual content, photo credits, victim impact statements
29 years ago today, Sherri Rae Rasmussen was murdered in her home by Stephanie Lazarus. At the time, Lazarus was a LAPD Officer and former girlfriend of Sherri's new husband, John Ruetten. 

Sherri was the Director of Critical Care Nursing at Glendale Adventist Hospital. Her new husband John was an Electrical Engineer and worked for Micropolis, a computer company that manufactured disk drives. They were a couple very much in love who had plans for a long future together. They had no thought of the tragic events that would derail their lives.

Sunday, the day before, was a fun filled day for the couple. John had given Sherri three red roses, to celebrate their three month wedding anniversary. Early in the day, Sherri's younger sister Teresa and her husband Brian drove from Loma Linda, California for a visit. Brian had wanted to check out a new aquarium store that had opened in Van Nuys, not far from Sherri and John's home. Afterwards, the couples played miniature golf at a local amusement park before Brian and Teresa headed home. Later that afternoon, a college friend of John's stopped by for a visit. To cap off the evening, Sherri and John took a leisurely drive to Simi Valley to see a movie.

When Sherri and John woke Monday morning, Sherri decided to stay home from work.

Sometime after John left for work, around 7:30 am, Lazarus gained entrance to Sherri and John's home. To this day, it is unknown whether Lazarus picked the lock on the front door or if the front door was left unlocked after John's friend's visit, the day before.
When John came home from work around 6:00 pm, he found Sherri dead on the living room floor. There had been a violent struggle in the living room, where Sherri fought for her life.

In the initial 1986 investigation, homicide detectives theorized Sherri had interrupted a burglary in progress. The living room was in disarray. Part of an entertainment unit was damaged. Two video components were left on the floor near the stairs. Eventually, the case went cold.

In 2005, DNA testing of the bite mark swab collected from Sherri's arm revealed her killer was a woman. With that new information, detectives in the LAPD Cold Case Unit looked at male-female burglary teams. However, the case went cold a second time.

The case file was eventually sent back to the Van Nuys Division. In early 2009, Detective James Nuttall opened the murder book and put fresh eyes on the crime scene photographs. The rest is history.

Stephanie Lazarus, a Detective in the LAPD Art Theft Unit, was arrested on June 5, 2009 and convicted of first degree murder on March 8, 2012.  On May 11, 2012, Judge Robert Perry sentenced Lazarus to 27 years to life. Lazarus is currently incarcerated at the California Institution for Women, in Chino, California. She requested the transfer sometime ago.

I'll never forget covering this trial. The victim impact statements brought Sherri to life in a way nothing else could, and are a testament to how much she was loved by family and friends.

 Rasmussen sisters, Sherri, Connie, Teresa, late 1970's.
Photo copyright Rasmussen family, all rights reserved.

Her sister Teresa said:
November 23, 1985 was one of the happiest days of my sister's life, her wedding day.  It was also my fifth wedding anniversary.
She also said:
I have learned over the years before and during the trial that Sherri still inspires. The prosecuting attorneys, detectives, neighbors, co-workers and the press have been affected by what a great person Sherri was, even though some did not know her personally.  Both of my sons know Sherri to be a great and loving person, but I wish they would have had the chance to know her personally. 
Sherri's sister Connie spoke about their years together in nursing school:

 Loma Linda Nursing School Graduation, June 1977.
Photo copyright Rasmussen family, all rights reserved.
Sherri was my best friend; we shared problems and secrets, joys and sorrows.  She was always there....ready to listen, willing to help, telling you just what you needed to hear. ... 
She had a special intellectual gift, which she tried to keep a secret, but all that worked with her or knew her, knew she had a special gift, which she choose to use to help others.  During our senior year at Loma Linda University she was asked to join Sigma Theta Tau Nursing Professional Honor Society.  Because I was not asked as well, she refused to join.  We both were inducted after finishing our graduate studies.  She always considered others before herself. ...

Throughout the closing statements I felt Sherri was present in this courtroom standing up for herself.  (In) Sherri's effort to survive, she captured the scientific evidence needed to identify her murderer.  It is fitting that science was the key in the prosecution.  I can hear Sherri saying with gusto "YES!" because scientific advances had made it possible to bring justice in this case.  How fitting that science, the field of study Sherri loved, has brought her closure.
Covering this trial, I had the opportunity to meet Sherri's family and friends. Through them, I've learned what a truly gifted and loving person Sherri was. Sherri's life and her values continue to inspire me to this day.

Best friend Jayne Goldberg and Sherri at Club Med.
Photo copyright Jayne Goldberg, all rights reserved.

For a detailed account of the investigation and how the case was eventually solved, read Matthew McGough's piece, The Lazarus File, published in the June 2011 issue of The Atlantic. Matthew McGough interviewed Lazarus in 2008, as part of his research for a story on art theft.

T&T full trial coverage can be found HERE.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Rafael Martinez, Jr., Trial - Update IV

UPDATE 2/24/15
Monday, February 23, 2015
According to the LA County Superior Court's Public Information Office, (PIO) the case went to the jury on Friday, February 20th.  The jury is still deliberating as of 12:30 pm today.

If you check the Rafael Martinez Quick Links Page, you will see I have updated Day 4, Part III with more detailed testimony. I also added a back-dated entry, Day 5, Part II. I'm still working on the detail testimony for Day 5, afternoon session.

The Quick Links Page is the best place to go for updated pages on detailed testimony.

I will check in on this case tomorrow to see if the jury is still deliberating.

UPDATE 2/24/15
According to the court's PIO, on Monday, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Glenn L. Allen - 10/28/49 - 2/18/2011

Glenn Allen, Los Angeles Firefighter

UPDATE: edited to correct years of service, spelling errors
Glenn Allen was a Los Angeles firefighter who died in the line of duty. He had over 38 years of service and a grandchild on the way.

Allen's unit, Engine Company 97, Platoon A, responded to a Hollywood Hills structure fire around 11:20 PM on February 16, 2011. Unexpectedly, a large amount of ceiling structure fell in on several firefighters who were inside the living room area. Glenn was found trapped in a clam shell position with a heavy beam on top of him. He wasn't breathing and his heart had stopped. Two days later, Glenn died from his injuries.

Gerhart Albert Becker, a German national, designed and built the 12,000 square foot Hollywood Hills home that caught fire. Becker installed in the home several steel trough fire pits that were not rated for indoor use. Becker was aware of this when he ordered the fire pits and installed them in wood frames throughout the home. Additionally, there were no fire-blocks installed around the 15 ft trough in the living room that caught fire.

Becker pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Glenn Allen on January 3, 2014. Superior Court Judge Robert Perry sentenced Becker to one year in jail and one year probation.

Gerhart Becker Quick Links Page.

DDA Sean Carney's public statement on the plea agreement.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Rafael Martinez, Jr. Trial - Update III

Wednesday February 11, 2015
I get all the way to the security station this morning and I forgot my laptop. Mr. Sprocket was kind enough bring my laptop to the courthouse for me.  Consequently I did miss about the first five or ten minutes of testimony this morning.

Rafael Martinez is not on the stand. The defense is presenting their DNA expert, Marc Taylor, President and Laboratory Director of Technical Associates, Inc.  Mr. Tayor is detailing his CV when I arrive. Technical Associates performed DNA testing on Shawn and Nancy Boehm's fingernails as well as the fingernail scrapings. The results of their testing is presented to the jury. Unfortunately I was not able to follow a lot of this witnesses testimony.

I note that at the prosecution table, DDA Akemon uses a variety of different colored markers in the management of his case. Also back in the gallery is the alternate juror.

The lunch break was called at 11:50 am.

When I returned to the courtroom for the afternoon session I made a personal decision that I had to step away from this case. I will no longer attend testimony, closing arguments or sit for verdict watch.

I apologize to T&T readers for not being able to completely cover this trial. I will check with the courts public information office for if/when a verdict is reached and report the conclusion.

Again, my apologies.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Rafael Martinez, Jr. Trial - Update II

Exclusive T&T case coverage can be found HERE.

Continued from Short Update post...

UPDATE 2/23: corrected the spelling of Ms. Huck's name
UPDATE 2/13: corrected holiday and court dark days in final paragraph
February 10, 2015
Here's a short recap of the remaining witnesses who testified over the last few days. I don't know when I'll be able to return to detailed notes since Mr. Sprocket's business has needed my attention.

Thursday, 2/5
In the morning and the afternoon, LAPD Criminalist Patricia Huck took the stand. She's been a criminalist since 1984. She's been with the LAPD since 2005 and a DNA analyst since 2008. Ms. Huck has a soft toned voice and a nice demeanor. I had to really concentrate to hear her. She testified about the DNA testing she performed on evidence collected at the Boehm residence.

Ms. Huck took the partial, male DNA profile that was identified by Cellmark and input the information into CODIS. CODIS returned a potential suspect in the Boehm murders, Rafael Martinez, Jr. Performed two different analysis, a "likelihood ratio" and a "combined probability of inclusion" analysis on the two DNA profiles found under Nancy's fingernails. For the first test, she did a calculation where she assumed one profile was Nancy's. She then performed a calculation which tells her what is the probability that Rafael Martinez' DNA is the second part of that mixture. It is 3.297 billion times more likely it get the profile of Rafael Martinez, than if it was someone else's profile. The second analysis test gives a lower number. It tells how many different people could possibly be in that mixture. 1 in 123,900 individuals could be included in that mixture. Rafael Martinez could not be excluded as a contributor to the DNA mixture found under Nancy's fingernails.

After Ms. Huck, LAPD Investigating Officer Detective Thomas Townsend took the stand. He explained the murder book and the various sections in the book.  Townsend collected a DNA sample from the defendant after CODIS came back with a potential hit and booked the sample into LAPD evidence.

LAPD Detective Vincent Bancroft took the stand. He assisted in the Boehm murder investigation in 1997. Retrieved from the Coroner's property room the fingernail clippings from Nancy and Shawn Boehm. He also collected blood sample swatches prepared by the coroner's officer for both victims. He booked all items into evidence at LAPD.

Friday, 2/6
Two sisters, Patricia Robbins and Teresa Ferro,who lived across the street from Nancy and Shawn testified about their relationships with Nancy and Shawn. Both sisters knew Shawn from around the time he was born. Ms. Robbins testified that, before Nancy lost her job, her house used to be immaculate. Robbins used to occasionally babysit Shawn for Nancy when Shawn was little. When she realized that that there was drug dealing going on at Nancy's house, she called a crime tip line. Ms. Robbins stopped going inside Nancy's house many years prior to Nancy's death.

Ms. Ferro was Shawn's babysitter when he was little. Visited Nancy in her home on September 16, 1997 around 11 PM. They shared a few drinks and had a nice visit. She left Nancy's house around 3 AM the following morning.

Both sisters testified they did not know the defendant.

Dr. Irwin Golden, retired Deputy Medical Examiner for the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, performed the post mortem examination on Nancy Boehm. Testified she received 14 stab wounds to her body. Manner of death was homicide. Cause of death was multiple stab wounds. Dr. Golden testified he did not find any defensive wounds on Nancy's hands or arms.

Dr. Louis Pena, Deputy Medical Examiner for the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, reviewed the autopsy report prepared by Dr. Bockhacker (sp?) on Shawn Boehm.  He presented his conclusions about the report to the jury. Shawn received 11 stab wounds.

This is about the fourth or fifth time I've seen Dr. Pena testify. He testified in the Kelly Soo Park trial. He's a great witness and very engaging. I said hello to him before he took the stand. I remember how nervous he was during the first Spector trial in 2007. By the second trial in 2009, he was like an old pro and does quite well explaining things to the jury.

After the afternoon break, Detective's Townsend and Bancroft retook the stand. I missed their direct testimony and any possible cross.

Monday 2/9
Jody Hynds, Senior Forensic Scientist at Orange County DA's Office. The Orange Co. DA's office has two forensic scientists and their own internal DNA data base. This unit trains the DA's office staff in understanding DNA and presenting this evidence at trial. She has worked in DNA analysis for over 15 years and testified around 100 times.

Hynds worked at Cellmark from 2000 to 2008 as a DNA technician then analyst. Eventually worked in a supervisory capacity. Testified about the DNA analysis and procedures at Cellmark regarding Nancy Boehm's fingernail clippings. She prepared a report on the analysis in 2006. It was during this testing that the extracted DNA from the left and right hand fingernail clippings were combined into a single sample. From her testing she generated a partial male profile.

Based on her training and experience with DNA analysis, Hynds formed an opinion about the likelihood of obtaining a foreign DNA profile from under fingernails. It's very rare to find foreign DNA under fingernails. Normally, people are constantly depositing their own DNA underneath fingernails. Reviewed various peer reviewed studies in regards to fingernail DNA. Her opinion is based on her own work experience and just seeing it every day and knowing the type of result that is seen in samples. The peer reviewed reports really substantiates her experience in the laboratory.  Percentage results and conclusions from several peer reviewed studies are presented to the jury. For example, a study by E.A. Dowlman in 2010, concluded that, a high level of DNA mixture under one’s fingernails is a relatively rare occurrence and its not correlated with causal everyday activities. Based on the studies, cohabiting couples don't have DNA under their fingernails.

In the afternoon session, a defense witness was taken in the middle of Ms. Hynds testimony. LAPD Sargent Frank Kryshak responded to the 2001 crime scene where Luz Nieves was murdered and Francisco Santos survived his injuries. Collected bullet, 6.68 grams of cocaine and a bloody, ten dollar bill from the crime scene. Sargent Kryshak did not have an independent recollection of events.

Tuesday 2/10
Detective Townsend retakes the stand to testify about stipulations between the defense and prosecution. Mostly, it's regarding fingerprints that were found on items that were piled on top of Nancy Boehm's body.  A printout of phone numbers obtained from the call screening device attached to Nancy's phone. The print out of the 911 call from Michael Eulo, who found Nancy and Shawn Boehm's bodies.

The defense calls their third witness, Tami Maynard. Maynard was a friend of Nancy and Shawn's who also knew the defendant. She knew Nancy over ten years. She was a friend and customer and knew Nancy sold drugs on credit. The name she knew Martinez by was "Junior." Saw Martinez at Nancy's house occasionally. Testified about what she knew of Nancy, her habits, the different groups of friends, the bars Nancy frequented, the security procedures at the house, how many different people she saw at the house, etc. Testified about Shawn and his capabilities. Stated the last time she spoke/saw Martinez was several months before Nancy's death.

Next defense witness is Anthony Gobea. Neighbor of Nieves and Santos, who were attacked in 2001. He was in a building next door. At 1:15 AM in the morning of May 10, 2001, he heard two people arguing. He couldn't understand what they were saying. It was two males. It continued for a bit, but he couldn’t hear what they were saying. He hear a door shut, a loud scream and then a bang. When he heard tires squealing, he and a friend stepped outside and saw Mr. Santos in the street, bleeding. They called 911. He remembers the man saying, "Help me, please, help me, please." Gobea and his friend told Santos to stay put.

Stephanie Martinez, the defendant's aunt is the next defense witness. She mostly testifies about Martinez's childhood. Her demeanor strikes me. I can't pin it down. David Martinez is her stepson and Martinez' cousin. Martinez lived with her husband's parents, Martinez's grandparents.

Her stepson, Martinez and Shawn played together as children. Shawn was often over at her house. She often fed the neighborhood children who came to her house. She testifies about what she knew about Shawn's capabilities. When Mr. Burns asks if she would describe Shawn as "retarded," Stephanie replies, "I'd say mentally challenged. He could comprehend a lot."

Stephanie testifies about meeting Nancy twice. Nancy was the known drug pusher in the neighborhood. One incident was when David was expelled from school when marijuana was found in his possession. She was embarrassed to have to pick him up from school. David told her that Nancy sold him the marijuana. She went to Nancy's house and confronted her.  David was not allowed to hang out at Nancy's after that. David was "infatuated" with Shawn's older sister, "Trish."

When David and Junior were adults, they were hanging out at Nancy's a lot. Sometime in 1998 or 1999, Martinez lived with his aunt and uncle. His aunt threw him out of her home when she realized he was doing drugs excessively.

David Martinez, [Sr.] takes the stand. He is the defendant's uncle and Stephanie's husband. His son David is in Soledad prison. David [Jr.] has a mental condition but he doesn't know how to pronounce it. He's asked if it could be schizophrenia, and he states that could be it. Testifies that Martinez lived with his parents, Martinez's grandparents. Knew Shawn as a neighborhood boy. When he was asked if Shawn used to eat at his house he replies, "My wife used to make a lot of good food, espeically chili." The jury laughs.

He knew Nancy from the neighborhood. Nancy was after a couple of his friends. He first met Nancy when he was 13, and he was about five years older than her. He heard through the grapevine that Nancy used to deal drugs, but he was never there.  Testifies that Martinez lived with him and his wife but he doesn't remember about when or why the defendant left their residence.

In the afternoon session, the people move most of their exhibits into evidence. The defense makes a "eleven-eighteen motion" (1118) which is basically a motion to dismiss. There is argument from both sides. Judge Speer denies the motion.

Rafael Martinez takes the stand. DDA Akemon and Detective Townsend stand up and move away from their seats while he walks behind their chairs to the witness stand. He's smiling. The jury is then brought in. Before he starts his testimony a juror's question is answered. Then the people rest their case.

Mr. Burns asks his client, "Can you look these people in the eye...." Martinez turns to the jury and states, "I can tell each an every one of you I have nothing to do with this case on any level."

Martinez finishes his direct testimony a little after 3:30 PM. He was on the stand for about an hour and a half. The jurors are excused for the day. Court resumes at 10:30 am Wednesday. I believe the defense has a DNA expert that will testify tomorrow, but I'm not positive.

Monday is a state holiday. Dept V will also be dark Thursday and Friday of this week. After tomorrow, the trial will resume the following Tuesday.

Continued in Trial Update III.......

Monday, February 9, 2015

Rafael Martinez, Jr. Trial - Short Update

Exclusive T&T case coverage can be found HERE.

Continued from Day 9.....

Monday, February 9, 2015
This is just a short update to let T&T readers know I haven't forgotten about this case.

I apologize. Although I don't have any notes up for last Friday, I did attend most of the proceedings and I am in court today. Real life responsibilities to Mr. Sprocket's business have kept me from posting my daily reporting.

I am working on a witness list in this case. It will be updated as new witnesses testify.  

Continued on Short Update II....

Friday, February 6, 2015

Rafael Martinez, Jr., Trial - Day 9, People's Testimony Continues

Exclusive T&T case coverage HERE.

Day 8.....

Thursday, February 5, 2015
For those of you who are new to reading T&T, I recommend checking out our ABOUT Page, where you can find out a bit more about how and why T&T got started. You should notice that there's no advertizing on T&T. T&T is 100% reader supported, trial reporting. T&T has a donation link on the right side of the blog. Donations help cover my travel costs as well as my notebooks when I take hand notes.

One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed covering this case is, I don’t have to drive downtown. It takes about 10 minutes to drive the three miles to the courthouse.  Today I brought an extra sweater because my fingers have been getting so cold inside Dept. V, that it’s been difficult to type.  I don’t know how Judge Speer’s court reporter is able to handle this chilly courtroom.

I understand that we will hear from more forensic experts on DNA. In several of the high profile cases that I’ve covered, I’m one of the few journalists who pays attention to the DNA testimony. I don’t find it boring. I’‘m a geek in that regard. It’s all very fascinating to me and I always learn something new every time any type of criminalist testifies.

Most of the forensics for the LAPD are performed at the Hertzberg Davis Forensic Science Center, aka “The Crime Lab.” The Crime Lab is a collaboration between three entities: California State University, Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s and the Los Angeles Police Dept. The facility is utilized by all three entities and located on the campus of CSU-LA There are specific courses and classrooms for students in the forensics program.

Back in 2009, after the conviction of Phil Spector, Mr. Sprocket and I were given the opportunity to tour the crime lab. This was due to the generosity of LA County Sheriff’s senior criminalist Dr. Lynne Herold, who testified in the Spector case.  My husband and I spent about 10 hours at the lab that day. I’ll never forget meeting all the very dedicated people who shared with us the work that they did and explained the instruments they used in their analysis.

I took a lot of photographs at the time but unfortunately lost my rough notes, so I was never able to write about what we experienced. The Sheriff’s and LAPD have their own separate property areas where evidence is stored. And they have their own labs. There are a few areas where they share the instruments. From what I remember, that’s the DNA lab andI believe, some of the tools in the firearms section.

I love the sciences and anything of an investigative nature has always been fascinating to me.

After I get set up in my regular seat (I’m in the second row, directly in front of Judge Speer) we go on the record, outside the presence of the jury.  The defense is arguing for a mistrial based on Mr. Callahan’s testimony yesterday.

Mr. Burns mentions the prosecution’s opening statement and comparing that to what came out in testimony. He argues that the evidence just isn’t there to support the 1101b evidence. If the court will not rule on a mistrial, then give a limiting instruction to the jury to ignore all the evidence presented so far.

Judge Speer disagrees. In her view, based on the testimony of the witnesses so far, “I’m considering an instruction [on the 1101b evidence] not only for intent but for motive. Burns asks the court based on what evidence. The court replies, “Based on Salmas, Stockton and Callahan .... credit arrangements.”  Mr. Burns counters, “That has no similarity ... that anything happened in the Nieves case.”  DDA Akemon agrees with the court. Judge Speer tells the parties, “I think there is a sufficient number of similarities for the jury to consider motive. I want to secure my notes and read them more carefully ... [and that?] my memory is serving me well. ... Defense motion for a mistrial or for additional jury instructions is denied.”

Buns and Akemon confer on a witness and agree to take a witness out of order. This is a defense witness presented in the prosecution’s case.

(Defense Witness)

JEFFREY BECK - LAPD Sargent 2, Police Watch Command.
On May 10, 2001, Beck was  P3 working out of North Hollywood station. He responded to a call at the Bonner Ave address. He reviewed a male victim named Mr. Santos. Another officer was with him when Santos was interviewed, Officer Gutherie.  At that time, Mr. Santos was distraught, bleeding and angry. And Burns asks, “And he became a little uncooperative with you and wanted to ‘fuck up’ the assailant?” Beck answers, “I could read it to you if you like.”

Beck reads from the report. He makes it clear that he did not take this statement, that Officer Gutherie took this statement. Per the report: He was not sure where it happened. If it happened in the bedroom or towards the living room.

Direct is finished and cross examination begins.

When Beck responded to the radio call, he was present and participated in interviewing Mr. Santos.

DA: Did Mr. Santos tell you that he was residing with [the other?] victim, who was Luz Mieves?
JB: Yes.
DA: Did Mr. Santos tell you that he was in the bathroom in the apartment when he overheard an argument in the living room?
JB: Yes.
DA: Did Mr. Santos tell you when he walked outside he saw a male, holding an unknown type of knife over victim 1 who was seated on the couch?
JB: Yes.
DA: Did he tell you that he ran into the bedroom to retrieve a baseball bat?
JB: Yes.

The witness basically confirms the testimony Mr. Santos said on the stand.

DA: Did Mr. Santos tell you he was uncertain at what point he got stabbed?
JB: Yes.
DA: At some point he became uncooperative?
JB: Yes.

Nothing further. There’s no more redirect. The people call their next witness, a criminalist.

BARBARA LEAL - Senior DNA Forensic Analyst at Cellmark Forensics. Cellmark is a private lab that specializes in DNA testing for different law enforcement agencies around the country. They do testing for prosecution and defense attorneys. Cellmark has a contract with the LAPD.  Ms. Leal has worked for Cellmark for almost 9 years now. She gives her CV, as well as her Bachelor and Master degrees. She has testified over 40 times all around the country. She’s young, pretty and professional. She looks like she’s about half my age.

Leal is asked to explain DNA. She explains that DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid. THIS is how it’s pronounced.

BL: It’s the blueprint that makes up who we are. It codes for hair color, eye color, that we breathe and have a heart beat. ... DNA is unique, except for identical twins. They would have the same DNA.

She is asked to explain STR DNA Analysis.

STR DNA testing is a type of DNA test. It’s where you look at the parts of DNA that is inherited by both the mother and father. When they run an STR profile, the test looks at DNA that a person received from both a male and female, parents.  STR is short for Short Tandem Repeats.

Leal goes onto explain that DNA is built from four building blocks, A,G,C,T, that appear on the DNA in a certain order.  She explains about how a sequence of DNA will be repeated a number of times.  STR testing is the most common type of forensic testing that’s used throughout laboratories.

They look at 13 different locations. They are looking for the number of repeats at each location. The result for that particular location is the number of repeats.

Leal is asked to explain Y-STR testing.

Leal first explains that a male will inherit a Y chromosome from the father. That is passed down unchanged from father to son. Y-STR testing only looks for areas on the Y chromosome. In this test, it ignores all the female DNA. However, you can’t uniquely identify someone with Y-STR the way you can with standard STR testing.

This witness is involved in the decision making whether to do Y-STR or STR testing. She can offer input as to where she thinks the sample would be best tested, the standard, or Y-STR.  Y-STR is more sensitive than the standard STR testing, there are some samples that are more suitable for Y-STR than STR.  She is then asked to explain “masking.”

Masking is when some of the DNA might ‘overwhelm’ other, smaller amounts of DNA in the sample, making the smaller parts, undetectable.

Leal is asked to explain the procedure that Cellmark uses in order to test a sample. She explains the four steps:
Amplification  (aka Polymerase Chain Reaction, PCR)

Continued on Short Update.......

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Rafael Martinez, Jr., Trial - Day 8, Prosecution Testimony Continues

Exclusive T&T coverage can be found HERE.

Day 7.....

Wednesday, February 4, 2015.
I've updated yesterday's notes (Day 7) with the afternoon witnesses. Although I am behind on getting more detailed notes up, and I working on them in whatever spare time I have. Yesterday evening, I was working on getting some invoices and work proposals out for Mr. Sprocket's business.

The courtroom has been ice cold for several days now.  The building maintenance can't seem to get the system working right. I'm freezing while sitting in the gallery. Yesterday, I believe Judge Speer had a heater under her desk that was helping to warm her and her clerk. Even though I took the bus this morning and got a good work-out with the amount of walking I did, it didn't help me one bit inside Dept. V. When there is a break, I get up to move around but it doesn't help much.

Over the past seven days, I've noticed that Mr. Burns is very friendly and interacts quite a bit with his client. Quite I few times I've seen him, in a familiar or fatherly fashion, place his hand up on the defendant's back or shoulders. In conversation, I've seen them both smile in reaction to the other's words.

From what I've observed, it appears the defendant is quite engaged in helping in his defense. During some questions of a witness that might have known the victims, the defendant is leaning in to mention something to his attorney. He also appears to be helping his attorney by look for particular photographs or documents during questioning. Mr. Burns does not have a clerk or intern to help him on the case, so it appears that Martinez is filling this role.

There was some argument on the record outside the presence of the jury about an upcoming witness, Mr. Callahan. Defense wanted to cross examine him on the fact that every time the police brought to him the name of a potential suspect, he spoke negatively about them.  DDA Akemon argued and Judge Speer agreed, this was getting into 3rd party culpability evidence, which was already ruled on. Judge Speer ruled that the defense could only ask the witness that in all the prior interviews with police, he never mentioned the defendant's name.

MELISSA POPOVIC - LAPD Criminalist, forensic print specialist, latent print unit. Popovic collected evidence in the 2001 case. Collected a partial bloody palm print left on the door jam or door, of Nieves bedroom door. On Monday, 2/4, she printed the defendant's palms. She matched the bloody palm print she found on the door to the defendant.

CHRISTINE SALMAS - Friend and client of Nancy Boehm. Considered herself a recreational user and not an addict. Knew Nancy from sometime in 1996 until shortly before her death. Knew Shawn as well. Testified that after becoming a client of Nancy's they hit it off and became friends. Testified about Nancy's security procedures, the time that they spent together, and how Nancy conducted her drug business.  Testified she believed Nancy either kept her supply in the bathroom or in a compartment under the coffee table in the back bedroom.

Testified to an event where there were 8-10 people at the residence, waiting for a "runner" to deliver Nancy's supply.  Salmas remembers Nancy and the defendant, coming from the hallway, and Nancy having to tell the defendant in a raised voice, "Calm don. Be quiet. Don't talk."

Salmas is currently under cross examination when the noon lunch break was called. Defense is questioning the witness on evidence photos and what she recognizes in the back room, as well as asking questions about the names of various people, and if she knew them or not.

We are on the afternoon break.

Judge Speer allows jurors to ask questions. I've never seen this happen at the downtown courthouse, and this is the first trial I've attended where the judge allows juror questions. It is written into the new CAL CRIM jury instructions and some judges do allow it, and I've seen it in cases in other states.

We have one juror that has been asking several questions. There is some friendly chatter in the courtroom among the bailiff, the deputy and cout staff. We have a few interns from CSUN (California State University Northridge), who are interning under several of the judges in the courthouse.

I really like the female bailiff that is Judge Speer's regular bailiff. She has a nice personality. When attorneys come in that she hasn't seen for awhile, she's always so happy to see them.  The other deputies that are assistant security in the room are different every day.  There is a technical person working with the court reporter at the moment because the computer interface between her court transcript machine and the judge's computer isn't working and they haven't been able to get it fixed.

UPDATE @11:25 PM
1:45 PM
After lunch, cross examination continued with Salmas. The defense presented several photographs to the witness to see if she recognized anyone in the photographs as well as areas and items in Nancy's residence.

Mr. Burns used several photographs to cross the witness on where she, Nancy and Martinez were in the room during the "shushing" incident. Salmas admitted she didn't hear the complete conversation, but only what Nancy said to Martinez.

On redirect, Salmas was presented with a photo of the defendant with a statement underneath it that she signed.  She verified that Detective Townsend wrote out a statement from information that she told him. The statement detailed the "shushing' incident that she remembered when she was presented with a photo of the defendant. I was able to get most of the statement, as it was read in court.

"I’m almost sure this is the guy that I saw once in her house. She had to tell him to calm down and be quiet.  She shushed him. He must have been coked up and I only saw him once."

There are a few more questions from the defense on whether or not she often saw people come out of the hallway "kind of stoned."

ROBERT CALLAHAN - Close friend of Nancy Boehm; mentored Shawn Boehm. Callahan is 47 years old. Callahan is asked to describe his relationship with Nancy. "At the time I knew her, she was pretty much my best friend." Callahan states that he mentored Shawn and took him to the Special Olympics.

Around the time of the murders, he was living in Ventura County. He would visit Nancy about twice a week. He met Nancy is 1991, when he was attending a University in the area. Callahan states that in the first few years that he knew Nancy, he used to have a cocaine habit but he stopped using. He still remained friends with her.

Callahan recounts Nancy's security procedures. Nancy was strict about security. It's very similar to what other witnesses testified to. There was the front gate to the property with a buzzer that was always locked. Nancy could see the front gate from the front window. Someone came out of the house to open the front gate and lock it again. There was a screen security door that was also kept locked, then the front door.  Shawn was allowed to open the front gate, but usually not.

Callahan and Shawn were friends even though there was an age difference. They would go to carnivals together, play, watch TV sometimes. "He was a fun kid to hang around," Callahan remembers. When asked about his level of development, Callahan states, "Like a younger kid, maybe 10 or 12. ... Some things he was really smart about; some things he wasn't. ... He had a photographic memory for dates and things and places. Really good."

Callahan remembers that Nancy's stash was kept under the coffee table (in the back room), on her left hand side. When they would watch television together in the back room, Callahan never sat on the left. He always sat on the right on the futon. Callahan did observe transactions take place in the back room.

Callahan states that he knew the defendant as Junior Martinez, and that he was a neighbor friend of Nancy and Shawn's. The only place he ever saw Martinez was at Nancy's residence. Callahan believes that the last time he saw Martinez at Nancy's house was less than a year before her death. After Callahan testifies to this, Martinez leans into his attorney and whispers. Mr. Burns nods in response. Callahan also testifies that he remembers the defendant screaming at Nancy a few times and leaving the house mad. They were in the back room together; Callahan was in the front room. He doesn't know what it was about. Callahan states that Nancy could scream pretty loud, too.

Nancy would sell drugs on credit, but she didn't like to. Callahan is asked if he ever mentioned to Detective Townsend whether Nancy would sell drugs on credit to Martinez. "I think I observed it in the room once," Callahan states. When asked if he ever saw any [confrontation? conflict] between Nancy and Martinez and Martinez ability to pay for drugs, Callahan believes he did so once, but he can't recall the date.  That there was at one time, where Nancy refused to extend any more credit to Martinez.

There are many more questions about what he remembers seeing of the interaction between Nancy and Martinez and drug transactions.  There are questions about what he told Detective Townsend in 2013 about Nancy telling Martinez to "get the fuck out" and how many times he told Detective Townsend he remembers that happening. Callahan also testifies that he remembers seeing Martinez loose his temper at Nancy's house.

Under cross examination, Callahan repeats that he did business with Nancy for about the first two years that he knew her, then he cleaned up his act. Callahan at the time had a business involving security electronic equipment. Callahan testifies that Nancy, "... didn't really use much of my stuff at all. ... She didn't feel the need for it." Callahan states that he didn't have any type of weapons such as pepper spray or stun guns. It was mostly sensors. In 1997, Callahan was working in the alternative fuel technology, building electronic vehicles.

Mr. Burns confronts the witness on his memory. "... fair to say that your memory isn't all that perfect at the time? ... Before, you didn't even know who junior was."  The witness insists that he identified the defendant. Defense exhibit 1 is put up on the ELMO. The witness is firm. "They put a picture on the table and I said, that's junior. Exactly like that."

TB: Exactly like that?
RC: Yes.
TB: Didn't you first say no, when asked if you knew the guy in that picture?
RC: I don't believe so.

The witness is emphatic that he identified "junior" when he was shown Martinez' photo by detectives.  Mr. Burns asks him a second time.

TB: Didn't he ask you if you knew a junior and you said no?
RC: I don't believe so.

Mr. Burns then asks the witness about when he was first interviewed by detectives, and that the detectives asked him about people that problems. I believe this is in reference to other potential suspects that the witness spoke to detectives about in a negative way. The witness admits that when he was first interviewed, he never gave Martinez' name to detectives as someone to look at.  In his second interview with detectives, Burns confronts the witness that he mentioned another person to detectives, but he never mentioned Martinez' name at that time either. The witness states he's confused and isn't following Mr. Burns' questioning.

TB: They asked you again if you were concerned about anybody Nancy knew and you talked about a different person than junior.
RC: I don't know the person with whom you were referring to. Who were you referring to?

This is getting close to the 3rd party culpability evidence that Judge Speer has already litigated cannot come into the trial. Mr. Burns asks the court if they can approach. Judge Speer decides to take the afternoon break so this can be litigated again, outside the presence of the jury.

Burns offers to the court, that he could have the witness read the statement himself. I'm guessing it's the detective's report, and not a transcript of the interview. There is a bit of back and forth with the court and DDA Akemon. The court ultimately rules that this was already litigated and that it cannot come in and that Mr. Burns will not have the witness read the statement to himself.  Before Judge Speer leaves the bench for break, I believe she asks the parties to speak to the witness.

I note that there is a dark haired, nicely dressed woman who came in during the afternoon session. She is sitting at the end of the same row of seats I'm sitting in. I believe she is trying to get Mr. Burns' attention before she leaves the courtroom.  After the defendant is brought back into custody, it appears that Mr. Burns quickly leaves the courtroom to catch up to the woman.

The afternoon break stretches to a half hour because of the transmission problems between the court reporter and Judge Speer's computer.  Judge Speer goes back on the record but without the jury.

3:30 PM
Mr. Burns tells the court that they have talked to Mr. Callahan, showed him the defense reports and admonished him not to name names. DDA Akemon tells the court that Mr. Callahan referenced Dennis Stockton, and the drama going on with Dennis and Jessica [Stockton]. He also mentioned that Nancy knew that Jessica was on heroin.  Mr. Burns tells the court, "All I want to do is ask him about back in December, and that he gave them [detectives] information about that person and the name "Junior" never came up." DDA Akemon tells the court, "If it's asked like that I don't have a problem. That's as close to the 3rd party culpability that I'd like to get."  Burns then reads a statement that he would like to be able to read to the witness. DDA Akemon is not comfortable with that. It's too close to 3rd party culpability. Judge Speer has made her decision and asks the parties, "Do you want me to admonish him, or I think you already have?" I believe it's DDA Akemon who asks the court, "Maybe so there's no misunderstanding..." with the courts ruling on 3rd party culpability. Burns asks the court, "Can we say he said he gave negative information about another person?" DDA Akemon has a problem with that. Judge Speer rules that would be 352, 3rd party culpability. She then tells her bailiff to bring in the jurors.

3:37 PM
Cross examination resumes.

TB: We were talking about in December 1997, detectives came to you and at that time you mentioned other people but you did not say anything about Junior?
RC: That's correct.
TB: Now Mr. Callahan, you gave up drugs when you were with Nancy?... about two years before she died?
RC: No. That was long before.

Callahan explains that he gave up cocaine about two years after he met Nancy.  Mr. Burns asks the witness if his drug of choice was methamphetamine.  Callahan explains that was after Nancy died.

TB: After Nancy diet, you went on methamphetamine?
RC: Yes.
TB: [Have you] taken any medications today before you testified?
RC: No.

Mr. Burns continues to ask the witness about when he witnessed discussions about Nancy giving customers credit, if Junior was in Nancy's "inner circle," and if Martinez had a cousin or brother. Mr. Burns shows the defendant photographs of people and asks him if he recognizes them. Callahan is shown a photo of Martinez with another man. Callahan replies that it's similar to Junior but he doesn't know if it is or not. The other photo he insists he's never seen before. There are more questions as to whether or not Callahan met the defendant's father or someone named Darren.

Mr. Burns then shows the defendant his own driver's license photo, taken in 1995 and asks him if that's what he looked like in 1997? Callahan replies no, that's what he looked like in 1995. Burns then asks Callahan if the photo of Nancy in the People's large exhibit is how Nancy looked in 1997?  Callahan states the photo was taken when Nancy was younger.

Under redirect, DDA Akemon puts up another photo of Nancy which Callahan identifies is how Nancy looked in 1997.  Under recross, the defense asks the defendant about another photo and if he knew the name of another man.

The questioning of this witness is finally over and he is excused. Court resumes tomorrow at 9:30 AM.

More to come....