Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lonnie Franklin, Jr., Pretrial Hearing 5

Exclusive T&T trial coverage

Lonnie Franklin, Jr., in custody
Photo Credit: Nick Ut/AP

UPDATE 9/12: correct spelling of Daryn Dupree's first name
UPDATE 9:45 PM edited for spelling
UPDATE edited for clarity, accuracy; last victim was not a cold case.
Tuesday June 9, 2015
Note to Readers
I want to thank everyone who voted in the poll to help decide on T&T's next case. Since the Cameron Brown verdict, I honestly did not think that I would be able to cover another trial this year. My number one case now is Michael Gargiulo. Although no trial date is set, [and I don't have any information on or off the record] my best guess is that the case will go to trial in early 2016.

Here is a quick breakdown of the popular cases T&T readers voted for:

Marion Suge Knight - Preliminary hearing occurred in April. Case is assigned to Dept. 101, Judge Cohen. Trial is at minimum, a year or two away from trial. Next pretrial is July 7.
Joshua Woodward - I attended the prelim. Case is assigned to Dept. 103, Judge Rappe. Sources tells me this case has been moved to 2016. Woodward is out on 4M bond.
Lyvette Crespo - Grand Jury indictment in April. Case is assigned to Dept. 109, Judge Kennedy. Trial is year or two away. Crespo is out on bond.
Robert Durst - California needs to get Durst in California before a case can proceed. It's my best guess that the federal government will try Durst first, since they (most likely) have a slam dunk case. Once that trial is completed, I expect the government will have no problem handing Durst over to California. However, there is something else to consider. Sources tell me Durst does not look well at all. 

Lonnie Franklin, Jr.
I recently learned that Lonnie Franklin, Jr., is set for trial September 9, 2015. The case is being heard in Dept. 109, Judge Kathleen Kennedy's court. Judge Kennedy presided over the James Fayed and Kelly Soo Park trials.

The timing of the trial works perfectly concerning my commitments to Mr. Sprocket's business this summer.  I've been told that the Franklin case will take less than two months but I don't know if that also includes jury selection.

I have not attended a Franklin hearing  for almost two years. Franklin is charged with ten murders and one attempted murder. The DA's office is seeking the death penalty. Franklin was arrested July 7, 2010. He has been in custody almost five years. All the murders (except the last murder) are cold-case murders occurring between 1985-1988 and 2002-2007, and close to the 'Figueroa Corridor' of South Los Angeles.

I am coming into this case pretty blind in regards to the pretrial motions, the names of potential witnesses and what evidence will be presented. Although I will try my best to obtain what documents I can, my budget to purchase documents is very limited. This will be the most challenging case I've covered because of the number of victims.

Seasoned investigative reporter Christine Pelisek, first wrote about the case in August 2008, for the LA Weekly and named the unknown killer at the time, "The Grim Sleeper." Pelisek won three LA Press Club awards in 2009 for her reporting at the LA Weekly.  She went onto write about Franklin for The Daily Beast and currently for People Magazine. A Lifetime movie, The Grim Sleeper, was released in 2014 about Pelisek and her investigation of the crimes. From what I've observed in pretrial hearings, it appears Pelisek has become very close with the victim's families.

An HBO documentary, Tales of the Grim Sleeper directed by Nick Broomfield, was released in 2014.

Tuesday, Dept. 109, 9:00 AM
Mr. Sprocket drove me down to court today.

8:23 AM
I’m on the 9th floor. Although I'm here for the Franklin hearing, there is also a continuation of the Gargiulo Marsden hearing.  Gargiulo defense investigator Chris Nicely is here but he’s meeting with a different defense attorney.  He's here for a different case. When he does see me, he gives me a wave.

There are about a dozen counsel in various parts of the hallway and about a handful of the general public. It’s very quiet.

8:31 AM
Judge Ohta’s pretty court reporter arrives and enters Dept. 109. Other courtrooms start to open on the hallway. I see Judge Ohta come out from that small utility room at the end of the hallway and greet several counsel who are in the hall before he enters his courtroom. Dept. 107’s clerk comes out and opens the courtroom's doors. Since Mr. Lindner and his paralegal have not shown up for Gargiulo, a few minutes before 9:00 am, I head down the hallway towards Dept. 109 to cover Franklin.

8:59 AM
I'm inside Dept. 109. I take a seat in the last bench row and open my laptop. Franklin is at the defense table. Christine Pelisek arrives and greest one of the people in the gallery. 

Bailiff to me: "Mam, are you a member of the press?" I nod yes.

Judge Kennedy calls the case, People v. Franklin and asks the parties to state their appearances.

For the defense: Seymour Amster. There is a new attorney, Ms. (? Gonzales?) at the defense table, siting between Amster and Louisa Pensanti. She may have been on the case for some time. I don't know.

For the people, DDA Marguerite Rizzo and DDA Beth Silverman. Beth is wearing a subdued blue suit. I almost don't recognize Marguerite. She has her hair up off her neck in a claw-type hair clip.

Judge Kennedy asks the defense "What are these orders?" [It appears this has something to do with a prior issue before the court.] Amster tells the court, "I made a mistake. ... I felt the court had ordered something different. I didn't look at the transcript this ...  I [read?] that the way she stated the order. ... I'm withdrawing my proposal."

There's something about utilizing the language [?] as it relates to [victim] Janecia Peters.

The court asks for the next issue. DDA Rizzo states that the firearm order was submitted and signed. DNA orders on Alice Alexander and [?] have been submitted as well. All three orders are signed.  The court states if both sides are in agreement ... she'll sign the orders.

[Michelle Ballenger? sp?] there is an issue with the sexual assault evidence kit. That kit has been destroyed. The murder was in 1987. Juvenile adjudication in 1988. The kit was destroyed sometime thereafter. There is no record of [?it?].  It was destroyed prior to the retention statue. The kit no longer exists. This was dealt with extensively during the [?] of [Christian Jace? sp?].  ... Grand jury as well [?] and those materials have been turned over. Whatever material remains, [the prosecution] did an exhaustive search of children's court and that has been turned over to the defense.  [Something about a mix-up of test kits.]

The court addresses the defense, "So there's nothing that can be turned over to you as to the evidence itself." Amster replies, what I'm hearing is that everything has been turned over to it, and we're going to look into it.

DDA Rizzo continues. The people are following up on some of the files the defense is requesting, [re?] [George May Thomas?]. The people will get that to the defense in a day or two.

There is another issue, related to the defense response to a discovery request. They are still waiting for [?] and that is fine.  DDA Rizzo states the request [follow up?] from Dr. [Lawrence] Sowers is not acceptable. [It appears Dr. Sowers is the defense's DNA expert.]  DDA Rizzo tells the court that "He just leads us to a page in his report that he previously provided, which is just a wheel table and [also a link?] to scientific literature. ... What we want are Dr. Sower's raw notes."

DDA Rizzo goes onto explain to the court that these notes would be similar to analyze the case files of the LAPD or CellMark analysis case files that would be turned over to the defense. Every step of the [DNA] analysis is documented by the analyst as well as statistical analysis. ... He has the case file and we want his raw notes and all the documentation that he used and relied on and generated for production of his reports.

Amster tells the court that he didn't interpret the request for his [Dr. Sower's] raw notes; he just sent on the email.  Amster states that if there is going to be a dispute, before the court can order, there must be a formal motion. Amster's position is, he will communicate with his expert that the prosecution wants his raw notes.

The court asks how long is it going to take for you to let the prosecution know you are either going to comply [or] .... ? I miss the the answer. The court then asks if the parties have anything else to present. DDA Rizzo and Amster don't have anything more for today.

Judge Kennedy then asks the parties about jury selection and about how many jurors should be called. She asks the parties for input. I believe it's the court who states, that in the past in a single [victim?] defendant death penalty case, she has called 150 to 175 prescreened jurors. The court doesn't know where in light of the publicity, that is attendant to this case. We may [have to excuse?] some people just on pretrial publicity. So the court is asking for input of those here, if you have any [?]. The court then addresses DDA Silverman. "You've had experience Ms. Silverman with high profile [cases]."

DDA Silverman states that on the Southside Slayer, Judge Rappe, we had six panels ... of how many they could give us ... sixty [each panel?]. We didn't use the last panel.

Judge Kennedy asks, "H called in 300 something?" DDA Silverman responds, "He did and we didn't use the last group .... I know that they were pre-screened." The court asks, "What was the time estimate on that case?" DDA Silverman adds, "I know it was close to three months. ... It was similar to this case ..."

DDA Silverman then talks about a case in Judge Bower's court. [I remember when Beth was trying the case in Judge Bower's court. I was with my friend Matthew McGough who wanted to drop in on Beth's closing argument. I only got to listen to a tiny bit of the closing. I was coughing so bad I had to step out of the courtroom.]

DDA Silverman states the case in Judge Bower's court only used more than a couple hundred jurors. The court states that maybe they only need about 250. The court or DDA Silverman states: I obviously don't want to waste people.

I believe the court adds that pre-screening cuts down because the time issue. There is some discussion about the publicity of this case and other cases and how that will affect voir dire. I believe it is the court that adds "But all cases on the 9th floor get publicity."

I believe DDA Silverman adds, "Of all the serial killer [cases] I've done we've lost a lot of people for that reason."  Judge Kennedy adds that there is an HBO documentary which she has not seen. The documentary may or may not have been seen by the jury pool.

The 250 number of potential jurors is mentioned again by the court. DDA Silverman thinks that may be more than enough. The parties then ask how many days the court will allow between receiving the jurors questionnaires and voir dire. The court states four or five days after the last set of jurors.

Mr. Amster informs the court that two movies have gone out and they don't know what impact they may have.

The court would like to finalize the jury questionnaire next week.

Now there is a discussion about what day to return. After some back and forth, June 30 is the date for return.

There is a stipulation that the prosecution needs to sign.  The court asks the prosecution for a clean copy of the proposed jury questionnaire. The court made notes on the one copy they were given.

Mr. Amster tells the court they submitted a confidential request. The court needs to [open the document, review it so the defense can then make a copy of it].

And that's it. They are finished for today. Return on June 30.  Judge Kennedy leaves the bench. DDA Silverman goes over and signs the stipulation at the clerk's desk. Franklin is taken back into custody.

Outside in the hallway, DDA Silverman and DDA Rizzo speak to several family members about what happened today. Two of the women in the group are using walking canes. DDA Silverman answers every question they have for her. I am impressed by how DDA Silverman calmly and patiently speaks with the the families. She gently tries to prepare them for the evidence that will difficult for them to hear. There was no preliminary hearing in this case; the DA's office obtained their indictment of Franklin through a grand jury, which means the family members have not heard the specific details of their loved one's deaths. She tells them that she won't be holding back in presenting this evidence. It won't be easy for them. DDA Silverman also explains that once this trial is over, they will still be left with their emotional loss. This trial will not change that.

DDA Silverman tells them it is very important for them collect documents and get them to her regarding their loved ones. Birth certificates, photos, etc. I believe this is for the penalty phase of the trial and for the victim impact statements. She stresses how important this is.

Once all the questions are asked, DDA Silverman makes sure everyone has her new phone number, and to call her if they have questions. [The DA's Major Crimes Division just moved across the street into new offices in the renovated Hall of Justice building.] DDA Silverman gives a few hugs before everyone says goodbye.

After the hearing, I head back down to the left wing of the hallway to wait for the Gargiulo Marsden hearing. The Gargiulo Marsden hearing has taken several days already. I'll have a report on what little I was able to observe in the next few days.

After note: 
I forgot to mention that the people's investigator, LAPD Detective Daryn Dupree, was at the prosecution table with DDA Silverman and DDA Rizzo.

The next report on this case can be found HERE.