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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.